Newsletter, Spotlight

Is Faith Hard?

Faith is a big deal. You know, that thing you have way “deep down.” That thing that gets you into heaven.

Faith is scary. Wondering if you’re doing faith right, having faith in the right things, having faith strong enough, having faith confidently enough.

Faith is controversial. Everybody has an opinion on what constitutes the faith, what faith is, whom faith should be in.

It feels like faith is lot’s of pressure, high stakes, and entirely too subjective. Why would God expect sinners to get faith right in order to get to heaven?

That’s how Martin Luther felt, too. In fact, he even accused God of being wicked to expect that of sinners! But Scripture doesn’t talk about faith that way. And that’s what Luther learned, too.

In Matthew 11:28, Christ says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And in Mark 1:15, Christ says, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” According to these verses, faith is not subjective, but wonderfully objective. To have faith is simply to believe that you are a sinner, and then to believe the gospel, that is, that Jesus has died and risen to forgive your sin. That’s it. That’s faith.

Here’s what faith is not:

  • Being sorry enough for your sins
  • Feeling really “close” to Jesus
  • Never worrying
  • Never doubting
  • Never sinning
  • Being perfect
  • Knowing lots of theology
  • Simple belief in a “God” up there somewhere
  • Doing good things or being a good enough person to get to heaven

See, true faith is simply taking Jesus’ Word for it, that is, taking Jesus’ Word for it when he says that you, a no-good-dirty-rotten-miserable-sinner, is actually, really, truly forgiven because Jesus died and rose for you. That’s it.

This means that it probably isn’t very helpful when Christians talk about “strong” faith or “weak” faith. Faith is faith. That’s that. It’s taking Jesus word for it to believe the unbelievable: that sinners have forgiveness because of Jesus. You don’t have to understand it “well enough.” You can’t. You’re a sinner. Just throw up your hands and say. “Jesus, I don’t get it, but you’re Lord, and your word goes. So fine, I’m forgiven!”

Now sure, can someone go through life feeling less anxiety and stress because of their relationship with God? Sure. Could we call that a “strong” faith? Sure. But this is exactly why Jesus talks about faith like a mustard seed in Matthew 17. Faith is faith. Even a “weak” faith believes that Jesus has done the impossible and moved the mountain of sin for our sake.

This is why the Sacraments are so wonderful. Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper aren’t faith in some ritual. They are faith in the Word of Jesus. Sacraments are nothing more than Jesus’ command combined with his promise of forgiveness with a tangible element (so we can experience Jesus’ Word with more than just our brains and ears). In each of these, Jesus promises forgiveness (check out Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 6:4-7; John 3:3-6; Matthew 16:18-19; John 20:22; Matthew 26:26-28; and John 6:52-58).

Sometimes, people ask me if you really have to be baptized to get to heaven. The simplistic answer is no, but the thing is, if Jesus commands it, why wouldn’t you want to get baptized? Baptism and Communion aren’t rituals that serve as alternative ways of being saved. They are in fact trust in Jesus’ Word that you are forgiven by his death and resurrection just because he says so. They are reassurance that his death and resurrection applies to you (because Satan will try his darndest to convince you otherwise).

Baptism and Communion are faith in Jesus’ Word despite the absurdity: “This water really carries Jesus’ word of salvation? This bread and wine are really Jesus’ crucified body and blood for me?” We have faith not because it’s believable, not because we can understand it, not because believing hard enough gives the Word it’s power. We have faith simply because Jesus is Lord and we take his Word above all else—even our own logic, understanding, and reason.

And the wonderful thing is, the Holy Spirit is the one who does the impossible for us: he gives sinners faith. What an oxymoron! Sinners having faith! But it’s true. And it’s that God-given faith that gives you, a sinner, the promise of life in the New Creation, Heaven on Earth, where Jesus will reign as King.

So take comfort. Don’t worry. Just take Jesus word for it: “Your sins are forgiven.”

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