JI Packer says.
Remember the real God, the God of the scriptures… has given his promises to trust. Faith trust them, And the effect of trusting the promises and trusting the God of the promises, is literally transforming.
He goes on to say,
Whoever you are you need this, and so I simply say don’t allow yourself to fancy that you have got faith, but all you really have is a sort of general optimism or hopefulness about the future. You only have faith when you have learned to trust God, trust his word…. So, I ask you have you ever reckoned seriously with the reality of faith and the possibility of a thrilling new live that comes from exercising in the Father and his Son our Lord Jesus Christ”?
Faith is the gift of God through which we receive God and all his promise in Christ.
It comes from the Holy Spirit
It holds onto Christ.
It justifies us
It comes from the Holy Spirit
“We believe that, or order that we may obtain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith.” Faith is a gift of God. As Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” When we are asked in our Catechism where faith comes from, we answer, “From the Holy Spirit.” From beginning to end, our salvation is Fathers gift to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is true both of the content of faith and the act of faith.
We confess in Lords day 7 that it is both a sure knowledge (content) and a firm confidence (Act). What is the content of Faith? It is the Word from God. This Word of God was written by the Holy Spirit. As Peter states, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” and Paul elaborates, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
This book is God breathed. The content of our faith is the word of God which ultimately points to the Word from God, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the person and work of Jesus. He is whom we must believe, and we believe Him by believing what has been written.
How do you that? Also, through the work of the Spirit. He wrote what we have to believe, and he causes us to believe what he wrote. It is the Spirit of Christ. Which means if you do not have the Holy Spirits you cannot understand the scriptures unto salvation. As Paul so clearly says, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
So, if you want to grow in faith, then stop focusing inward on your faith but study the Word prayerfully. Ask the Spirit to reveal it to you. To kindle true faith in your heart. And above all attend to the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments. For it is through these means that he administers faith to you. As we confess faith comes from the Holy Spirit “who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the Gospel and strengthens it through the use of the sacraments.”
This is why the churches prioritized preaching from the days of he early Church. The Apostles preached, the early church fathers preached, and although there was a decline in preaching it continued until the reformation when there was a resurgence of preaching. As Paul underscores, “How can they believe in the one they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent!” The Holy Spirit through the Church send out preachers, they proclaim the word of Christ, people hear, faith is worked, they confess with there mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.” And then they continue the live long journey of growing in that faith by attending the preaching and sacraments which all point to Christ in the gospel. Indeed it is not the faith that saves, the what faith holds onto.
It holds onto Christ alone
“This faith embraces (I love that word – holds tight too in a loving way) Jesus Christ with all his merit, makes him our own, and does not seek anything besides him.” Faith is not the ground of our justification, but it is a condition for justification. Justification is always through or by faith but never because of faith. We are justified because of Christ work. We receive that work as our own through faith. Jesus Christ and his work is the object of Faith
So, if you come to know Jesus better, then you will grow in faith, then you will live more obediently and courageously. And remember this is faith in a real-life historical person Jesus.
It is not a kind of holy hoping for the best? It is not a call to believe in things when common sense tells you not to. Faith is not a mindless stab in the dark. It is not a crossing of the fingers and hoping for the best. It is not a leap into apparent nothingness.
As Hebrews 11 says, Authentic faith “is the confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.” It's a word “confidence” speaks of reasoned, careful, deliberate, intentional thought. Thought upon what? God and his promises fulfilled in Christ. If you are absolutely gripped by the coming realities that have been promised to you by God, then how you live your life in the present will be radically different than if you did not possess that certainty. Faith is positive certainty expressed in action.
Do you wish to be a more consistently obedient, steadily persevering Christian? A stronger Christian? A more courageous and outspoken Christian? Then you need to strengthen your faith! Your faith instinctively strengthens in direct proportion to the expansion of the object of your faith! You expand your understanding of the object of your faith and faith itself will obediently follow
The object of your faith--if indeed you are a Christian--is Jesus Christ alone. There is nothing else you could hold onto. Now where else you would turn. Indeed if you were to turn anywhere else even a little you would say that Jesus is not enough. It is all of God. This is what those believe who are Arminian. They believe Christ died for you, but you need to accept it. We believe Christ died for us and he works in us the knowledge and confidence that he did so. We are justified totally apart from the law. Apart from works. This gives glory to God, confesses the reality of the sinfulness of Man, and glories in the Cross. God is not some beggar hoping that you will open the door of your heart. He is sovereign, and breaks into the heart to smash the heart of stone, and make it a heart of flesh.
Is your faith weak? The reason is most often that one does not know the object of your faith well enough. But when Jesus Christ becomes progressively bigger, or better yet, your understanding of who he is progressively conforms to reality, your faith will become increasingly stronger. But how does that happen? By immersing yourself prayerfully in the faith-arousing Word of God. Read of Jesus Christ! Listen to his voice as he comes to you through the preached word! The same powerful Word that long ago brought the universe to life is the same Word that can bring you to life and furnish you with a faith that is truly and authentically Christian.
It justifies us completely
For it must necessarily follow, either that all we need for our salvation is not in Jesus Christ or, if it is all in him, that one who has Jesus Christ through faith, has complete salvation. It is therefore a terrible blasphemy to assert that Christ is not sufficient, but that something else is needed beside him.
Faith comes from the Holy Spirit and holds onto Christ and all his benefits as they are proclaimed through the Word, and so we are justified. As the confession says, “We are justified by faith apart from the work of the law. Meanwhile strictly speaking we do not mean that faith as such justifies us, for faith is only the instrument by we we embrace Christ our righteousness….therefore Jesus Christ is our righteousness and faith is the instrument that keeps us with in in communion of all his benefits.” If you have him you are saved. If you have him you will repent, you will produce fruit, you will have a certain level of peace and security. In him we are declared right with God. We are declared innocent. And we have peace with God! We are no longer under judgement but under blessing and life. What does it mean to have him or receive him. It means you have faith.
A person who is not “in Christ” has no hope. Literally. He is hopeless, and anything he holds onto is just a mist, a mirage in the desert. Only in Christ there is hope which is steadfast and immovable, kept in heaven for them. This is the heart of the gospel. Pray that Faith might be worked into your heart today so that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened! Without our eye being enlightened with the Holy Spirit so that grasp the immeasurable greatness of Christ power you are I are stuck in the futility of our thinking.
The gospel says nothing I “do” can “undo” my sin. It is the work of Christ credited to my account that objectively pays the guilt, that reconciles me, the sinner, to a righteous God. This is the foundation of Hope on which we build.
Dear Church if you want to live the Christian life you make use of these benefits. In Christ, you are freed from the burden of trying to “earn their way back” or prove you are repentant enough. Having been justified by faith, you have peace with God. As a result, they can simply begin to seek to live faithfully and obediently before their God.
Part of obtaining victory is overcoming the voices in our minds: “You are a failure!” “You will never change!” “How can God love you?” “You have no hope!”. This condemnation can be reinforced by the conscience. Some people have a sensitive conscience, others, less so. The conscience can be a tricky guide. It is possible to think you have a clear conscience, when in fact you are objectively guilty and should “feel” guilty. On the other hand, a sensitive conscience can paralyze a believer, condemning them and preventing them from moving forward from their sin. The believer must recognize they are justified. But listen to the confession, “When those benefits have become ours they are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.”
We can, and must, preach to our own souls the words of the gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! When their hearts no longer condemn us we will have confidence before God. This is putting on the “helmet of salvation.” Our minds must be protected. They are protected by claiming our status as justified by Christ.
And a justified person has hope that they will be sanctified. Romans 8:30 is known as the “Golden Chain of Salvation. It says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
There is an inevitable, unalterable drive from beginning to end. If the believer is predestined it is inevitable that he/she will be glorified. God will not fail to complete each successive step. Leading to glorification is sanctification.
Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. We will talk about this much more in article 24.
This being the case, for those that have faith there is hope to obtain victory over whatever struggle we face. In this life, in increasing measure, the believer will be changed more and more into the image of Christ. This will necessarily lead to victory over sin.
Justification stands behind Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians:
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.””
Do you know Christ! Do you have faith in Him! Then you will also have complete salvation!
What do we have to do to please God? To have a relationship with him? No work. But believe have faith. You want to know how to have eternal security. Forgiveness. Peace. Grace. Mercy. Love. Believe in Jesus
If you do not have this freedom come unto him today and lay down your heavy load at the foot of the cross, and believe in the promise of God in Jesus Christ both now and forever, and join our joyful company as we journey to the Eternal home of righteousness.