Faith vs. Faithfulness.
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:17
A couple of years ago when I was beginning my journey with Jesus, I thought I had to impress Him for Him to love me. I thought I needed to read my Bible every day, pray 27 times a day, read different types of books, and try my best not to mess up. I believed if I did all that, He would be impressed with me, and decide to love me. In the moment, I didn’t think I was doing that to impress Him so that He would love me, but looking back on it, that’s definitely what I was doing.
I needed to show my faithfulness to Him, I needed to show Him that He didn’t make a mistake in saving me. But I quickly realized, there was no way I could keep up. I couldn’t keep the performance up. Especially, in the moments of sin, I thought God surely hates me now. So I would try even harder to impress Him, to work myself back up to His good graces. But then I would stumble again and start the process all over again. It was a never ending cycle that I could not get out of.
Then, on a mission trip in Rwanda, my eyes were open. Well, they were kind of open. The leader of our trip and our pastor were having a conversation about theology, and they were saying things that I never heard of. I sat in the back of the truck, listening to every word they were saying. When we got back to the states, I asked the leader of the trip about the things they were talking about it, and he opened the rabbit hole for me and I jumped right in.
The rabbit hole was Reformed theology. (I know there are some people who disagree with the reformed beliefs, and that’s okay. This post isn’t about arguing who is right or wrong. The post is about how my eyes were open.) When I jumped in the rabbit hole, I came across Martin Luther. I heard about him from my time in school, but I didn’t pay attention to him. I knew he was a monk and he nailed something to a door, that was about it.
Luther struggled with the same thing that a lot of us struggle with today, he was trying to impress God. He was trying to show his faithfulness to God. And Luther had a struggle with the verse I put at the beginning, Romans 1:17. It what is known as the “tower experience”, was the breakthrough moment for Luther. Here is a section from Luther about that verse and the breakthrough that happened,
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.” Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
Byron Yawn, says this about the experience Luther had, “The Gospel completely transformed his understanding of Scripture. No longer was it a recounting of the faithfulness of man to God, but rather it was about the faithfulness of God in saving men. Not man in pursuit of God, but God in pursuit of man. What he calls, ‘the work of God.’ Stated simply the story is about faith (in God) and not faithfulness (of man) to God.”
When I finally understood this, just like Luther, everything changed for me. I went from dreading God to delighting in God. The Gospel was so clear to me for the first time in my life. It was a breath of fresh air. I could rest in Jesus. I didn’t have to work for His acceptance or love anymore. My relationship with God was good, and I was counted righteous because of Jesus Christ. Sola Fide. Faith alone.
It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. I didn’t save me, you didn’t save you. Jesus did. He lived the perfect life, He fulfilled the law, and was the perfect sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s wrath and judgment. We are justified because of our faith in Christ alone. None of our works satisfy God, only faith in Jesus Christ is what satisfies God.
Still today, there are times I fall back into that trap, into performing for Him and trying to show Him my faithfulness to Him. But I have to remind myself, it’s not about me. It’s about Him. My prayer for anyone who reads this is that God opens up your eyes and heart like He did for me and to stop working, to stop trying to impress God, and to stop trying to earn His love. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Rest in Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30