People want to know what real faith in God looks like. Just like Paul made no claim to attaining it (Phil. 3:12), I don’t claim to even come close to what God wants in my lie. I fail miserably, daily. But like other people, I want to know what kind of faith is possible in the life of a human on earth. D.L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” Along those lines, perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish what genuine faith is not:
Genuine faith is not perfection and not just acknowledged sinfulness, but repentance. Without faith, nobody can ever see God (Heb. 12:14). Nobody is perfect in and of themselves, but a person is being perfected by the Holy Spirit’s process of making a person become more like Jesus (theologians call this sanctification- 1 Thes. 5:23). And this begins only in the person who is daily repentant of his sins, constantly turning away from sin’s effect and toward Jesus’ reign (Rev. 3:19; Luke 9:23).
No one being changed through repentance and spiritual change glories in his imperfect state other than to marvel at the grace of God. Don’t look for a perfect person to find genuine faith; look for a perfect Savior who is transforming a repentant sinner.
Genuine faith is not generated by human effort but is nonetheless actively at work. Faith without the deeds wrought by faith is dead (James 2:17). You cannot save yourself; no good deeds outweigh bad deeds. But real faith is still “deed-ful,” full of good works that God does through a person, works that were planned before the world was created (Eph. 2:10). Show me a person who talks about faith but never acts on it, and I’ll show you a person who is just talking, not believing.
Genuine faith is not separation from people but is still marked by time alone with God. God didn’t call us to live as recluses or spiritual hermits. He didn’t take us out of the world, but He has called us to live set apart within the world (John 17:15-17). Our prayers should be a nonstop conversation with God (1 Thes. 5:17), but Jesus gave the prime example of withdrawing to places where outside voices could be silenced (Luke 5:16).
Genuine faith is not replicated but reproductive. You cannot just mimic the faith actions of another person to produce faith, but you can follow their pattern (1 Cor. 11:1). And the faith experience you have should be invested in yet others (2 Tim. 2:2). This is what being a disciple is: making another disciple (Matt. 28:19). Real faith produces the fruit of faith.
Genuine faith is not individualized but unique. There are no extra-special Christians. There are no body parts that are more important than the others (1 Cor. 12:21). And yet each of us has been uniquely gifted for the whole (1 Cor. 12:27). Just as no cell can exist long-term without connection to the whole organism, no single Christian can function healthily without connection to other believers. His faith is made stronger in network with the entire body of Christ.
May the faith of our generation grow stronger as we tear down spiritual ideologies that mislabel genuine faith. May we be a light of faith that shines brightly in the context of the One in whom we have believed.