“God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ . . . Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.’” (Genesis 22)
My dear child in the Lord,
The title of this chapter is very bold. What is true faith? That’s a very deep question, and there are many ways of talking about it. Faith is intimately central to our identities as Christians, and we will never stop finding more things to say about it. I will never fully understand all the proper ways of talking about faith or all the ways Christ shapes our lives through faith—there’s just too much. It is a wonderful, beautiful thing, and I’m a small, finite human being, and a layman at that. But at the same time, I must talk about it, as we all must, because it is so central to us. Christ is central to us, and we are connected to Him through faith.
The best way to learn what faith is is to read God’s Word. So I’m going to be quoting it a lot here. Listen to Him. My commentary won’t be perfect. But as someone with the duty to pass it on, I try to be as faithful to the Word as I can.
Even though faith is an endlessly deep and glorious subject, which you should always continue learning, at its core it is also something very simple. But it is something that people today often wildly mess up. Some people talk about faith as if it’s just knowledge in your head about Christ and His work for you. Some people talk about faith as if it’s your decision. Some people talk about faith as if it’s an emotional experience. Some people talk about faith as if it’s simply being confident. Now, faith can certainly be associated with these things. It does include knowledge of Christ. It goes hand in hand with faithful decision making. It can produce all sorts of emotions among people. And faith is confidence. Scripture says so.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” (Hebrews 10–11)
What does this mean? What is faith, really, at its core? What does this kind of confidence mean? Confidence in what? Confidence for what? I’d argue that most errors among Christians come from messing up the basic understanding of what faith is in its simplest form.
Have you ever had your parents tell you that you needed to apologize for something? Let’s say that, one day, you are playing with your sister, and you decide to hit her on the head with a toy hammer. (Do not do this.) Your parents come to the two of you and demand of you, “Say you’re sorry to your sister.” And you are very upset at the seeming injustice of the situation. Your sister was totally overreacting to the playful tap on her head with the toy. Grudgingly you mumble, “Sorry. . .”
But then your parents are not satisfied! They can tell you didn’t mean it. So they say something like, “It didn’t sound like you were really sorry. Try again.” Or they might even say, “I think you’re only sorry because you got caught.” They probably won’t let you off until they think you really apologized to your sister.
When your parents tell you to apologize, they want you to mean it from your heart—on the inside, not just the outside. No matter how many times you apologize on the outside, it hardly makes a difference if you don’t care on the inside. If you plan to just hit your sister again as soon as no one is looking, there is no point in apologizing. When your parents ask you to apologize, they are asking you to plan to never hit your sister again like that, because it is not good. They are asking you to change on the inside to think of hitting your sister with a hammer as something that is not good. If you say you’re sorry, you are saying that you are changed on the inside and do plan to not hit your sister again. You are saying that you wish you had not hit your sister on the head. You do wish that because you listen to your parents when they tell you that something is not good. It doesn’t mean you have to understand right at that moment why it isn’t good to hit your sister that way. But it means you trust your parents to know more than you, and you will therefore also consider it bad to hit your sister in the future, from your heart.
You apologize because you have confidence in your parents’ words. You have faith in your parents. You trust that they know good and evil better than you do. Even though you don’t have the experience to see why they say the things they say, if you have faith in your parents’ words then, by trusting their words, you have conviction that those things are true.
Now if, instead, you just go through the motions of saying “I’m sorry,” and don’t mean it from the heart, you are lying. You aren’t really sorry. You like hitting your sister and would do it again! Nothing changes in you when your parents tell you not to do that. You only say you are sorry so you can stop getting punished. You don’t have faith in your parents’ words. Instead, you are trying to deceive your parents.
When you aren’t really sorry, it’s the same as if you said to your parents, “You have one idea of good and evil, but I have a different idea, and I like my idea better. I don’t think it’s evil to hit my sister. You are wrong. I am right.”
This is basically the same thing that Adam and Eve and Satan did to God in the beginning. They wanted to keep a separate standard of good and evil from God’s truth of good and evil. They rebelled against God by rejecting His Word. That separated Adam and Eve from God’s goodness. In the same way, when you don’t listen to your parents from the heart, you are also trying to separate yourself from them. You might be close to them on the outside, but, on the inside, you pull yourself away from them.
Sometimes we can get away with doing this to our parents, no matter how sad it makes them. But we can’t pretend before God our Father in heaven. (Adam and Eve sure tried.)
“The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16)
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways. . .” (Jeremiah 17)
“The Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” (1 Chronicles 28)
“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44)
Where do you get your idea of good and evil from? It has to come from somewhere. If you don’t get it from God or your parents, maybe you get it from something you saw on TV. Maybe you get it from other kids you talk to. Maybe you get it from randomly assigned teachers outside your home. Maybe you just come up with it yourself (or you think you do). Whoever you listen to in order to learn truth, to learn what good and evil are, to define how you want to behave, that’s who you have faith in.
Maybe you thought it was good to hit your sister because you saw a cartoon character do something like that on TV. You put your faith in that character, and you did the same thing. Or maybe you have a younger brother who saw you hit your sister, and he then copied you and hit her too. Your younger brother had faith in you.
Who do you listen to? Who do you listen to in order to learn what is right and wrong? Who do you go to for advice or help when you’re in trouble? Who is the highest authority to define what good and evil are for you? Your parents are the ones who teach you first, as God wants them to do. You are to listen to them, and to other authorities God has given for you. But their job is to pass along God’s Word to you. They should not come up with standards of good and evil on their own. They should get that from God, and then pass it on to you. God should be their highest authority, and He must be your highest authority. Your faith must be in God. Your faith must be in Jesus. Listen to Him.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” (Ephesians 6)
God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2). That’s why He sent Jesus to teach us. Jesus is the Word made flesh, sent by the Father. He’s the one who tells us that it’s not what we do on the outside that makes us good or evil. It’s who we are on the inside.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. . . .
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5)
You are a murderer in God’s sight if you have a heart that produces murderous thoughts. You are an adulterer in God’s sight if you have a heart that produces adulterous thoughts. Even if you go through the right outward process to justify your adulterous thoughts before men, and you get a certificate and everything, God still sees your heart. And if you lead others into adulterous thoughts in their hearts, God sees that too. If it was your eye that made you an adulterer or your hand that made you hit your sister, you could tear them off and throw them away, and the problem would be solved. But the problem you and I have is worse than that. Our sins come from our hearts. It’s our hearts and our inner natures that make us guilty of these things. Our hands only swing hammers because our hearts tell them to. And we can’t just tear our hearts out and live.
A sinful human heart never has faith in Jesus on its own. We are by nature Adam’s children, separated from the good vine of life that is God. Our hearts are evil. If we were connected to Jesus, the good vine, our hearts would be alive to listen to Him and have faith in him. But because we are by nature disconnected from Him, we don’t listen to Him. We don’t receive His Word. We are dead.
Jesus had to die in your place to make you alive and to give you faith.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [(the devil)], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2)
Jesus died for you. His heart was pierced for your sins. His heart was dead and buried. He was thrown out in your place. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6). Jesus’ heart didn’t stay dead. He rose to life again! And because you are united with Him in baptism, His risen heart is yours too. Now your heart is alive, and you are connected to Christ the vine again. So don’t act as if you were still dead. You aren’t. You are baptized.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2)
God wants you to have a pure heart and to be a pure child of His, in whom there is no deceit. God wants you to be truly sorry from the heart when you say you are sorry. Anything more than this comes from evil. Because you are baptized into Christ, God’s Spirit is given to you, and His heart is yours, and you are God’s child. And therefore, God teaches you, disciplines you, and shows you the way that Jesus walked, so that you too may walk in God’s ways through faith in Him.
We have the ability to reject this heart though. Walking in faith is not a one-time event in life. Being born is a one-time event. (You only need to be baptized once.) But being alive is not a one-time event. (Just like breathing is not a one-time event.) Being alive is a state of continually receiving God’s Word.
Faith listens to God’s Word, on the inside. And because faith believes God’s Word on the inside, the outside must follow, even when we don’t see why we are supposed to do the things God says we should do.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11)
You can’t take credit for having this life of faith, any more than you can take credit for breathing. Breathing came with the body you were born with. Sure, God has given you the gift of self-control in your breathing. You can even choose to stop breathing if you want. (Do not do this.) But you can’t claim credit for the ability to breathe. Your life of faith comes from God. Your faith is a work of God’s Holy Spirit in you. (And, fun fact, the word for “Spirit” in the Bible is the same word for “breath”.)
So we really can’t claim credit for having God’s life in us. We can’t claim credit for our salvation. This is a gift of God. “By grace you have been saved through faith.”
“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3)
God uses the example of Abraham all over the Bible to explain faith.
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’” (Romans 4)
Righteousness before God isn’t about you being perfect in your works. It’s about having faith in His Word, in Jesus. That must lead to wanting to live the way God wants you to live. It leads you to be sorry for doing things that God says are bad. But God looks at your heart, not at your outward failures. The sins that you do every day are covered by Jesus’ blood because you are baptized into Him and have faith in Him.
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. . . .
“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4)
What do we learn from Abraham? We learn that faith is not just wishful thinking in your head. Faith is what led Abraham to actually pick up his knife to sacrifice his son Isaac when God told him to.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11)
Faith doesn’t just think about doing what God says to do. Abraham’s faith listened to God, even when he didn’t understand why God was asking him to sacrifice Isaac. Without questioning God, Abraham simply got up, took his son and his knife, and started carrying out God’s orders. If you say you have faith in God but don’t actually listen to Him or care about what He says, you are pretending. Just like when you say “I’m sorry” to your parents but don’t really mean it.
“‘What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” And he answered, “I will not,” but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, “I go, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.’” (Matthew 21)
This is the distinction that James talks about too—the difference between true faith that is reflected in how we act from the heart and pretending faith that tries to trick God and doesn’t really listen to Jesus.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2)
There’s nothing contradictory between this passage and what Paul wrote or what Jesus said. They are all Scripture. They are all speaking the same Word from God. But note the distinction James is making. He says that Abraham’s “faith was completed by his works.” He doesn’t say “his faith was complemented by works.” Faith and good works are distinct concepts, but they are not separate. Works are not an extra ingredient you have to add to faith in order to be saved. That would be separating faith from works, and James says you can’t do that, just like you can’t separate your belief in your parents’ words that hitting your sister is bad from your desire to stop hitting her. Those who say they have faith apart from works don’t really have living faith. If you say you’re sorry for hitting your sister and then go and deliberately hit her again with glee, you were not really sorry, and you didn’t really believe that you shouldn’t do that. If Abraham said he had faith in God but then disobeyed when God told him to get up and sacrifice Isaac, he would also be proving that he didn’t really believe God. But Abraham believed God, and that was what was counted to him as righteousness. So James here uses the phrase “faith alone” in the sense that some people talk about a false kind of faith, that doesn’t truly believe God, or listen to Him.
“Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.’ They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God.’” (John 8)
To oppose God is to choose evil. To oppose the Author of truth is to choose lies. Maybe the lies will make more sense to you. We are small, and our brains are not big enough to see the whole truth. But lies are still lies. If you try to set up your own standard of good and evil apart from what God says, you are doing what the devil does, and you are lying about good and evil. If you think you see the truth and it’s different from what God says is truth, you are wrong, and you are lying to yourself and to anyone you share that lie with. No matter how much you grow or learn, you will never be big enough to see the whole picture that God sees. You can only know you have the truth by trusting what God tells you. Trust with confidence that God’s Word is truth, and let that truth define your life from the heart, even when it doesn’t make sense to you.
Listen to Jesus. Receive your life from Him and through Him.
If faith was just in our heads and didn’t also affect how we tried to live, it wouldn’t be real faith. We wouldn’t actually be listening to Jesus when He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22). Christ fulfilled the law so that we don’t die eternally for our sins, but that life is received by faith. And faith listens to Jesus. So the fruit of faith is a good, disciplined life, which strives always to love the way Christ Himself loved.
We can and will fail many, many times. Even Peter denied Jesus three times. But even Peter was forgiven, not because he did enough good works to make up for his failures but because he repented—he was sorry from the heart—and he trusted God’s Word.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. . . .
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)
Even if you fail, that doesn’t separate you from God and His life. Your being alive is God’s work, not yours. But if God has given you life, and if you’re not opposing God or deliberately separating yourself from Him, then you really should, and do, listen to God!
Faith is a beautiful thing, and it is both very simple and very deep. Faith encompasses both God’s Law and His Gospel, both His discipline and His good-news promise of your salvation. When God says, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20) faith listens and responds, “Yes, Lord, be it unto me according to Your Word.” And when God says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (which you just read above), faith listens and responds, “Yes, Lord, be it unto me according to Your Word.”
That’s what it means to listen to Jesus.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15)