So the way I study my Bible is that during my quiet time I start in my big MacArthur Study Bible that weighs like 100 lbs but has so much good information in it that it’s totally worth the broken back. I read a few verses (usually somewhere between 3 and 5) and then I force myself to go slowly, to look at everything in depth, to record everything new, everything valuable, any personal connections or new convictions. So after that I’ve got about a page of notes from those few verses that cover everything from historical context/relevance to practical applications. then I zip up my study bible and open my journaling Bible and I condense and copy everything that I took notes on and want to keep close at hand and accessible. So then tada! You’ve got this mess:
But this mess has so much truth in it! Not because of anything I did, but because of what the Lord has graciously given each and every one of us, an ability to learn who He is and hear what He says through His Word.
The reason I bring this all up is because I think I want to write more about what the Lord is teaching me through His Word, not just through life experiences (though that’s important too).
So right now I’m reading through Romans and I just finished chapter 4 which is all about how we are justified by faith and not works.
Abraham is mentioned a lot in this passage because of what an important figure he was to Christians at the time, especially Jews. The chapter starts off by creating a hypothetical situation “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God” (Romans 4:2 NIV). This verse is meant to express the absolute impossibility of standing before God and saying that we deserve to be saved because of what we’ve done in our own power.
Verse 3 quotes Genesis 15:6 and says that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Do you see what this is saying? His faith was still unable to pay off his debt. It had to be credited to him; God’s righteousness was added to his bank account on credit because Abraham’s faith wasn’t enough to earn it. Even the faith of the “Father of Faith” was not enough to merit salvation.
There’s a widespread belief that though we agree works can’t get us into heaven, faith will. But that’s just not true, because our faith is flawed, our faith is incomplete, our faith wavers and fails!
You might be thinking “Well if works can’t get us into heaven and faith can’t get us into heaven, then what can?” Well, good question. Faith still can, but not because faith earns it.
What faith did was open the channel for God to pour out His grace and impute His righteousness onto His child. Faith doesn’t earn us salvation, faith opens the door for God to give us salvation. Nothing we could ever do, say, believe, or love will be the perfect sacrifice needed to free us from the bonds of sin and death.
Belief in the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ the Savior is called “saving faith” not because our faith itself saves but because our good Father has promised His forgiveness if only we would offer up our imperfect faith. It’s unreal how He asks for so little to give us so much. It’s like giving someone a clump of mud and them handing you a diamond in exchange, but so much less for so much more.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). Put your faith in Him and open the door, He takes that sin-tainted faith and holds it close, He hands you back eternal life and a personal relationship with the God of the universe that you could never earn by faith or by works and only receive because of the grace of God.
Faith though, faith is the only way to open the door. We all need saving faith.