I want to give hope to the backslidden and those who are struggling with sin. I also want to sound a warning to those who remain in unrepentant sin and believe they are in the same boat as those who are struggling. The difference is that some continue to struggle with habits, and others don’t struggle at all, they never try and stop they just look at the others who are struggling and think this justifies their lack of action. The question is what does genuine saving faith look like?
Faith is agreement, but faith is also trust, and the truth about trust is told by the toil of the soul. What is that soul working toward, chasing after, following hard to achieve, and so forth. Who is the soul following after, that is whom the soul trusts, and whom the soul has faith in.
Jesus tells us that if you truly believe in Him, if you truly have faith, if you are truly saved, then you will come after Him, and you will follow Him. Luke 9:23 (ESV) – And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Jesus said that the soul, who puts his hand to the plow, yet keeps looking backward, is a soul that hasn’t been fitted for the kingdom (Luke 9:62). This is not a one time looking back, or a return to the world, but a reluctance to break with it in the first place. An unstable soul is a soul whose faith acts in double-minded ways (James 1:8). A soul that keeps looking back is a soul who is in control, not a soul who has surrendered control to Jesus, and Jesus said that we must lose our control of our lives for His sake (Luke 9:24). Someone who keeps looking back is someone who is still in control, and that is where their faith is, in their own control, not Jesus.
Faith is not just agreement faith is action: not just a faith in facts but a faith that acts. It isn’t just signing off on a statement of faith; it is living a life of faith demonstrating what that statement says. It is not simply theory, but practice, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. Faith is as faith does, faith is following after what we have faith in. What we follow after is what we want, and what we have faith in.
We have been saved by grace through faith, but it is a grace that preserves us, not a grace that paralyzes us. This same grace that saved us leads us into good works that God preordained us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 – ESV) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17 –ESV) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26 – ESV) James tells us that our faith shows that it has been made alive by the good works we do. Is your faith alive or is your faith a lie?
The problem is where to draw the lines. Some will say they have works and faith, but they are using their own definitions of works and faith. Some may indeed show fruit, but is it fruit of and for the kingdom, or a false fruit that only makes them feel justified?
Jesus said we must take up our cross daily, so staying in a situation is not an option. Falling into sin is not the same as following along with sin. The struggler who is genuinely saved is trying to take up their cross daily, they just keep letting it slip. The other is perhaps doing “better” than the struggler in all other areas, but in the one area they refuse to stop, they stay in and think all the other things they do justify them.
It would be like the person who struggles with a drug addiction, but they are seeking treatment, they admit they are an addict and that it is wrong, and they falter, but they want to do better and by all other indications thy are trying to follow Christ, and are asking for help. The other may not have an addiction, they have a situation, and they are not asking for help, just that we leave them alone, they are not faltering they are failing to get up in the first place. They are not taking up their cross and following Him, they are leaving it behind and think that following Him in this way is enough, and they are dead wrong.