Practical Faith Is the Heart of the Christian Life
Faith lays at the heart of the Christian life, asserts Alfred J. Freddoso, a philosophy and law professor at the University of Notre Dame. Hebrews 11:6 supports his position, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” However, if faith is the defining factor of Christianity, it begs the question of what that means in practical terms and how it plays out in the daily lives of Christians. Although many factors define the characteristics of the Christian faith, a fair summary of the basics include divine friendship, a belief in absolute Truth, worship, sharing the gospel and integrity of belief and action.
The Bible teaches that God loved humanity so much and desired intimate friendship with them. Therefore, He went to extraordinary lengths in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus to remove any barriers to that relationship. Dr. Freddoso explains that John 1:5 illustrates God’s heart of love toward all people: “To all who received him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God.” Therefore, a Christian need not fear, but can boldly approach God with confidence in his or her position as a beloved child of God and be sure of receiving grace.
Dr. Freddoso reveals that Christians “put complete trust in God as a trustworthy revealer of Truth.” Jesus Himself asserts in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” This belief in absolute Truth, while far from a popular stance in this post-modern age of relative morality and the gospel of tolerance, distinguishes biblical Christianity from other world religions. Some churches and denominations have begun to waver under the political pressures to appease the demands of the proponents of a myriad of social issues that fly in the face of traditional Christian values and the stark reality of what the Bible teaches.
Worshipping God together in song, scripture reading and prayer on a regular basis characterizes the practice of a Christian life, states Dr. Craig Dykstra, a research professor of practical theology at Duke School of Divinity. Christians gather to “give thanks with a whole heart” as Psalm 9 instructs, to learn from hearing His Word preached and interpreted for practical application and to pray over shared concerns. However, the Christian life does not exist in a vacuum and the Bible instructs Christians to pray and spread the good news of the gospel everywhere they go.
James 2:17 tells Christians that faith without works is dead and worthless. In other words, as Dr. Dykstra’s list continues with the practices of the Christian life, faith must translate beyond words into action. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 22 that the foremost of all Christian spiritual fruits should be to love God and one’s fellow human beings without reserve. Dykstra’s list spells out many practical applications of such love: forgiveness and reconciliation; patience and compassion for others’ failures, encouraging others and building them up; giving of your resources, whether of time or money, to help others, practicing hospitality, being good listeners and standing up for what is right even when it is unpopular. Galatians 5 adds the fruits of the spirit that should accompany sincere faith, “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness and self-control.”
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
University of Notre Dame: CHRISTIAN FAITH AS A WAY OF LIFE
Baylor University School of Social Work: CHRISTIAN FAITH AS A WAY OF LIFE
Growing in the Life of Faith (ebook)
Image Courtesy of Jake Guild’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License