I was only 22 years old when I found my daughter Laura, dead in her crib. No parent should have to endure the trauma of having their child’s lifeless body lowered into a grave. Twenty-nine years have passed and yet the emotional pain is a vivid memory that time has not erased. Today, I pray that I can use the example of Laura’s life and death as a means of teaching you what a “living” faith in Jesus looks like.
When Laura was born she was very much alive. I knew this fact immediately because when the nurse put her in my arms, she wiggled around and started to cry very loudly. Over the next few months, whenever she was hungry, her cry often told me that she was very much alive. The morning that she died, I was suspicious before I even saw her, because I had not heard that normal cry of hunger. The moment I saw her, I knew that her spirit was no longer in her body. I could see there was no breath of life in her because her tiny chest did not move as it had before.
When a person is brought to faith (converted) it is an instantaneous event, similar to when my daughter was born physically. Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be “born again” and explained what that means:
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)
The Holy Spirit brings a person to faith in a miraculous birth called conversion. Just as a baby is born physically and does not contribute to its birth, when a person is brought to faith, they are “born of the Spirit” and have done nothing to make it happen. When a physical life is created, there are elements necessary to create this new life, so also with a spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit works His miraculous birth using the very Word of God as the conduit which creates a new spiritual life. Both Jesus and Peter explain:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
When someone hears or reads God’s words and the Holy Spirit brings that person to faith, a new creature is born, one that did not exist before. Every person with a living faith in Jesus, has been brought to faith (born again) in this way—by the Holy Spirit.
I once had faith in the Gospel of Mormonism. That faith was not one that was created by the Holy Spirit—I myself had worked to “develop it by my obedience.” After that faith failed me, I tried a faith in Shamanism and then one in the New Age movement, and on and on I went—searching for something I could place my faith in. Finally I settled on the faith that having faith didn’t really matter.
Today, I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit worked on that miserable being and brought me to faith, opening my eyes and heart to the truth. Now that I know what a “living” faith is, I can clearly see the difference. Contrasting any other faith with a faith in Jesus exposes that all other faiths are “dead”. All who have a faith in Jesus have something that no other person has—a new spiritual creature that lives inside of them and has become a part of who they are. When the Holy Spirit brought me to faith, I did not want to be a Christian. I had given up on “religion” and certainly didn’t understand all the things I am explaining to you now.
In spite of the fact that I didn’t understand, I had this new spiritual creature living inside of me that was crying out and acting in ways that I had never before experienced. First and foremost, it wanted to be fed. Just like my daughter Laura who cried out when she was hungry, my new spirit craved spiritual food and sent me out to find it. Even though I didn’t understand why at the time, I couldn’t stop myself from going to as many different Church services as I possibly could. I would go to three different services on a Sunday and as many others as I could possibly find during the week. I was a thirty-six year old with a “born-again” spirit that needed to be fed voraciously. My hunger was satiated only where God’s Word was being shared—in Christian churches.
It was at one of these services that I heard a message that both my head and heart could understand. I heard the truth that gaining forgiveness of my sins did not depend upon my works—that work had already been done by Jesus! I learned that all my sins had been washed away with Christ’s blood, shed on the cross. Then and there I gave my life to Jesus and my life has never been the same. Every breath I breathe is for my Savior—driven by the new spiritual life that was created in me by the Holy Spirit, and fed by God’s Word working through me.
Heavenly Father knows who does and doesn’t have faith—He can see into our hearts. But for us, it is sometimes hard to tell who does and doesn’t have a living faith. Yet those who have a living faith, move and act in ways that someone without faith cannot do—because they have a spiritual creature living inside them. They will do many works out of love for their God who has already given them eternal life—not because they “have to” but because they “want to”. They cannot help themselves because that is what spiritually alive creatures do.
True good works (voluntary works not done to gain something for you) always follow saving faith—yet faith alone saves! Such works are motivated by gratitude to a loving God who saves undeserving sinners—they glorify God. Works done to gain forgiveness, eternal life or anything else are motivated by a love of self—they glorify self!
James explains to us that there will be those who claim to have a living faith—but don’t. He also tells us how we can tell if someone does not really have a living faith: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26) Just as I knew that my daughter Laura was physically dead because her body was not moving; we can know that someone is spiritually dead if there are no works as evidence that they have a “living” faith.
I pray that the Holy Spirit has brought you to faith through the reading of God’s Word. If you find that what I write is beginning to make sense, then maybe your heart understands what your head has not yet accepted. Turn to God’s Words found in the Bible.