In this abiding series, each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.
To: Friend Seeking More from Faith
From: Doug Nuenke
Subject: The Heart of the Matter
In our last couple of emails, we’ve talked about the visible evidence of an abiding life; namely, in our joy and our behavior. But you brought up a profound question in your last note: how do we know if the evidence in our lives is enough?
In the same chapter from Galatians I referenced in my last email, Paul writes:
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:4-6 NIV)”
On one hand, Paul directly tells these believers that their hope in religious ritual has led them astray, but he also expresses hope for the righteousness that comes through the Spirit. What is the ultimate expression of this righteousness? Faith expressed through love.
As we talked about last time, right living comes by way of the Spirit’s work in our lives, and as we abide in Christ, we are equipped in righteousness. Our faith is then catalyzed toward the primary evidence of spiritual fruitfulness: love.
The apostle John also landed on this interplay between belief and love as the primary traits of an abiding life.
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:23-24, emphasis added).
Isn’t that a beautiful passage? It streamlines our call and mission as believers. The primary “work” God requires is believing in the One He has sent (John 6:29) and loving one another.
The substance and ‘enoughness” of our abiding boils down to faith in Christ that becomes a pipeline of love for others. Belief is our first stop, but our relationship with Christ does not end with inactive faith, or with any benefit it has for us. It’s intended to change and equip us so that we may love others well, just as Christ first loved us.
So how do we know if our personal expressions of faith and love are enough? Our ‘enoughness’ is not measured by our output, but by Christ’s comprehensive covering and care for us. We borrow ‘enoughness’ from Jesus who lavishes us with grace, cloaks us in His righteousness, and equips us for every good work. We are no longer assessed on our own merit. We are connected to the Vine, who is enough.
Perhaps the answer to your question, then, is a reframing of the question itself. Rather than measuring output, ask yourself: Am I cultivating my faith by abiding in Christ? When I am abiding in Jesus am I compelled to love others?
These questions get us to the heart of the matter.
Until next time,