Meaning of Life
There a God?
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Faith is not something that we can produce for ourselves. It is not something that we can simply decide to have. We cannot turn it on like a water faucet; it does not work that way.
Faith is a gift from God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift is always offered by God, but we are not always able to accept it. In order to accept it, we must want to be good people. We must truly invite God into our lives. We must try to do God's commands. Christ said: to believe in me you must do the commands of my Father in heaven. There is no way around it, if we turn away from God and refuse to try to follow His commands, we will not be able to accept the gift of His true faith. And God's one great command is this: love and take care of everyone on earth , as much as you love and take care of yourself.
The Bible addresses this question directly in the letter of St. James:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?
So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called "the friend of God."
See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
(James 2: 14-26)
Many people have false faith. They say they believe, but it is just their desire to avoid punishment, or other selfish reasons, which make them say so. Their faith is so shallow, that all they are willing to do is to say it in words, and not live it in their lives. Talk is cheap. Living it in their lives means following the commands that God gave us. Living our life in Christ means seeing every single person on earth as our brother or sister, and even seeing them as Christ Himself, and loving them and caring for them accordingly. This is not easy. No one will succeed in doing this completely, or all the time. But it is important to understand it, and to try.
We do not do good works because that will get us to heaven. We do good works because that is what God Himself commanded us to do, and we want to be His obedient and faithful children. When you feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, it is not for your own sake, to be saved. It is for His sake, because He is our loving Father and we are His child, and He said that whatever we do for the least of our brethren we do directly for Him.
True faith is the result of a good life, one that we try to lead in Christ. It is not a substitute for a good life. And it will positively lead us to eternal unity with God.
"So in other words, you're not saved by works but by grace, but you still do good works because that's what God wants, correct?"
Yes, with an explanation. Although the gift of God’s grace is always offered, it cannot be accepted unless we open our minds and hearts to God. That is done by obeying His commands, not by merely saying that we love Him. If we refuse to do as He commands, how can we say our minds and hearts are open to Him? And He most emphatically and positively commands us to love our brethren as much as we love ourselves. That was not a suggestion or request. We are to be Good Samaritans. “It is not those who cry ‘Lord, Lord!’ who will be saved, but those who DO the will of my Father in heaven.” What could be more clear?
This is not nearly as easy as going to church once a week and singing songs, then ignoring the five billion of our suffering brethren in the world. So it will never be very popular.
“Bluntly, either Jesus is the way to salvation or our conscience is the way to salvation, you can't have it both ways.”
We do not try to have it both ways. We specifically emphasize that it is only because of the sacrifice of Christ, and our acceptance of it, that we can be saved.
But “acceptance” needs clarification. Faith in God, and in Christ’s sacrifice, is not something that we can have without grace from God. His grace is always freely given, but we are not always able to accept it. We are only able to accept this offer of grace if we open our hearts to Him and are willing to be good people. For those who have never had the benefit of formal Christian teaching—and this includes the vast majority of those who have been born into this world since the dawn of time—this simply means following our conscience.
“Acceptance” also does not imply that we must make the free will, informed decision to accept Christ as our saviour in the ordinary course of our lives, especially if there is no way for us to have heard about Him. Jesus atoned for the sins of all mankind. All. Including Muslims. Including savages and cave men from a million years ago. For God there is no time, because time is just how we measure the change in material things in this universe. A good Muslim, or even a good atheist for that matter, can spend eternity with God because of the atonement of Christ. He loves us all. We are all His beloved children.
He is infinitely powerful, and offering true understanding and the choice of acceptance or not of His sacrifice, even if only in the last timeless instant of our lives, is well within His capabilities. We will be open to receive the Truth if we have not turned away from Him. To believe otherwise would be to reject the doctrines that God is infinitely loving and infinitely merciful.
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