To be a Christian means that we embrace a life of faith. We have pretty much equated faith with mental acceptance of certain doctrines. For us faith is all about what we believe.
There is doubt that belief is the foundational element of faith. The apostle Paul tells us as much when he wrote:
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:14-15; ESV).We cannot call to God, trust Jesus for salvation, without first hearing and believing the Gospel. Belief is absolutely essential to faith, but to always equate the two would be a mistake. It is apparent to me that the Bible teaches that true faith is demonstrated in what we do. I would put it this way faith is belief in action.
James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that the faith of Abraham was discovered in how he lived:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24; ESV)To truly have faith in Jesus means that it will be seen in how we live. This is more than "going to church," singing praise songs, reading "Christian" books, studying the Bible, and praying. I am not saying these things are bad, but adding certain rituals to our lives doesn't mean we are living a life a faith. Faith, when lived out, will affect every area of our lives. Faith will change how we date, what we consider to be entertainment, how we spend our money, how we relate to other people, and a host of other choices we face each day.
Choosing is how faith moves from mere belief to action in our lives. Abraham had to choose to leave his home and follow God into the unknown, to obey God when it was difficult to do, and to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Based on what he believed about God Abraham made choices that affect how he lived his life.
In the same way Christians are people who are to live by faith, choosing to do what God has told us through His Son Jesus. The writer of Hebrews wrote:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1:1-4; ESV).
We trust God and His Word and live our lives accordingly.
The way God wants us to live is found in the way Jesus lived. That means Jesus is our example on how we are to live life. In fact is is impossible to have a relationship with God when we don't follow Jesus. The apostle John makes this clear; whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (1 John 2:6; ESV). We need to follow the example of Jesus.
This is what being a Christian is all about. We often get so distracted from this main thing that we have forgotten what true faith is. To live a life of faith, for a Christian, means to follow Jesus. We cannot call ourselves Christians if we do not follow Jesus' example in how we live.
So how do we follow Jesus? It isn't like we can physically follow Him since He ascended into heaven 2,000 years ago. Not only is Jesus not here for us to physically follow, but there are also many people who claim Jesus for their personal agendas, and so it can become very difficult to understand who Jesus really is. Is He a feminist? A Republican? A vegetarian? A Muslim prophet?
The starting place for following Jesus begins with the four Gospels which record for us Jesus' life. That means we need to be people of the text as we learn about how Jesus lived and what He taught.
Following Jesus isn't just about being people of the text, but we must also choose to apply that text to our lives. That is why the disciplines of study, meditation, prayer, and fellowship are so important in our lives. These are the means by which we take the text and process it so it becomes part of our lives.
If we are going to follow Jesus it begins by believing in Him, but then it moves to obeying Him. Faith is the combination of belief and obedience. We are people of faith when adjust our lives to the will of Jesus.