Quoting a truth is easier than living it out in real life. Putting truth on a plaque or poster is nice, but it doesn't change a person's life.
Memorization of Scripture is good for retention, but it won't produce transformation in a person's life on its own. What we know in our minds doesn't automatically bring change in our hearts or our self-will.
Truth doesn't bring transformation until it's transferred from thought into action, which requires an active, personal faith.
One of the more common criticisms of Christians is the claim of hypocrisy. A popular quote is what Ghandi is purported to have said in reply to a Christian missionary in India, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
If our life example doesn't match what we believe and say about Jesus and our Christian faith, then this is a legitimate criticism. But we don't need Ghandi to point this out.
Jesus said this (John 13:17), as did the apostle John (1 John 2:4-6), and the early church leader James (1:22-25). To do otherwise is to build on an unstable foundation, as Jesus says at the end of His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount—
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock... And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. (Matthew 7:24; 26)
So, our words and beliefs need to match how we live each day and how we treat others.
How the 5 Solas can apply in real life
How do we become people who are living testimonies of Jesus in the world around us and throughout the world (Acts 1:8)?
As Jesus said, we need to "do" what we've been taught and believe, if we want a solid foundation for our journey of faith, often referred to as the Christian's walk.
Here's some simple, practical suggestions under the headings for each of the 5 Solas (all linked to previous posts).
My own journey of faith began with a study of comparative religions and philosophy. I grew tired of philosophical arguments and counter arguments, and got lost in the maze of religions, which also seemed more philosophical than practical.
Along the way I made a practice of reading the Bible each morning. I didn't understand much of it at first, but it rang true to me in the midst of everything else I encountered. One day God seemed to speak directly to me through the Bible.
Since then, a daily reading of the Bible continues to be a foundational part of my faith. If reading through all of the Bible seems daunting, start with a more simple and brief approach, like a good devotional study.
The You Version Bible app features many different Bible reading plans, which is a good place to start. Many good devotionals are available online and in digital or book form. My favorite is Daily Light on the Daily Path, because it is all Scripture related to a theme for daily morning and evening readings.
I also keep a notebook handy for making notes as I gain insight and inspiration, as well as the notes I make in my Bible's margins. If you like to journal, keep it handy as you read the Bible or devotional reading.
As I've made clear before, faith is not an abstract belief. It's relational more than doctrinal. This is made clear throughout Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, and especially in this statement...
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
The essence of faith is a personal, confident trust in God, even when faced with the unknown and uncertainties in life.
Again, it's a journey of faith, not a dogmatic theological position to hold or a religious ritual to keep. Authentic biblical faith is not static, but life-giving and dynamic in a progressively deeper way (Rom 1:17 NKJV; 2 Cor 5:7).
I'm indebted to my first pastor who exhibited and taught how foundational the grace of God is to the Christian faith. I learned how the grace of God is transformational and beyond our capacity to grasp.
Inherent in Sola Gratia is God's forgiveness and restoration for any person. This is the heart of why Jesus came to provide redemption for all humanity, or as the Bible says, for "whoever believes in Him" (John 3:16).
The grace of God is foundational to genuine Christianity. This is made clear in many Scriptures, especially in these texts—
...But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 5:20-21)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8)
In the same way that we (believers) experience God's grace, we are to show and express it to others.
Receiving God's grace for our own life should not be a dead end street. God wants to pour His grace out to others through us, His children.
If you don't understand who Jesus is in truth, how can you claim to be a Christian? Again, it isn't a set of beliefs to hold, or just a way of life, it is a relationship that Jesus calls us to.
Jesus' most basic call is expressed clearly in the gospels of Matthew (Matt 16:24), Mark (Mark 8:34), and Luke—
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23 NLT)
This is a personal call to whoever would choose to follow Him, just as He called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other disciples (Matt 4:18-22).
But it is essential that we know who He is. People who don't realize who He is find many reasons to turn away from following Jesus (John 6:66-69).
Why did Peter and the others continue to follow Jesus after His death and resurrection? Because they knew who He was—
"But who do you say that I am?"Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:15-16)
Genuine Christian faith stands at odds with the American dream. Actually, it stands at odds with most any culture that focuses on the goodness or greatness of humanity.
Why? Because believers are called to surrender their lives in order to follow Jesus (Matt 16:24-26), as mentioned earlier.
And yet, the call of Jesus to follow Him is not to live a life isolated from others in the world. Quite the contrary. We are to be salt and light within the world (Matt 5:13-16), even as Jesus was (John 9:5).
We are to bring the gospel message of reconciliation and restoration to a world lost in moral and spiritual darkness, like stars shining in the night sky (Phil 2:15-16).
So, how can we live a life that honors and glorifies God while we still need to be rescued from our own struggles with sin and selfishness?
Years ago I came across a book called The Calvary Road by Roy Hession. It still challenges me as it did then. Its one primary message of walking the way of the cross, a life of self-denial and dying to self, is challenging yet freeing.
The simplicity of Jesus' call to follow Him is somewhat deceptive, as if there should be more to it. And yet, it is the key to personal freedom that enables a person to glorify God with their daily life, and be a living testimony for Jesus to others.
There are no shortcuts to a well-founded faith and to a life that glorifies God and reflects the love, grace, and truth of the Lord to the world around us.
It is a daily journey of faith, a daily walk with God within this world. There are plenty of challenges to genuine faith each day. Every believer undergoes tests and trials, no exceptions.
And yet, we don't walk this path of faith alone, at least that's not what God intends. This is why we need each other in the Body of Christ, the church family. But that's another topic for another post.
How are the truths of these 5 Solas at work in your life, or are they?
Are these 5 truths foundational in your journey of faith?