II Timothy 1:5 has one of the great Mothers Day verses. It says: “For I am mindful of the sincere FAITH within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” That verse talks about how these faithful moms passed down their faith to their children and grandchildren. And there is nothing more important than that. If you would ask any Christian mother, I am sure they would say that THE single most important thing to them, would be to know for sure that every one of their children and grandchildren had that true faith.
But just what IS saving faith? How can you know if you have a faith that really saves? The good news is, the Bible teaches us here in I Peter 1:8-9 about the kind of faith that saves. Verses 8-9 here tell us:
“… and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
Here the Bible teaches us several things about the faith that saves:
I. The Nature of Saving Faith: Faith that Saves is Faith in what you have NOT seen.
The Bible repeatedly makes it clear that we are saved by FAITH:
— at the end of this passage it says: “obtaining as the outcome of your FAITH the salvation of your souls.” It is by faith that we are saved, this verse says, and that is affirmed throughout the Bible:
— Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you are saved through faith …”
— Romans 3:22 says we receive “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”
— Romans 5:1 says “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And we could go on and on with such passages in the New Testament. Scripture makes it clear, multiple times, that we are saved by faith.
But this passage also tells us something about the nature or KIND of faith that saves. Saving faith is described here as “NOT having seen Him”; as “NOT seeing Him now.” It makes it clear that saving faith is believing, and loving, a Jesus whom we have not seen; whose death on the cross we did NOT see; whose resurrection we did NOT witness. Inherent in saving faith is this idea that it is believing in what has NOT been seen.
This is exactly what we read in the classic definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things UNSEEN.” Saving faith is in the truth of what we have not seen.
And this is just where what so many people long for is out of line. They ask God for “signs” or “visions” or “proofs”. They pray prayers like, “God, if You are real, show me”, or “give me this sign” and so forth. But we need to understand that this is exactly the opposite of what the Bible says is saving faith.
Jesus made this clear to Thomas at the end of John 20, after His resurrection when He appeared to His disciples. Thomas had heard from some of the disciples that Jesus was alive again, but said “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails … I will not believe.” Then Jesus appeared to them again, and Thomas famously cried out: “My Lord and My God!” But Jesus said in :29 “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Here Jesus indicated not only what was true for His disciples then, but what WOULD be true for all of those who would follow in their steps: that saving faith is NOT based on what we see. We need to get this desire for “seeing” out of our heads. We are not going to “see” here on earth. Our faith will never please God if it has to be based on what we can “see” with our eyes, and put our hands on. We have to believe what His word says, when we haven’t seen it. THAT is the kind of faith that will save us.
A few years ago they came out with a book and a movie called “Heaven is for Real”, the story of the 4-year-old boy who supposedly went to heaven and came back and told everybody about it. There are some interesting aspects of his “vision”, but to be honest, this whole idea of someone coming back from heaven to show us that it is real, goes against what Jesus taught in the story of The Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16.
If you remember, Jesus said in that passage that the rich man who went to hell asked Abraham to send the poor man Lazarus back from the afterlife to warn his brothers about it, saying in :30, “If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” But Abraham said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (:31) In other words, just because someone sees something miraculous does not mean that they are going to believe. In fact, the scripture clearly teaches us here in I Peter 1 that saving faith must be based on what you have NOT seen, but believe anyway, from the word of God. Folks, we are not to believe that heaven is real because some little boy told us he went there and came back. We are to believe that heaven is real because God’s word says so! Believing when we have NOT seen — THAT is saving faith.
— Saving faith means that though you did NOT see Jesus die on the cross for your sins, you believe it.
— Saving faith means you did NOT see Him alive again, like the apostles and 500 witnesses did, but you believe He DID rise from the dead.
— Saving faith means that though you may not “see” or “feel” anything happen to you when you give your life to Jesus, you believe you are saved because His WORD says you are. And Jesus’ words in John 20 apply to you: “Blessed are you who did NOT see — and yet believe!”
Now this goes contrary to what we might think. We might think the really “blessed” person is the one that God gives a miracle or a vision to — who got to “see” something — but Jesus said, no, on the contrary: “Blessed are you who did NOT see, and yet believe.” WHY? Because that means you have saving faith! Just as this text proclaims: “You obtain as the outcome of your FAITH the salvation of your souls”! Believing that what God says in His word is true without seeing it; that is saving faith.
Maybe you are here today wrestling with becoming a Christian — but you are hesitant because you have not really “seen” evidence of some of these things. Maybe you have even been asking God to “show” you a vision of Him, or “show” you some sign. Stop doing that. You are right where God wants you to be, right now — you are in just the right position to be saved, because saving faith is believing in Him whom you have NOT seen. That’s the nature of saving faith.
II. The Direction of Saving Faith: Faith That Saves is faith IN Jesus.
But we do need to clarify here: it is not just “faith” that saves us. A lot of people think of faith almost as if it was something on its own. People say things like “Have faith”, or “just believe”, etc. During Christmas season, we see ornaments and decorations with the word “Believe”. Now “believe” can be good — but “believe” in WHAT? Believe in Jesus? Believe in Santa Claus? Believe in “The spirit of the season”? Believe in WHAT?! We need to understand that it is not just “faith” that saves us; faith must be IN something. Any faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed.
Several years ago, there was an article in the newspaper about a daredevil who was climbing a skyscraper in Florida, and as he was climbing, he saw what he thought was a little “ledge” that he could grab onto — but when he grabbed it, he fell many stories to his death. When they found his body on the ground, they discovered, clutched in his hand, a daub of mud an insect had built on that wall, that looked like a ledge. That man had put his his faith in what he thought would hold him — but it didn’t. He really believed, but his faith was only as good as the object in which it was placed. In this case, the object he put his faith in was not trustworthy, and he fell to his death.
We have to realize that the same thing is true for us. It is not just “faith” that saves us. People talk about the importance of being “people of faith” — as if it was just “having faith” that was important, no matter who or what the faith is in. But the pertinent question is not just do you HAVE “faith”, but what is your faith IN? Is the object of your faith reliable?
The Bible teaches us that saving faith is faith in one specific Person who saves: Jesus Christ. We see that in this passage: Notice that FOUR times in this passage, it refers to “HIM”: “You have not seen HIM; you love HIM; though you have not seen HIM; You believe in HIM”! “HIM … HIM … HIM … HIM …” “HIM” here refers to one specific object: the Person of Jesus Christ. The last thing we read at the end of :7 was “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” — and then it says, “though you have not see HIM, you love Him”. So when this verse says “Him”, it is referring to Jesus. It is clearly emphasizing that saving faith is in Jesus!
The Bible emphatically and uncompromisingly teaches that Jesus Christ is the one true Object of saving faith:
— Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
— The apostles proclaimed in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
— In I John 5:12, John wrote: “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does NOT have the life.”
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the one object of saving faith. If you want to have the faith that saves, your faith must be in Him. Faith in good things you have done won’t save you; faith in your baptism will not save you; faith that you have “walked down an aisle” will not save you; faith in joining a church will not save you — it is only faith IN JESUS Christ Himself which saves!
Make sure that your trust today is in Jesus, and in Jesus only. If you never have before, right now pray and admit your sin to God, and ask Him to save you because of what Jesus did and Jesus ALONE! Saving faith is not just faith in anything; the only faith that saves, is faith in Jesus Christ!
III. The Affection of Saving Faith: Faith That Saves is a Faith that Loves
This is an often-overlooked element in genuine, saving faith: saving faith leads us to LOVE Jesus! Verse 8 not only says you “believe in Him” without seeing Him, it also says “you LOVE Him”. And it goes on to say, “you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Real, saving faith creates a real love for, and a joy in, Jesus.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of presentations of Christianity miss this, and it is such an important point. Being saved is not just some “cold business transaction” in which you pray certain words of a prayer, and get “fire insurance” from hell, and go on with your life. NO! If you really have saving faith in Jesus, then like this passage says you will “LOVE HIM” now because you recognize Who He is and what He has done for you.
When you truly have saving faith, you realize the gravity of what Jesus did for you. You realize that have broken the laws of holy God, and you should have faced the wrath of God because of your sin. But you came to understand that in His incredible love and mercy, Jesus, the Son of God Himself, “(Who) existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with as a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men … (and came) to the point of death — even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2). And if we really realize what He did for us, to save us, then we will LOVE Him for that.
I have a good friend, Jack Tillery, who served with Kyle and me in ministry in Lake Charles. Jack had to step down from ministry while we were there, as his health was critical, and he needed a double transplant: heart and kidney. They said the odds of him getting both were extremely low, and that he probably did not have long to live. But remarkably, just a few months later, he got “that call” — a young man by the name of Mike had died in an accident, but he and his family were donating his organs. Jack got those organs that day, and he lived. I talked to him on the phone just the other day. And now, as you can imagine, Jack has a special love for Mike. When I talked to Jack the other day, he said that even though he never saw Mike, he loves him, because the only reason Jack is alive today is because of what Mike did for him. Jack says he can’t wait to see Mike in heaven. He is grateful for what he did for him, and he loves him for it.
The same thing, and immeasurably more, is true for us and the Lord. If you really understand what Jesus has sacrificed for you, to save you, though you haven’t seen Him, you LOVE Him! And you can’t wait to see Him in heaven, and be with Him, and worship Him.
So now, you aren’t gonna just drag yourself to church and half-heartedly mumble some songs and prayers; You’re going to sing with great love and joy because of what He did for you: “I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.” If you really believe what He did for you, like I Peter says, you will LOVE Him.
I don’t agree with all of John Piper’s Calvinist teachings, but he makes a great point in his little book Think about the change of affections that takes place in the genuine believer. He writes that when you are saved:
“Something changes inside of you, and as a result (the Lord) becomes compellingly attractive. His glory—his beauty—compels your admiration and delight. He becomes your supreme treasure. You love him … not ideas or deeds but delight. God is our supreme pleasure. We prefer above all else to know Him and see Him and be with Him and be like Him.”
What Piper is describing there is just what I Peter 1:8-9 says here. When you genuinely give your life to Jesus, it’s not just some “decision” or “transaction” you make. It causes you to LOVE Jesus and rejoice in Him because of Who He is and what He has done for you.
Is that true for you? Do you really LOVE Jesus like this says? Do you “rejoice in Him with joy inexpressible and full of glory?” Do you love to sing to Him? Do you love to spend time with Him in prayer? Do you love to come to services and worship Him with others? Do you talk to other people about Him?
Listen, if you don’t love to worship Jesus now — what makes you think you are going to enjoy heaven? Worship is what we are going to be doing there forever! If you don’t love Him now, and worship Him now, and all that sounds really boring to you, then you’ve got to ask yourself whether you have saving faith at all, because the scripture tells us here that saving faith causes you to LOVE HIM! There is a real AFFECTION in saving faith.
IV. The Outcome of Saving Faith: The Faith That Saves, Saves Your SOUL
:9 “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
Here the Bible says that the faith described in this passage will indeed save. It says this kind of faith will bring about “the salvation of your souls.”
What is your soul? Your soul is the most important thing about you. Your “soul” is who you really are. Genesis 2:7 says: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living SOUL.” Your soul is what distinguishes you from the animals; it’s what makes you “in the image of God”, with a mind, and a will, and emotions; your soul is that part of you that will live forever, either in heaven or in hell. It is by far the most important thing about you. Nothing in your life compares to the importance of your eternal soul. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
Unfortunately, our souls have been corrupted with a sin nature, passed down to us from Adam. As a result, whenever we have the opportunity to make our first choices, we inevitably choose to sin, every one of us. But when we put our trust in Jesus, He sends His Holy Spirit into our lives to regenerate us. Ephesians 1:13 says: “You also, having believed, were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise …”. He comes into our lives, making us “born again.” He gives us a new nature, which loves and treasures Him — like we talked about a few moments ago. Our bodies will still die, but our souls will now live forever in heaven — like I Peter says, we “obtain as the outcome of (our) faith the salvation of (our) souls.”
Now, our bodies will be raised one day too, as I Corinthians 15 promises. But note, very importantly, that it is the salvation of your “SOUL” which is the central promise here in the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not primarily about your money, or your marriage, or your job, your health or what some would call “your best life now”. There are principles in scripture which can help you in all of these areas, but Jesus does not guarantee us salvation financially or physically here on this earth. There have been good Christian people all through history who have been poor. There have been great Christians throughout all the ages who have been sick, or who have had any of a multitude of difficulties — in fact, someone once observed that the greatest Christians often seem to have the worst difficulties! The gospel of Jesus Christ does not promise you deliverance from all those things in this life. What saving faith in Jesus promises is the salvation of your SOUL for eternity!
This is just where so much of the contemporary “gospel” which is being preached falls short. They make Christianity about having healing every time you need it now, or getting “your best life now”, and how “God will help you reach your dreams” and “make you the best you can be”, etc. But their focus is on temporal, earthly things — whereas the genuine gospel focuses NOT on these things, but on “the salvation of your souls.”
Now as I said, there are certainly principles in the Bible which can benefit your marriage and your finances and your work. But just as Jesus said: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” What good does it do you to have a happy marriage and do well on your job, and get a big house and save a lot of money — if you then die and go to hell? The very point of Jesus’ story about the Rich Man & Lazarus is that this life is not what it is all about. You can be happy and prosperous in this life but this life is very brief, and what comes afterwards is an irreversible eternity. Think about it: That Rich Man in Luke 16, while he was alive on earth, he HAD his “best life now” didn’t he?
— He could have given a seminar on “10 Steps to Financial Freedom,” because he was rich!
— He could have given a talk on “How to Dress for Success” — he was clothed in fine garments, Jesus said!
But that man lived out what Jesus said was the ultimate tragedy: he gained everything there was to have in this world, but he lost his own soul. And Jesus said that from hell that man cried out, asking that the poor beggar Lazarus — who had NOTHING in this world, whom the “health and wealth” prosperity people would have looked on with disdain, because he was poor, and sick — that Rich Man asked that this man who had NOTHING on earth might dip his finger and give him just one drop of water to cool his tongue in the torment of the fires of hell. What did it profit that man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? But that is exactly what he did.
Every one of us needs to ask ourselves today: “Do I have the faith that saves my soul?” I’m not asking if you have a great house, or if your bank account is in good shape, or if your clothes match, or if everyone respects you — because all those things are only temporary, and just like that Rich Man you may have all of those things, and still lose your soul. I’m not asking if you are “a person of faith” in some generic way! I’m asking you if you have what Peter talks about here: do you have the faith that saves your soul?!
When Cheryl & Michael & I moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 2013 after I had gotten sick, we began attending Trinity Baptist Church there. There was a young mother in that church who was also going through health problems, and the church did a marvelous job of ministering to her, just like they did to me. But after every possible medical treatment and alternative cure; after every kind of individual and group prayer for her had been made; though she had an incredibly positive attitude and a wonderful support network, Kelsey Kennedy, the mother of a sweet 4-year-old daughter, and wife to a loving husband, passed into eternity. And what we’ve got to understand today, folks, is that no matter who you are, one day (if Jesus doesn’t come back first) that’s going to happen to every single one of us, in one way or another. And on that day, it won’t matter how much money you have in the bank, how well-dressed you are, or how successful your business was. There’s only one thing that will matter: did you have the faith that saved your soul?
— As we bow our heads for moment, would you ask yourself: do you have the faith that saves your soul?
Do you have a faith IN Jesus Christ Himself, and His death on the cross for you? Though you have never seen Him, do you believe that His death on the cross saves you from your sin and makes you right with God?
— Has that faith given you a LOVE for Him which is greater than your love for anyone or anything, and helps you to rejoice even when you are undergoing trials here on earth?
— Are you confident that you have not gained all there is to get in this world, but are about to lose your soul?
There is no more important question in life than this. Do YOU have saving faith?
If you don’t, why don’t you pray a prayer today, and put your faith in Jesus right now … if you do, be sure to tell someone what you have done today!