In 3rd grade during Vacation Bible School, my cabin counselor told me how sinful I was. The evidence was clear: My hands were scratched and dirty from a fight. Still, my brain, underneath a tight neat bowlcut, went into shock. I had always been told I was good; I'd even starred in Christmas plays at church!
As the realization of sin settled in - coupled with gruesome images from 80's movies depicting the end times - I was guided to pray to Jesus. My heart broke with conviction. I sensed my desperate need for a Savior. I had my first "come to Jesus" moment. By faith alone. Nothing more, nothing less. Faith was all I could give.
Years later in college, I forgot that I first came to Jesus by faith. Like the Galatians, I fell back on my works: church involvement, my dedication, my studies, prayers, disciplines and service, my missionary zeal and efforts. My soul sank into depression. I knew Jesus had died for me once upon a time, but I needed to work real hard to make sure He had, and that He would keep loving and forgiving me.
At some point, someone mentioned or gave me a series of sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on "Spiritual Depression" - I can't remember. What I do remember is I couldn't put it down. I couldn't think about anything else for a week. That week turned into months and years in which I could not get enough of reading, listening to, and responding to preaching that summoned faith toward a Savior and not back onto my defeated self.
My heart began to beat with irrepressible joy. Love for Christ, His word, His people and purposes seemed to overflow. Peace became real. The recovery of the Gospel - as the Reformers had done - made me feel as if I'd been born again, again!
How? By Faith alone.
Sola Fide! It is a more than a slogan. It is key to how God saves sinners like me.
Horatius Bonar described the dynamic of faith alone, beautifully: “Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone.”
For those of you who are mathematically inclined [Jesus loves you too]:
Faith + Works = Justification (Roman Catholic)
Faith = Justification - Works (Antinomian)
Works = Justification - Faith (Liberalism)
Faith = Justification + Works (Reformed)
That Faith alone produces Justification and Good Works (as genuine faith never remains alone) was recovered during the Reformation 500 years ago. Today however: 52% of American Protestants say, both good deeds and faith are needed to get into heaven, (the same number believe Christians need church teachings and traditions, in addition to the Bible).
We have great work to do! We are called to pass along what Apostle Paul passed down in Romans 1:17, "for in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" But thanks be to God who works wonders in and through those who come by faith alone.
Harold Kim is the Senior and Founding Pastor of Christ Central of Southern California and serves on the Board for Christ Central Network (CCN). Harold is a happily married husband to SunHi, and devoted father to his two daughters, Taylor and Elizabeth.