Taking in the world around me, I can’t help but dream of being a conduit of healing and change. I see these things that aren’t right with the world, and I want to make them right. I know I’m not alone.
We want to influence our culture. We foresee a more perfect world and then pour our resources into words, ministries, and social media posts that we think will help bring about this reality. And then naturally, we try to quantify our collective righteousness by tallying numbers and gauging power.
Yet as we envision the future, we must consider influential faith as it has been defined by the past.
Sixteenth century Western Europe bore significant evidence of the righteousness we seek in our culture. A majority professed to be Christians; their king — the most powerful man in the world — was a professing Christian; the church’s wealth was second only to the king’s; colleges, cathedrals, and hospitals bearing Christ’s name dotted the map; and the culture was relatively peaceful and stable. If the church sought to quantify its righteousness, surely it needed to point no further than the fruit that was the age of Christendom.
However, deep in the heart of that Christendom lived a Christian who was desperately searching for a different kind of peace — the kind that the apostle Paul professed to have: “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1b). Though Martin Luther was an ardent follower of Christ, he did not have this peace that Paul connected with being “justified through faith” (v. 5:1a).
Luther began relentlessly meditating on Scripture until he put the pieces together of this faith that Paul had spoken of. But why was it so hard to find? Ironically, this faith had been obscured by the culture of this supposedly flourishing Christendom. The sad reality: It was full of corruption.
Professing the authority of Scripture alone, Luther challenged the church to accept that we are justified through faith alone, in Christ alone by grace alone, to God’s glory alone. Unlike many Protestants today, Luther didn’t choose to leave his church and start over. Instead, His heart was to see the church he loved reformed by these truths.
Five hundred years later, Martin Luther is recognized as one of the most influential figures in history — not just because his faith continues to impact the world, but because only the faith he taught brings the “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” that we long to see saturate the world.
Affirming the faith
What then is this type of faith, and how can we affirm it in our own lives?
It sees God’s righteousness. Righteousness belongs to God alone and does not exist apart from Him. As the psalmist observed, “Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?” (Psalm 71:19).
If we are justified — made right — by faith, then it is inherent that we have a revelation of what this righteousness looks like as it is defined within God alone and embodied in Christ. Faith contemplates and stands in awe of the breadth and depth of this righteousness.
It receives God’s righteousness through Christ. By definition, faith is “the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1a, ESV, emphasis mine). If righteousness belongs to God alone, then true righteousness is something that we can only hope for and desire, but never possess apart from Him (Galatians 5:5).
This is where faith comes in. Having a revelation of God’s righteousness, we see that we are not righteous. But in Christ, God tells us that this righteousness we hope for is ours as a free gift — a grace — that we receive by faith, by believing that He has given it to us while our bodies bear no evidence of this righteousness.
Faith walks toward God’s righteousness becoming ours. We are also told that the “righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, ESV, emphasis mine). Though we start off with this righteousness not evidenced in our bodies, faith involves an understanding that this righteousness will one day be a tangible reality that we can see. Faith keeps Christ’s righteousness in front of us and enables us to be transformed by it.
The process of sanctification is the component of salvation that involves Christ’s righteousness becoming more and more visible in our lives until the day when we are glorified in His presence.
Bearing God’s image
Christian influence isn’t about manipulating or ridiculing the world around us until it takes on the appearances of rightness. Rather, the type of influence that moves our world closer to accepting and manifesting God’s righteousness is a byproduct of Christians living by faith. Likewise, your influence on this world can’t be measured in terms of how we traditionally define success.
When you became a follower of Christ, you became a leader — a bearer of God’s image entrusted with bearing testimony of a righteousness that is not our own. Embrace this influence that comes through faith, and seek to deepen it. See God’s righteousness, receive it, and then walk toward it in intentionality and grace.
If you’re ready to deepen the influence of your faith, why not try Artios Christian College? Find out more at artioscollege.org.