George MacDonald and True Faith

“Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because He said, Do it, or once abstained because he said, Do not do it. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe, in Him, if you do not do anything He tells you.”

– George MacDonald

My favorite author, CS Lewis, compiled an anthology of one of his favorite authors aptly titled “George MacDonald”. The quote regarding what real faith looks like is one of the countless gems of MacDonald recorded by Lewis. I commend this volume to you. Now, onto the quote itself.

In Western Christendom, I often feel salvation is reduced to a legal transaction that happens when a sinner prays a prayer, signs a card, walks an aisle, etc. Differing traditions vary on whether this legal transaction of salvation can be rescinded or if its’ a done deal, but that is a different post for a different day. Salvation is reduced to a moment of decision. This simply isn’t true.

Jesus doesn’t demand a decision to be a follower, but an entire change of direction. Everyone Jesus called in the New Testament had their entire way of life changed.  The same is true today, despite our reductionist approach to following Christ. We must walked as he walked if we claim to be in him (1 Jn 2:6). Jesus expected nothing less: he said to pick up our cross and follow him. The book of James is all about faith and works. Paul’s letters are packed with expectations for those “in Christ.” I can’t see how anyone who reads Scripture could argue.

MacDonald’s quote is helpful because it draws a rather clear line for those who are seeking to judge their own allegiance, either with or against Christ. Are you “in Christ”? MacDonald would have us ask something clear, yet painful. He doesn’t ask, “What do you believe,” but “What are you doing?” People can say what they “believe” without much worry of successful contradiction. The same cannot be said for examining what you do.

You know whether you follow Christ if you do what he said to do, or abstained from doing what he said to abstain from. MacDonald is on safe ground saying such. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands.” (Jn 14:15)

Do you (Self) obey? If so, you have faith. If not, you don’t. Do you (Reader) obey? If so, you have faith. If no, you don’t.

The truth here can set us free. We are either encouraged that we are obedient, and therefore living faithfully. Or, we learn we are fooling ourselves, but can yet make an honest change. The most unwise option would be ignoring the question all together.

Allow MacDonald’s simple test to be the means by which you judge your soul. Ask the Holy Spirit to see your life honestly. Never forget, Jesus’ love for you is endless, and he longs for his children to come home.

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