When we get to know Christ, as is our privilege to know Him, our lives will be lives of continual obedience.
Many people are confused as to relationship between faith and works? Just how is one saved? “Believe in Jesus” is common response. But how does one “believe” in Jesus? Is this an act of sheer spiritual willpower? Do you just force yourself to believe?
I remember asking this question, “What does one do to believe in Jesus?” I was told as a response, “Give your heart to Jesus.” “How do I give me heart to Jesus?” I asked. “Come to foot of cross,” was response. Frustrated with metaphors, I asked “How do I come to foot of cross?” The circular answer was, “Give your heart to Jesus.” I am an engineer and like things concretely defined. Answering my questions with metaphors, much less a circle of metaphors, frustrates me to no end.
So, finally, after years thought, reflection, and advise from trusted counselors, I have come up with following outline. Please forgive any theological nuances, as I am not a professional theologian.
1. All human beings (save Christ, Eternal Son of God) are born sinners with a sinful nature that separates us from God. Even though a baby might be too young to willfully sin, they are still born with a sinful nature. In other words, it is your sinful nature that gives rise to sins. You sins do not make you a sinner, but fact you were born a sinner gives rise to your committing sins. As a result, we all need to be saved. This was accomplished through Christ's atoning, substitutionary death on cross. (cf. Rom. 3:23 - 26)
2. Salvation is, and has always been, by grace through faith alone in work and Person of Jesus Christ alone. I.e., salvation has always been through gospel. In OT times they did not know coming Redeemer by name "Jesus Christ", but they knew gospel in some form or fashion. (cf. Heb. 3:1 - 4:2)
3. Grace means "unmerited favor." Faith means "trust, based on evidence, that result in action." As for relationship between faith and works, John Calvin hit nail on head I think when he said "It is faith alone that saves, but faith that saves is never found alone." That, in my opinion, is best one-line resolution between Paul (cf. Rom 3:20) and James (Jas 2:24).
4. Salvation consists of three things: (a) Justification, (b) Sanctification, and (c) Glorification. (a) Justification -- is going from being a condemned sinner to a saved sinner. It is righteousness of Christ, none of our own, put to our account. In other words, it is Christ's imputed righteousness. It is obtained by grace through faith alone in work and Person of Jesus Christ alone. It's function is to save us into heaven.
(b) Sanctification -- is typically called "spiritual maturity" nowadays. In short, it is growth in Christ, by power of Holy Spirit, wherein, among other things, we overcome our sinful habits and we (hopefully) sin less and less as we become more spiritually mature. It is righteousness of Christ, none of our own. In other words, it is Christ's imparted righteousness. It is obtained by grace through faith alone in work and Person of Jesus Christ alone. It's function is to bring glory to God (i.e., "so that they might see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.").