5 Ways To Live More Authentically

You Only Know What You Live

As I talk with Christians, I often hear them claim things about themselves that are not validated by their life. They know they fall short, but try to convince themselves otherwise. They don’t understand that experiencing the struggle to live a life in Christ is how they are becoming what they claim. They are not there yet. Saying so does not make it so. Sadly, many Christians live under the delusion that if they believe hard enough about “who they are” they will become that person. However, that is not true faith. That is not reality. 

Have you ever read a book and then believed you knew the topic because you read about it? Many Christians approach God this way. They read the Bible and think they know God because they’ve read about Him. They quote scripture believing they are quoting something about themselves. Maybe I’m sensitive to this since I pretty much did this very thing for decades.

You can think about and quote scriptures. But if you are not seriously trying to live scriptures then maybe its better for you to be silent and, in humility, admit that you struggle to live what you quote.

Why? Because you only know what you live. You only know something when you experience it. 


You see, the idea of “knowing” has gotten messed up. To most people knowing means to know about something. If you can get it “into your head” or “understand it” intellectually then you know it. But knowing was never meant to be purely intellectual.

If you could ask only one of the following people to come speak about France at your Rotary Club, which one would you invite? The person who read a travel book on France? The person who vacationed in Paris? The person who lived in France for a year? Or the person who was born and lived in France, speaks the language and actually is French? Which person really “knows” France?

This does not deny that each person above has a certain knowledge about France. Each level of knowledge, however, has its limits. That is what needs to be humbly acknowledged.

Christian Knowing?

Christians have a tendency to claim much about themselves that is not actually lived. “I know God.” “I am mature.” “I pray.” “I am a Christian.” “I love everybody.” “I am not judgmental.” “I am saved.” “I know the truth.” “I give everything to Jesus.” “I am filled with the Spirit.” “I am a follower of Jesus.” “I love you.” Easy to claim. Almost impossible to live.

Simultaneously, Christians hesitate to claim much about themselves that is actually lived. “I am impatient.” “I am judgmental.” “I am a controller.” “I am angry.” “I don’t love my enemies.” “I am proud.” “I trust myself more than God.” “I don’t know God.” “I lie.” “I am a hypocrite.” “I don’t act like Jesus.” Easy to live. Almost impossible to claim.


  1. Learn to live in repentance. Keep turning from your old self, your former ways, your faulty thinking and keep turning to God and his love, light and life.
  2. Start using the word “becoming” – I am becoming mature, becoming less judgmental, becoming a follower of Jesus, becoming more humble, becoming a Christian.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Sizing yourself up against other Christians is unwise and useless.
  4. Devote yourself to knowing God in your experience of Him. Learn an everyday communion with the Trinity. Struggle on the narrow way with God. 
  5. On your spiritual journey, be quick to admit your faults and slow to claim mastery.

Don’t claim to know what you don’t live. You’re only fooling yourself when you do. Become more authentic.

Choose one of the solutions above. Begin to practice it today.

Dr. K

Faith Alone Confuses Our Understanding of Salvation

Being totally open and honest about most things is almost impossible for us humans. Throw in God and the Bible and we can create monsters…or at least intolerably opinionated people. I don’t want to be one of those. I hope I’m not being one when I question the notion of “faith alone.” I do know it puts me in opposition to thousands of people and hundreds of so-called theologians who are committed to this idea. That’s really what it is – an idea. It’s an idea that finds no grounding in scripture or in actual spiritual life. Yet, it is defended over and over as truth. To me, it is a “truth” that causes major confusion.

Here are quotes that are supposed to make sense: 



This all sounds so good. But, this is how I interpret what these good men say: “You are saved by faith alone, though you are not saved by faith alone.” Confusing! 

In an attempt to make sense of “faith alone” they create confusion. Thus, thousands of people are confused…and paralyzed in their faith. 

It’s a sad state of affairs. 

I pray God’s grace will guide you into a clear place. 

Dr. K 


Was Abraham Justified By Faith Alone?

A Journey of Real Faith Involves Belief and Effort

I heard a local pastor of a Presbyterian church a while back use Abraham as an example of a person who was “accounted righteous” by faith alone. No doubt, Abraham is the prime example of true faith in scripture. He is the poster child of faith. In the New Testament he and his faith are mentioned in Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and James. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” is a familiar phrase. 

However, St. James writes that Abraham was not justified by faith alone but was justified by his works. He explains true faith – 

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” — and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2.21-24)

Abraham had a faith that was active. He had efforts that were infused with faith. His faith was made whole by his works. This is how he was justified. This is how every human is justified. This is how salvation works. 

When not blinded by a particular theological system, you can clearly see what is meant by this kind of faith. 

Abraham’s faith was incomplete without works. In Abram’s (Abraham) conversation with God (Genesis 15:1-11), we are told that due to Abram’s faith in God, God “counted it to him for righteousness.” Yet his faith was incomplete. He obeyed God by bringing certain animals and sacrificing them before God. What would have happened if Abraham had not done what God asked of him? If he had refused to cut in half the heifer, female goat, ram and did not bring a turtledove and pigeon, would God have made a covenant with Abraham? Would faith alone, with no obedience, have been enough for God to establish a covenant with Abraham?

Would a covenant been made if Abraham refused a name change or circumcision? (Genesis 17) Would Abraham have had his son Isaac if he’d not had sexual relations with Sarah but only believed in God’s promise? Faith was made whole by works. 

After Abraham nearly sacrificed his beloved Isaac (Genesis 22) in response to God’s command, God says:

By myself I have sworn…because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore…and in your offspring shall all the nations be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

It is clear that God keeps His promise to Abraham “because you have done this” and “because you have obeyed my voice.” Faith alone is not enough for the promise to be fulfilled. It took faith and works, faith and obedience.

There is no separation between faith and works in Abraham’s example. They are one. Abraham’s journey with God began in faith and continued to be fortified by faith-filled efforts. His faith was in God borne out by his actions.

Abraham, the greatest example of faith in scripture, is not an example of faith alone. Abraham’s journey of faith begins by believing God and His promise and is made more and more complete, over time, as he does God’s will. 

You and I need to follow his example.

Dr. K   

10 Fears That May Keep You From Confident Faith

Why Are You Afraid to Give Up "Faith Alone?"

In previous posts, I’ve challenged the notion of “faith alone.” Coming to grips with true faith has been part of my journey to know God more fully. Along the way I dealt with the fear of giving up some of my “core beliefs” about God and how He operates. Yet, every time I seriously examined one of these core beliefs, I “discovered” a more grounded, historically-supported, Bible-attested reality that previously had not even been on my radar. My fears were unfounded. 

You may be fearful of letting go of “faith alone.”

Off the top of my head, I came up with this list of fears you may be facing: 

  1. I’ll become a Roman Catholic and embrace their theology. I’m living proof that this doesn’t need to happen. Don’t make this a “black & white” issue – I’m either “faith alone” or Roman Catholic. Nonsense! Living as a Christian leaves you more “options” than these two. 
  2. I’ll become Pelagian or at least semi-pelagian.  Pelagianism is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal [human] will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid. (Wikipedia) No. You don’t need to go here, either. Faith is always a result of the gift of grace freely given to all. Salvation is by grace because our human nature indeed has been tainted by sin. 
  3. I’ll become a raving legalist. That’s your call. However, dismissing “faith alone” does not automatically mean you’ll become a “works only” person, either. There’s a whole lot of mysterious room between faith alone and works alone.   
  4. I’ll diminish faith, grace, and God’s work in salvation. Actually faith and grace are enlarged when “faith alone” is dismissed. When you realize faith and grace in all efforts, you experience them more deeply and confidently. When salvation and all of the Christian life is not engaged by “faith alone,” you realize that ALL your efforts must be by grace through faith or they mean nothing.  
  5. I’ll have to question other reformation doctrines. For example, if faith alone goes, so goes total depravity. This may happen. 
  6. I’ll have to deal with my lethargy concerning my soul. Perhaps. No longer can you ignore the necessary efforts related to dealing with the passions of your heart.  
  7. I’ll have to get more serious about God and about knowing God. Probably. It will no longer be enough just to believe in God. Your relationship with God will take on heightened engagement.  
  8. I’ll have to get real with many Bible teachings I now ignore or explain away. Probably. From “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” to “for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life,“ to “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” to “pray without ceasing,” to “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” to “by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned,” to “by faith Abraham obeyed…,” so many passages relate faith with some kind of effort.  
  9. I may come into conflict with my church, Christian friends, and family. This may happen. However, you can all agree that salvation is by grace through faith. 
  10. I may have to actually come to grips with history especially church history. Conceivably. Most evangelicals I know do not know much about the church or Christian theology before the Protestant Reformation. What are the seven ecumenical councils? What did they articulate about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church? How did the early church and her leaders view salvation and faith? What ancient writers articulated the faith and how? There’s more profit to the study of 1500 years of history than you can even imagine. 

So, it’s just easier to believe in justification by faith alone, right? To do otherwise might mess with much of your life. Why would you want to “work out your own salvation” when you can merely believe? Why would you want to struggle and wrestle with issues of faith? That’s too hard. Better to ease yourself into the kingdom than try to “take it by force” [effort] (Matthew 11.12). 

Or, you can march forward by grace and in faith putting forth every effort to enter the kingdom through the narrow way. That’s what Jesus taught. That’s what the Church has taught. 

Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence, live by grace and faith, and work diligently at your salvation. 

Dr. K 

If Salvation Is Not By “Faith Alone,” How Does It Happen?

Marriage Helps Us Understand Salvation

If salvation is about union with God, how then do you become one with God? Let’s use the Biblical analogy of marriage. Marriage is about oneness. It is two people joining their individual lives together in unified partnership. It involves courtship, marriage ceremony (usually a wedding), and then a life-long process of knowing one another in love, suffering, and mercy. Marriage and salvation have much in common. 

Are you married if you…

Think about it? One is not married simply by thinking about the one he/she wants to marry or about marriage itself.  

Give mental assent? One is not married by being convinced intellectually that this person is “the one.” 

Have an emotional commitment? Two people are not married simply by having romantic feelings, falling in love, or having sexual desires towards each other.

You are married when…

Two people are “officially” married (joined together, made one) when they physically present themselves in faith to a proper authority, declare their fidelity (in words and/or actions), and then live as one. True marriage is not merely a one-time event. It is a life-long process. Marriage is a loving relationship that begins in ceremony and progresses in struggle, commitment, and change. 

So goes salvation. It begins in a loving, faith relationship with God through Jesus Christ, is declared in baptism, and is lived out in the Church in struggle and change. 

Much of this is described by St. Paul in Ephesians 5. Marriage is a “mystery” mainly due to its symbolism of the union of Christ and the Church. Marriage is a microcosm of the nature of salvation as union. There are no longer two bodies, but one. 

St. John Chrysostom (349-407) writes of marriage: 

I say that husband and wife are one body in the same way as Christ and the Father are one. …Paul has combined two illustrations, the natural body and Christ’s body; that is why he says, “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the Church”…What does this mean? The blessed Moses, – or rather, God – surely reveals in Genesis that for two to become one flesh is a great and wonderful mystery. Now Paul speaks of Christ as the greater mystery; for He left the Father and came down to us, and married His Bride, the Church, and became one spirit with her: “he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him” [1 Cor 6.17]. Paul says well, “This is a great mystery,” as if he were saying, “Nevertheless the allegorical meaning does not invalidate married love.” (On Marriage and Family Life, p. 52)

For you to experience the fullness of marriage and salvation you must, in some form and way, participate in this unity process. God does not force salvation on you against your will. You willingly receive what He offers. In some way you respond. You step into the water, lie down, and float. God carries you along. That’s salvation. 

You are saved when…

You passively respond. You actively acquiesce. You join with God in faith as He saves you. It’s challenging to describe.

This is not “works” as normally understood. By responding, acquiescing, joining, and participating in, you are not meriting or earning salvation from God. You are living out in loving faith a relationship that God in His mercy invites you into. 

Almost every morning, I say a prayer that includes this phrase: “You roused me as I lay in despair…” To me, that is what God does in salvation. He rouses us as we see our need for Him. Through the beauty of creation, a teaching that brings awareness, or a life situation, we get up, enabled by faith in Jesus Christ, to join Him Who mercifully saves. 

Therefore, there is no dichotomy between works and faith. They are both so intermingled that you can’t tell one from the other. Does a good marriage come about by effort or only by being faithful? It seems a silly question. Trust involves effort. Effort apart from faith is useless. Of course it’s both.

Does salvation happen by effort (non-meritous) or faith? Yes! From a human perspective, union of effort and faith evokes union with the Trinity. 

More to chew on. 

Dr. K 

10 Reasons To Take A Second Look At “Faith Alone”

Since I’m questioning “faith alone,” many of you may be thinking that I’ve denied the faith and need to shut up. Admittedly, I may be pushing one of your hot buttons, tipping one of your sacred cows. But please, don’t hate the messenger. You may think “faith alone” is a basic, settled doctrine of the church and scripture. It really is not. 

So, let me give you 10 reasons why I think “faith alone” needs to be questioned:  

  1. The phrase “faith alone” is not found in scripture except in James 2.24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” St. James’ point: human beings are justified by faith and works not by faith alone. 
  2. For over 1500 years, beginning with her inception, the apostolic Church did not teach faith alone (and does not, even to this day). 
  3. A belief that salvation is by faith alone stymies motivation to engage practices that are necessary in being a Christian. 
  4. There are no examples in scripture of men or women who are “saved or justified by faith alone.” 
  5. “Faith alone” was “discovered” by one man, Martin Luther, who was searching for counter-measures to discredit the Roman Catholic church. Individual, independent interpretations of scripture must not be received without question.
  6. Justification by faith alone places a massive wall between justification and sanctification that is not borne out in scripture or real life (1 Corinthians 6.11). 
  7. Not even one Church Father (100-700AD) advocates “faith alone.” 
  8. Those who promote “faith alone” do so by quoting scriptures that only refer to faith yet present them as if they teach “faith alone.” 
  9. Belief in faith alone causes other scripture to be overlooked, misinterpreted, or denied. For example: Jesus’ exchange with the wealthy young man (Mark 10.17-27) where faith for salvation is not mentioned but “selling all” is and Matthew 25.31-46 where Jesus teaches that the kingdom is prepared for those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and welcome the stranger. See also Philippians 2.12-13: “work out your own salvation…”
  10. Faith alone just doesn’t make sense. In no other arena of life do we operate by faith alone. Having to believe is essential to most of life – marriage, friendship, children, jobs, science, driving, computers, shopping, practically everything else and certainly our relationship with the Trinity. Yet, belief always involves some form of effort. Faith alone does not enable a true experience of anything. Belief alone that I’m going to lose weight or have a clean house isn’t going to get it done. 

Belief alone that Jesus lived, died and rose again for salvation will not “get it done.” Believing these truths is essential. Yet, a participation in them in some manner is necessary also. 

Reminder: My objective is to eliminate “faith alone” as an excuse for not living as a Christian more fully. 

Thanks for hanging in here with me. 

Dr. K 

A Fresh Look At Salvation: By Faith Alone or By Participating In Grace Through Faith?

Vicky claimed to be a Christian having “accepted Christ” as a young girl while attending DVBS at Broad Street Church. There, she was given a good dose of Reformed teaching without realizing anything different. When she and her young family reluctantly left Broad Street over a leadership dispute, she landed at my church. Sad over the Broad Street situation, I was happy to welcome good, solid people into our congregation. However, over the next few years, I became frustrated with Vicky because she claimed to be knowledgeable about God yet there was little effort to know God more deeply.  After several conversations with her, I realized she was paralyzed by a core belief that any efforts on her part to know God were classified as “works.” She thought that since righteousness was by faith alone, not brought about by works, then any efforts were unnecessary. She would automatically know God more and more since she was already in the faith. I didn’t know what to say to her back then. Today, I might have given her better guidance. 

For Martin Luther, justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls.

This is ironic since, for over 1500 years, the Church never taught “faith alone.” This is a bold (and faulty) belief constructed by one man, Martin Luther. The Church always taught that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but not through faith alone. Certain ancient theologians like Augustine hinted at faith alone. Thomas Aquinas (13th c.) on one occasion uses the phrase “faith alone.” But these writers were most likely contrasting faith with attempts to keep the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law in order to merit salvation. Besides, they were not necessarily representative of the Church as a whole. 

My point is not to determine once and for all the right view of faith and works. I’m not totally insane or foolish. I just want to banish the idea that effort is not necessary in one’s “work of salvation.”  

In some manner, the human will and God’s will must join together for salvation to ignite and operate.

Think about both of these two statements that are absolutely true: 

  1. You cannot save yourself by willing it. 
  2. God does not force salvation on you against your will. 

Yet, somehow, your will and His must be joined together so salvation can take place and continue to take place. Words fail as we stand on the precipice of this mystery. While His grace works in you, you respond in faith to His offer of salvation (deliverance from sin and life in Christ). God and you, through Jesus Christ, become united by grace in faith. 

This is also true for the totality of the Christian life. To live the Christian life as designed by God, your will and His must be joined in a participatory manner (synergism) borne along by grace. Only in union with the Triune God through Christ can salvation be experienced. Only in union with the Triune God through Christ can you “work out your salvation” (Philippians 2.12-13).  

Since the human will has been impaired by sin, grace is essential. And in grace, efforts of faith can be made so that the will can be more and more fully joined to God’s will. Unless you are currently in complete and absolute synergy with God’s will (and you are not), you have a lot of work to do. 

Of course, this work is only accomplished by grace through faith. Any work that brings you more in sync with God is infused with God’s grace. How could it be any other way?

You can’t, apart from God, make yourself a partner of God.

However, you can, in sync with God, become a participant with God, which is salvation. 

This participation is never by faith alone. 

I’ll look at examples of this participatory-kind of faith in posts to come. 

How are you doing with these reflections? Curious? Denial? Questions? Confusion? 

Dr. K 

You Are On A Faith Journey. Keep Moving.

Learning To Walk In Faith Is a Life-Long Experience

“Faith alone” seems like a heavy topic to bring up on The UnCommon Journey. I feel your pain. Theological issues aren’t everyone’s bailiwick. Most of you who read this blog are looking for practical help for your spiritual journey. I understand. I’m not much (anymore) for theory that doesn’t translate into everyday life. Yet, “faith alone” and issues surrounding it make a huge difference in your understanding of how to live the Christian life.

Dealing with this issue has been a major part of my spiritual journey. For decades I have wrestled with faith related to salvation, sanctification, and practical daily challenges. I’ve tried to find a satisfactory definition of faith, a theological framework for faith to fit into, and a way to live by faith that covers every situation of my life. I never was a card-carrying Calvinist. But over time, I became a 5-pointer, then 4-pointer, then 3-pointer, then a “God only knows”-er. I didn’t realize how much “faith alone” was messing with me. Can you relate? 

Some major building blocks to a fuller understanding of real faith came to me over time. As a teen and into my forty’s, I was challenged by a desire to know God more deeply (in faith) but limited by a belief that God alone would make it happen. All I needed to do was submit and He’d do the rest. Then I began to grapple with “spiritual formation” and “spiritual discipline” ideas challenging me to do something about my spiritual growth. While this was happening, I devoted almost a year studying and preaching Hebrews where salvation and faith are presented as past, present, and future (not just past as most evangelicals believe). Later, I discovered that the early and ancient church understood that “salvation” includes justification, sanctification, and glorification – all in one package. The final block came through a 10-year Abraham-like experience of faith where “faith alone” was finally kicked to the curb and a fuller reality of faith began to take hold. That’s were I am today. 

I know this isn’t your story. Yet, I tell my story for a few reasons: 

  1. To show that experiencing a relationship with God, i.e. knowing God, means ongoing heart and mind change that messes with beliefs, ideas, perceptions, and realities. Christian living involves regular challenges to one’s understanding of God including one’s faith in God. 
  2. To help you come to grips more quickly with some faith realities that have taken me decades to figure out. 
  3. To illustrate the difficulty of interpreting scripture properly. Martin Luther had an agenda that clouded his understanding of scripture. That happens to all of us. We all have often misinterpreted scripture by placing a theological “system” (dispensationalism, Calvinism, our denomination, Pentecostalism, Wesleyanism, or our own opinion) on top of them. Scripture is used to support Calvinism or Arminianism, the Free Grace Movement or baptismal regeneration. Scripture is truth. We just have a hard time figuring it out. 

I don’t think this “faith challenge” is unique to me. Many people wrestle with the same issue. That’s a good thing. Yet, it can be really frustrating especially when ideas like “faith alone” are part of the mix. “Faith alone” creates a wedge that separates into fragments aspects of the Christian faith that are meant to be unified in an effective experience of God’s grace. Building a wall between faith and human participation keeps Christians from the possibility of living the fullness of the faith.

I have dealt with many people who struggle to know God having accepted that salvation is by “faith alone.” They don’t need to make any “effort” related to their relationship with God. Faith is all that’s needed. “I have faith. Don’t bother talking to me about effort, work, obedience, or practice. I’m good to go.” Perhaps you have a tinge of this idea in your own belief system. 

The prime example of true faith is Abraham. His faith will surprise you. I’ll take a brief look at him and his faith journey in my next post. 

Where are you in your faith journey? Are you wrestling with faith issues? You need to be. 

Dr. K