Sewed from Jesus
A woman went to buy a new dress. She went first to a high-end store. She saw a dress she liked. She tried on the dress, and it fit her very well, but it cost more than what she wanted to pay. So she went into a store with more affordable prices. She saw what seemed to be the exact dress; in fact, it was the same brand. But it was not quite as attractive as the first one nor did it fit as well. "How can this be? She asked herself. Was it all in her mind?
She was puzzled by this so she decided that before buying anything that she would investigate. She contacted the company. They told her that on the label, there is a number; the lower the number, the better the quality of the dress. Some details went into the production of the lower number dresses that the manufacturer did not consider in the higher number dresses. Sometimes it was the kind and color of thread used or the kind of stitch. Other times it was how they cut the fabric, etc. Two things that seem identical were not.
I find a similarity in our works. Works by faith and works from your effort may seem similar. But works of faith are different from works done in our strength. Let's consider Abraham as an example. We know Paul opens Romans 5 with this declaration.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
The word "therefore" tells us that this statement is referring to what was said before in chapter 4. Paul says of Abraham in chapter 4 verse 3,
Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Paul used the Greek word episteusen, which comes from the word pistis for faith or belief. In essence, it is saying that Abraham had faith. We know that faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Abraham heard God's Word and believed it. When we replace "believe" with other definitions of faith, we get a better feel of what this means. Abraham heard God's word and felt appreciation in his heart. He heard God's word and trusted the word to do what it said it would; he waited and depended on the Word alone. God's word to Abraham was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. As a result of his belief in God's Word, Abraham was one of the elders that obtained a good report, and he pleased God (Hebrews 11:1, 2, 6).
The second part of Romans 4:3 says that His belief was counted unto him for righteousness. What is righteousness? Ellen White defines it as obedience to the law (1 Selected Messages, p. 367). We replace the word righteousness with the definition Ellen White provides and it reads, "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for obedience to the law." In believing God's word, Abraham obeyed the law. Abraham's righteousness (obedience to the law) came from exercising faith in God's word.
The previous thought gives context to Romans 5:1, where Paul reiterates what he explained in chapter 4. Translators have interpreted it as "Therefore being justified by faith." But, the transliterated Greek rendering of Romans 5: 1 seems to say, "Being-justified then out of-belief." We know that the word justified means made righteous. So we could interpret it as, "Being made righteous out of faith" -- thus there is a kind of faith that makes us righteous or obedient to the law. Ellen White expresses the same thought in the following quote,
Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinners account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of mans failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. (Ellen G. White, 1 Selected Messages, p. 367)
The prophet Isaiah tells us that, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness falls short of the law's requirement. We need a righteousness that is perfect since the law requires perfection. Ellen White states that Christ's righteousness is what we are given to satisfy the laws demand of perfection. We have stated thus far that the only way to get this righteousness is by faith. Can our filthy faith produce a perfect righteousness? The answer is obviously, "No, it cannot." Therefore we must obtain a faith that is perfect. That faith is the faith of Jesus. When we accept His faith, it produces in us His righteousness. This faith of Jesus is what characterized Abraham. It is the faith that those who overcome and endure until the end will have (Revelation 14:12).
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul says that "…whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). Only works wrought from faith are righteous. So, just like the difference in the dresses, the works of those who have the faith of Jesus may look similar to those who do not, but there is a difference. The former is built and sewed from Jesus, the latter from sinful flesh. Furthermore, the character of those who have the faith of Jesus will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The question is which dress do we want to be?