[quote="lanman87, post:1133, topic:442045"]
I think you can know if you have saving faith because you know what is in your heart. Only two know what is in your heart, you and God. That is one reason we balk at the idea of being saved by our works. Because God judges the heart. Our works fluctuate based on health, life situations, financial ability, family responsibilities and so forth. However, our hearts can be full of faith and love no matter the circumstances of life.
However, it is very biblical that our faith is expressed in our actions. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said : In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:16
I think "your light" refers to the Holy Spirit living with us and guiding us to have a Love for others that goes beyond anything we could do by ourselves.
So I would say one of the key reasons for our good works is to influence others that the Gospel is the truth and hopefully, influence some to accept the Gospel.
Boasting and showing off our piety is not for the Glory of God, it is to puff ourselves up. It is so folks will look as us and think, "Wow! what a great guy. He is a really strong Christian". However, when we serve others out of the Love of God in our hearts and do so in a way that exalts Christ (instead of ourselves) we are being faithful to the calling of the Gospel.
I would also say that another reason for works is to give evidence to each other that we are indeed children of God. 1 John 3:10 says 'By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."
If someone claims to be a child of God the evidence is in how they live their life.
What you say makes a lot of sense. We practice righteousness to be children of God.
Here are some of my notions:
We use the term "saving" faith even though it is not a scriptural term. It seems to be invented to indicate a faith strong enough to overcome the trials and tribulations encountered by the Christian in his walk. (To endure the persecutions inflicted by the Romans!) I've previously used the example of the woman who was bleeding, because her faith was strong enough to enable her to do what she did, which was really quite remarkable when you think about it. She was unclean, and shouldn't be out in public at all, because she would defile anyone she touched. An unclean woman touching a man would be cause for scandal. Not socially acceptable. It would have been much easier to stay home, but she was determined, and touched Jesus' tunic anyway, and was healed. She had a "saving" faith, and therefore Jesus could say, "Your faith has healed you," even though it was the power of Jesus that actually did the job.
So it is okay to say we are saved by faith alone, if we mean faith alone in Jesus, as exemplified by her. Because we have faith in Jesus, we go to Jesus, and then do what Jesus says. Sure, our acts do express our faith, but we act not to express it, but to obey Jesus, whom we trust. Why do we obey Jesus? To be healed, to be saved. (The same way we follow the doctors orders.)
What is in our hearts is the most important, and God knows our hearts. We do too, or maybe we don't. We know of those who were strong in their faith, but later gave it up. To explain this, I guess we can fall back and maintain they didn't have a saving faith to begin with. But isn't that a cop out?
God knows what is in our hearts. But will our hearts change? If you admit that possibility, then does God provide means to sustain our hearts? For Catholics, yes. That's what the sacraments are all about. (Of course if one believes they are locked in to salvation, "saved," then of course the sacraments become meaningless, mere symbols.)