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Monday, July 25, 2022

Faith is Not Just What You Believe

Most people are fairly confident they know what Christian faith is.  It is simple, right?  It is what you believe to be true.  That, however, is a pretty superficial answer.  There is a lot to faith other than just what one believes. 

Faith is not just thought but action.  It is a driving force, an inward power that drives a person to act and do, to sacrifice, to seek, to suffer, to endure, to commit, and drive on when there appears to be no longer reason or common sense in doing so. 

Much is made about the faith people have.  What I have observed over the years is that many who speak of their faith seem to have a faith that by all outward appearances has driven them to do nothing.  It is as dead as a doornail by all outward measurements.  Many who talk about their personal faith cannot even make it out to worship once a week but they are saved by faith.  

But, the response is made you are judging, you do not know my heart.  What I do know is that James says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14 NKJV)  You know that is a rhetorical question, to ask is to answer.  James later says “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20 NKJV)  Can one be saved by a dead faith?  The demons had a dead faith. (James 2:19). 

What kind of faith saves?  “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24 NKJV)  The faith that saves is thus a working faith, a faith that leads to action, to doing, to be specific it is a faith that obeys. 

So many emphasize faith and grace to the extent that works (obedience) is discounted.  Who needs to obey?  Just believe is the cry.  That is not what Jesus taught. 

Jesus taught that a failure to obey was a failure to love.  Hear Jesus, "If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 NKJV)  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21 NKJV)  "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” (John 14:23 NKJV)  “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” (John 14:24 NKJV)  Paul says, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” (1 Cor. 16:22 NKJV) 

Jesus again says, “why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NKJV)  He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9 NKJV) 

Thus salvation by faith without works of obedience would also be salvation without love for God.  Faith only advocates will not have baptism as an element of salvation for they fear it is a work.  Well, no more so than repentance.  When the Bible teaches we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, Eph. 2:8-9, is that passage teaching we are saved by disobedience because to obey would be a work and we cannot be saved by works?  Is that what it teaches?  

When one interprets a passage of scripture in such a way that puts it into conflict with other scriptures it is time to go back and do some rethinking.  That is exactly where those are at who interpret Eph. 2:8-9 in such a way as to make it exclude baptism or any work whatsoever.  James teaches you can try to get to heaven by faith alone but it will not work, not without works.  Paul, the author of Eph. 2:8-9, was himself baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16) but never once complained to Ananias, the one sent from God who directed him to do it.  Paul never replied to Ananias, "I can’t do it for it would be salvation by works."  

But, my goal in this article (I have allowed myself to be sidetracked) is to show how scriptural faith drives a man to obedience, to suffering and sacrifice, and all the other things mentioned earlier in this article.  Abraham’s faith drove him so strongly that it forced him to sacrifice Isaac his son.  Only God’s direct intervention prevented the deed from being done. 

In the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, we find this (speaking of how others were driven by faith): 

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith … .” (Heb. 11:35-39 NKJV) 

The passage has reference to men and women of faith under the Mosaical dispensation of time. 

Those mentioned in the Hebrews passage quoted had a choice.  They did not need to suffer these things.  In fact, the first verse quoted speaks of not accepting deliverance but why not -- because faith is a driving force in the person’s life that has it.  It is not just a feeble thought or opinion.  It will force you to obey when it becomes as strong as God desires it to be. 

Paul speaks of his own life as a Christian in the New Testament and says: 

“Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool--I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:23-27 NKJV)  What would drive a man to endure such things?  He could have stopped preaching and evangelizing at any time and ended the persecution had he so desired.  What drove him on?  One word, the word "faith" drove him. 

But what is faith--this inward driving force within a man or woman that drives them to such extremes?  The Hebrew writer says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV)  I want to note the words “assurance” and “conviction.”  After Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus do you think he had assurance and conviction?  Our faith needs to become what Paul’s was. 

Bible faith is meant to develop and grow and become strong.  The Bible says Abraham’s faith was so strong that he believed God would raise Isaac up from the dead in order to fulfill the promise he had made that “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”  So, Abraham would sacrifice Isaac in full faith that God would raise him back up from the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19)  

But, I think we have perhaps as strong a statement of faith as we will likely find anywhere in a statement Job made when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV)  This is the degree of faith that we all ought to seek to attain.  

When we are able to say Father do with me as you will yet you will always be my hope then we can find comfort in the most difficult situations life may bring to us.  Too often our faith is of the fair weather variety.  When life begins to go sour on us our faith starts to vanish.  We begin to doubt God and start losing faith. 

As long as our faith is not tested it is fine but it will not stand the test when tried.   The test is often obedience and obedience under trying circumstances.  There is no test if obedience is easy with no trial to it. 

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the soils he spoke of the kind of faith we are inclined to have and must fight against.  He said, “He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matt. 13:20-21 NKJV)  It is a faith that cannot stand the test.  

Peter speaks of our faith being tested by fire and of its preciousness. (1 Peter 1:7 NKJV)  Then a little later he says to those to whom he wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” (1 Peter 4:12 NKJV)  James goes so far as to say, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV) 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)  Remember, love equals obedience. 

Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego?  They were to be cast into the furnace of fire unless they worshipped the idol Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Here is part of the account of what happened: 

“’But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ’O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’" (Dan 3:15-18 NKJV) 

Did you get the part where they said: “if not”?  This reminds me of Job’s statement in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (NKJV)  These are men whose faith has reached a point of such strength that they are able to say even if God lets me die so what?  I will trust in him.  I will be faithful.  When one gets to that point in their life fear and worry are pretty much gone from life.  What is to fear if one does not fear suffering or death?  “I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6 NKJV) 

Faith can overcome poverty, sickness, betrayal, desertion, homelessness, ill-treatment, pain, sorrow, suffering, persecution, every ill known to man.  We feel sorry for the wrong people oftentimes.  We feel sorry for others when our sorrow ought to be for ourselves and our lack of genuine Bible faith.  

I close with the words of Job describing the faith he still had after losing everything: 

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21 NKJV) 

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10 NKJV) 

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV) 

When it seems God has deserted you and no longer cares will you still trust him?  If not him whom will you trust?  Where will you go?

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