Are Your Beliefs Worthy of Your Faith?

Everyone has strong beliefs about an assortment of subjects, not limited to politics, education, religion, marriage, family, life, death and God. When it comes to God people say with confidence that they believe in God or that they don’t and that their beliefs are spot-on. We all live based on what we believe to be true making important decisions every day that affect our lives and fortunes. Many believe themselves to be Christian based on the belief that they are forgiven of their sins and on their way to Heaven because of what they deem as true. It is vitally important that our beliefs for making these “life and death” matters of Heaven or Hell be founded on the truth of what God has revealed. It is important to ask ourselves the question, “Is believing the right doctrine enough to secure our future in heaven or anything for that matter? And where does faith come in? Is faith the same as belief? If not, what is the difference? Are your beliefs worthy of your faith? Let’s take a look at these words and see if they are saying the same thing.

Faith or belief are all translated from the same root word in Greek, the noun - “pistis” and the verb – “pisteuo” translated “to believe” or “to have faith.” Unbelief, doubt, etc., are all derived from the same Greek words with the prefix a- (a- means “no”). While faith surely includes the element of belief, they are not one and the same. The misperception developed due to the fact in classical Greek that the words were used in relationship to trusting something or someone. Certainly one must believe that something, or someone exists before it is possible to put one’s faith in that person or thing.
To put one’s ‘faith’ in something, or someone, means that one is putting his or her trust in that person or thing. Who or what one trusts can have far-reaching, even eternal, ramifications. It means reliance on, dependence upon, that person or thing. I can believe something that I have read in the Bible declaring it true, however this does not establish that I am walking by faith in the biblical reality that I have given mental assent to. True faith is more than simply believing.

The most fundamental aspect of faith is to be receptive to God. Our receptivity to God is not based on facts or mental understanding as to what is true or what is false, but rather is our receptivity of the person of Jesus Christ Himself. As the Apostle John declares in John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Paul taught the same truth in Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…established in your faith.” The gift of God to mankind is Jesus Christ and the reception of that gift is received by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Our receptivity to God’s activity allows us to function in confidence regardless of circumstances.

Whereas, belief is primarily soulical, a function of our minds, trying to figure out what is true or false, right or wrong, (where I am in control), faith is receptive to the Spirit of Christ as I choose to trust God even without seeing. Understanding our spiritual union in Christ allows us not to function merely out of the rational thoughts of the mind (seeing) but rather live from the relational union of the spirit. The difference between belief and faith is the difference between rational (soul) and relational (spirit). “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor. 6: 17).

Christians are often more comfortable relying on doctrinal beliefs in a type of mind-game rational using everything they know to come to the right conclusions. Belief is like a maze of thoughts bombarding our minds. The Christian is left attempting to sort out and explain what is true and what is false establishing what they believe, giving a defense of the faith, which then develops into a neatly packaged belief-system that they can depend on and trust in, often arguing about. We become self-conscious about our beliefs and as such it can make us feel uncomfortable if we don’t have all the answers to life’s perplexing problems.

Faith is very different as it is not about facts and figures and often doesn't have a reason to give for “why” one is believing. Faith differs greatly from belief and actually transcends it, as faith connects me to the spiritual realm where I am one with Christ. Faith agrees with what God is revealing to me in my spirit. Faith does not depend on intellectual acceptance or recognition as does belief. Faith can’t figure everything out and can’t be “nailed down.” Faith must trust God because we can never figure God out, “how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33)! Faith is our receptivity to what God is doing even when we don’t understand which often we will not understand. Faith is our willingness to listen rather than simply thinking about what is the right thing to do doctrinally. Faith hears what others are saying, being open to the body of Christ and the wisdom of a multitude of counselors (Prov. 15:22). ”God has been made known to all…leading to obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). The Greek word for obedience is (hupakouo) which means "listening under." The obedience of faith is not mental assent to a belief about God but is a willingness to listen under and hear His voice to determine what God is saying. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). This obedience of faith is the ongoing relational reality of the Christian life that is not just for the moment but rather for every situation that I find myself, both now and forever. The obedience of faith is for me, as I listen to what God is saying to me but my faith is not always for others. Beliefs can be passed on to others as creeds or commands but only faith is personal and must be realized for oneself. Faith cannot be passed on. Faith is between you and God and no one else. Paul desired to be an encouragement to the Saints at Roman and for their faith to be an encouragement to him. “For I long to see…that I may be encouraged together with you…each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Rom. 1:11-12). Faith is between you and God for the moment and should not be considered something that you can use as a spiritual gift or commodity for tomorrows tests. God is revealed from “faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). Beliefs require facts while faith requires relationship. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Faith is always receptive to God’s revelations which are very specific and/or “point on” for what He is doing in our life “for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14). Faith is receptive to God’s activity or action, which is grace. Believing alone does not mean that I experience the grace of God. I might talk about God’s grace in theological beliefs but only faith identifies with grace! Faith is personal and allows me experience my identity in Christ. Belief can be sterile, even becoming demanding and controlling, often directed toward other people. Belief is more of a “shotgun” approach which tends to take a broad view and attempts to apply them to everybody else. Beliefs can kill, faith experiences life! “…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Jesus spoke of this in Matt. 23:1ff. “Then Jesus spoke…saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees…tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” Those who want you to believe a certain way will refer to the "principles" and "precepts" of scripture using them as bully-pulpit to demand allegiance from you to obey. Belief often leads to behavioral prescriptions for success and what is promoted in our culture as behavior modification. Belief frequently develops into performance based religion.

Belief is one-size-fits-all, (cookie-cutter-religion) while faith is individual and intimate and is only realized as a Christian participates with the intimacy of the Triune God. Beliefs are a “dime a dozen” and a public matter but faith is “priceless” and between God and the person He has revealed Himself. It is only as we begin to live by faith that we begin to experience the intimacy of relationship with God. “…Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Belief has to always be accurate or correct, for to doubt or to have uncertainty is the “kiss of death” for belief. The assumption of belief is, it has solved all of life’s problems and has all of the answers to life’s most perplexing questions. To question or to doubt would mean that you don’t believe and that would be the cardinal sin of “believe right religion.” They teach that doubt is the enemy of good and you must strengthen your beliefs and become mature in the Lord – in your beliefs about Him. Failure is seen as weakness and weakness is viewed as having an inadequate belief system. The cure or remedy of religious belief is that you study to strengthen your beliefs so you will be prepared to face every challenge because of your knowledge.
Unfortunately many times people’s beliefs talk them out of living by faith but those who are learning to walk by faith are experiencing God. You might ask, “Does any Christian truly live by faith?” The answer is a resounding YES!

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Nineteen times in Hebrews chapter 11 Paul declares that the people of God lived BY FAITH.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice…
5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death…
7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household…
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going…
9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise…whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive…
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come…
21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph…
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones…
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict…
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…
33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith…

We began this article by asking the question, “Are your beliefs worthy of your faith?” After our discussion, I would declare, “Absolutely NO!” Only Jesus Christ is worthy of your faith.
Living by faith allows us to be the Christian human beings God created us to be, choosing to function dependent and deriving from God. “…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). It is only in this divine-human relationship of being Christian that the “static” foundation of belief finds its expression in the dynamic receptivity of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). When Paul says “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” the word for “impossible” is “adunamis” which means no power or more literally, “no dynamic.” (The Greek word dunamis is the root of the English word “dynamite.”) That is why Paul says that without faith there is no power or dynamic to please Him. It’s like plugging a power tool into a dead socket which is why James states in chapter 2 that faith without works is dead. Faith always derives from the receptivity of God’s activity or you have just voided the whole definition of faith! That is why our faith receptivity always has to be connected and deriving from His grace activity because that’s what grace is, it’s the “dunamis” the power of God.

The words of the song of a well-known hymn “Living by Faith” by James Wells are appropriate:
I care not today what the morrow may bring,
If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything,
And all of my worries are vain.
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.
Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise,
Obscuring the brightness of life,
I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies—
The Master looks on at the strife.

I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.

I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

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