BELIEF, BELIEVE

Girl at her typewriter with a smoke.
Girl at her typewriter with a smoke.

 

God declares us righteous when we believe:

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteous. – Genesis 15:6

Although Abram had been demonstrating his faith through his actions, it was his belief in the Lord, not his actions, that made Abram right with God (Romans 4:1-5). We too can have a right relationship with God by trusting him.  Our outward actions – church attendance, prayer, good deeds – will not by themselves make us right with God.  A right relationship is based on faith – the heartfelt inner confidence that God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.  Right actions will follow naturally as by-products.

 

 

what you do can’t be separated from what you believe:

Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God.  Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”  – Deuteronomy 27:9-10

Moses was reviewing the law with the new generation of people. When we decide to believe in God, we must also decide to follow his ways.  What we do shows what we really believe.  Can people tell that you are a member of God’s family?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21

Some self-professed athletes can “talk” a great game, but that tells you nothing about their athletic skills. And not everyone who talks about heaven belongs to God’s kingdom.  Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk.  He wants us to do right, not just say the right words.  Your house (which represents your life, 7:24) will withstand the storms of life only if you do what is right instead of just talking about it.  What you do cannot be separated from what you believe.

 

 

seems too simple to many:

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, butter than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I was in them and be cleansed?”  So he turned and went off in a rage.  – 2 Kings 5:12

Naaman left in a rage because the cure for his disease seemed too simple. He was a hero, and he expected a heroic cure.  Full of pride and self-will, he could not accept the simple cure of faith.  Sometimes people react to God’s offer of forgiveness in the same way.  Just to believe in Jesus Christ somehow doesn’t seem significant enough to bring eternal life.  To obey God’s commands doesn’t seem heroic.  What Naaman had to do to have his leprosy washed away is similar to what we must do to have our sin washed away – humbly accept God’s mercy.  Don’t let your reaction to the way of faith keep you from the cure you need the most.

 

 

what your attitudes reveal about your belief:

Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Make one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires. So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.

Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. – 2 Kings 17:27-29

Israel was conquered because it had lost sight of the only true God and why it was important to follow him. When conquering the land, the Israelites were told to destroy the pagan influences that could lead them away from God.  Their failure to do so brought about their ruin.  Here they faced an even greater influx of gods from the many pagan peoples moving into the land.

 

 

gives us courage:

As for God, his way is perfect;

the word of the LORD is flawless.

He is a shield

for all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 18:30

Some people think that belief in God is a crutch for weak people who cannot make it on their own. God is indeed a shield to protect us when we are too weak to face certain trials by ourselves, but he does not want us to remain weak.  He strengthens, protects, and guides us in order to send us back into an evil world to fight for him.  And then he continues to work with us because the strongest person on earth is infinitely weaker than God and needs his help.  David was not a coward; he was a mighty warrior who, even with all his armies and weapons, knew that only God could ultimately protect and save him.

 

 

difference between belief & faith:

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no-one could pass that way.  – Matthew 8:28

Demon-possessed people are under the control of one or more demons. Demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion against God and are now evil spirits under Satan’s control.  They help Satan tempt people to sin and have great destructive powers.  But whenever they are confronted by Jesus, they lose their power.  These demons recognised Jesus as God’s Son (8:29), but they didn’t think they had to obey him.  Just believing is not enough (see James 2:19 for a discussion of belief and devils).  Faith is more than belief.  By faith, you accept what Jesus has done for you, receive him as the only one who can save you from sin, and live out your faith by obeying his commands.

 

 

faith requires belief:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  – Luke 9:18-20

The Christian faith goes beyond knowing what others believe. It requires us to hold beliefs for ourselves.  When Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” he wants us to take a stand.  Who do you say Jesus is?

 

 

don’t miss opportunities to:

Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No-one who wants to become a public figures acts in secret.  Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”  For even his own brothers did not believe in him.  – John 7:3-5

Jesus’ brothers had a difficult time believing in him. Some of these brothers would eventually become leaders in the church (James, for example), but for several years they were embarrassed by Jesus.  After Jesus died and rose again, they finally believed.  We today have every reason to believe because we have the full record of Jesus’ miracles, death, and resurrection.  We also have the evidence of what the gospel has done in people’s lives through the centuries.  Don’t miss the opportunity to believe in God’s Son.

 

 

refusing to believe leads to a hardened heart:

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

“He has blinded their eyes

and deadened their hearts,

so they can neither see with their eyes,

nor understand with their hearts,

nor turn – and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said this because he says Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. – John 12:39-41

People in Jesus’ time, like those in the time of Isaiah, would not believe despite the evidence (12:37). As a result, God hardened their hearts.  Does that mean God intentionally prevented these people from believing in him?  No, he simply confirmed their own choices.  After a lifetime of resisting God, they had become so set in their ways that they wouldn’t even try to understand Jesus’ message.  For such people, it is virtually impossible to come to God – their hearts have been permanently hardened.  Other instances of hardened hearts because of constant stubbornness are recorded in Exodus 9:12, Romans 1:24-28, and 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.

 

 

stages of:

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.  Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.  – Luke 24:11-12

People who hear about the resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story. Like the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.  (1) At first, they may think it is a fairy tale, impossible to believe.  (2) Like Peter, they may check out the facts but still be puzzled about what happened.  (3) Only when they encounter Jesus personally will they be able to accept the fact of the resurrection.  (4) Then, as they commit themselves to Jesus and devote their lives to serving him, they will begin fully to understand the reality of his presence with them.

 

 

importance of believing in others:

And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – this is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. – Romans 1:6-12

Paul showed his love for the Roman Christians by expressing God’s love for them and his own gratitude and prayers for them. To have an effect on people’s lives, you first need to love them and believe in them.  Paul’s passion to teach these people began with his love for them.  Thank God for your Christian brothers and sisters, and let them know how deeply you care for them.

 

 

believing for the wrong reasons:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  – 1 John 2:19

The antichrists were not total strangers to the church; they had once been in the church, but they did not really belong to it. John does not say why they left; it is clear that their reasons for joining in the first place were wrong.  Some people may call themselves Christians for less than the best reasons.  Perhaps going to church is a family tradition.  Maybe they like the social and business contacts they make there.  Or possibly going to church is a long-standing habit, and they have never stopped to ask themselves why they do it.  What is your main reason for being a Christian?  Unless it is a Christ-centred reason, you may not really belong.  You don’t have to settle for less than the best.  You can become personally acquainted with Jesus Christ and become a loyal trustworthy follower.

 

 

 

 

©KingsWay International Church, 1973.

 

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