Nov 05

Knowing vs Believing – on being Jesus’ disciple

Knowing vs Believing 

knowing vs. believing

Knowing vs Believing: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Let us look at the (sometimes dissimilar) terms: Knowing vs Believing. What is faith? (Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the KJV Bible.)

Sometimes I hear Christians talking about faith and they make statements like, “Faith is not just believing that God can do such and such but rather, knowing that God will do it.” This sounds pious but we should test whether it is a valid assumption. Is faith a matter of believing – or of knowing?

The speakers likely base that statement on their understanding of Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” However, the jump from “substance” to “knowing” is not an absolute. Could the word substance mean something different? Let us read the entire chapter for context and a better understanding.

Some thoughts from a further reading of Hebrews 11:

  • Faith allows us to understand the unseen: Verse 3, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
  • Faith helps us make proper decisions: Verse 4, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain
  • Faith enables us to accept God’s grace – and to please Him: Verses 5,6 (and 16), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  • Faith puts us in God’s plan: Verse 7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
  • Faith directs our path through the unknown: Verse 8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
  • Faith can make the impossible, possible: Verse 11, “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
  • Faith is not swayed when the answer or knowledge is not forthcoming in our time: Verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Although this is a shortened list – there are many more in this chapter, and in everyday life – I will stop before the listing becomes too boring. But remember, always consider the entire context – not just a single verse when you want to establish God’s truth.

Faith is composed of many elements. Verse 13 lists some of those elements: People of faith see promises in the future, are persuaded of them, have embraced them, and have confessed them. But nowhere does it suggest that they KNEW them. Instead, verse 8 clearly states that Abraham did NOT know where he was going.  There are many other instances in the Bible where men and women of faith were blind of their future. In particular, verse 13 (above) states that ALL of those faithful people DIED before the object of their faith was fulfilled or their prayers answered!

The New International Version (NIV) translates Hebrews 11:1 as, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This version places the concept of faith in a more appropriate light. “Faith is confidence” is a far more accurate definition than “faith is knowing.” In faith, we have the “assurance” of the things that we may never see.

Knowledge or “seeing” something diminishes true faith. Romans 8:24 (NIV), “For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?” And even though Jesus’ half brothers (Joseph’s sons with Mary) lived with Jesus for over 30 years and KNEW him well, the Scripture declares that their knowledge did not translate to faith. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5 NIV)

Knowing vs Believing

Believing in Jesus is like trusting in Him. We trust (have faith) that what He said, He will do – even if we don’t see it in our own lifetime. That is clearly not the same as knowing. Disciples of Jesus follow Him in faith, trust, hope, and love – but often without seeing or knowing.

Allow me to close with the words of Peter (1 Peter 1:7,8):

[S]o that the authenticity of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Sep 26

What if You Do Not Believe in God

What if You Do Not Believe in God

Don't Do not believe in God

Photo adapted from Marian Beck some rights reserved https://www.flickr.com/photos/lescientist/8430282209

Recently, Pope Francis made this statement which suggests that belief in God is optional to get to heaven :

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” Note1

I agree with Francis that God’s mercy is far greater than we can imagine (Lamentations 3:22,23). It is also true that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9) and we cannot grasp them fully. And, I must say that our God is sovereign and can make decisions without consulting any other. Finally, it is possible that, in the larger context of his words, the Pope’s words may have been taken out of context.

But, taken as read, I have a deep disagreement with Francis about whether a non-believer can go to heaven by simply following his or her conscience.

  1. Our conscience is a result of our value system. Depending upon the society in which we live, one’s conscience may excuse practically everything that is considered sin in the Bible. An example of this is the US World Report of an Islamic Fundamentalist whose Sharia beliefs led him to rape a 13-year-old girl because (in his words), “Women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.” 
  2. The Bible declares that the heart (Biblical term for conscience) is deceitful & desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and out of the heart “come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Although some may claim to have a clear conscience, it is no comfort for eternity because their conscience may have been seared (ironed over) (1Timothy 4:2). Unless it has been led by the Spirit of God, one’s conscience is not trustworthy, instead it is deceitful and wicked.
  3. Jesus said that there is just one way to our heavenly Father, and Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Even if one tries to keep up a clear conscience in the present, their past sins must be accounted for. Anyone who claims to be free of sin is a liar (1John 1:8). But when we confess our sin, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins (1John 1:9).

Although I am saddened to say, it seems to me that the statement by Francis is diabolically opposed to Scripture.

When we offer alternative “gospels” (good news, a means of salvation), we are attempting to make Christ a liar when He said (John 14:6) that He was “THE” (one an only) way to the Father.  Romans 3:3,4 states, “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” 

According to the Bible (John 3:16-18), unless and until, we believe on Christ, we are condemned:

“16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 1

The reward for the “unbelieving” is determined at the Great White Throne judgment:for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

It may be that sovereign God may make some allowances for those who have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior in their life. Although the Bible is unclear about such, it may fit with God’s sense of justice. However, it *IS* clear in the Bible that those who know of the Gospel and still disbelieve, are guilty before God (John 15:22) and (Hebrews 10:26) plus many others. So, how many of these “unbelievers” have never heard about Jesus Christ?

Note1 The full text of the Pope’s letter can be found here: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130911_eugenio-scalfari.html

A rebuttal argument can be found here: https://www.catholicvote.org/what-pope-francis-really-said-about-atheists/

Feb 15

Faith to Overcome, how can I increase my faith?

Faith to Overcome

1 John 5:4-5 NIV   for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

There are a number of TV preachers today (sometimes called “faith preachers”) teaching a doctrine of “hyper faith.” The concept is that if you have enough faith that you can make any request and God will honor it (often called, “name it and claim it”.) It is suggested that, if you have enough faith, you can *know* that God will give you whatever you want. It is a very appealing concept to the materialist mindset of people today. And, these preachers often hedge their bets by blaming the seeker for not having enough faith when their request is not answered.

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