|Volume 23 Number 8 August 2021
I Believe that I Believe
I remember a conversation years ago between two people. One asked, “I’m just curious, but do you have faith?” “Oh yes,” the other answered, “I have faith. I believe.” The first then asked, “Well, what is it you believe?” The answer was, “I believe what the church believes.” “Well,” the first person said, “What is it the church believes?” “Oh, the church believes what I believe,” was the answer. Still not satisfied, the first person pressed on. “Okay, but what is it that you both believe?” The response? “Oh well, you know, we both believe the same thing.”
There are those who claim to believe but aren’t sure what it is they really believe. I’m sure in the Lord’s church there are those who genuinely and sincerely read the Bible daily and seek to take its principles and precepts to heart. They seek to allow God to work through His Word to transform their lives. How many, though, would reflect the attitude of culture, speaking reverently about Scripture but do not really know the transforming power of Scripture in their personal lives? How many believe but don’t know what it is they should believe or how they should respond to what they believe?
The problem is not just a lack of knowledge of Scripture but a disconnect between what the Bible teaches and how a person goes about making the decisions that guide his or her actions in life. So, one must know what it says for there to be real faith. Yet, faith without transformation is useless. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Saving faith, a relational faith with God and Christ, is never simply a mental acknowledgment of the truthfulness of Scripture, but it is a submission by faith to the life it demands. “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).
We could play out the scenario with which we started the article and find out if one just believes in believing or has a genuine faith in the spiritual, in God and His will for life. “Do you believe?” “Oh, yes, I certainly believe.” “Do you faithfully worship God and fellowship your brothers and sisters in Christ?” “Well, not necessarily, but I believe in that.” “Do you take advantage of opportunities to serve others?” “I do believe that is important, but I have a busy schedule.” “Do you spend time in God’s Word and try to apply it in your own life situations?” “I believe in that too, but doing it, not so much.” If we objectively examine our faith and how we live, what would we find? Do we just believe in believing, or do we have a real faith that acts? “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Perhaps the greatest challenge we have as Christians is what Paul noted in Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” We must spend time in Scripture so God can transform us from the image of the world around us into His image, but that transformation won’t happen if we have no idea of into what it is we are to be transformed. Even if we know what it says, its power to transform can’t be energized in us if we won’t do it. Even of Christ the writer of Hebrews said,“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Do you believe? What is it you believe? Do you believe in believing, or do you have a faith that will respond in doing? One will save, the other will not. Choose wisely. “And 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 diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Gary C. Hampton
Many mothers, maybe mine, have asked a child, “Did you hear me?” The question is often followed by an amazing answer that indicates the child heard every word. Mothers are thus frustrated knowing the child heard their words but did not act upon them.
God’s Word is able to save the soul and should be received with humble submission. God seemingly has the same frustrations as some mothers, since people hear the Word without doing anything, making hearing the Word of God an act of futility. Our Lord’s half-brother wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22). Guy N. Woods said the verb tense of the word “doers” denotes a continuous action.
The same action is seen in Paul’s description of some of those who Christ will judge worthy of vengeance. That group will not keep on obeying the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). We are deceived when we think all that we have to do is hear the truth. Hearing must produce a faith that acts. Such faith is produced by hearing God’s Word, as well as believing He exists and will reward those who diligently seek him (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6).
James used a parable (James 1:23-25) to illustrate the point of verse 22. A person who looks in a mirror to check his appearance but goes away without correcting the problems he sees is like the one who hears but does nothing. The other character in the parable “looks,” which Woods says means “to stoop and look, to gaze intently.” This man stands in stark contrast to the one who only glanced in the mirror and did nothing about the things he saw amiss. The one worthy of commendation carefully examines himself, intending to correct every flaw.
Each of us needs to set our sights on really hearing what God says. We can accomplish our purpose by carefully reading God’s Word to fully understand it. We, then, can demonstrate our hearing by doing what Scripture tells us to do.