When We Say We Believe

believe2“Do you believe?” I recently asked a room of seven Christians. Without clarification or qualification, as may be expected among a group of Christians, my question was responded to in the affirmative: “Yes, I believe.” At least that was the response shared by all in the room with but one exception when a particularly discerning individual replied, “Believe in what?” While I praised his response, I was disheartened to discover that the others in the room nevertheless went on blindly affirming belief without any concern for what it was that they were affirming. Of the seven, one was a new believer while the other six were ministers and leaders with experience serving as pastors, elders, teachers, and more. The implications are troubling if it might possibly be considered that, for many Christians, it is enough to merely affirm belief with no concern for what we believe or why.

If it might be considered that this small group of seven is somehow representative of Western Christianity, the body of Christ (and not just Western Christianity because we are, in fact, one in Christ) is in serious danger for it would mean that the general consensus among Christians (laity and leadership alike) maintains that what is important (at least in practice) is merely that you do believe but, perhaps, not necessarily what you believe much less why you believe what you believe. Worse yet, it means that what contemporarily has been packaged as belief is, more often than not, a mere nodding affirmation of belief rather than something tested. 1But blind affirmation is the mark of nominal Christianity and not a convictional, biblical faith which is marked by a reasoned belief that has been tested and bears evidence to its claims in a transformed life by way of a renewed heart and mind. A nominal Christian is a Christian by name only who may affirm basic Christian doctrine even while not having turned their heart and life over fully to the Lord in repentance and faith. So nominal Christianity presents its own dangers: lacking conviction, its members are bound together by association rather than as empowered by the Holy Spirit in Christ alongside other believers growing in a restored relationship with the Father, and may well remained unreconciled with God.

The pervasiveness of nominal Christianity within the church is just as overwhelming as its implications where so many of those who identify as Christian do so only in name but not in spirit. It is simply not enough to claim to know God, we must be known by God. There are many who identify as Christian that have not yet submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ. That is, there are many who have accepted what Jesus offers but reject what He commands. Christ may die on their behalf so long as they do not also have to die to themselves. We want to enjoy the good fruit of the good tree so long as the good branch requires no measure of good pruning. 3You see, we have bought into the lie that for love to be real it must submit to the condition that demands love be given without condition. And, so, there are many who remain Christian nominally even while not convictionally because they do not submit themselves to the conditions of God’s love whereby they may encounter conviction and be known by the God they profess.

The dead weight of its members are a burden to the body which restrict growth if unpruned. 2By pruning I do not mean to say that we should drag people out of the pews and throw them into the streets. Still, some pruning is required. Let’s turn toward our own hearts and minds. Because many of us don’t know why we believe what we believe, consequently, much of what often passes for belief is mere affirmation. Ignorant of what we believe, and why we believe what we believe, it is no surprise, then, that we have been so unsuccessful at fulfilling the Great Commission: making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus (Matt 28:18-20). More than merely affirming belief, we must know the whys and whats of our faith. We must know the commands of Jesus in order to teach others to obey the commands of Jesus as we engage the process of making disciples for Christ in our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.

Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that we’re saved by any measure of our own works or knowledge. Instead, we’re saved by grace and through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 4:8-9) through whom we are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18). What I am talking about is the Christian life empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to God. This convictional life comes by the grace of God as we grow in knowledge and understanding. For those who do believe, I encourage you toward a convictional faith as you continue to grow in your relationship with the Lord. But if you don’t know what you believe, or why you believe what you believe, if you merely affirm belief–maybe you need to give serious 5thought as to whether or not you actually do believe. It’s not enough to merely affirm belief. What you believe, and why you believe what you believe matters. For those who do not believe, I encourage you to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7)–draw near to God, He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “When We Say We Believe

  1. I have read through this a few times now. I am a ponderous reader and even with repetition doubt that I am reading with full understanding. Much of what you say resonates with me. Having grown up in the church I am too well aware of those bound together by “association”, and have witnessed the tragedy that comes when unpruned branches tear away from the good tree, leaving wounds that should have been avoided. I do look to my own heart and mind and pray sincerely that God would be at work in me. There is one point in your discourse that has snagged in my mind. Where you mention that we lose out on being known by God by not submitting to the conditions of His love, shouldn’t it be that we miss out on knowing Him? He loved us while we were yet sinners, he knew we were sinners and knew when we were saved and knows how or if we grow and continue to seek him. If we prove faithless He remains faithful. But if we fail to seek him fully? If we half-ass the Christian life we’re called to? Then isn’t how well we know God the thing that is sacrificed? And yet, by not seeking Him, I am closing myself off to Him, denying Him Lordship in my life, access in my heart and mind, so perhaps in truth it is two-fold? A positive feedback loop with only negatives to show? I resist His work and presence in my life and thereby lose knowledge of Him, whereby He loses knowledge of me. What a heartbreaking place to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Alwayswounded!
      I love your heart throughout your comments. You’re quite right, God demonstrates his love for in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And you’re also right when say that how well we know God matters. Concerning the distinctions between, “knowing God,” and “being known by God” we may be saying something very similar, but only in different ways. My point is not that it doesn’t matter if we know God–it does matter. When I wrote that, “It is simply not enough to claim to know God, we must be known by God” my point was that there are many who “claim” to “know” God, but that aren’t actually “known” by God; without being “known” by God, we will miss out on what it means to truly know Him: reconciliation with God in Christ (2Corinthians 5:16-21).
      So, when I wrote that, “there are many who identify as Christian that have not yet submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ” I am referring to those people who are Christian by name only, claiming to to know God but who may never be known by Him and, consequently, may never truly experience the joy of knowing Him. And Jesus talks about such people in similar terms in Matthew 7:21-23 where many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord,” claiming to know Him, and but if they are not known by Him, He will reply to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you lawless ones.” Truly, “God knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6). And, so, “It is simply not enough to claim to know God, we must be known by God.” For those who are not so known by God, it is a heartbreaking place to be indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a great article. As for me; Guilty. I may have difficulty trying to understand many aspects of our walk and chosen life, yet I am dutiful to press on anyway. I do believe. I believe that the Scriptures in the Bible are my guides, my aspersions and goals….my chosen role in this life and the next. I am thankful the Holy Spirit is ever present and gently reveals the marvel mysteries of Scripture. I am simple, yet “I believe” in what I do not fully understand yet. In so, I must strive to ensure that what I believe in is of God. To do do, I will study to show myself approved. It is important to know what we believe, why we believe….it is important that we continue to seek understanding. Know what you believe in…pray, read…ask…..Believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Why do I believe….This is something I have roller coastered on in my life. I grew up believing. I grew up being told that I had to believe. Being told to not believe would be the same as not living. I never questioned this growing up. Not until I was in the middle of my first marriage. I questioned if I really did believe and if I did then what did it mean? I mean doing what I was told hadnt exactly worked out anyhow. But, here is what I have learned…my life, when I chose that I probably didn’t believe in God, was not nearly as peaceful as when I was sure in what I knew in my heart and spirit to be true. During my dark times of not knowing I was tormented in my mind more than anything. I felt lost…searching always but I wasn’t even sure what for anymore. After a very very intimate encounter with God,my heart screamed to my mind,YES! This is what I was missing. My relationship with God. It took some time but I regained a peace in my heart and spirit and mind knowing that I know where truth lies. I may not fully inderstand all that I believe in God but I do trust that the Holy Spirit leads me in a peace of knowing God and believing in that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bihollevav,
      Thanks for sharing some of your testimony! I am reminded of 1Corinthians 13:8-12 whereby we may be encouraged that while our present knowledge and understanding is limited, when Christ returns we we will know fully even as we have been fully known. May we continually seek growth in knowledge and in understanding with our trust placed securely in God as we follow the Holy Spirit wherever He leads.

      Like

  4. Good foot stomp’n stuff for this first time blogger!!! ill try to keep this short and sweet, don’t need to bore anyone with my key notes and take aways but this is so good so i have to share in THREE Parts!!!!!

    PART 1

    “There are many who identify as Christian that have not yet submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ.”

    Between the word “Christian” is everything from “Christian Jehovah’s” to “Christian Muslims”.
    I really think to be set apart (verbally & spiritually) when asked “My religion” or “Am I a Believer” is to be more explanatory in what we say; after all people died,suffered,endured to keep what we all know as The Holy Bible.
    I Simply state that i am born again believer and not in any religion but in a relationship. And go from there is any questions arise.
    The Big difference you ask??
    Well hopefully the biggest difference is in your own heart,”thatss right i said it!”
    I am a full believer in looking back at your last year. are you the same person you were? have i changed in my way of thinking/speaking/seeing,Even if its the tiniest of things (the music your guard yourself from,or your choice of language you pick)

    “True evidence is a transformed live(born again)a renewed heart & mind.”

    love what he says here cause the word we read is alive,its not just ink on paper! its a living spirit. i hope when you hear someone say that they have received food spiritually that you took that literally in consideration. With that being said i highly advise you to switch up your lifestyle even church if your not being challenged cause it is alive it will truly change and shape you,thats the power!

    PART 2

    “Many who identify as Christian that have not yet submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ.”

    Everyone is in there own walk of faith,we all can benefit from others knowledge and passed mistakes. but we have to look INWARD, test are own strengths and weaknesses in christ to overcome that stage or gray area in are walk. I Believe he knows are heart,and i pray we all reach that pinnacle in are lives are we mature and submit(sooner then later) i was born in the pulpit and never really understood until i officially game him my heart in my mid twenties!

    PART 3

    “There are many who remain Christian nominally even while not convictionally because they do not submit themselves to the conditions of God’s love whereby they may encounter conviction and be known by the God they profess.”

    (LOVE THIS ONE)we often join churches where we “fit in” or also knowns as (fast food christianity) to get a heartwarming emotion;soft spoken;calm voice from the clouds. only wanting the grace and mercy sermon, often forget he is quick wit,table-turning, clear,just and zealous to win are heart. We should be challanged,held accounted for and always striving to be the christ like human we will never fully be on this fallen earth.lol
    Amen!

    P.S. BOX :
    This radical word we all know as “Bible thumper” or “Jesus freak” has always been somewhat of a nail screeching on a black board and occasionally tend to send my eyes for a roll when portrayed in news,media,etc.
    i guess my question is,am i right in separating myself from what i think is not valid? i love my faith but when i see “GOD HATES FAGS” and defiance due to political and social views i feel its dumb and nonsense.I feel its closes doors and opportunities to stand out the proper way it was intended for.
    I now stray from the word christian when identifying myself by using (born again believer in a relationship,not religion)
    I do believe in the living word that says there will be plenty of “so called” believers using his name and twisting his word.(tv-vangalist,nay-sayers)
    im so disgusted and often wonder if I’m right by guarding my ears and filtering from not just outside but inside the church body. i think people often see a persons “christian credentials” and have no sence of self accountability to check there own bible in there lap and see what their being fed is true.
    i love my bible with passion and will always cherish it.
    I Often stare at it across the room and think thousands and thousands of years,deaths,sweat and tears came this book and we take for granted. people would walk days bare foot and hungry just to get a ear full off a page of the same book we now have at the 99cent store in abundance.i take my faith very seriously and still embrace the word christian in remembrance to honor what it stands for. i pray i will be understood and forgiven the day i answer him for myself.

    your friend
    Read&Fed
    11/12/14
    9:59 PM

    Like

    1. Read&Fed,
      Thanks for the wonderful engagement! In response to your question where you ask about separating yourself from what you view as invalid, I would begin by encouraging you to test all things in the light of Scripture and hold fast to what is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21, c.f. 1John 4:1). This is what the Bereans did, eager to hear Paul and Silas’ message as they proclaimed the Gospel, they tested everything they heard in the light of Scripture and, as a result, many of them believed (Acts 17:10-12). Testing all things in the light of Scripture, we should come to understand that there is nothing Christ like about being so intentional in seeking to harshly offend nonbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:12). Waving posters that read, “God Hates Fags” is hateful and not loving, and we are reminded in 1 John 4:8 that, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” And it certainly isn’t loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). There is nothing Christian about hatred.
      As well, I would also encourage you not to distance yourself from the word “Christian” when identifying yourself as believer who has been born-again and is in a relationship with God. The word “Christian” is historic to the Christian faith. Many of our brothers and sisters have been martyred for their identification as Christian. Honor them. And honor what God has revealed in Scripture. The Greek word, “Χριστιανός” (pronounced Christanos) means “Christian” in English and appears 3 times in Scripture. In Acts 11:26 we read that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called, “Christians”, in Acts 26:28 Agrippa asks Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”, and in 1Peter 4:16 readers are encouraged with these words: “Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name.” Again I encourage you, don’t distance yourself from the word, “Christian” but, instead, glorify God because you bear this name. Distance yourself from those who misrepresent the name Christian and prayerfully join together alongside those with whom you are bound together in Christ as brothers and sisters in the Lord as Christians.

      Like

      1. Thanks ChristCurved for you reply to Read&Fed. I found your page from a post somebody made on Facebook and I’m glad I did. I needed to read this. Because so many so called Christians misrepresnt what it means to be Christian I also distance myself from being identified by the word “Christian”. Not anymore. I didn’t even know the word “Christian” was a Biblical word!!! It seems me people were being identified as “Christian” from the begninnng and since then true Christians have been killed for that identity in Christ. Thanks for helping me with why I believe what I believe and embracing who i am…a Christian!

        Like

  5. How can we not believe in a merciful God? The key is do you believe because you were brouhaha up to say ” I believe, or do u hv a relationship with Him that causes you to believe wholeheartedly without any reservations!

    Like

  6. For those that understand , to know Christ is life and salvation .. But a truth that is known and not lived is only another myth..

    Like

    1. Lilbitatheist,
      Whether or not a truth is lived out does not change the nature of the truth itself. It is either true or its not. To know Christ either is life or it isn’t. For those that know that Christ is life but don’t live the Christian life, I pray for them as God continues to work in their hearts just as I pray for those who consider themselves a little bit atheist.
      The truth is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day, as evidenced in post-resurrection appearances, and in accordance to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-8; cf. Psalm 16:8-11, Isaiah 53:8-12) as a demonstration of God’s great love for us (Romans 5:8, 1John 4:10) by taking on our sin so that we, who were once dead in our sins and have now been made alive in Christ, might become the righteousness of God reconciled to God in Christ in a restored relationship with Him as we have been saved by grace and through faith (2 Corinthians 5:16-21; cf. Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith (Romans 1:16) and I pray you come to believe.
      You’re right though: it doesn’t matter that one knows the truth, if they deny that truth in the way they live their lives. But there’s no being a ‘little bit atheist,’ my friend. In the Old Testament God speaks to His people in exile and tells them, “You will seek me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13), and in the New Testament Jesus says, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). I encourage you to search for God with all your heart and you’ll find Him as you ask, seek, and knock–draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

      Like

  7. Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 15:14….”And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” This is what where Paul lays down the line between “good teacher, liar, crazy or God” There is no wiggle room as to whom Jesus claimed and showed Himself to be. This is what I chose to believe. If I’m wrong then all is ‘useless, or ‘meaningless’ as Salmon would say.

    Like

  8. I believe that God is who He says He is and that He can and will do what He said He do .
    I believe in Christ Jesus as my personal Saviour , forgiveness of sin , that He is who He says He is . The son of God , who died and rose will come again .
    I belive in the Holy Spirit who lives in me and empowers me .
    I belive in the grace and mercy of a living God .
    Why do I believe ? Because God is alive in me . He is not just a distant God in a far away place called heaven . Not just meer words written in a book . Just as the Bible is the inspired word of God , so is my believe in What and Whom and Why … I believe .

    Like

    1. Amen and amen again, TJ! Thanks for sharing why you believe what you believe! And you stated it very well: you believe precisely what the Bible says about God having experienced it as God lives in you and you in Him. You believe, indeed!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s