Thursday, September 18, 2008

RMC Editorial: A Believing Believer

Just about everyone around you believes in God. If you are currently living in the United States, chances are, practically every person you see each day, believes that God exists. Not long ago, a poll revealed that 79 % of Americans believe, 9 % are atheists, and 12 % are not sure (agnostics). Despite the precariousness of crunching numbers, these percentages might bring a certain amount of comfort. Combine this with the 21st Century species of toleration and evangelism seems nearly moot.

Belief feels like a conclusion. Choosing not to be an atheist or even rising above agnosticism seems like a spiritual achievement. On top of that, a fly-by of John 3:16 seems to indicate that if you believe in God, it’s a done deal. Millions go about their business, living their lives, comforted by the fact they have concluded that God exists.

It might sound unkind and it might ruffle some feathers, but simply believing in God means ultimately nothing. Not to say that this is a good starting point. None of us should shrug off the hope that is represented when you discover someone has matured enough to not hide from the issue in the guise of someone who is “just not sure.” Encourage the soul that has at least gotten this far.

But a belief in God alone, is just a flicker of light. With apparent sarcasm, God makes it clear that this mind-set is not that big of a deal. “You believe there is one God. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). If someone prides himself on believing in God and then settles into a lifestyle that carries him no farther than this obvious conclusion, he needs to realize he has merely achieved the theology held by demons.

John 3:16 tells us that “whoever believes will not perish.” To stop reading at that point only gives you part of the truth. Belief is a much bigger word than most people realize. A few verses later, it is made clear that God expects belief to be reflected in our actions. “He who practices truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:21). And even a little later, these actions are directly associated with baptism (John 3:23). In order to maintain the belief that belief is enough, you must stop yourself from reading too far.

Most of those who claim to believe there is a God, would hesitate to say they have “faith” in Him. That probably seems like a word that might require something from them. And that’s true. Yet, faith is nothing less than absolutely necessary. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The letter that follows this book teaches “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The world’s definition of “belief” is a worthless word compared to what the Bible describes.

But we have to keep going. Anyone who really believes in God, also believes that He is directly active toward His Creation. “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). He is not some vague force with a general affection for the earth. He is deeply and completely involved. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (II Chron 16:9). God allows free will for every individual, but He is currently shaping all things toward the completion of His own will. He is making decisions “according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). There is no room for deism inside someone who truly believes in God.

There’s more. Believing in God means believing in the God, not a god. When you believe in God, you believe that He is omnipotent. Acknowledging Him includes acknowledging that He is all-powerful. He not only exists, He can accomplish anything He wants. “With God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). Job also realized this basic truth concerning the Creator. “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Standing firm on the decision that God exists, also means standing firm on what kind of God He is. He is flat-out unlimited.

Something else. The God that exists is omniscient. He literally knows everything, past, present, and future. And His knowledge is specific. “I know every bird of the mountains” (Psalm 50:11). He knows every single person walking the earth, better than they know themselves. “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:4). There is no way to overestimate his awareness. That shouldn’t surprise us. He is God. Not the degraded, repackaged god that the world has allowed.

Now, here’s the hard part. If all of this is true—and have no doubt, it is—if all of this is true, then this means something is required of you. If there really is a God and He is deeply involved and omniscient and omnipotent, it would be downright silly to live even a single day without keeping all of this in mind. This is why truly believing in God results in changes. It affects actions. It shapes decisions. The world’s version of belief doesn’t. The belief that actually means something, does.

All of this is not to discourage or demean. But regardless of the countless “belief systems” surrounding us, we need to see things as they really are. And we need to teach things as they really are. A false sense of comfort is offered by the enemy, convincing us that we are surrounded by the saved while in reality, we are still surrounded by the lost. If you believe in God, great. But if you really believe in God, then it’s going to require you to do something about it.

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