“Believe… all you need to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus is Lord, and that is all.” Have you heard that before?
I’ve heard those words at hundreds of alter calls. Although I don’t disagree with it, I feel it’s an oversimplification of true salvation. Yes, believing is the first step. But the devil believes probably with greater conviction than most. He knows more than any other created being that Jesus is God. (James 2:19)
So I have to ask, are we short-selling the gospel? In reading James 2:14-26, I find that adding actions to belief is what ratifies that belief to be true. Faith is visible in behavior. Possibly the plague of weak faith in Christian circles is due to an overwhelming emphasis on agreeing with good teachings and a concurrent deficiency in applying those truths. Acquiring revelation, whether in your personal time with God or while seated in a church service, is only the seed-step of a blooming faith. Application in one’s life makes faith substantial. Looking at the great hall of faith chapter in Hebrews 11, I find that faith led to an action in each person’s life. Able offered a sacrifice. Enoch pleased God. Noah prepared an ark. Abraham went out. Sarah delivered a child. Their faith and actions were inseparable.
I understand the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. (Ephesians 1:8) Salvation is a gift of God to humanity, which we accept by faith in the sacrifice of His Son. In light of His great atonement, we are not called to idly remain in the euphoria of correct belief. No, we are called to be like the One who saved us. Abraham believed God, and his faith was justified by his behavior. (James 2:21-24)
Peter, in his second letter to the early church, says add these qualities to your faith: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, kindness, and charity. (2 Peter 1:5-8) What does he mean? Does Peter indicate that our behavior aids us in the attaining of faith? No, I believe he is implying that faith will lead to actions. The list of qualities that Peter states are not mere ideas to believe. They are the means by which we demonstrate our faith to others. Add to your faith the outworking of your belief. The meaning of the Christian life is not limited to only a sense of knowing, feeling, or doing something. The Christian faith hinges on being like someone-Jesus. It’s all about Him. When we find our identity in Him, we find our fulfillment and also the manifestation of His desires in us.
Like many, I am weary of seeing Christians talk a great talk, and few actually demonstrate a vibrant faith. I am not saying that I am looking for perfection, but at least a resemblance to Jesus should be expected in His followers.
Some of the greatest disappointments I’ve faced in my life were from those who I knew to be followers of Jesus, and yet they lived far from God’s reality. Why is it that so many are growing disgusted with the American church? It is because they go to find Jesus and are disappointed to find well-intentioned imposters? They find political advocates pushing humanistic agendas rather than the life-transforming Jesus.
A few months ago, I shared a coffee with a local Imam (Muslim leader). He claimed his mother was a former Christian. In our discussion, I asked him how he knew his mother was a believer? He replied, “Well, she was a nun.” Curiously I asked if her admittance into the nunnery made her a believer. I referenced Mark 16:17-18 and clarified my point. Jesus said that these signs would follow those who “believe.” He said they would cast out devils, speak with new tongues, overcome deadly threats of poison and torture, and heal the sick. Then I asked, did your mom evidence any one of these signs? The reply was silence.
This is what I find astonishing. I have been guilty of the problem myself. Many sincere Christians live a personalized faith built on a makeshift theology of favored scriptures. Unfortunately, their lives reflect very little of the One they claim to follow. The apostle Paul says in the last day, men will have a form of godliness and be vacant of power. (2 Timothy 3:5)
So the big question for the day is, what are you doing with your faith? Simply aim to make a good life for yourself? Attempt to go from one pleasurable outcome to the next? Or are you devoutly in love with the man Jesus? Are you aggressively altering your daily schedule to look like His? Every time you walk by a sick person, you have the opportunity to demonstrate His kingdom. In every café, store, restaurant, or fast food place you visit, you have a chance to demonstrate His kingdom today. Simply tune in your thoughts and say, “Holy Spirit, what can I do here?” He will speak, and you will have the pivotal decision to be an obedient believer or an unbelieving believer.