Monday, November 10, 2014

You can’t handle the truth!

(Submitted By Kerry Patton)
 “But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:8-11 NASB

I Believe - Prologue
This is not about “works-righteousness.” Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Nor is it pointing a finger at any particular sins and casting judgment upon them.  Rather, it’s about me striving to conform my living to obedience in what I believe.

Sidewalk Wisdom
My friend Steve posted something on Facebook recently…and I don’t think he was mistaken to do it.  It was a photo shared by someone else that pictured a chalkboard sign on a sidewalk that read: “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person…your behavior does.”  Steve noted that this was a valuable concept.  And I agree…or do I?

That concept got me to thinking.  You see, I understand what it is saying: “If my beliefs are not affecting my behavior, then what good are they?”  I agree with this.  The same spirit of wisdom is echoed in James 2:14-17:  “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

But, I was concerned with what the chalkboard concept ALSO seemed to say…if accidentally: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just behave right.” Or another perspective: “As long as you behave right, you don’t have to believe at all!”  And that is where I hit the brakes on agreement. 

It matters very much what I believe, for if I cast my belief on something untrue, and begin to model my life after it, it cannot lead me to where I need to go.  Untruth remains untrue, even if it is believed in with great conviction, or held by great numbers of people.  If what I believe is in error and it is guiding my behavior, then my behavior will be in error also.

But do I need to believe at all?  Absolutely!  If we remove the blood of Jesus, and the wise counsel of an all knowing benevolent God from our lives, then we are released to our own recognizance, and will ultimately face the judgment of Almighty God…whether we believe in him or not!!   Proverbs 14:12 cries out: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” To merely choose to not believe as a means of avoiding judgment makes the same sense as hiding under an umbrella for protection from a falling mountain.  You may not see it coming, but you won’t like what happens when it gets there!

What if I believe the right things, but make no connection to how I behave?
       What if I believe the Bible teaches stealing is wrong, but do not correct an error when I am given too much money in change at the store?  Am I not stealing?
       What if I believe the Bible that lust is a sin, but I have no conscience about viewing pornography, or looking at someone with lust in my heart?  Am I not still committing adultery?
       What if I believe the Bible’s instruction about controlling the tongue, but am in the habit of being verbally abusive to my wife or children when I become frustrated?  Am I not still destroying with my tongue?

In such cases, I may be in agreement with the belief, but I am also in conflict with it, and am subject to its judgment.

If my behavior is not directly affected by my beliefs, in what capacity can I say the beliefs are mine?  If my belief is not affecting my behavior, I must understand that it is not necessarily the fault of the belief itself!  We may in fact believe what we should believe.  But if we are not pursuing the application of those beliefs in our daily living and interaction with others, what good are those beliefs?  We render them ineffective not because they are so, but because we are unyielding to them.
Ultimately, we must come to realize that AGREEING with a belief is not the same as placing our belief upon it…living and behaving as the belief dictates.  My assessment and agreement that a bridge should be strong is not the same as loading my wife and children into a car and driving across it.  In driving across the bridge, my belief becomes evident.  Effectively, “faith without works is dead.”

So, here’s a good question: What do I say I believe?  Are those beliefs affecting my behavior?  If they are not, do I in fact believe those things?  My aim is for the things I believe to become evident in all that I do.  I find myself crying out much in the same way as the father in Mark 9:24: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

Almighty God, Help me choose this day and every day to live what I believe.  Validate my confession of faith by the evidence of what I do.  I believe, O God, help thou my unbelief!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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