TRUE BIBLE FAITH (EXCERPT OF THE THEOLOGY OF ROBERT B. THOMPSON)
Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
“True Bible Faith” is taken from The Theology of Robert B. Thompson, copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Some passages of Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
True Bible faith is infinitely more than our assent to invisible facts. True Bible faith is obedience to God’s will as it is revealed to us. We are motivated to obey God’s will by our hope of a reward for doing so, or just because we love God and want to please Him. True Bible faith is revealed in our behavior rather than in our theology.
Our belief that God is good and that there is a Heaven gives us hope and courage when we encounter the pains of life on the earth, particularly severe illness, or disfigurement, or death. But if we do not seek the will of Christ every day, we do not have what the Bible means by faith, even though we believe the facts presented in the Scriptures.
God rewards those who seek Him diligently and earnestly.
I will tell you what got me started on this subject. Since it is obvious the protecting hand of the Lord is being withdrawn from the United States because of abortion-on-demand and other sins, some godly Christian leaders are encouraging us to fast in order to change God’s mind about the coming American holocaust.
I most assuredly exhort every Christian to fervently seek God, and when fasting will intensify the effort, as it often does, to fast as the Lord leads. However, I do not recommend that young people fast from their necessary nourishment of food, but to give over to the Lord for a specific season some activity or thing that is important to them, such as an electronic device, for example.
It would not hurt older people to miss a few meals, unless their daily work is strenuous. In that case, they may wish to set aside something they enjoy, such as the television, until their fast has been completed.
What I wish to discuss is not fasting but the concept of “changing God’s mind.” I don’t believe God ever changes his mind nor are we called on to attempt to change God’s mind. The repentance of Nineveh did not change God’s mind. Rather, it changed the behavior of the people, and so severe punishment no longer was necessary.
In the case of sustained prayer for the Holy Spirit in order that we may have eternal life to give to others, this is not a changing of God’s mind. It is God’s pleasure to give us more of the Holy Spirit. God directs us to ask and keep on asking for more of the Spirit of God. Also, the Book of Acts tells us that God gives his Spirit to those who obey him.
Sometimes God changes the destiny of an individual because the person did not obey God, but this is not a changing of God’s mind. God always punishes transgressions, and when we transgress we suffer for it.
There may be a passage in the Bible that tells us we can “twist God’s arm” by fasting so He will change his mind, but I am not aware of it at this time. We do not fast to change God’s mind but to enter into a closer fellowship with Him so we can find out what God wants, and then pray and act along that line.
What about the coming American holocaust. Do we wish to prevent this? Why should we want God not to judge America? Do we want to bless and protect sin and rebellion?
It would be proper to fast and pray that God would stop the abortions. When I pray along this line, the Lord tells me that America has crossed the line and shall be punished accordingly.
Does God ever tell one of his servants to warn his people that punishment is on the way and to accept God’s decision. Yes, He does. Do you remember that God told the Israelites to seek the peace of Babylon, because that is how they would find prosperity? Perhaps God wants us to find out from Him what we should do about the coming judgment, rather than to waste our time trying to prevent what God has determined.
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:4-7—NIV)
“And he will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and he will be there until I visit him,” declares the LORD. “If you fight against the Chaldeans, you will not succeed.” (Jeremiah 32:5—NASB)
You can fight God if you want to. Religious people often do. But once you pray until you know the mind of God, there is peace in “letting go and letting God have his wonderful way,” so to speak.
The palace prophets would never tell the king of Israel he already was defeated, because they were liars seeking their own advantage. We need to hear the truth today. It would have done the Jews no good to try to get God to change his mind. So it is today. We need to go with God rather than against him. We need to learn from Christ how to stand in the Day of Judgment and help others to stand.
The expression “step out in faith” is another way of trying to force God to do something. Stepping out in faith, unless Christ is directing us to do so, is not scriptural faith. It is presumption. It is the same idea as Satan urging Jesus to jump off the roof of the Temple. We are not to test God in this manner.
When we study the “faith chapter,” the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we do not find people trying to force God to do anything. Rather the heroes of faith were marked by obedience to the will of God..
But my righteous one] will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:38,39—NIV)
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews sets forth what is meant by “the righteous will live by faith.”
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is not a means of getting God to do what we want.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command. God acts sovereignly in all He does. We are not called on to try to get Him to change his mind. This would put man in control, and we certainly do not want that!
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. Cain was a farmer and offered his crops. Nothing wrong with that. But we can tell from Cain’s actions that although he made an offering, his heart was far from God. When God reproved him, Cain did not ask God what was wrong with his offering. He chose instead to murder his brother. It often may be true that people engage in their religious practices while their heart is far from God. They just are going through the motions.
Christian people may be faithful to the beliefs and practices of their religion even when Christ does not know them! They never really had faith in Jesus, the kind of faith that results in close fellowship with Christ.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life so that he did not experience death. Enoch demonstrated his faith by walking humbly with God. To walk humbly with God is the very highest form of faith.
Anyone who comes to God must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him, not those who attempt to force God to do what they want.
Noah was warned of the flood because he was a righteous person. He showed his faith by building an ark. This action was righteousness in God’s sight, the righteousness that comes by faith.
Abraham’s entire life was one of obedience to God, beginning with his obedient belief in God’s promise. I read of no instance in which Abraham “stepped out in faith.” He did make intercession for Lot, and intercession directed by the Lord is a valuable ministry. But Abraham did not change God’s mind. Sodom was destroyed. God knew there were not ten righteous people there.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, although he did not know where he was going. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. Notice the sovereign hand of God here. None of this was Abraham’s idea.
The heroes of faith lived by faith and died in faith. They did not receive the promises but saw them in the future. They lived as aliens on the earth. Their kingdom was not of this present world. They were waiting for the new Jerusalem to come down from Heaven. Compare this attitude with the brashness with which we are going to put on our “administrative hat” and usurp the place of Christ, going so far as to direct angels and command the spiritual lords in positions of authority over cities, or even direct the Spirit of God!
Some today are teaching that if we want something from God, we are to say we have it, with the understanding that if we keep on saying this and believing it, will happen. This is not Bible faith. It is a metaphysical practice. Others are suggesting that we can persuade the Holy Spirit to do as we wish.
We can ask God for a spiritual gift, but we are not to say we have it until we actually receive it. The idea that we can believe something into existence is a major error of Christian thinking in our day. The idea of positive thinking, or speaking the creative word, is a way of attempting to use the power of Christ to accomplish one’s own desires. It has the “two horns of the Lamb” (of Christ) but it speaks with the voice of self-determination of the dragon (Revelation 13:13).
Are we not man-centered and humanistic in this?
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. Isaac did not attempt to change their future.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. There was no attempt here to direct God.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. Joseph was acting in faith according to what God revealed to him about the coming exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. The faith of Moses’ parents was that God was greater than Pharaoh and would preserve Moses. We are going to need this sort of faith during the coming American holocaust.
I do not know when I first encountered the idea that we are supposed to move God to do certain things. It may have been from fellow believers when I first was saved in the Marine Corps. It may have been in Bible school.
As I contemplate this notion, that God is waiting to be moved by man because He doesn’t know what He is doing, or doesn’t have a definite program, I think it must have arisen with the rise of Humanism. I see no inkling of it in the Old or New Testaments. Do you?
How can we enter the rest of God, that place where we cease from our own works and look to Jesus for every breath we take; every thought we think; every word we speak; every desire we have; every plan we make; every action we take; and then try to persuade God to do something?
How can we enter that perfect Sabbath rest, in which Christ eternally exists, if we are scheming how we are going to get God to do what we want? It seems to me that the rest of God, and fasting and praying to get God to do what we want, are incompatible approaches to our walk with the Lord.
Where am I incorrect in this?
I believe it was in Bible school that I heard of someone who had preached on the topic “God in the hands of a man.” The good Lord deliver us if such ever occurs. I suspect that the idea was taken from Jacob wrestling with the angel.
But notice that Jacob was not “stepping out in faith.” He was seeking to survive the encounter with his brother, Esau. Now it may have been true that Esau was planning to avenge himself on Jacob because Jacob cheated him out of his birthright. And it may have been true that God changed Esau’s heart because Jacob prevailed, although the Bible does not state any of this.
But if such was the case, this change of heart accomplished God’s greater will, because God had promised Jacob an inheritance that did not include Jacob being murdered by Esau.
Here is the very point. When God wants something done, He works circumstances so someone will pray to the end that what God wants will be accomplished. Can you see how different it is for us to blindly decide what we want done and to try to get God to do it?
Now I ask you: “Does God desire that America be spared God’s judgment on us when we are practicing abortion-on-demand? Do you know the answer to this question? If you do not know what God has determined, how can you fast and pray that America will go on its way safely and securely murdering fetuses? Would it not be better to seek God, fasting if it will help, to find out what God desires, and then pray along that line?
As I said, there may be a bit of humanistic man-centeredness in the preaching that teaches us if we have faith we can have all the money we want; or if we fast and pray, God will permit America to prosper in every way even though the moral abominations increase every day. Do we actually know what God is thinking, or are we assuming that we know what He is thinking and his attitude toward America at this time?
Tell me: “Do we want to change God’s attitude, or do we want to find out what it is and fast and pray that his will shall be done?” How do you feel about this?
I heard a minister say that if we pray, and then say “Your will be done,” we do not have faith. The truth is, “Your will be done” is the strongest of all prayers.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. We see from the life of Moses that faith is our belief that we will be rewarded for serving God.
Moses’ actions, after God called him to deliver Egypt, were those of obedience. From his warnings to Pharaoh to the construction of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, Moses followed the Lord all the way. Moses did not have a “good idea” about how he would help God out. Rather he remains one of our finest examples of stern obedience to God.
It is true that Moses interceded for Israel. But he did so within the confines of God’s intervention in his life. Moses was not a “free moral agent” who decided what God needed and tried to get God to do it.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land. This miracle was accomplished under the direct intervention of the Lord. It did not come from the decisions of the Israelites.
God gave specific directions for the attack against Jericho. The people did not pray until the walls fell down or otherwise exercise their own creativity. The leaders heard from the Lord and did what He commanded.
Rahab, a member of the heroes of faith, had heard from the caravans the miracles God had did on behalf of Israel. She put her faith in the God of Israel and protected his messengers.
When we meditate on the miracles and victories that accompanied Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, it is clear that it was God who initiated their actions. Kingdoms were conquered. Justice was administered. The mouths of lions were shut. They gained what was promised. Flames were quenched. They escaped the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became powerful in battle and routed armies.
People were raised from the dead. Some of these heroes were tortured and refused to be released, for they were seeking a better resurrection.
Their faith was wrought out in obedience, not in the good intentions of human beings. They were jeered. They were flogged. They were chained and put in prison. They were stoned. They were sawed in two. They were killed by the sword. They were poorly clothed, destitute, persecuted, mistreated. They were people of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered about in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground, having no dwelling place.
Can you imagine an American charismatic believer dying and meeting the above heroes of faith, and telling them how he avoided all suffering and became rich by using “faith”?
God’s holy Word that cannot be changed said such pilgrims were commended for their faith. Yet, they have to wait for us. We of the last days will have our challenges, and they will be just as severe as were theirs, if not more so.
One day, if we have live in victory in Christ, we shall join that elite group of followers of the Lamb, his firstfruits from the earth. Then we all shall descend with him, pick up our flesh and bones from wherever they have been interred or scattered, and then be clothed upon with that house from Heaven that has been constructed from our response to the crucifixions we have experienced.
Each one of us, as we are clothed with our reward, will receive a better resurrection. It will be a personal expression of love from Christ. It will be his expression of love for that creature of the dust who chose to lose his or her own life that Christ might be exalted.
I don’t know about you but I want to be a member of that group.
The greatest prayer of all, the prayer that in the long run requires the greatest faith, is: “Not my will but yours be done.” When we do not pray this prayer we may be attempting to force our will on God.
“I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:8—NASB)
True Bible Faith: II
God has not given us faith so we can change God’s mind. God has given us faith so we can hear God’s voice clearly and obey Him diligently. The righteous are to live by faith, according to Habakkuk and the Apostle Paul. This is how we are to live. Living by faith is not speaking about theological belief. The contrast, in Habakkuk, is between those who are “puffed up” and have unrighteous desires, and those who are not puffed up and who have righteous desires.
“See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)
The person who is living by faith is walking humbly with God, not thinking and acting according to his or her own desires and goals.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is one long definition of “the righteous shall live by faith.” It tells us what the Bible means by “faith.”
We are informed that “faith is being sure of what we hope for.” The term “hope” is significant. Many of the errors of today emphasize getting what we want “now” from God. Actually, the Christian redemption is a vision of the future. This is why patience is such an important part of our salvation.
“Sin” is a shortcut to what we want. We become deceived when we seek to live in pleasure with our desires satisfied immediately.
God commended the heroes of faith of history because they lived their lives according to the vision of God they held, not in terms of their present circumstances.
When we look about us at the marvelous works of the universe, we become aware of the might and glory of God. We glorify God by faith because of his handiwork in nature, although He remains invisible to us.
Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because in his heart, Abel was worshiping God in faith. Cain gave his offering out of duty. His heart was elsewhere, as sometimes is true of the church people of our day when they are singing hymns.
Abel’s faith instructs us that God is more aware of our heart than He is of our offerings or our religion. If our heart is not in our religious service, then God is not pleased with us.
Enoch was obsessed with God. Because of Enoch’s faith, his thoughts continually were focused on the Lord rather than on his earthly circumstances. God was pleased with Enoch’s attitude; and God is pleased with our attitude when we keep Christ in our consciousness at all times.
Noah’s obedience to God is an excellent portrayal of faith. Notice that Noah did not “dare to believe God,” as we say today. Rather Noah “dared to obey God.” “Faith” and “obedience” are synonymous.
I wish to emphasize this concept. Faith is not our attempt to change God’s mind or get God to do something. Faith has to do with our seeking God until we know what He wants of us, and then obeying Him promptly and diligently.
The errors in today’s Christian teaching seek to put man in control. Man is to discover and practice spiritual principles that will move God’s hand. However, man in control of the power of Christ is nothing less than the “False Prophet,” the deceiver who will assist Antichrist in his effort to gain control over the nations.
Historically, neither the religious nor the secular realms have emphasized the daily, diligent doing of God’s revealed will. This is the central problem of life on the earth, and it will not change until Christ returns in His Kingdom and His will is done in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Faith is used today as a synonym of “presumption.” This is what we would expect of a society that is in love with itself, that seeks pleasure rather than God. There are many books and tapes that tell us how to have power with God; how to move God’s hand. There does not appear a hint of such an attitude in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Rather, the focus in the “faith” chapter of Hebrews is on seeking and obeying God. None of the people described here were trying to “do great things for God” by “stepping out in faith.” Rather they were occupied with obeying God, and in some cases with their very survival.
What do we hear today? We by “faith” are to take spiritual dominion over our city. Try to find that sort of thing in Hebrews, Chapter Eleven!
The temptation of Christ in which Satan counseled Him to jump off the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem is the sort of action that is presented today as faith. “Find a passage in the Bible and dare God to fulfill it at your command.” This is what Satan was saying, along with many Bible teachers of our day.
“Take hold of God and make Him do what you want.” Can you imagine such an attitude? Yet, how is this different from “take the gifts of the Spirit and go out and save a lost and dying world”?
“Dare to be a Daniel.” Personally, I do not believe even Daniel would have dared to be a Daniel. Rather, all Daniel wanted to do was to be left alone while he prayed to God.
We have a choice today, don’t we? We can go to the Lord Jesus, and at every moment of our waking hours ask Him what He wants us to do. This is how we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is how we live by faith. (What a wonderful adventure such a life is!)
Or we can do, as I was taught in Bible school, “Go forth to the nations and burn out for Christ.” Of course, none of our teachers had any intention of doing this; but it was what everyone seemed to be saying.
I wish we all would cease from our own works and find out what Christ wants each one of us to do. Our nation, America, is sinking into sexual lust rapidly and no human agency can arrest this trend.
But how about prayer? When I pray, the Lord seems to tell me that we American people are getting what we deserve, the kind of government we deserve. We have asked for Tash, and Tash has come (to quote C. S. Lewis).
The word of the Lord to me is: “Encourage everyone to get close enough to Jesus to hear what God’s word is to them as an individual. Then they will save themselves and their loved ones when God begins to judge America because of its love of money and excessive and perverted sexual activity; and also because of the practice of abortion-on-demand.”
For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:10—NASB)
The righteous are to live by faith, according to Habakkuk and the Apostle Paul. This is how we are to live. “Living by faith” is not speaking of theological belief. The contrast, in Habakkuk, is between those who are “puffed up” and have unrighteous desires, and those who are not puffed up and who have righteous desires.
In our day, faith often is viewed as a sort of magic by which we can manipulate the spirit and physical worlds and get what we want. However, that does not fit the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, does it? I think the “faith chapter” would suggest that faith is the act of persevering in the face of difficulties because of our confidence in the word and faithfulness of God.
There are at least three misconceptions believers have concerning “faith”:
- By faith we can manipulate the physical and spirit realms. Faith is a kind of magic. This thought obviously appeals to people.
- The adamic personality can generate faith. If we try hard enough we can believe something into existence.
- We can use “faith” as we see fit. The truth is, all genuine faith in God resides in God Himself. Sometimes God gives faith to us as a gift, but only to accomplish his own purposes.
Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, and Jesus multiplying food and cursing the fig tree, give the impression that if we could just believe strongly enough we could work miracles. In actuality there do come times when God invites us to command one thing or another. But these incidents originate in God, not in our desire to work miracles.
Miracle-working faith is one of the gifts of the Spirit. But to utilize properly the gift of miracles, the believer must be walking in the light of God’s will, closely following the Lord Jesus at all times. In the last days, Christian people will seek spiritual power in order to glorify themselves. These Christians compose the False Prophet.
When it comes to healing the sick, or raising the dead, or turning water into wine, we are not to thrash around, trying to believe for the miracle. Rather we are to follow the Lord Jesus as closely as we can, continually looking to Him to see what He is going to do and what part we are to play.
Jesus’ mother said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” This precisely is the way we are to work miracles. If it is to fill the pots, or take the hand of the dead man and raise him up, or put clay on someone’s blind eyes, we are to do it. We are to obey Christ in every detail. We are not the healer, the miracle worker. The Lord Jesus is. We exercise true Divine faith when we look to Jesus and obey his command.
The faith by which the righteous live is not that of working miracles. Rather it is found in gaining victory over the spirit of the world, over the lusts of the sinful nature, and over acting according to our own plans rather than seeking to obey Christ. True faith always obeys Christ. It is not an attempt to believe for something we think is a good idea.
The faith by which the righteous live is that of “persevering in the face of difficulties.” Every true Christian learns that much of our life includes persevering in the face of difficulties; working out our salvation with faith and patience. We have to learn to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
One example of faith might be that of parents whose daughter has joined the army. They receive notice that their daughter has been captured by the Taliban. Jesus whispers to them that Sally is fine. They continually battle the mental pictures of Sally being raped and tortured by the Taliban soldiers, choosing by faith to believe what they have heard from the Lord.
There may be a person seeking employment. Without a job he will not have enough money for food or to pay the rent. He has a wife and children to support. By faith he keeps believing God will help him in his trouble, meanwhile doing all he can to earn enough money to keep going.
We American Christians have not experienced a great deal of persecution. The day may come when we by faith have to stand true to the name of Jesus. This may mean jail and forced association with wicked people. We remember that if we deny Christ, He will deny us before the Father.
A young person might have to endure mocking and rejection, if his faith requires that he not go along with his friends as they drink alcohol and take drugs. The young Christian must exercise consistent faith by refusing to go along with the crowd, when his friends are inviting him to do sinful things. The Christian girl must by faith keep herself pure.
In America of the future it will require strong faith to resist the temptation to engage in sexual misconduct. Sexual lust is becoming so intense in America that it is difficult to resist. Only the Christians of strong faith will be able to overcome the temptation to engage in immoral, even unlawful immoral, conduct. By faith we turn away from that which is unclean, and the Spirit of God helps us when we hold up the shield of faith against moral temptations.
It is so easy to grumble and complain when things go wrong in our life. By faith we keep on rejoicing in Christ, even when we feel we are in the lowest level of a pit.
The Bible commands us to rejoice in the Lord always and not to fret. As we see the evil practiced by the leaders of our government, as the wicked boast themselves, we have to exercise faith if we are to obey the Bible command to not fret because of evildoers. To refrain from fretting will be especially difficult as we see our moral standards being abandoned.
Sometimes we feel the Lord is requiring us to do something we see no reason for. Perhaps Noah wondered if it really was necessary to build a huge ark. When we are certain it is the Lord who is speaking to us and we are not being deceived, we must exercise faith and obey Christ. We must trust Christ even when we do not understand him.
To be a disciple we must deny ourselves and turn away from the world. Faith is required if we are to do this.
It requires faith if we are to be content where God places us. Discontent with one’s assigned position is the original sin.
We by faith must continue to believe there is a reward for serving the Lord. We must place our treasures in Heaven, realizing we may never possess them until we die and enter the spirit world.
An outstanding high school senior in our city, Poway, California, recently was raped and murdered. Her parents scarcely are able to cope with their loss. But cope they must; and coping will be possible if they have faith that their Chelsea is in a delightful land, far, far more pleasant than what is true today on the earth; and that when they die they will see their daughter at her loveliest.
On occasion God promises us something. The fulfillment of the promise may be many years away. Meanwhile circumstances may arise that seem to prevent our ever gaining what has been promised to us. By faith we keep on trusting God to keep his word. It is in the interval of time between the vision and its fulfillment that holy character is formed. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.”
By faith we do not grasp this present world. We understand it is preparation for life in a better, eternal world. The purpose of the present world is to teach us about God and to select and train the future rulers of the Kingdom of God.
By faith we understand that our present physical world was made from the spirit world, and the two worlds therefore are similar. It is the spirit world that is full of peace and love, and is eternal. The present world is temporary. It is the valley of the shadow of death. It is a shadow. By faith we know this to be true and are looking forward to our death as release from a nightmare.
By faith we know that God loves us and is leading us to joy, even though our present circumstances are miserable. By faith we understand that God is good; and if we obey Him we will attain to the love, joy, and peace that are eternal.
Every true Christian is given a cross to bear. This may mean he is denied something he wants fervently, or is forced to endure a situation he detests. By faith he does not force his way out of this prison, thus breaking God’s laws. He endures patiently, knowing that by doing so he will acquire a better resurrection, meanwhile looking to the Lord for release. We always are to let our desires be known to God.
The above statements describe how the righteous live. When we try to escape the demands of discipleship in order to have a more pleasant life, we open ourselves to deception.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25,27—NIV)
I have written previously that “faith,” and “obedience” to the revealed will of God, are synonymous. Because of the prevailing misunderstanding of what it means to “live by faith,” and because of the chaotic era we are entering in America due to Divine judgment, during which we shall survive only by living by faith, I once more am going to emphasize what saving faith actually is.
Perhaps the first problem that should be addressed is that of saying “faith” when we actually mean “belief.” It is my understanding that a religion was active in the first century termed “Gnosticism.” If I am correct, the most important aspect of Gnosticism is that the believer adhere carefully to the doctrines of Gnosticism, and that doing so will ensure one’s entrance into Heaven.
“Holding and professing the correct knowledge is vital to salvation,” if I understand this complex religion correctly. The religion of Gnosticism predates Christianity.
The Apostle Paul, as he sought to turn Jews and Gentiles to Christ, placed heavy emphasis on “faith.” We do not obtain righteousness by obeying the Law of Moses but by believing in Christ.
We readily can understand what took place. Many of the believers would fall into the trap of confusing the Gnostic teaching of the importance of correct knowledge, with Paul’s teaching of salvation through faith in Christ. The important thing is what one believes, not a change into righteous behavior.
Whether or not my analysis of what has taken place is correct, it is obvious today that Evangelical teaching actually is a form of Gnosticism. Confess your faith in orthodox theology and you will go to Heaven when you die.
In many instances, this doctrine leads to the idea that we are to place little or no emphasis on righteous behavior, because this would be an affront to God’s offer of salvation by grace. Sometimes the idea of God’s sovereignty in salvation by grace is brought to the place that once the believer takes his stand on the “four steps of salvation,” he never can lose his place in Heaven. This concept is so utterly opposed to the tenor of the New Testament writings that one wonders how intelligent people could not recognize the inconsistency here.
The idea of going to Heaven by “faith alone” is widespread among devout, sincere Christian people. Yet eternal residence in Heaven is not the scriptural goal of salvation; and we are not saved by believing the facts about our Lord Jesus Christ. Such emphasis on belief in a statement of faith, rather than on coming to know and obey Christ, is popular in the present hour. But it is not at all God’s plan of redemption.
The expression “the righteous shall live by faith” is set forth four times in the Bible, once in Habakkuk 2:4, and three times in the New Testament.
As I mentioned previously, in Habakkuk, the contrast is not between works of righteousness and faith in God, it is between wicked people and those who have faith in God.
Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4—NASB)
We of today are interpreting this passage to mean that the unrighteous are trying to save themselves by righteous works, whereas the truly righteous do nothing but believe. This is a farfetched interpretation. I dare say that the demons believe most of what is included in the Statements of Faith of many Christian denominations. But this belief does not save them. Why not?
The New Testament definition of “the righteous shall live by faith” is contained in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. This chapter is introduced by the following verse:
“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Hebrews 10:38—NIV)
Can you see in this expression from the writer of the Book of Hebrews the idea of conflict, of overcoming, rather than that of a belief system?
Let us return for a moment to an earlier chapter of Hebrews:
And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18,19—NIV)
“Who disobeyed—their unbelief.”
My position is that belief always must lead to obedience. If it does not, it is only a mental assent to facts. It is clear to me that the present-day proponents of “faith alone” are maintaining that if we hold certain facts in mind we will go to Heaven when we die, whether or not we obey Christ each day by keeping his commandments in the New Testament and by obeying his Word to us personally.
Christianity has a way, doesn’t it, of making conformity to its doctrines more important than gaining a personal knowledge of Christ and obeying Him throughout the day. We can see this error by the fact that the Catholic and Protestant believers in Ireland maim and kill each other because of their belief systems. Is either group serving the living Lord Jesus? I think not!
“Faith without works is dead,” the Apostle James declares. This makes me think James was battling against the influence of Gnosticism.
Any person who is really following the living Jesus knows well that the correct head knowledge of the living Jesus is not of great importance. What is of great importance is walking each day with our hand in the hand of Christ. This, and only this, is what it means when the Scripture refers to “living by faith.”
Now, as I said, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is one long definition of the expression “the righteous shall live by faith.” Let’s think for a moment how God’s people demonstrated their faith. Was it by theological correctness? Or was it by a personal knowledge of God and obedience?
- Enoch believed that God exists, and sought Him earnestly.
- Noah built an ark to save his family.
- Abraham obeyed God and journeyed to a land new to him.
- By faith Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
- Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning their future.
- By faith, Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons.
- By faith Joseph gave instructions concerning his bones.
- By faith Moses’ parents hid their baby.
- By faith Moses chose to be mistreated along with God’s people.
- By faith Moses kept the first Passover.
- By faith the tribes of Israel passed through the Red Sea.
- By faith the walls of Jericho fell.
- By faith Rahab welcomed the spies.
There are many more examples in this chapter of Hebrews, but these may be enough to reveal to us that “faith” is not what we are calling faith in our day.
We see from the above that faith is not belief in doctrine. We understand that faith is not magic. It is not an attempt to change God’s mind.
Would you agree with me, drawing from the above examples, that true faith is an involvement with God such that we understand what He wants and are obedient, no matter what the cost?
How does true Bible faith differ from mental assent to doctrinal beliefs? True Bible faith differs from mental assent in that faith was revealed in the things that the saints did. It is behavior, action, obedience to the living Christ, rather than a doctrinal position.
All of the above may seem like a trivial discussion. It hardly is that. I estimate that the majority of Christian believers in America are more Gnostic in their thinking than they are faithfully following Jesus.
The result of our misunderstanding is churches that make little or no demands on the behavior of their congregations. Once they get an individual to accept their doctrines they urge him or her to go out and convert others to their doctrinal stance. The end result is believers who are spiritual babies instead of moral giants.
The political leaders of our country, although many may not realize this, are dependent on the Christian churches to strengthen them in their moral decisions. Instead what they find are thousands upon thousands of believers who are not growing spiritually while they are waiting to be “raptured” into Heaven.
In fact, if you can believe this, some churches practice getting ready for the unscriptural “any-moment rapture” by having their members jump up and down next to their seats.
This practice portrays a total ignorance of the first resurrection and the receiving of spiritual bodies. The members are picturing themselves being caught up through the roof of the church building and ascending above the clouds while they still are in flesh and blood bodies. They are fleeing from Antichrist, you see.
What a mess we are in, we fundamentalists!
There was an old man who had waited twenty-five years for a son. Can you imagine what that boy meant to him when he was born!
The boy, now twelve years of age, walked three days with his father, carrying the wood on which he was to be cremated, according to the command of God. The father had three days to imagine the death of his son, and how Sarah would feel when he returned home alone.
Abraham was a dead-living man. So are all God’s true saints. They have been crucified with Christ. Now they are eternally alive. But the man ascending Mount Moriah is their father, because of his faith.
There is that word “faith.” What does it mean? Is it belief in doctrine? Is it a way of getting God to do what we want? Is it presumption, daring God to act? Is it membership in a group? What is it?
Well, I think faith is a rugged determination to obey the living God, based on the fear of God plus the years of experience in which we became increasingly aware that God’s way is always best; always leading us to righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
The Apostle Paul’s determination was to know Christ more than he did. Compare the attitude of Abraham and Paul with those of today who throw ten-dollar bills on the platform, hoping to get back a thousand dollars. There are “believers” who (according to them) can never suffer or be sick because they believe Christ loves them too much to permit them any kind of pain or inconvenience.
I think if such are “raptured”, it will be downward.
We are in a huge doctrinal mess in America. Divine judgment is on the horizon because of abortion, and because we are permitting alien gods to enter our country under the guise of tolerance. Tolerance is stupidity when it causes us to act against our common sense.
As for me, I have chosen to seek Christ every day with all the strength I have, with the intention of obeying Him whether I understand Him or not.
Will you please join with me in this? We may not save our country, but we might save ourselves and our family.
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:26—NASB)
(“True Bible Faith”, 3727-1)