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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 4:32 pm | A Few Clouds 67º


D.C. Collier: Saving Faith, and Belief That Behaves

“I believe in God like the sun, and by him I see everything else.”
C.S. Lewis

The word “believe” is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language — especially in spiritual matters. I can say that I “believe” a certain theological proposition (e.g. “Jesus is Lord”), yet my life shows no evidence of it.

So, do I “believe” it? Biblically ... no! Scripture knows nothing of a “belief” devoid of action. To qualify as authentic, it requires “shoe leather,” as lived out in a person’s life.

Do I Believe That Airplanes Can Fly?

To illustrate, suppose I went to a remote tribe and told one of the natives that very large and heavy objects can fly. After the laughter dies down, I point up in the sky to an airliner flying high above.

“Do you see that?” I ask, to which he replies, “yes, I do.” I then ask, “do you now believe airplanes can fly?” He agrees, and the matter is settled.

Or is it?

Here’s the rub — for the native, the facts about flying are still in his head as theoretical propositions despite having witnessed an apparent physical example. After all, it could have been an illusion, due to a “bit of undigested potato” as Ebenezer Scrooge once said. Maybe it was a cloud or atmospheric distortion.

How could this argument be settled to advance the subject from concept to conviction?

Of course, take our skeptical native to an airport, buy him a ticket and fly him somewhere at 30,000 feet. Case closed. Sure, he might be nervous at first as he’s strapped into a seat, placing his life in the hands of total strangers. But when he safely reaches his destination, he arrives “believing” airplanes can fly in a whole new way.

The “shoe leather” is in the actual flying, not in studying about it or observing it from afar.

Missing the Point of Christianity

I knew of a man who attended a prestigious religious seminary, mastered the Hebrew and Greek languages and knew the Bible from cover to cover — yet, he remained a confirmed atheist. To borrow from our illustration above, he had gone to flying school, studied aviation theory, read the books and mastered the science. Yet, he remained in the “jungle,” having never actually flown.

Church pews are filled with such people. They attend church, listen to sermons, go to home groups and adopt the Christian lingo. Yet, they never “get aboard” or commit their lives to its eternal promises.

They know ABOUT Christ mentally, but don’t KNOW Christ experientially.

Theologian L.S. Chafer wrote in Salvation:

“This one word ‘believe’ represents all a sinner can do and all a sinner must do to be saved. It is believing the record God has given of His Son ... He has entered into all the needs of our lost condition and is alive from the dead to be a living Savior to all who put their trust in Him ... any intelligent person can know whether he has placed such confidence in the Savior. Saving faith is a matter of personal consciousness. ‘I know whom I have believed.’ To have deposited one’s eternal welfare in the hands of another is a decision of the mind so definite that it can hardly be confused with anything else. On the deposit of oneself into His saving grace depends one’s eternal destiny.”

All the Merit Is in the Object of Our Faith

Many honest seekers worry about whether they have enough faith, or if their faith is strong enough. They’re looking in the wrong place.

Humans are born with more than enough faith and exercise it every day in such things as the elevators we board, cars we drive and airplanes we fly. It’s all about the object of our faith — that’s where the merit lies. Our faith is merely the connecting principle.

In spiritual salvation, my belief points to the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross, never to my feeble attempts to save myself.

What Saving Faith Is Not

» Not fleeting. So-called foxhole faith has a nasty habit of vaporizing as soon as the bullets stop flying.

» Not live in denial. It accepts the fact of our bankrupt spiritual condition before a holy God.

» Not insist on control. It transfers control decisively away from self to God.

» Not persist in doing “works” to appease God. It rests — not in itself, but in the work of Christ on our behalf.

How About You?

I vividly remember the moment when my head-knowledge of the gospel became heart-conviction. I pictured myself going “out on a limb” with Jesus, risking everything. If He failed, I was sunk. That childlike trust in Jesus whisked me across the yawning chasm from death to life.

“Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.”1

Have you come to Christ as a child? Or, is your Christian faith still only in your head? Is your faith informing all levels of your life, or it “business as usual” with a Christian flavor?

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. Ephesians 2:8-10 The Message

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