Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Q&A: real faith

This is a post designed to answer deeper theological questions. I've asked Facebook friends to post questions for discussion. I'll make a humble attempt to explore these questions from a biblical perspective.

Q: Is it possible to believe that Christ died for my sins and was the Son of God, but still not be saved? --Rick Lawson.

Q: I'm always uneasy when I read Matthew 7:22-23: "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" How can they have His power if they don't know Him? --Lewis Crow

Rick and Lewis, your questions are related and foundational for understanding the nature of authentic salvation. Both questions are connected because both deal with profession vs. practice. There were many in Jesus' day who were "card-carrying" religious folk. But, their lives failed to correspond with their lips; They didn't practice what they preached.

In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus noted that there would be some who would stand before His judgment seat and be surprised. They will argue that they preached and perform miracles "in the name of Jesus," but Jesus won't give any claim to them. He will call them "evildoers" and sentence them to eternal separation. To Lewis' point, these condemned will feel as if there religious work was substantive [even believing that they had experienced the power of God in their ministry], but they will in fact still be enemies of Christ.

The Apostle James offers the strongest warning in James 2:14-17:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Verbal faith without corresponding action is useless. James calls it "dead" faith. It's not that action saves a person. We are saved by grace alone [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Rather, action, produced by authentic faith, is the evidence of faith. So, those who claim to have faith in Christ have no other evidence of the genuineness of their faith except their changed lives. To say it another way, "Talk is cheap" and "Put up or shut up."

To support his point, James writes, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" [v. 19]. His point is sobering: Demons are good theologians. They have the right answers and can conclude correct answers. What separates them from the rest of creation is their failure to act on what they believe. Thus, the person who claims to be a Christian, but whose life is void of evidence, is no better than demons and is in danger of missing out on Christ's best when they stand before Him.

I hope this helps. I look forward to your comments.


Irene W said...

What might be more important, rather than focusing on whether a person casts out demons, or heals, or even becomes a missionary in a foreign land, is simply their personal relationship with Christ. The rest of all that is between them and God, and any finger pointing from man is, to me, wandering into Matthew 7 territory.

Fine tuning and deepening my relationship with God is my primary focus, and if He directs me into action, then that's simply what I do. And just getting across the finish line with my eyes on my sweet Jesus is all I care about. He is doing the work, not me. He gets the glory, not me. Question #1 up there forgot one very important part of that question - it isn't just believing Christ died for my sins and that He is the Son of God, but initially, admitting my sins .... and I have to confess something every day. I KNOW I am saved, I have no doubt. And that is personal and private - between God and me.
"Void of evidence?" One might wonder . . . Says who?

David Daniels said...

Irene, Thanks for your comment. You make some very good points.

I would offer that our faith, while in our heart, is not entirely a private matter (This is part of what I'm preaching on Sunday!). The whole New Testament implores Christians to "work out their faith" (Philippians 2) and let their faith (aka "light") be seen by all so that others will glorify God. Moreover, on more than one occasion, the New Testament writers require those in the church to look for the fruit/evidence of those who claim to be Believers, to stay away from heretics and to avoid the practices of evil-doers. The only way that a Christian would be able to do that would be to humbly assess the lifestyle of people around them. So, while we are not ultimately subject to the world's judgment, we are to demonstrate the fruit of righteousness that can be read by all. In this way, we glorify God.

Irene W said...

I only hope and pray that my own actions are by faith, and in the direction God is leading me. And whether or not man recognizes it, is not what’s important. And whether I see anyone watching or listening, it is not my primary reason to act upon the urgings of my Lord. I might offer that not all works of faith are ‘seen by all’ – I know of loving Christians who quietly do God’s bidding, with only God watching.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t profess my faith in a group setting – I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment! .. or that I wouldn’t try to perform as God leads.

But, every day there are new circumstances that challenge our faith, our conviction, and there are new lies told that would sway many who are not solid in their theology. People are struggling to overcome their mountains.

Therefore, I must disagree that “the New Testament writers require those in the church to look for the fruit/evidence of those who claim to be Believers, and to humbly assess the lifestyle of people around them.” I’m going to need a verse to support that statement.

Assessing people’s lifestyle can lend itself to legalism. It “sounds” like you are looking for people to be justified by works. There are many in the church who are simply trying to make it through from moment to moment.

Many people trying to deal with so many pressures of life, leaning on God to guide them through perhaps “horrors” they have experienced.

So I put these question to you:

Will those particular people be so inspired by a message that tells them the church is going to assess their lifestyle?

Are they going to return when a message says the church is “required” to look for “fruit/evidence?”

Are those who are not saved, who are visiting for the first time, going to give their lives to Jesus this week because of your message?

Are those who are hoping to find God this Sunday, . . . ???

Much love,


David Daniels said...


Thanks again for writing. Let me clarify several things. I apologize for not being clear.

1. I never intended to suggest that our actions are primarily or exclusively for man to see. Indeed, we live Coram Deo. I am stating that our SOME of our actions should be able to be evaluated by man. More about this later.

2. I agree with you that assessing one another's lifestyles CAN lead to legalism. I would never urge people to judge for judgment sake. That's a danger we all have to be on guard against.

3. I definitely dont mena to promote justification by works. What we're talking about is sanctification, not justification. This is Jame's point. This is why he uses the illustration of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22). This was well-after Abraham had been justified by faith (Genesis 15). James states that Abraham gave outward evidence of his faith that validated the authenticity of his faith.

4. I have no control over whether those who are not saved will give their lives to Jesus on any Sunday. I believe that the whole work of the whole gospel is the whole work of God.

You asked for verses that suggest that that we must "look for fruit" in other's lives. Be sure, when I use the phrase "look for," I don't mean it in a judgmental sense, but that, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, we should expect one another to be growing in godliness.

IN Ephesians 5:11, Paul states, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness." How would a Christian know the deeds of darkness and decide to avoid them unless they were making an assessment about what they saw someone doing?

in Colossians 1:6, Paul affirms thChristians in Collosae by stating, "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing." How would Paul know this unless he was looking into their lives? If their religion was simply a private matter---in their heart---how in the world would it have any outward form that Paul could notice?

Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:10, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work." Again, he is expecting fruit.

In John 15:8, Jesus said, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, SHOWING yourselves to be my disciples." Jesus didn't have any problem telling His disciples that their discipleship should have outward evidence that proves who they are.