Recently I was in a mixed group of fifteen individuals. There were a couple Christians, a few agnostics, one known mystic and one dabbling in the New Age Movement. The question was raised, “Is knowledge more important or are beliefs more important and why?” I squirmed in my chair, because I wanted to answer this one. The lady facilitating the discussion did not call upon me to do so. And, the gentleman who did answer wasn’t really sure himself which was more important.
Knowledge or beliefs? To know something is different than to believe something. We may know that foods high in fat are bad for our cholesterol, or that sugar weakens our immune system, or that thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week is good for our heart. Knowledge is not enough because knowledge does not require commitment. But, what do we believe? When we believe in something it will change the way we live. We will act upon our beliefs and our lives will validate what we truly believe by how we live.
Our actions are a result of our beliefs.
The same is true for our faith. There is often a chasm between what people know and confess and what their lives actually profess. They may know the things of God, but their lives lack the fruit of a commitment to God. Many people call themselves Christians. Some show up for church and then live in opposition to what they confess the rest of the week. Some falsely assume because they live in America they are Christian. Or, if they wear a cross necklace, have a Christian bumper sticker or a family member in ministry they're good. The name “Christian” has become a brand or label void of meaning. Merely saying we're a “Christian” does not confirm our belief in Christ.
James 2:19 tells us, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder." Even Mark 3:11 and 5:7 tell us that evil spirits testify to who Christ is by declaring He is the Son of God. What irony. If we have the right doctrine and knowledge of God then our faith at least measures up to what the demons confess. How comforting. Having mere knowledge of God is useless, unless it influences the way we believe which will transform the way we live. James teaches that knowledge and mental assent of God is not enough.
We may have knowledge of Christ’s death on the cross as payment for our sin, but until we acknowledge with our life what Christ did on the cross, we are still caught in unbelief. If there is no action as a result of what we believe, then our beliefs are not active, they are not life changing, and James' says this kind of faith is dead (James 2:26). When our lives are changed by the blood of Christ our desire to obey His Word and follow His will for our lives is a natural outpouring of being filled with Him. In essence, to believe is to obey. Our belief in Jesus should motivate us to obey God because we are compelled by His great love for us.
We cannot genuinely have faith/believe and never have any evidence in our life, beyond Sunday morning. If we possess true faith in Christ it will manifest itself by the way we live because faith transforms our life. We cannot wear the name Christian without living the life. If we authentically believe it will demonstrate itself because this is the nature of faith. We must live like we believe!
Make time this week to read James 2:14-26. After reading this, consider what Jesus might say to you. From what this passage teaches, what would He say of your faith/belief?
Do you call yourself a Christian, yet fail to live the life of a Christ follower? How big is the gap between what you confess and what your life professes?
What effect do your beliefs have on your actions? What do your current actions reveal about your beliefs?
Do you live under pre-meditated grace? "I know what I'm doing is wrong, but I'll ask for God's forgiveness later." If this is our tendency then we fail to understand God's grace and we inaccurately misrepresent the Gospel of Christ.
Heart Transforming Word:
John 14:15 (NIV 1984) "If you love me you will obey what I command."
Romans 6:5 "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."
Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
James 2:22, 24 "You see that Abraham's faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
James 2:26 "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. Edited 2013. All rights reserved.