FAITH and BELIEF
6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)
17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:28; Hab 2:4)
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Faith is: "Complete trust or confidence in; Firm belief, especially without logical proof." and:
Belief is: "Religious conviction; Firm opinion; acceptance; Trust or confidence." Or "Belief can be understood as a state of mind in the process of increasing understanding that is sometimes called deduction. As people develop structures of understandings from observation or learned facts (generally accepted truths), they create a theory that is not unlike a bridge, sitting on those pillars of facts." and to:
Believe is: "Accept as true or conveying the truth; Think of; suppose; have Faith in the existence of; have confidence in."
And if you really want to get a headache, research what the Scientists and the Philosophers and the Theologians have to say on the subject. By the time you will have gotten very far, you will very likely throw your arms in the air and yell, "Who cares!"
I had intended to give a brief synopsis (2 or 3 pages) of what some had to say, but decided to spare you (be thankful). My purpose was to show off that I had researched the subjects and to demonstrate how absurd things can get when in the hands of the "Intelligentsia."
For instance; unlike the Christian Faith, Jews and Muslims, though worshiping the same God, do not teach that Faith in God is an intellectual exercise as modern Christians are inclined to do. Whereas Christians believe (for the most part, which statement is debatable) that Belief is a mental assent, and dare not venture farther into the arena for fear of sounding "works' oriented, Jews and Muslims believe it is an act of the heart and of the will. If one's belief is not exemplified in one's behavior, then it does not exist.
Here for your information is a quote to that effect:
Many (or all) religions just try to keep food on the table day by day, and attempt to keep God from being angry with them and wiping them out. Like the Sadducees, they may very likely not believe in any form of afterlife, therefore are not working toward that goal.
Other religions may believe the same, but also believe in an afterlife which they can work toward, whatever that might entail.
For instance, the Jews had many rituals they must follow in order to keep from being killed by either God or the other Jews (which Jesus was confronted with so often) but not in effort to work their way to Heaven, as that concept was either vague or totally unknown to them. (The Pharisees believed in an afterlife, but the Sadducees didn't.) The promise to Abraham was a "Land,"and "Seed," not Heaven or Eternal Bliss.
Islam, on the other hand, teaches that the soul is eternal and will either go to a ghastly hell for a time of purification, then to Heaven; or directly to a blissful Heaven of perpetual virgins for the benefit of men, plenteous food, and enormous mansions. (Sound familiar?)
Here is another note of interest quoted from Wikipedia:
Closer to home, we have examples of the way man works toward God that sounds foreign and objectionable to our "civilized" ears.
To certain of the tribes of Plains Indians getting to the "Happy Hunting Ground" meant killing an enemy or stealing their horses, (which was the first act of manhood - kind of an Indian Bar mitzvah you might say). "Counting Coup" was the mark of bravery, which granted the warrior favor with the gods.
During WW11 the Japanese had the Kamikazes, or what were called the "Suicide Bombers" who aimed their airplanes loaded with explosives at American targets and died in the process, believing that dying for God and country meant certain Heaven.
911 is a modern example of the same thing where Muslim Jihad warriors believe, and are taught, that if they die a martyr's death (shahid), they will live in Bliss with 70 perpetual virgins at there beck and call.
In the same vain, tho not the same subject, there are the rats of the Karni Mata Temple of India that are believed to be destined for reincarnation as Sadhus (Hindu Holy men). It is believed that eating food touched by these rats is a blessing from god.
If that is true; why then do we have a zillion denominations of the very same Belief, another zillion cults and cult offshoots, and an untold number of anti-God cults looming in the horizon?
Have you ever converted from being a non-believer to a cult? To a church? From one church to another? What happened? Your beliefs also changed, did they not?
At one time in this country it was relatively unheard of to not be a Christian. And anyone who was otherwise kept it to them self. Now it is becoming more and more fashionable to either be a none-believer, or if you believe, to not be fanatical about it, but keep a low profile.
Imagine being a youth growing up in Nazi Germany; in Hindu India; in Shinto Japan; in Muslim Iraq; into an Orthodox Jewish family; into a 1700's Sioux Nation. What would be your beliefs, your behavior? Why, the same as everyone else's.
I would like to believe that I am above all that; that I have high ideals and would not be swayed by dictates and fashions. But, alas, I have fallen from grace too many times, and from very high heights to very deep depths to have such confidence in myself.
Tradition is man's (governments from tiny to great) way of controling the masses. And like the Jews, traditions become laws that no longer may be followed, but must be followed on the pain of death. To the Pharisees, that had grown to include ritual washing of hands and cups.
This nation is sitting on the verge of toppling over the edge, both morally and economically. All it will take to fall is a few more souls to shift toward the dangling side - and there are a lot of people heading that way because that is where our judicial and educational systems are telling them they should go.
Jesus castigated the Jews for their lack of Faith (as well as their lack of Charity). He also got on His Disciples for their lack of Faith.
But the Jews did not live by Faith. And though Abraham and Noah were lead by faith, the Jews were not. From their departure from Egypt theirs was an undeniable Experience of God in the form of Miracles and Wonders, as well as being led by the Shekinah Glory and the Pillar of Fire.
Faith is not a Jewish concept, and in fact the word is used only twice in the Old Testament; which helps explain why the Jews had so much trouble understanding Jesus. They had been taught to live by Obedience; which is what God wants. But their obedience had shifted from God -- to man in the form of traditions that hid God and His Word from their eyes. Love, Mercy and Faith were foreign to them. Therefore God and Jesus were also alien.
God wants (in fact - demands) obedience. And the way that obedience to God is demonstrated is in how we relate to one another, that is, others who are made in God's image. Jesus said that if we don't love one another, we don't love God. (1John 4:20)
Faith was one of the "Mysteries" hidden from the O.T. Jews, but revealed to us in the N.T. The O.T. exemplifies Faith by the Saints like Moses and Abraham; while the N.T. explains their actions. This is one reason we need to read and have some understanding of the O.T. We also need to know that Jesus was the fulfillment of the O.T. laws and prophesies (as well as Types and Shadows), without which Jesus would not make much sense. And conversely, without Jesus the Old Testament doesn't make sense nor is it believable.
[Jesus spoke to the Jews in what would seem to us to be incomplete sentences and phrases. He very often said; "You know," or "You have heard it said," which the Jew had because they grew up studying the Word. In fact, they were called "The People of the Book." (An Islamic term for non-Islamic Monotheistic religions embracing Abrahamic traditions which includes Christianity.) But none of us have this knowledge - unless we study the O.T. as did the Jews.]
Let's look at each of these from the beginning of our experience with Christianity.
The many times Paul was asked, "What must I do to be saved?" he would reply that they must believe.
Believe? Believe on what? Why would anybody have a reason to believe? As described above, belief has to be based on something; that is, have "pillars" of fact on which to stand, to rest upon. What are the pillars the early converts had presented to them upon which to base their belief?
Well, I would say that healing lepers, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead were pretty strong pillars on which to base a belief. I should imagine that had I been a witness of such miracles, I would pay close attention to what that miracle-worker had to tell me (see John 10:37-38).
But that was Jesus. How about Paul and the other Apostles? Well, they, too, performed miracles, which brought many to conversion. And they also had miraculous things happen around them, such as earthquakes and jail cell doors flying open that brought jailers to their knees. And the miracles that occurred on the ship and the Island of Melita on Paul's way to Rome.
So it appears that miracles are what made people believe 2,000 years ago. And to me, that makes sense. But what about now? We don't have men going around the world healing the sick and raising the dead. And those who appear to be doing so are often shown to be con men and charletons, touting bazaar statements and essentially obliterating or ignoring the Gospels.
What, then, are our pillars of belief? What have we been given?
First of all, we have the Bible, which is something the early Christians did not have. Yet, without the Apostles, and without the Bible (before it was compiled, that is about 200 AD or so) hundreds of Christians died for the Name of Jesus.
And, in fact, in countries like India and China and Africa they still do.
What are these people in the third world seeing that we affluent Americans are missing?
In India a Christian will gladly give his or her life for Jesus. Here in the US of A the Pastor has to plead to get the congregation to read a chapter of the Bible a day. What makes the difference? And does a Chinaman who gives his life get more credit in Heaven than the American who sacrifices 10 minutes a day to read the Bible?
What causes a poor, downtrodden native in Africa to come to Jesus in resistance to all the evil forces around him threatening his life for doing so?
What causes an American to come to Jesus at the great risk of critical stares?
What are the miracles that create belief?
In idolatrous countries people are surrounded on every side with hate and disillusionment. They can see that whatever they are told, whatever is being practiced, does not work. Yet, they and everyone else, continue to do the same thing, perform the same rituals, because that is all they know, and because that is what they are taught to do.
Then, for seemingly no reason at all, a missionary comes to their village. This missionary may be of their own nationality, or they may be of another all together.
This missionary risks insults, abuse and death in order to bring something special to the natives. At first the natives do not see Jesus, all they see are the missionaries. And they very likely see and appreciate the schools and the medical assistance the missionaries bring with them.
And they also see something else. They see something that is completely foreign to them, at least as far as government and all other factions that the natives had encountered is concerned.
They see love.
They see someone who cares enough to risk everything for them: their welfare, and their future. They see something completely alien to them, and unexplainable.
And it is the love that is the miracle that the native sees. And where does that love come from? Who is responsible for that strange behavior that benefits them?
It's Jesus. And, yes, it is Jesus. Not just caused by Him, but it is Jesus in the flesh.
It is the Body of Christ that the native sees.
So we add to, or compromise. We bring our old beliefs into our new, thus creating a blend that makes us and everyone else comfortable.
Very often a missionary's battle to convert a native has only begun when they become a "Christian" because the new convert very likely has made Jesus just another god to worship in order to reap the benefits of being a Christian without totally submitting their life to Him.
In America we call such people "Carnal Christians," in other words they carry their fleshly desires (which is their idols and gods from their old life) into the church. And, unfortunately, too may churches support their right to do so.
When the Roman Catholic church became the rule during Constantine's Empire, all cultures carried with them their old beliefs. To accommodate these people, the church watered down such things as Christ's birth (Christmas) with the heathen worship of the tree which represented Nimrod and his mother (also said to have been a "virgin birth") and set the date to December 25 which is the Winter Solstice for those who worshiped the Sun God Ray.
Easter was also perverted, and Halloween was instituted with obvious meanings, although supposedly to honor all the Saints.
We have no miracles. We have no battles. We are taught that when our boss gives us a dirty look, it is the devil testing us, it is the cross we must bear for the Lord. Meanwhile there are a hundred Chinamen bearing actual crosses to their death.
And our battles? Do we "civilized" Christians have wars we must fight? Oh yes, on every side. And the combatants are the Methodists and the Baptists and the Pentecostals, etc, etc. and if it so happens that all these have drawn a truce, they can turn on those they consider as "cults." Meanwhile the unsaved heathen unbelievers run free unnoticed and undisturbed.
We have no miracles upon which to base our belief - but we will, during the Tribulation. (I know - you expect to fly away. But let's suppose that somehow God misses you, and you have to endure the Tribulation.) Revelation tell us that people will refuse to repent, and will curse God. Why?
Why would people do such a thing? Talk about Signs and Wonders. Why, the like has not been seen since Moses led the Hebrew children out of Egypt. If miracles cause belief, why won't those enduring the Tribulation believe?
For the same reason that Pharaoh, or the Pharisees didn't believe - their hearts were hardened.
We have to be in tune with God to hear Him. We have to develop a relationship with Him; otherwise we will do what Adam and Eve did when they discovered sin in their life - we will hid from Him.
In "heathen" countries where people worship trees and cows or unseen entities, they take their religion seriously. We look at them and consider their Beliefs as "Ridiculous," almost as ridiculous as they see ours. But they work at it. They sacrifice for their Beliefs. Their whole body and soul is wrapped up in their Beliefs.
As shown above, even the other monotheistic religions like Islam and Judaism take their Faith seriously and wrap their lives around it. God is the Center of their lives.
Here are some quotes to contemplate:
Second, belief in the heart includes the willingness and commitment to submitting to the truth that Allah exists and to His prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency.
Belief in the heart as defined above and testimony, if sincere, naturally results in actions that are consistent with vicegerency. The degree to which belief does not flow into appropriate deeds indicate what Muslim scholars call diseases of the heart, such as arrogance, envy, greed, pride, etc. Of all aspects of iman, belief in the heart is the most important because it provides the momentum for one to manifest faith into one's life.
The religion of Islam requires accepting six articles of faith, out of which come what are called the five pillars of Islam (witnessing Allah; prayer; almsgiving; fasting; pilgrimage) with which people are more familiar."
When people with the attitude of subjection and submissiveness comes to Jesus; when the downtrodden poor and humiliated present themselves to Jesus - they present themselves body and soul.
When a Jew in Jesus' time presented himself, he understood what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of humility and total sacrifice. It was nothing new to him; it was just an extension of what his life already was.
When Jesus referred to a Bond-servant or Slave, they could identify completely, since they either had been, were, or at least considered themselves slaves to the Romans.
The closest we Americans can come to identifying is a job that we might feel enslaved to, but can quit if we really wanted to.
A possible exception to the above are those who have served in the military, or have been in prison. Another could very possibly be those who are now or have been in abusive families.
When a Jew until recently converted to Christianity he knew what Jesus meant when He said that he must leave his friends and family. Becoming a Christian meant becoming an outcast to everyone he knew and loved. Becoming a Christian meant giving up all his security and established beliefs and taking a leap of faith into a great unknown; Into the waiting arms of God.
When a Muslim today becomes a Christian he knows that he might very possibly be killed for his new Faith.
All around the world, no matter what Faith a person might hold, people know what Christianity is about, what the Bible says and means.
Except the "civilized" countries, like America.
In America a person is considered poor if they drive a car more than 5 years old; if they have only one TV; if their computer is more than 3 years old.
With but a few exceptions, Americans do not know what poverty is about. Not even the poverty that is far worse than that poverty which includes an empty larder.
We Americans have Poverty of the Soul! Even our wealthy are poor, because they are never satisfied. They want more and bigger. And not just bigger and more than they have; but more and bigger than anybody has.
Now this attitude is the one we bring to the alter, to Jesus - not to sacrifice it; oh no; but to fulfill it!
I believe that when the churches confront the issue of sin in the lives of their congregation; when they stop telling their people that they all will be taken up to heaven, no matter how sinful as long as they have repeated the Sinner's Prayer -- and tell them that maybe one or two of you will make it to Heaven unless you change your ways -- then we will continue to have churches and "Christians" that spiral into oblivion.
Will the churches empty out if Pastors were to motivate Believers and castigate the tares and the weak? You bet! Churches will become storefronts and museums instead of the fancy mausoleums they are now.
But when I was still carnal, I dreaded them because I knew the Pastor was looking right at me. That he could see right into my heart, knew my every thought, and in his mind was sending me straight to hell.
But I also knew that that was the very thing I needed, and though relieved, I felt cheated by ministers who pussyfooted around issues and told us fairy tales in place of facts.
I think of the fire and brimstone preachers that thousands flocked to hear, and were converted in tears and with contrite hearts, during old time revivals. How far we've come from that. Instead of thrusting the motivated forward, we hold them back so the stragglers won't feel bad; like the school system does today.
Ok then, if we have been cheated out of miracles with which to bring us to belief; and if we are unable to look to one another in an effort to find Christ - how do we find Him?
Look in the bottom of a pit. Find Him walking with you in the Shadows of the Valley of Death.
When you reach the lowest point in your life; when you have no one else to turn to - there He is ready to boost you out of the pit you've dug for yourself. All you have to do is climb up on His shoulders.
Is that a miracle? Maybe; maybe not. At the moment you reach out to Jesus, you are crying for a miracle. At that moment, you believe it to be a miracle. But maybe, and very likely, soon after you are out of the pit, you forget what it felt like down there, and think you got out yourself, so you drift away from the One who rescued you.
But the "Pit" is the miracle that Jesus uses for us independent Americans. He also uses a pit for those in the third world as well, the difference is, their pit is not a place they fall into, but a place where they live.
So, what of Faith? If Belief needs a foundation, what does Faith need?
FAITH - Faith is like a squirrel jumping from tree to tree. Have you ever watched as a squirrel jumped from one tree to another tree ten feet from one another, and thirty feet in the air? I find it incredible that the squirrel is able to judge the distance so precisely, then to have only a little twig with which to hang on to at the completion of his leap of faith.
Faith is not blind. Faith is not delusional. Faith is not you or me up in that tree making the jump from tree to tree. That's insanity. Faith is not buying the Brooklyn Bridge; that's delusional.
Faith is pounding a nail. Faith is making little, safe taps on the nail until you feel confident that you can take longer swings at it; and the longer the swing, the more the experience -- the more the faith.
That squirrel in the treetop did not start off with ten foot leaps. He started with little, insecure jumps and stretched them out over time. To do otherwise is not faith, but suicide.
You have now driven a hundred thousand nails and can hit the nail every time, even with your eyes closed.
That's great! What confidence! What bravado!
Now you ask me to hold the nail while you swing at it, blindfolded.
Do you think I'm nuts? Of course I'm not going to hold that nail! And you might have a reputation of having never missed the nail-head; but I still ain't gonna' do it.
Do I believe you can do it? For sure I believe you can do it. I've seen you do it over and over. So then if I believe you can do it, why won't I hold the nail?
Remember that squirrel? Little leaps of faith lead to lots of faith? For me to hold the nail for you, you have to start all over taking little taps at the nail while I hold it.
Do I have faith that you can hit the nail? Sure.
Do I have faith that you would do your best to not hit my fingers? Assuming that we had developed a relationship in other areas in which to form such a deduction, sure I do. In other words, I trust you to do your best; but that still doesn't make me feel confident enough in this area to to take the chance.
Consider two Acrobates on high swings. Both are the world's best. One is to swing to the other, release his swing, and have the other catch him in mid air - without a net.
Now both are perfectly capable, and both have total confidence in each other - but neither would attempt such a thing until they had plenty of practice working with one another so that each knows just what the other is going to do, and how they are going to do it.
This is true with husband and wife; with boss and employees; with soldiers in the field. One soldier may be like another in the canteen, but when you're on the battlefield, it's safer to have someone watching your back that you don't like but have worked with many times, than your buddy that you've never fought with.
If you doubt this, ask a cop or a fireman.
Relationship and experience is the necessary ingredient for trust and faith; Knowing what someone is going to do in any given situation, and knowing that the other person has your best interest at heart, and won't turn tail and run when they feel endangered.
"Yea, tho I walk through the Valley of Death;" not if, because you will walk through them, because He will lead you through them in order to teach you to have confidence in Him.
Think again. After you have learned to release the rope you cling to in order to catch the rope He has for you that you can see - you have yet another step. And that next step is to release the rope you cling on to, blindfolded, and hope there is another rope onto which to grasp.
That's right - to reach for something that you cannot see; to cast yourself into mid-air without a way of going back, or any certainty of what you desire is before you - is Hope.
HOPE - You say; "I hope I get to go to Hawaii this summer." Are you saving for it? Are you making arraignments for such a trip? Then what you re really saying is; "I would like to go to Hawaii this summer." But even at that, you don't want to enough to do anything toward it.
Now let's say that you were to say; " I am going to swim the English Channel this summer with no back-up boat or any such thing. I hope I make it across."
That is Hope. That is the kind of Hope that will make sure you make every provision you can to insure you are in shape for the swim. That is the kind of Hope that will have you reading every book and talking to everyone you are able in order to know all you can learn about making such a swim. Who knows, such Hope as that might even get you to a pool in order to learn how to swim and get you over your aquaphobia!
That is the kind of Hope that, when you are half way across the Channel, will make you keep going with every fiber of your being, regardless of how tired you might be, or how desperately you feel like giving up.
Is that it? Is there any higher goal that we might attain?
The Bible tells you so. But what's to say that the Bible is true? Maybe Jesus doesn't exist.
Remember the miracles? Remember the pit that you were brought out of? Was that enough to make you Believe? Yes?
Good! That's a start. You've reached the bottom rung of the ladder. Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to follow Jesus and learn to trust Him? If you stay where you are, you will be moving farther and farther away from Him, because He is walking down that Valley of Death where you are to take your Basic Training. If you sit still you will feel Him getting farther and farther away, and you will wonder how that could possibly have happened.
So you decided to Follow Jesus, and you feel confident that you know His voice, that you are in tune with the commands He gives you, and that you are willing and able to obey His every will for you.
You have had experiences with Jesus that are beyond explanation. You have a relationship that defies description. You have a solid Hope for heaven and an Eternal walk with your Lord that no one can sway you from, no matter how well educated they might be, or their reputation, or their power of persuasion.
You are beyond Belief, beyond Faith, even beyond Hope.
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