Monday, June 16, 2014

Twisted Definitions: What Belief Really Means

A Harris Poll from December 2013 reports a decline in American adults' belief in God.  This should not be surprising to anyone living in our present culture.  Currently, 74% of Americans believe in God, compared to 82% less than a decade ago.  In that same time, belief in Jesus as the Son of God also slipped from 72% to 68%. 

Belief.  It's a word that means different things to different people.  In our culture, we have tied the term to mere intellectual acknowledgement, separating one's actions from one's mind.  In other words, I can intellectually believe something is true while still acting differently.

And yet, that's not true belief, at least, this is not the kind of belief God is looking for.

Paul tells us, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10).

There's that word "believe" again.  Vine's Expository Dictionary says this word means "'to believe,' also 'to be persuaded of,' and hence, 'to place confidence in, to trust,' signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence"

It's that phrase "reliance upon" that is the key to true belief, especially true belief in Jesus that results in salvation.  

The prophet Isaiah states the same concept: "In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength" (Is. 30:15).

The key to salvation is two-fold: (1) repentance (Paul's "confess with your mouth") and (2) resting in the Lord.  It's this "rest" that mirrors the New Testament's concept of "reliance upon." This is the type of belief God is looking for in the hearts of men and women today--not mere intellectual assent that He is God or that Jesus was His Son but rather a heart that moment by moment rests constantly in Him.

The Psalmist explains this heart-resting in the Lord quite well: "My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, ...My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my  glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken" (Ps. 62:1-2; 5-8).

Waiting.  Resting.  In the Lord.  This is true belief in God.

A soul that intellectually acknowledges Jesus as Lord of their life but whose life shows no evidence of relying upon, of resting in God--that is not true belief.  If I say I believe in God but I run my own life, make my own decisions, all without ever consulting him, then I'm not truly believing or resting in Him.

If I really believe the Bible, then I obey it.  I rest in its Words.  I rely upon its Words.

And therein lies a reward--strength.  

Strength to survive this life is not found in large armies, scientific discoveries, or a big bank account.  It's not found in might or fighting tooth and nail.  Ironically, it's the opposite.  Strength is found when we truly believe with all our heart, soul, and mind in Jesus as the only Savior of our souls.  Strength is found in rest and only when we rest in Him.

If our actions do not match up with our intellectual beliefs, then those beliefs are not true, will not save our souls, and will not result in daily strength to overcome this world.

I am convinced Satan rejoices over these twisted definitions, allowing us to be so close to the truth but so far from it at the same time.  It's time for us to stand up and help the world around us understand what belief in God really means.

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