The road to Faith or Belief

Many think that just because they give a mental assent to truth, they have faith; but there is a vast difference between a casual belief and a living faith. James talked about this when he said, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:19–20

It is not uncommon to find those who say that they have faith in Jesus, and who feel certain they are saved; but the faith that takes God at His word and which works by love to purify the heart from all unrighteousness is very rare. Why is it rare? Largely because professed Christians neglect a study of God’s Word. As a result, they speak lightly of Bible truths about which they really have very little understanding. They even try to make a difference between what they say they believe and how they act, as though there were no relationship between the two. When, however, it is in our hearts to serve Jesus, we will be seeking to glorify Him in the way that we live. This involves such practical things as what we eat, what we wear, what we do with our money, and even the way we spend our time. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

We do not do right things as a means of earning salvation; but if Jesus is abiding in our hearts, we will be constantly searching for ways to please Him and show Him our love.

Often love and good will are spoken of as the all-important governing factors in our relationships, not only with others, but also with Jesus Christ. And, while there is much truth to this concept, too often we fail to remember that outside of the context of law, love becomes a feeling. Under such circumstances, right and wrong are determined by our emotions; and how quickly we forget how easily we can deceive ourselves and justify doing just about anything we really want to do, for “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. People can get good feelings about almost anything, and false faith as well as true faith will give peacefulness for a time.

A number of years ago, there was a French stunt man, Jean Francois Gravelet, who performed under the name, Great Blondin. He became quite famous when in June of 1859, he announced that he would cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Thousands gathered to watch the death-defying act. The incredulous onlookers saw the diminutive Frenchman delicately walk out onto the middle of the gorge where, some 300 feet above the water, he lowered a rope to the Maid of the Mist, raised up a bottle, and then sat down on the thin wire for a quiet drink. On his way back to the Canadian shore, he suddenly steadied himself and executed a back somersault. The crowd went wild.

This immense success was followed by a series of ever more challenging stunts. The story is told that upon one occasion, after having completed a crossing of the falls pushing a wheelbarrow, he announced that he would return, this time with a passenger in the wheelbarrow. Looking around, he inquired of the crowd as to how many believed he would be successful in such an endeavor. The crowd wildly shouted their confidence, whereupon he asked for a volunteer. Suddenly, the crowd was silent. They all believed, so long as it was not a matter of life and death.

How often those who claim to be God’s children are like the careless crowd that gathered to watch Blondin cross the tightrope. With their mouths they claim to have faith, speaking of their confidence in Him and their assurance of salvation; but when it comes to a matter that is really important to them, they are ready to compromise principle for personal profit or comfort.

Faith, we are told, “comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17. If, however, you are not spending time in the Word every day, cultivating that faith, its importance will gradually lose its place in your mind and heart.

How is it with you? Have you considered what it will mean to you if in the end your soul should be lost? If your life consists of planning merely for selfish good, though you may be very successful in this life, of what value will it be in the day of final reckoning? You may even succeed in raising yourself to the highest social and economic levels, but the day will come when you would willingly trade it all just to know that your life is right with your Creator. How many there are who, mistaking the Christian name for the reality of a Christian life that is governed by the principles of God’s Word. Sadly, they are only fooling themselves with the belief that they have the assurance of salvation. Their interests and concerns are centered in the things of this world, while eternal realities are of secondary importance.

Indecision is Truly a Decision

We are on test and trial, and it must never be forgotten that Satan is playing the game of life for every soul. The Scriptures declare, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24. A person who tries to serve God and the world is unstable in all his ways. His words may be fair, he may profess righteousness, but in heart he is a rebel against God and cannot be trusted.

In contrast, God calls us to a life of holiness. “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15–16

Never forget that indecision in choosing right inevitably becomes decision for the wrong. Many decide to serve themselves and the world, not by actively choosing to reject God’s offer of mercy, but by failing to make determined efforts to bring their lives into harmony with God’s will, as revealed in His Law. Their time is so occupied with immediate concerns of life that they have no time for spiritual interests. They expect that at some future time circumstances will be more favorable to a spiritual life and they will then make the change that will save their souls. In reality, they are deciding for eternal loss.

We cannot expect to leave eternal interests out of our everyday thinking, living lives that are out of harmony with the principles of God’s Word, and yet think that at life’s close, we will receive a welcome into a heavenly home. James speaks very clearly when he says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4

Influences that Mold Character

It is a law of our nature that by beholding, we inevitably become conformed to the likeness of that which we behold. The words we hear and the actions we watch have a telling power. Though their significance is not always recognized at the time, the impression made is reflected as either a blessing or a curse to the us. If the Bible is our rule of life and we are daily spending time in God’s Word, though we may not notice it at the time, our lives will take on the characteristics of its Author. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

And, just as inspired and spiritual truths lift us, so worldly influences work against our spiritual interests. Perhaps the influence that works more than any other to weaken the moral character is that of the entertainment industry, especially as it relates to television.

The immoral and godless programs that we are constantly subjected to through the public media work to pervert our moral nature to the degraded likeness of that which we behold. In contrast to the common fare which is generally available for viewing today, the apostle admonishes us, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

The immorality of most entertainment is not the only issue, however. Wherever there is an influence that is exerted to cause men to forget their Creator, you may know that Satan is at work there. It does not matter how innocent the appearance under which he hides his real purpose; anything that occupies the mind to the exclusion of the higher spiritual calling is working against our eternal interests. This thought gives an awful solemnity to life.

It was through rebellion against God’s revealed will that man originally lost his home in Paradise. How presumptuous on our part to expect that we will be allowed to return while in our everyday life we have lived a life out of harmony with God’s will as revealed in His Word. Our duty and obligation in this life, therefore, is to gain a clear understanding of His will for us and then submit our will to the higher authority of His purpose for us. Though unable of ourselves to render this acceptable service, if we earnestly pray to Him for the necessary strength, He will not only place within our hearts the desire to render obedience, but will give us the ability to do so. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:4–5

Jesus recognized that there would be many who would realize, when it is forever too late, that being Christians in name only was not enough. Speaking of these, He said, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21–23

That this group of self-deceived people are a large portion of those who profess to be Christians is clear by the fact that Jesus spoke of them as being many. Too late they will realize that profession is a small matter if the life is not right with God. If they have not brought their life into harmony with God’s great standard of right and wrong—His Law—it will gain them nothing. Jesus made it very clear that in the final judgment, our reward or loss is not based on what we professed but on the life that we lived.

Jesus spoke with authority when He pointed out that there are but two roads (see Matthew 7:13–14) by which men may travel this life. The travelers on these two roads represent the two great classes of people who have existed from the beginning to the end of time. One of these roads, thronged by the teaming multitudes, is heavily traveled. The other road, though more obscure and but lightly traveled, even by those professing to be Christians, is the one trod by the faithful of all ages. It is only this latter road, however, the road least traveled, that gives promise of a bright and secure future. Though the road is referred to as being narrow, there is room for all who choose to remain within its narrow way.

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