Belief Is Easily Possible And Results In Endless Benefits
I’ve been a Christian for decades – more than I care to share – and I’ve spent a lot of time in church services, Bible studies, and general conversations with other Christians. The topics were always related to God, the Bible, theology, Christian living, and the like.
More recently, politics has dominated those conversations and it’s changed the perspective a lot. Now, favored political candidates are as popular as Moses and David. The opposition, of course, is worse than Pharaoh.
Participating in the electoral process is right up there with daily devotions. If you don’t vote you’re backslidden. Even worse, if you vote for the wrong candidate you’ve spurned the will of God. Blasphemous!
When the candidate of choice wins office, it’s the emotional equivalent of crossing the Red Sea!
That line of thinking is problematic. You can’t synthesize government and religion. The purpose of one is totally different to the purpose of the other. The two will never fully mesh.
The church is commissioned to evangelize the world. The government is commissioned to manage it. Neither is commissioned to make it absolutely right. They act separately and for different reasons.
We obey the church not because we have to but because it is supposed to represent the voice of wisdom and reason. Or, that’s the hope. There’s no guarantee. Several churches and church leaders (all denominations) have gone off the deep end (adultery, pedophilia, embezzlement, etc.).
Those that don’t go quite that far can still border on the moronic and we should be careful enough not to follow.
Belief Exercises Reason
No names mentioned but several years ago I came across an individual who was instructed by one of his church’s elders (the prophet) that God wanted him to marry a certain person. The church’s teaching was that elders speak directly from God so he complied.
He married the young lass and after several years of intentional effort, the relationship never gelled. It was then they realized that God had nothing to do with it.
I wasn’t involved in counseling that particular situation.
All of that is to say that obedience should be taken with a grain of salt. Instead of obeying one person or one tradition, we should learn how to ascertain collective wisdom. Speak to many people and gain a broad understanding of the issues.
There is an art or skill to learning how to do that and the discussion could be quite long but there is no space for it in this post.
From a parenting perspective, however, instead of teaching your kids to do what you say, teach them to think about the “whats” and “whys” of their choices before imposing commands. They’ll be better served in the future.
But you’ll need to be ready for the unexpected. They may choose something different to what you planned and you need to be big enough to live with that.
Back to my line of thought.
Belief Is A Choice – Politics Is A Command
One way the government differs from the church is we have to obey the government. The church you may or may not obey. The government you must obey. There’s no choice in the matter. You either obey or pay the consequences. They make the laws. Fortunately, in a democracy, we have a voice. If you don’t like the laws, you’re free to make arguments for change.
In both cases, however, perfection does not exist. No church is perfect and no government is perfect and blending them makes both worse. Church and state must be kept separate and neither should dominate the other.
America is one of the more pluralistic countries in the world and, though some Christians dislike the idea, it is evidence of a healthy democracy, one in which the separation between religion and state is well maintained.
If you meld religion and state you must first decide which religion gets the upper hand and then only those of that religion will be best represented. It would generate conflict between government and citizen and between every religion too.
Once the State takes on a religion, the beliefs will be imposed. It’s no longer a choice.
Belief Secures – Politics Obsesses
Sadly, churches have become obsessed with politics. There’s more campaigning than evangelizing and that means the purpose for which the church was established is being neglected. Instead of grace, we now preach law?
The emphasis on politics is troubling. In its place, politics is important but you can’t conflate politics and religion. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests the government will ever be the means through which the world is changed but you wouldn’t know that from listening to Christians.
Christians have the right motive. They want to see hearts and lives change for the better. What they don’t realize is you can’t force the issue.
Jesus could have forced compliance but He never did and we shouldn’t try it either. There’s little difference between a legal state in which all sinful things are disallowed and a religious state.
Is that what we want? Are we wanting people to do the right thing because they choose to do so or because we threaten them if they don’t?
Only belief can secure the soul. Politics is not the answer.
Belief Can Make A Difference – Politics Changes No One
Politics will never give anyone a new heart or take them to heaven. Politics will never make a person better. The legislative branch sets the rules for society but the judicial branch often fails to enforce the rules consistently.
Abusers are now using the court system to further vex their victims. If the judicial system fails to bring justice to abusers is it reasonable to expect the government to make marriages better?
We have the answer at our fingertips but instead, we preach politics.
Belief is clearly stated in the Bible as the gateway to changed lives!! Not a belief as in a specific idea but belief the verb, as in I believe in Jesus.
Christian conversations frequently employ terms and phrases that haven’t been clarified or worse, are associated with so many meanings we can’t be sure what the writer/speaker means.
And there is disagreement associated with Christian teachings.
Salvation, concerning which there are multiple differences, is exactly the same for every saved individual. It’s the baseline. Every person begins the same journey from the same experience but what we think about salvation and how we describe it can be quite different.
However you define it, though, salvation producing belief is the solution.
Belief Is Simple – Politics Is Complicated
When I say the word Belief I’m talking about the synonym of Faith. Belief is what a person expresses at the point of salvation. They “believe” and are saved. Paul preached this everywhere he went:
Repentance toward God and faith (belief) toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
Belief is simple and straightforward. It is so simple any person can express it. The discussion about belief may be academic but the expression of it is not. It’s personal. It comes from the heart even when the head doesn’t understand all the issues. Paul said that too.
With the HEART man believeth unto righteousness (Romans 10:10).
I didn’t know anything about the second coming of Christ, the virgin birth or the inerrancy of Scripture the day I believed but my belief was sufficient. Belief is like love at first sight. You can’t explain it but you just know. Belief is like that and can happen at just about any age.
I know people personally who believed at the age of six! I know of others who expressed belief at an earlier age.
Most people agree that the moment a person believes in Jesus, they are born again. They get a new heart and a relationship with God that is personal.
Belief Is An Invitation – Politics Is Imposed
They also agree that sharing the Gospel and inviting belief is what we do. The Gospel (good news) is the one thing about which Christians should be noisy. In practice, however, the simple truth gets lost in translation and the process gets complicated.
The complications stem from what I call unbelieving believers. These are people who have put their faith in Jesus for salvation and are truly saved, but they don’t allow the same simplicity of belief for others that they allowed for themselves.
The experience of salvation is unspeakably liberating. The burden of guilt is completely lifted and forgiveness fills the heart. It produces rejoicing and thanksgiving. It seems almost too good to be true and that is a part of the problem. After the initial blessing wears off, we tend to be less believing in the case of other sinners.
We gladly accept forgiveness for ourselves but we don’t make it available quite so readily to others.
Belief Is Sufficient – Politics Settles Nothing
Another problem is overzealous believers. They focus so much on rightness they fail to emphasize the Gospel, constantly monitoring and measuring belief by what they think should happen following belief.
If the intensity of a person’s commitment following belief is less than “some” think it should be, then the belief, they reason, must not have been genuine. In other words, if a person doesn’t give enough, read the Bible enough, pray enough, attend church enough and accept all the restrictions imposed by the super-spiritual, they probably aren’t really saved.
I understand why this happens. We’re all a little different. Different in personality and in circumstance. One person gets saved and immediately expresses an overwhelming do-or-die devotion to God. This person is all in, no holding back.
Another person believes and their life differs little from what it was before.
Does that mean one is saved and the other not? Can we make that assessment? Is there a way to explain this without making judgments either way?
The short answer is, Yes? Jesus explained this in the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:40-47). The person whose sins were great will tend to be more outwardly devoted than the person whose life was well-grounded before salvation.
Neither is more or less saved. The belief in both cases was sufficient.
Politics doesn’t even factor in this equation. Statutes may make the community better, safer and that is good for us but it does nothing to change any person.
Belief is Easy – Politics Is Endless Effort
Belief is so simple it’s easy but that isn’t enough for some people and they’ve coined a new phrase to refer to what they think is shallow evangelism: easy believism.
Before I say more, please understand that Belief is easy. It’s the only human requirement for salvation. Jesus did everything else. If it wasn’t easy, no one would be saved.
I do understand the problem, though. It’s possible to go through the motions of praying for salvation and not really get saved. A person can pray insincerely or just to get out of an uncomfortable situation but onlookers can’t know for sure. Even afterward we can’t know for sure.
We can make judgments from a human perspective but that is hardly conclusive. We have little to go on other than outward appearances.
Some people mouth the prayer of salvation but show very little response to spiritual realities afterward. They don’t go to church, read the Bible, pray, or witness. Their lives don’t change. There’s no apparent difference. The effects of salvation don’t manifest externally as much for some as for others.
Two things are possible. One, they didn’t really get saved or, two, they really did get saved but other factors inhibited their growth.
The argument is that no one is saved just by mouthing the words of a prayer, even the correct words if there’s no real conviction of sin and no trust in Christ. We all agree but it is also true that no one can see another person’s heart.
Belief Is A Moment In Time – Politics Is Incessant
Belief is not the same thing as living. It’s just believing. It takes a split second. Christian living, on the other hand, involves every moment for the rest of your life.
Belief settles the question of salvation once for all time. What follows can be a roller coaster ride and there are many factors that can dampen a person’s commitment after salvation that we also can’t see.
The Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23) explains this clearly. It actually names the conditions that can prevent a person’s growth.
- Seed is scattered without taking root (birds eat it).
- Seed germinates in rocky ground but lacks enough soil to flourish.
- Seed takes root but is choked by weeds.
- Seed takes root and multiplies.
Three important points to remember.
- Only one-fourth of the seeds didn’t take root.
- Only one-fourth of the seeds flourished.
- Half of the seeds took root but failed to bear more fruit.
Three-fourths of these seeds represented genuine faith and if that is the case, the belief police need to back off. We are to shout the Gospel from the rooftops, make the Good News known by any and every means. The more widely we spread the Gospel, the more people will believe. Some won’t, but most will.
Even focusing on the half that doesn’t flourish is obsessive. We don’t have to like it but half of all salvations will result in less than ideal responses. The only thing we can do is keep sharing the seed.
Instead of looking for ways to slow down the seed spreading process, we need to find methods to share the seed more rapidly and widely. That’s what farmers do.
Belief Happens When Seeded – Politics Is Tradition
A few people argue about the numbers in the Parable of the Sower. Instead of three-fourths getting saved, they say only one fourth really got saved. Obviously, the seed that was eaten by birds never germinated. We all agree there was no salvation in that instance.
Some, however, argue that the second (rocky soil) and third (thorny soil) examples don’t represent salvation either. The only people who truly got saved were the ones who bore much fruit and the logical inference is that fruit-bearing is the only acceptable evidence that a person is genuinely saved.
Almost makes it sound like salvation by works. Some, of course, think that.
The number of reasons to disagree is numerous. The strangest thing about this argument is it usually comes from Calvinists. They are the ones who claim no one Believes. For them, belief is the gift, not salvation and the only reason they spread the Gospel – if you could call what they do spreading the Gospel – is they were commanded to do so.
Can you see anything wrong with that? Do they really tell every person that God may have selected them to believe but maybe not and there is nothing the evangelist or the evangelee can do to change God’s choice?
But that’s not the logical fallacy I want to focus on here.
Let’s say for argument sake that only one-fourth of the seed germinated to salvation. I don’t believe that but if it were true, it would have no bearing whatsoever on how we spread the Gospel. We should constantly spread it, widely spread it, and loudly spread it.
I’m talking about the Gospel, the Good News. Not bad news. Not condemnation. Judgment is a fact but it needs little proclamation.
Natural seed spreading – how God does it in nature – happens regularly and you could say even haphazardly. He doesn’t prepare soil, He just spreads seeds. Shouldn’t we follow His lead on this?
Farmers prepare the soil so they can control the bottom line and even then there are unforeseen developments that could ruin the crop, like bad weather.
What I’m trying to say is we need to get over our controlling selves. Just share the Gospel. Don’t push it. Don’t shove it. Just share it. Spread the seed. Some will take and some won’t but the only part of the process you control is the sharing part.
The seed produces believers, not political hounds. Political interests come from proselytizing.
Belief Happens Anywhere In Spite Of Politics And Circumstance
Several years back while doing missionary work in South Africa I had the privilege of working with several other missionaries and an evangelistic organization in the USA. The organization prepared groups of young people to present the Gospel through pantomime. There were twelve or so kids and chaperons in each group. Missionaries did logistical planning (lodging, food, transportation, and schedule). The group brought all the necessary equipment (props, sound equipment, etc.).
We did this two years in a row. I wish we had done it more.
The first year we were learning the ropes and a bit clumsy but there were still more than five hundred professions of faith. We hit the ground running the second year and managed to get more than twenty-five hundred professions.
Sadly, sharing that experience with other Christians resulted in skeptical responses. People just couldn’t believe that so many people got saved in such a short time.
To be honest, I don’t know that all those professions represented genuine salvations but that’s not a question for me to answer or worry about. My job and yours is to share the Gospel and that’s what we did.
While we can’t say every profession was genuine, we can say that more than three thousand people heard the Gospel. It was hard work but it was some of the most exciting times we had during our work in South Africa.
This happened in spite of an oppressive political environment and very difficult circumstances.
Belief Is The Answer And The Solution
Preaching against sinful things appeals to human nature. Even people who don’t believe have opinions about rights and wrongs in society? Once you religionize a person, it gets worse. They seem to think religion gives them the mandate to pound sinfulness. Sorry but I don’t get it.
I know sinful things happen and humans get caught up in those sinful things. We call it addictions, but why do sinful things dominate the conversation. The more you talk about a thing the bigger it gets? In fact, talking about a specific problem all the time might indicate you have it.
I’ve learned as much about sinful things at church as I have from the internet.
If you want to solve the world’s problems, preach the Gospel. Tell people that Jesus saves. Forgiven people won’t be perfect but they will be better. The Gospel is much more influential than laws ever could be.
Belief is the answer. Politics is not.
I would encourage you to do two things. If you have not Believed, please consider it today. I mean, like right now. Why wait. Jesus died for you, loves you, and will forgive you the moment you believe.
Secondly, if you have believed, remember to share the Gospel with anyone, with everyone, with as many people as possible. Spread the word. It will have an effect.
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