"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? ... Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..." (Ac16:30-31)
"If you are able to believe, all things are possible to him who believes... Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mk9:23-24)
"Jesus heard that they had driven him [the one born blind, who had been given sight] out [of the temple]; and when He had found him, He said to him, Do you believe into the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe into Him? And Jesus said to him, You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you. And he said, Lord, I believe! And he did homage to Him." (Jn9:35-38)
"Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders bore witness." (Heb11:1-2)
"And you shall remember that Jehovah your God has led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." (De8:2)
"If you believe, you can achieve."
Oh but...! Aren't they all the same? Do they not all speak of 'faith' and "believe"-ing? Do you not hear the last (non-referenced) saying spouted from many pulpits? Just B'leeeeve! If you B'leeeve hard enough, you can do anything you set your mind and heart to. You are blessed with so much potential, just -really- B'leeeve, and you can do anything.
Let me relay
a little incident here. If any of you watch any of the TV game shows, you may have seen this incident. I sometimes like to watch the ones like "Jeopardy" or "1 vs 100", where I can try to play along and answer the questions; match wits. See how much I know... or in the case of Jeopardy, how much I -don't- know!
But I've also caught a few episodes of "Deal or No Deal". A stupid show where the contestant tries to guess which briefcase contains the Million Dollar prize, pick one for themselves, and then find out what's in it by opening other cases, and a person called the "banker" offers them various amounts to quit the game before reaching the prize. The object is to pick cases with low amounts and keep the large amounts 'in play'. And of course, it is all random. It is pure speculation as to which cases contain what amounts.
But one reason I watch it is because I am a people-watcher. Some of them come with various 'strategies', like the numbers corresponding to birth dates of friends and relatives. Some will get into huddles with family members and try to "voodoo" (send spiritual psychic 'waves') the case into having a low amount...as though their desires, wishes or powers have anything whatsoever to do with what's -already- in the case!
Well, for this one episode the contestant was a rather 'larger' black man; and stereotypically 'fit' the part for what is explained next. And he and his wife were full of spirituality. He was the source of the non-Scriptural saying (above). Before practically every case-opening he was chanting, "I believe! I believe! I believe!" Repeating the saying, "If you believe, you can achieve" And one of the models when opening a particular case chanted back to him, "If you believe, you will receive" as that case had a relatively smaller amount.
Trouble was...the more he shouted "I believe! I believe! I believe!" (with the included emotional theatrics) the more the large amounts kept getting knocked off the board. And his shouting of "I believe!" was very much like one has come to expect from pentecostal/charismatic preachers. Name it! Claim it! In Jeeeezzzusss name! And actually, I dare say that white pentecostals got their theatrics from the black 'church'. (Please don't anybody accuse me of racial profiling, but some ethnicities behave differently than others, from their cultural heritages. Traditionally orientals used to be more reserved, middle-easterners argue a lot, and Africans 'agree' -boistrously-) You know how when blacks get together, they raise their voices, and shout things, and continually -repeat- those things, interrupting each other with their repetitions (as though the loud boistrous repetitious affirmation of the matter makes it so), and somebody will be sure to go, "Mmmm hmmm! That's right!" You-all know what I'm talking about. And this is how today's charismania functions (whether black or white). Repeat it, shout it, badger everybody with it, and everybody becomes persuaded that it is so, due to the ferocity and cacophony of the proclamation.
For all of the contestant's affirmations of "I believe! I believe! I believe!" he left the game with the least amount of money I've seen. Compared to the potential One Million Dollar prize, his $24,000 was a mere pittance. Most contestants at least go home, typically when I've watched, with 6-digit prizes.
And I was waiting for just such an outcome! I was expecting it. Yes, even 'hoping' for it. Why?
As you scrutinized the sayings with which this article opened, did you
catch the 'difference' between the game show loser's saying and the
Scripture quotes? It is the same difference that exists between the
-pretend- [c]hurch, and the [C]hurch of Jesus Christ. It is the same
difference that exists between God's Word and the false prophets.
One of today's foremost queens of daytime TV is Oprah. She has been on the air enough years that, over the years I have turned on occasionally, here and there, now and then, seeing snippets, to hear Oprah speak much about "faith". That you have to "believe" and -have- faith and love in your heart. What is the -object- of the faith which she proclaims? -SELF- You have to "believe in yourself". You must love yourself.
And that's what the game show contestant was doing. "If -you- believe, -you- can achieve." Who is purporting to effect the outcome? The one who has faith. The means to that end is 'believing' -REAL-HARD-! Believe -fervently-, with great emotion and 'grunting'. Like "Hiro" on the TV show "Heroes" who squints his eyes, holds his breath REAL HARD, and effects time warp and teleportation thereby.
When Jesus said, "For truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will be done, it will be to him, whatever he says" what was the basis for that statement? Is it the -person- 'wielding' the faith? Or what did Jesus say -just- before this? What is the context? What is the -object- of faith? Jesus had just said, "Have faith in God" (Mk11:23,22)
Notice the promise carefully. Jesus did not say that the person with the faith is the one "casting" the mountain into the sea (this is what charismania teaches and commands); but He says that it "will be done". For something to "be done" is 'passive' voice, not 'active'. Active voice is when the person -does- something of their own efforts. Passive voice is when something is done -to- the person, or on their behalf. Jesus says, "it will be -to- him". Based on what? What is the -object- of their faith? -GOD- It is in God that we "live and move and exist" (Ac17:28)
Oprah and today's false prophet pied-pipers are exhorting people to have faith IN -SELF-. It is the efforts of -self- by grunting up 'enough' -faith- to 'effect' outcomes. A lot of this 'grunting' is also called "prayer", by them. The "-power- of prayer". This kind of "prayer" and "faith" are kissin' cousins to each other.
But what is Godly faith? "Have faith in God" (Mk11:22) The object and focus is -GOD-.
But is it a -blind- faith? Stepping out into a total void of unknown? Closing the eyes, taking a deep breath, holding the nose, and -JUMP-!!??
Why is the Christian faith a "-certainty- of things hoped for" and "-evidence- of things not seen"? Because God has worked in the past. We have the historical record of the Scriptures. He has given us a record of Himself and His past works.
Before He sent Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, as Moses is speculating the certitude of what was being asked of him (Scripture hadn't been written down yet. As history shows, he would become the first in a lineage of those who would pen God's Word), God gives him some signs with the staff turning into a snake, and his own leprous hand. (Ex4) Moses didn't have written Scripture, but God did not make him leap blindly, but gave him a taste of what to expect.
And after they have left Egypt and we have the golden calf incident (Ex32-33), God says words about wiping out Israel and making out of Moses a nation. Moses pleads with God not to wipe out Israel. And then as they are communing, God says, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest". And Moses replies, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here" (33:14-15) Moses' faith and leadership were not his own, but Jesus Christ was leading Israel. (1Co10:4) When Moses' faith was in himself, he killed the Egyptian and ended up running for his life. But when his faith was in God, he is looked on as probably the greatest prophet in all of history, because he was the instrument of, not his own greatness, but the "works of God". (Ps66:5)
Paul and Silas exhorted the jailer to believe....not just "in his heart", but "on" Jesus Christ. Belief/faith is a putting one's trust -upon- Jesus Christ. This faith and trust is a "leaning". Leaning upon, and believing one will be held up without falling over. A person believes the chair will hold, so they put their trust in it, knowing from past experience that chairs such as the one they are speculating on hold people who sit on them; so they -sit- on the chair.
The father whose child needed healing had faith that Jesus could heal. But he knew the ability was not his own, and thus he implores Jesus to "help" to whatever degree his faith was lacking.
This brings us to the 'source' of Saving Faith. The game contestant (and today's false prophets) proclaim: "If -you- believe, -you- will achieve"
But Saving Faith comes -from- God. Not only is God the object of our faith, He is also the source of it. The faith is not of ourselves, it is the "gift of God". That is because it is not 'our' faith; but rather is the faith "-of- Jesus Christ" (Ga2:16, 3:22, Php3:9, Rom3:22) It is Jesus' faith that is given to us
Nor is it of "works" (Eph2:9) The contestant was continually mantracizing, "I believe! I believe! I believe!" which turned out to be "vain repetitions" (Mt6:7) Works. He was not heard for his "many words" He went home in (relative) 'shame' (Rom10:11). He had a lot of pompous words about his own (empty) faith, but there was no substance.
But when the mouth is confessing Jesus Christ, such a confession indicates what is in the heart toward God. A person who comes kneeling and asking "what must I do to be saved" is not high on self-esteem. One who cries out "help my unbelief" is not full of self-righteousness or self-empowerment.
Such a person is prepared in their heart to have Jesus come and ask, "Do you believe into the Son of God?" and when informed "it is He who is talking with you" having had their eyes opened, to fall on their face and proclaim, "Lord, I believe"
Such a person is party to the salvific "works of God" (Jn9:3) Because it is, as Paul reviews with one who is a Believer in Jesus Christ:
Related study: Sound Doctrine