My morning reading that motivated this post was in Matthew 14: 25- 31, and Acts 14: 8- 10, if anyone wishes to refer to them. Also compare Ephesians 2: 8-10 and Hebrews 11: 1. I will not copy and paste them to keep the post from being too long.
Believing to be saved; faith to be saved; what is the difference between belief and faith? The difference can be subtle, but sometimes striking. I think every language has words that have subtle connotations in their meanings. I can believe that Jesus has the power to save me; do I believe that He will. Just because He has the power doesn’t necessarily mean that He will. I could stand in the middle of a street and watch a truck coming towards me. I can believe that the driver will either put on brakes or swerve to miss me, but does that necessarily mean that I believe he will?
Then one can ‘believe’ something, but does he ‘strongly’ believe it, or does he feel more like ‘it may not be that difficult to show me that my belief is wrong’? When I was a child I went to different churches. I was taught the doctrine of eternal security in one church and in another that eternal security was a false doctrine. (Both views have strong Scriptural evidences for and against, and whichever one a person believes does not (at least in my opinion) have a lot to do with whether he is ‘saved’ or ‘not saved’. In other words, you could believe one way and still be saved, or in the other way and still be saved.) As a child, though I could not refute those who taught against eternal security, the references in favor of eternal security seemed much more plausible, so I believed in eternal security.
In college I started smoking. I felt bad about it, and knew it to be a sin, because it was a fleshly drive that had control of me, and certainly didn’t edify the Lord’s temple (which a saved person’s body is to be). Then in my twenties I heard a great man of God, a powerful Pentecostal preacher, preach a sermon against eternal security, and I felt as though he were reaching into my very soul. I believed (was convinced, convicted, felt faith) that this sermon was somehow a special way God’s Holy Spirit was reaching me. I told myself that I was going to change, and live more for the Lord and I was going to erase every sign of sin in my body completely away. Somehow it seemed the harder I tried not to want a cigarette, the worse the hurting for one became. I prayed steadily for the Lord to remove that filth from my body. I could quit, and actually feel quite good for three days, then every time I quit, on the fourth morning after the three days, I would be extremely sick, the room would be as though spinning. I could struggle, but it seemed I could barely move, and then two puffs of a cigarette and suddenly the spinning would stop, and I would feel fine.
For weeks I lived in torment, because I was afraid that if I couldn’t conquer the sin in my life, then how could I ever hope to be saved? My mind believed in Christ, but my fleshly body kept pulling me down. I kept remembering those who Jesus said that would tell Jesus how much they served Him at the judgment, but He would tell them to depart into everlasting torments where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. One night I was lying in bed with my insides feeling twisted. I was crying because I just wished I could live on earth forever, because I didn’t want to die and go to eternal torments. Suddenly it was as if a cloud came over my bed. I remember it happening so clearly, but I don’t remember the exact words. It was as if a powerful voice chided me (He was fussing at me, but not in a way that hurt me). If I knew how powerful He was, then why didn’t I know that He was powerful enough to keep me. Even if I didn’t believe in my own ability to live right to be saved, it wasn’t me who could save myself. He could save me, and I could never save myself by living right. It was as though He were angry with me, but His LOVE was more powerful than His anger. Who was I to question His ability to save, and who was I to think that I could ever ‘live righteously enough’ to earn His respect. He could respect me, even though I might not be worth respecting. He could love me, even though I may not deserve that love. He could save me, and I could never earn that privilege. Then, since He had saved me, who was I to suggest that He wasn’t powerful enough to hold on to those He had saved. If He saved me, how dare me suggest that He would bother to save me, if He knew I was only going to end up losing that salvation? He knows the end from the beginning, and He doesn’t save someone without knowing that He will keep them. So how dare me to suggest that He wasn’t powerful enough to keep me after saving me?
Not long after that, I was reading my Bible during a lunch break at work. I was in the habit of this. There was a man that worked for the same company as I. He was a much older man than I, and he was known for constant filthy language, drinking, and as a womanizer. He didn’t have anywhere inside to eat his lunch, and had asked me a long time before if he could eat in my office. Every day he would quietly eat his lunch (no cursing or bad behavior) while I read my Bible. One day (not long after my crying experience in bed) he spoke to me. Being very polite, and not really wanting to interrupt me, he quietly asked me why I read my Bible every day. I told him because I believed it told me how my Creator wanted me to live. He asked about the Bible teaching that sinners couldn’t go to Heaven, and how could I smoke cigarettes and read about going to Hell. I told him that sinners won’t be in Heaven, but thank the Lord that if I can’t quit smoking on earth, at least I’ll quit smoking when I die, and in Heaven I won’t smoke. I started to open the Bible to the ‘standard’ verses people are taught to use when witnessing, and was handing the Bible to him so he could read verses as I selected and found them. He put his hand between me and him and told him I would have to read them to him because he had never learned to read. Suddenly, it was as if I were talking but I wasn’t talking. I didn’t feel as though my spirit had left my body, but my voice was talking, and I didn’t have a clue what all it was saying. Afterwards, I could remember some of the words that had come out of my mouth, but, I couldn’t remember them all.
I’m not sure what all came out of my mouth, but when I finished, this crusty, old, drunk, womanizer had tears pouring down his cheeks. He told me how he believed every word in the Bible, but when he was a much younger man, and since he couldn’t read the Bible for himself, he believed everything the preachers had told him. One thing he distinctly remembered was that sinners were not going to Heaven, but that sinners were going to Hell. He said that he felt trapped by sin, and many times he had gone to bed in torments (like the ones I had just a short time before), and that he finally decided that the Lord wasn’t going to ‘save’ him from sinning, and since he didn’t have any hope of Heaven, he spent the rest of his (long) life trying to enjoy this world as much as he could, because he lived in the terror of thinking that he had no hope for eternity. The man was transferred after that, but I had heard from others that he was a totally changed man.
After that the Lord showed me the real meaning of a number of passages. I learned the real meaning of ‘in my weakness, His strength is shown’. No matter how weak I may be, His strength will always be greater than my weakness. No matter how I may sin, His mercy is always greater than my sin (not by any means that it gives me a reason to sin). I understood more deeply Romans chapter 7 where Paul said, “In my mind I serve the law of Christ, but in this body the law of the flesh. I know that in this body dwells no good thing. Oh, wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death. I thank my God, through Jesus Christ my Savior.” Since then, the Scriptures had opened up in ways that I would never have thought. I still sin. I still smoke. I’m not at all proud of that, but it sure keeps me from lifting my head up in pride and arrogance.
For some reason, my post got away from the difference between ‘belief’ and ‘faith’, but maybe some things people were just meant to learn within themselves. Some things can’t really be taught in words that earthly language uses, but have to happen inside people. I’m dead serious about something that is inside me right now- people may believe or not- I’m feeling so strongly that God’s wrath is soon to be poured out. I feel like it has already started. I feel strongly that people better make sure they are ready. Pray for your children, because turmoil is fixing to cover this whole earth. People may feel that certain politicians may fix this planet, but my God is angry that too many people are putting faith in politicians, and not in Him, and I think that somehow God is going to use the politicians that people trust to betray them and bring His wrath (along with what people may call ‘natural’ disasters). I believe many preachers in many pulpits around the world should start trembling, because too many are neglecting God’s Word. Some may spout a few Bible verses, but not get into the meat of the Gospel. Some spout too many platitudes and quote other authors, almost as if other authors can speak as well as God’s Word. Some preachers may speak a few verses but spend the rest of the sermon shouting ‘glory, hallelujah, praise the Lord’, and maybe say a few things in tongues, but in the whole sermon, say very little that edifies the congregation. Pray for your preachers. Pray for your churches. Pray for your children. Even if I’m wrong and it’s another 100 years or 1000 years before that wrath is poured out, it is always good to pray. Don’t be concerned if someone is ‘Pentecostal’ or ‘non-Pentecostal’. Ask the Lord to speak to each one’s own heart and teach them the doctrines that apply best to any individual’s life. But most of all, pray that they have that saving faith.
Oh!- Think some on this (for the post-) ‘believe’ is something that a person does; ‘faith’ is a gift (Ephesians 2: 8).