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Living by Faith


This is the third in a series of articles on doctrinal differences between ourselves and The Family. The first two articles were "Simple Salvation" and "Eternal Salvation".

We believe that "the just shall live by faith". (Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 10:38, Galatians 3:11) We're not talking about theological faith; for even the devils believe in the existence of God and know that Jesus is the Son of God. We're talking about the kind of faith in God that leads to faith in what his Son, Jesus, taught. Jesus taught that we will either live our lives in tune with what God wants, or we will live our lives in tune with what will make us money. Any effort to do both at the same time will only result in frustration. (Luke 16:13) The good guys (the 'just') will live by faith; the bad guys (the 'unjust') will not.

If we are living by faith, then faith in God (not money) will be our motive in all that we do. Even when income results from something we originally decided to do in obedience to Jesus, it is wise to ask ourselves, "Would I still do this if there were no money in it?"

We should do the same with our teachings. If we alter our teaching in order to win the favour of people who have power and wealth, then heresy will result.

Obviously our hard-line position on living by faith being a part of God's plan for salvation has caused a lot of alienation - from our families, the media, governments, the general public, and supporters. The Family seems to be the one other organisation that shares some sympathy with us on this teaching. However, it seems living by faith is not the cornerstone of their teaching that it is with us, and this causes us some concern.

Please note: We are prepared to be shown otherwise. It is easy to misjudge motives; and we may be reading too much into certain Family teachings and practices. Nevertheless, here are our observations:

From the start The Family has taught that there are two kinds of Christians - those who obey Jesus, and those who financially support those who obey Jesus. Requirements for discipleship (i.e. Luke 14:33) are waived for the second group, who are, nevertheless, still regarded as Christians.

We cannot agree with this teaching. The words "Christian" and "disciple" are used interchangeably in the Bible. Luke 14:33 is not talking about an elite group of Christians, called "disciples". It is talking about "whosoever" wants to be a Christian, just as John 3:16 is talking about "whosoever" is going to have eternal life. You are either a disciple of Jesus, or you are not a Christian. There are no neutrals. And the requirement for disciples in Luke 14:33 is just as universal as the requirement in John 3:16.

We can understand giving some people the benefit of the doubt if they don't know any better. And Matthew 10:40-42 suggests that God will reward those who help us materially. But the verses preceding this passage (Matthew 10:33-39) suggest that helping a prophet "in the name of a prophet" means much more than making a donation to our work.

I have quoted these verses to businessmen who have helped us and said, "You can have a blessing after you die, or one on your business now. Which do you prefer?" They have opted for a blessing on their business! So their assistance is coming "in the name of their business", not in the name of Jesus.

It is good to be polite and loving toward people who support us; but we cannot 'justify' them. We have not come to condemn them, but we will never save them if we are not convinced that they are lost in the first place.

This area of difference between us and The Family seems to stem from faith in the "sinner's prayer" as the ultimate test of whether a person is a Christian. A supporter who says the prayer is regarded as a Christian whether or not they obey Jesus by forsaking all. We cannot agree with this, and when supporters discover this, their gifts to us usually stop, indicating that the support was contingent on our justifying their disobedience.

Our concern is that the sinner's prayer/eternal salvation teachings may have been invented in the first place (not by The Family, but by the churches) as a panacea for all those who want to feel justified without necessarily obeying Jesus. We fear that what The Family has discovered about living by faith is being undermined by a contradictory churchy tradition.

Our experience with these teachings in the churches has been that eventually they lead to a charge of heresy against anyone, like ourselves, who teaches Luke 14:33.

The disobedient (who have said the prayer) are justified (by the churches), and the obedient (who teach that faith must lead to obedience) are accused of heresy. In the end, we are usually forced to choose between Luke 14:33 (including the bulk of what Jesus taught that supports this passage) and a teaching that rests solely on some debateable passages from Paul. To our knowledge, this has, so far, not happened with The Family, and we pray that it never will.

If our heresy is that we are teaching that obedience to Jesus is necessary for salvation, we will take our chances on God's grace forgiving us for such a heresy. Such a presumption seems to be far safer than taking our chances on his grace forgiving us for not teaching the necessity of obedience to Jesus.

Another difference: Although a large number of Family members "live by faith" by not working in paid jobs, they occasionally encourage their own members to get jobs to make money for various reasons. It seems that if we start thinking we "need" money, and especially that we need to sell our time (life) to get it, then we are not expressing faith in God's provision.

Where God guides, he provides. If he's not providing, then maybe we're trying to do something he has not asked us to do. We have found that if we just stay faithful with what we have, he brings in more money when he wants us to do something that requires more. He is the king; and he says that if we will seek his kingdom first, he'll pay the bills.

This is a good way to keep from "getting ahead of God" or "working in the flesh". If he doesn't provide tickets to India, we simply don't go; and our reason on judgment day will be that he didn't provide the tickets. We cannot imagine God punishing us for continuing to witness in Australia while we waited on Him to provide us with the means to go elsewhere. Would he really punish us for not stopping our work for him to work for money for tickets, when he has clearly said that material provision is his job, and not ours (Matthew 6:19-34). Operating this way, we have travelled all over the world on tickets that God has provided. But we have also been faithful about not wasting money on other luxuries.

It sounds contradictory to hear people talk of God creating the world, healing people, giving eternal life, and doing other miracles; and then see them turn to worldly employers when they have material needs (John 6:27).

What God needs are labourers in his vineyard - not financial 'supporters'. If we find the labourers, he'll pay the wages. We challenge people from any group or organisation that is complaining about lack of funds to come and work with us. Our Boss owns all the wealth in the world, and we are not short of funds... only short of workers.

Having a little faith is like being a little pregnant: There is no such thing. Either you have faith or you don't have faith. Real faith will lead you to stop working for money and start working for God. If people are moving in that direction, fine. The more we feed them the promises of God, the more their faith will grow. But to teach people that making money is their calling in life is simply not on.

We believe that living by faith is the trademark of a true Christian (Galatians 3:11; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38; Matthew 6:31-34). And we believe that Jesus has commanded us to teach others to live by faith as well (Matthew 28:20).

The next article in this series is entitled The Bible.

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