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What is Faith?


"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)

On the island state of Tasmania there used to be a native dog, called a thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, because of the black and white stripes on the back half of the animal. The last known specimen died in captivity more than fifty years ago. However, there is now talk of cloning more Tasmanian tigers through DNA taken from a preserved specimen. Embryos could be implanted in other dogs, until a pack of Tasmanian tigers could be produced.

The film Jurassic Park was based on a similar concept for bringing dinosaurs back. Whether or not such a feat is a realistic scientific possibility, there is no doubt that the only way to bring back an extinct species would be to have some reliable specimen or other link with the original, from which you could make copies.

Unfortunately, the world today is going through a time when genuine faith is going the way of the dinosaur. People have something which they call faith today, but it is almost universally a counterfeit of the real thing. Because of that, we are going to try to give a description in this article of what genuine faith is like, so that the world will not be without a link to the real thing, even if all genuine possessors of faith die out.

The most amazing thing about faith is just how simple it is. Unlike currency or great works of art, which are very hard to duplicate, it is the various forms of counterfeit faith which are complicated, while the genuine article is really quite simple.

To understand the difference between the genuine and the counterfeits, think of the difference between the words "believe" and "belief". When you use the word "belief" it conjures up a picture of a formal statement, usually one that has been well thought out, which states, often in legal jargon, exactly what someone believes on a particular subject. That pretty well describes the counterfeits. The world is cluttered with various "belief systems", but they tell us very little about genuine faith. In fact, our experience has been that the bottom line to all the so-called Christian belief systems is that they invariably oppose genuine faith in Jesus Christ. We will explain more about that in a moment.

But first, consider the word "believe". We use it all the time, with very little confusion about what it means. It is amazingly simple. Whenever someone says something, you either believe it or you do not. Jesus described faith as a tiny seed which grows into a huge tree. He was saying that simply believing the things that he said seems so insignificant that most people are inclined to overlook it in favour of something more complicated to describe faith in Jesus. But if we would simply "believe" him when he says something, out of that would grow everything that God really wants to see in his followers.

It is unfortunate that most translations of John 3:16 say, "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." I have strong suspicions about that word "in" having been placed there by a zealous scribe who took exception to the word "believe" on its own. The word "in" gives the impression that we need only believe in the existence of Jesus and we will have everlasting life.

James wrote that even the devils have that kind of faith. (James 2:19) He argued, instead, in favour of faith that "works". (James 2:18) Sadly, the people who preach John 3:16 most strongly also argue most strongly against just about everything that James wrote, and against the whole concept of "good works" having anything to do with salvation. Their counterfeit belief system systematically attacks the idea of simply "believing" Jesus, and then acting in accordance with what he has said. As we said above, the counterfeit belief systems which are supposedly built on believing "in" Jesus all seem to oppose "believing" Jesus. They have elaborate ways of justifying their traditions, but none of them come from the teachings of Jesus himself.

Did Jesus tell us to build huge cathedrals, to recite prayers, asking him into our hearts, to bless bombs and become involved in world politics? What exists today in the name of Christianity bears very little resemblance to the early Christians.

Of course, if the Bible really does teach that faith is a belief system more than childlike faith in the things that Jesus said, then who are we to argue against it? But take another look at the third chapter of John's gospel, to see if that is what it really teaches. The last verse of the chapter (John 3:36) more or less repeats what the 16th verse says. But in the second half of that verse, the infamous little word "in" (or "on" as used in the first half of this verse) does not appear. It merely says, "He that does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Believe in Jesus if you like. Believe on him too if you like. But unless you simply believe him, you are lost. And how can we say that we believe the things he says, when our belief system says that we must not try to obey the things he says, or we will lose our salvation? You are going to have to throw out the counterfeit in order to find the real thing.

(NOTE: Some translations actually have the word "obey" in the second half of John 3:36, in the place of "believe", which further supports what we have been saying. Whosoever does not "obey" the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on them.) True faith in Jesus means believing everything that Jesus said. And true faith in God is believing everything that God says. As the words to the song go, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

True faith just naturally leads to obedience. If I say that there is a bomb in the room and it will explode in ten seconds, you do not sit down and have a discussion about it. Your faith in what I have said will instantly be transformed into action. You will race out of the room. One could say that your faith in what I said is what saved you. But there would be very little difference between saying that and saying that your action (i.e. the act of leaving the room) saved you too. It was an action based on faith.

Martin Luther once said, "Faith and works are two sides of the same coin. You cannot separate one from the other any more than you can separate the ability to give light from the flame on a candle." As James put it, if there are no works (or obedience), it is evidence that there is no faith. And as Paul put it, in Ephesians 2:8-9, if there is no faith, there is no grace, for God's grace is only available "through faith".

When you remember these two points, it becomes easy to see that any teaching about grace without works (or worse still, any teaching about grace which opposes works) is based on a counterfeit belief system, and has not come from genuine faith in Jesus.

That really is about all you need to know about faith. Faith in Jesus Christ means believing everything that Jesus Christ said. At the moment there are still Bibles around, if people would only open them and turn to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) to read the things that Jesus said. Over and over he said things that require genuine faith in God for people to literally do them, which is why counterfeit faith is so much more popular.

What Jesus said is so simple and so clear that we do not even need to elaborate on most of his teachings. We have the confidence to tell you to just open the book, read it, and then do it. It is the counterfeits who must give you complicated explanations about how the teachings of Jesus don't really mean what they clearly say. When Jesus says, "Love your enemies," it is the counterfeits who must explain how that means we should have strong armies who are prepared to kill our enemies. We have often quoted Luke 14:33 ("Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath cannot be my disciple.") just as it appears in the King James Version of the Bible, only to have people respond with, "Well, that's your opinion." No, it's not our opinion. It's the opinion of Almighty God, as expressed through his Son. It is his unconditional requirement for anyone who wishes to follow him. It contains the same "whosoever" that appears in John 3:16. Whosoever believes it (and acts accordingly, of course) will not perish. But if you do not believe the Son, you shall not see life, and the wrath of God abides on you.

This article is being sent out like a message in a bottle to a world that has been almost totally stripped of genuine faith. If you find it, and if you believe what it is saying, it can bring you new life. We are praying that you will find it, and that you will believe what it is saying. The rest is already programmed into the tiny seed of faith.

(See also Just Do It!)

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