In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus tells what I think is one of the scariest stories in the Bible. It is a story of people who thought they had faith. But their faith was primarily intellectual, belief. Jesus says to them that something important is missing. They did not have the kind of faith that he said mattered. They didn’t having saving faith. Their intellectual faith was not matched with physical faith. Saving faith has both! How does Jesus describe saving faith in Matthew 7:21-23? People who do what the Father says.
If you say that you have faith, but you do not do what the Father says, you only have an intellectual faith, not a life of faith.
This is why James says “faith without works is dead.” And dead faith will not gain you entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.
And it is in James 2 starting in verse 14 where we learn about this important element of faith. Notice how different James’ conception of faith is. It is not just intellectual belief. James says, even the demons believe. The demons know that Jesus is Lord; they know in their minds what is true. But clearly that doesn’t mean that the demons are a part of the Kingdom of heaven.
The point that James is trying to make is that faith must go beyond belief.
Faith goes beyond belief when we keep pursuing Jesus, when we learn from him how to live. When we place our faith in Jesus, we are saying to him, “Jesus I want you to change me. I am not just believing things in my mind about you. I want my faith in you to be the impetus, the spark of a total life change.”
That change might be over night. But it could also, and I think should also, last a lifetime.
This past week our Faith Church Nominating Committee had the privilege of interviewing candidates for our Leadership Team. We’ve been doing these interviews for three-four years now, and each year during the interviews I am reminded of how they are one of the favorite things I get to do as a pastor. Why? Because we hear the stories of how faith in God has transformed people.
Sometimes the candidates tell a dramatic story of how God radically changed their lives in a moment. Sometimes they tell an equally powerful story of how they were raised in faith from a young age, and they gradually slowly placed their faith in the Lord. When we place our faith in God, there are many ways he works transformation in our lives!
I want to ask you, therefore, to evaluate your faith.
Have you ever really, truly placed your faith in Christ? Can you say that you really believe in Jesus, that he is God, that he died for our sins, that he was raised to life victorious over death? Maybe you’re reading this now, and you’d like to accept the gift of God’s grace by faith. I would love to talk with you about how to do that.
But maybe you’ve already placed your intellectual faith in Christ. You would say that you believe in him. I also ask you to evaluate your faith. Is it just intellectual? Just in your mind? That is not saving faith.
Faith learns from Jesus how to live. As I said last week, and now again, study Jesus’ life, watching for how he demonstrated faith.
Seek out someone whom you would say has great faith. Ask them to teach you how to grow your faith.
Read those stories in the Bible in Hebrews 11 about people who had great faith. Search out the original telling of those stories in the Old Testament, and see if you can learn why the author of Hebrews included them.
Finally, take a step of faith. You can grow your faith by doing something that stretches your faith, your trust in God. Maybe serving in a position in your church, a position you might feel iffy about. Maybe starting up a conversation with a neighbor who you’ve always wanted to talk with about faith, but you’ve been shy. Maybe give a financial gift of faith to the Lord.
Get a faith accountability partner. Each of you make one faith goal, and hold each other to accomplishing that goal.
Know this. Faith is not faith if it only resides in the mind. Faith without works is dead. But you can grow your faith!