Belief can be a tricky word. I can believe something to be true that isn’t true. My belief does not make it true.
I can also believe that something is true that is, in fact, true. But if I don’t really care that it is true in more than an academic way, it doesn’t really matter. I believe Abraham Lincoln was tall and thin. It doesn’t really affect anything in my life. It is true. I believe it is true. But it is of only very little advantage to me, if any at all. Belief we talk about in the context of following Jesus Christ must be belief that matters. Of course we must know truth from falsehood. Believing things that are not true will get us into all kinds of trouble.
After determining the truth, we must believe it. Belief in this case is a belief not only that what our Bible says is true (academically correct) but that it matters. President Lincoln, to jump back to my previous thought, was indeed tall and thin. True, but so what? The Bible is true. But so what?
The Bible has so much to offer. If our belief is “OK, it’s true, but so what?” We still do not really believe it the way Jesus told us to believe it.
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
This is not telling us we work to earn our way to heaven. It is telling us that belief in God that does not also produce an application of the truth in our lives is not a saving belief. We are talking about an outward evidence of inward belief. A fire that produces no heat is no fire. Belief that produces no evidence is more than likely only an academic belief.
As James writes in James 2:14 “what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (Works here is all righteous behavior that conforms itself to God’s word. Are you walking the walk, or only talking the talk?)
“can that faith save him?” A more accurate translation of that phrase would be “Can that kind of faith save him?” Is a belief that doesn’t make a difference in the way we live really to even be considered belief?
At this point some will balk. Are we to go verse by verse through the Bible and do exactly everything we see? Animal sacrifices, no bacon, multiple wives, wipe out our enemies to the last man, woman, and child?
Why don’t we look at scripture itself to see how it is to be understood and applied? We would be well served at this point to read 2 Timothy, the whole of chapter 3. But for now, verses 16 and 17 will make the point.
“all scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching (not necessarily always copying, but always for learning lessons from) for reproof (calling out our own wrong behaviors which are built on wrong beliefs) for correction (when we see our wrong behaviors, which come from our wrong beliefs, what do we do about it?) and for training in righteousness (Even if we are acting and believing correctly, we can always continue to improve, can’t we?) So that the man (or woman, of course) of God (remember to whom you now belong) may be complete (able to do all you have been called to do) equipped for every good work.”
I absolutely believe this. I believe every passage of scripture has something worthwhile to teach. We learn from bad examples. We learn from good examples. Sometimes it takes more than a single verse or two to find it. But there is always something to find – always a lesson to learn about our thought life, that drives our actions. Join me as I put this assumption to the test. Lets pick a text most people cannot even find. Lets dig into Nahum.