TLP 99: Why Do Your Children Believe What They Believe? | The Merest Christianity, Part 5
There is so much confusion about the nature and object of faith. But without a solid, biblical understanding, we won’t be able to parent our children in a Christ-honoring way. Join AMBrewster as he reveals this merest of Christianity’s virtues.
AMBrewster on Twitter
Need some help? Write to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com
Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
What is faith? What does it really mean to believe something?
Questions like these must be answered, and they must be answered biblically before we can hope to parent our children biblically.
And I would highly recommend that you don’t assume you know the answer. You very well may, but if you’re anything like I was so long ago, you may find that your working understanding of faith isn’t biblically informed.
And if you’re just now joining us in this study, since we’re starting Part 5, I’d highly recommend you go pack to Part 1 and get caught up.
We’ve been working through this material more inductively and purposefully. I believe you’ll appreciate where we’ve come if you take the journey with us.
But back to the topic at hand in a minute.
If you have a marriage, parenting, or general family question you’d like us to discuss on the show, please send us your questions at TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com. We want so badly for our show to be practical, applicable, and relevant to your family life. We want to apply God’s Truth to your family’s experience.
We recently received some wonderful feedback about how much many of you enjoyed Jessica Mair’s interview about tattling. That’s great! What else would you like us to discuss?
We look forward to working through your questions as soon as possible.
Okay, so today we’re dissecting — what I believe is — The Merest Christianity.
This is a big deal. What we’re going to discuss today may well completely upend how you parent your kids, so let’s jump right in.
Remember, your kids do what they do and say what they say and feel what they feel because they want what they want. And they want what they want because they believe what they believe. But what is belief?
Unger’s Concise Bible Dictionary defines faith like this, “In its simplest concept, faith is personal confidence in God.”
The same Dictionary also says, “To ‘believe’ in a biblical sense involves more than the mere intellectual assent to fact. The New Testament concept of believing means to trust in, to have faith in, to repose upon, to commit oneself to. To truly believe therefore includes not only the passive assent of the mind but also the action of the will. ‘Whoever believes in him’ (John 3:16) means whoever trusts in God’s Son so as to become united to him in life and destiny.”
God defines faith this way in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
If you get nothing else out of today’s discussion, please get this . . . belief is not knowledge. Faith is not agreement. Trust is not a collection of facts.
One of the most damning lies in the whole world is that faith doesn’t need an object.
I remember back in grad school, I had hair stylist. That’s right. I had a stylist. Laugh it up and move on. Anyway, one day I was talking to her about my classes at Bob Jones Seminary, and my stylist chimes in and says, “That’s cool. I have faith too.”
So, my natural reaction was to ask, “Awesome. What do you have faith in?”
And I remember her looking at me like I just asked her how many scrambled eggs it would take to turn a triangle into symphony. She hesitated a moment and said, “I have faith.”
This encounter has been repeated a number of times in my life because people think there’s this plane of spirituality that is a mindless and emotional vacuum called faith. But faith must be founded on something. Like Hebrews 11 says, faith is an assurance in a guaranteed future reality. It’s a conviction in something we know, even though it hasn’t happened yet.
Let me speak quickly to the work “hope” in Hebrews 11:1 and then move on. Some of you know this, but it’s important to be reminded that when the Bible says “the assurance on things hoped for,” it’s not using the word “hope” with the current cultural connotation. This word doesn’t mean, “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” No, this word refers to a guaranteed reality that hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Now, this is an important point to make because we normally use sentences like, “faith is knowing something is going to happen.” Or, I believe it’s going to happen because I know what God says.
And this leads us into the second most damning lie in the world. If the first lie is that faith doesn’t require an object, the second is thinking that believing in something is the same as mentally accepting something.
Let me put it this way. I know that two plus two is four. I’ve learned it and worked it out. I’ve seen it proven. Though there was an element of faith required early on in my learning process, since then basic addition is a fact to which I’ve mentally assented. Most of us don’t get into too much trouble in these areas, unless of course we refuse to accept that two plus two is four or that gravity doesn’t exist . . . then there are consequences.
But there are some things that require a mix of knowledge and faith. For example, I have scientific and experiential data that tells me that chairs are good things on which to sit. However, sitting in a chair also requires a little faith. How many of us know someone who put their faith in a chair only to have it fail them? Has that ever happened to you? What I know about chairs doesn’t always hold up. This chair may not submit to the scientific and experiential knowledge I’ve accepted about chairs. This category, unfortunately, causes more people trouble than the previous one. We know the science and experience of drug abuse, but how many of your children have gotten involved with illicit substances because they don’t believe it will happen to them? The same reality goes for any sin. There’s plenty of evidence that your child’’s sin will find them out, and yet your kids hide it anyway. Adultery hurts everyone involved, and yet people choose to believe that it won’t affect their family the same way. And here we’re starting to see the difference between knowing something and believing something. I can know the chair is safe and not believe it. I can know that sin is destructive, but not believe it.
And that leads us to the final category. There are things — eternally vital things — that require 100% faith. And this is where we really get in trouble. None of us know how the world came into existence. None of know that Jesus Christ died on the cross and resurrected on the third day. None of us know that when we die will spend eternity heaven.
*record scraping sound*
And all of a sudden a bunch of you are seriously questioning my understanding of the Bible. But wait just a minute before you hit stop.
We can know what the Bible says about Creation. We can know what other people say about what the Bible says about Creation. I totally believe we need to be studying apologetics and teaching it to our children. We need to be knowledgable and wise. But we weren’t there. We have to trust that what God says is accurate. We need to have faith that the person who taught us is being faithful to the Scriptures. We need to believe that the writer of the Scriptures is telling the truth. We do not know.
This is why people struggle with the Bible. It requires belief. We can use apologetics to show people that the Truth of the Bible is — in fact — viable, but we can’t argue anyone into true salvation. They must come to a place where they choose to put their confidence in the Truth. They need to believe it.
And that’s exactly how life is supposed to be.
Let me say that if this makes you uncomfortable, it should.
We and our children are such control-freaks. We want to know everything with all certainty. We want to have experiential evidence that everything will work out just as we planned, but we . . . aren’t . . . God. The best we can do is trust Him. And that requires faith.
Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by his faith.”
In Romans 1:17 Paul quotes the Habakkuk passage when he says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
I love Matthew 14:25-31, “And in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
In that moment, Peter knew Jesus could walk on the water, but he had to believe that Jesus could cause him to walk on the water. But once he was in the middle of the storm, even though he had successfully walked on the water for at least a little — so he could then say he knew Jesus could cause him to walk on the water — Peter took his eyes off Christ and allowed the waves around him to convince him that despite all he knew and had experienced, Jesus wasn’t trustworthy to keep him afloat. And he sank. And when Jesus got them both back in the boat, the first thing He said was, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is so powerful! What you know is not the same as what you believe. And — let me stop here to strongly encourage you to listen to “The Four Children" series if you haven’t already — because this is why a Rocky Hearted child can know everything there is to know about the Bible, and live his whole life free of persecution and testing because of the word, and stand before Christ, and Jesus will look him in the eye and say, “I don’t know you. Depart from me.” And that child will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire because he knew about God, but didn’t believe in God.
Every year I have boys come to Victory Academy who say they’re saved because they prayed a prayer, or because they have some biblical knowledge, but they’re not saved because they don’t really believe. To this point, I also encourage you to listen to episode 45, “The Second Most Important Question to Ask Your Kids.” You can ask your child all day long if they’re born again, a child of God, a Christian, saved, recipient of grace, justified, or whatever terminology you want to use. And anyone can say, “Yes.” But when you ask them the second most important question, “How do you know you’re born again?” what you’re really getting at is whether or not they believe what God says. Listen to the episode, you’ll better understand what I mean.
Let me share with you an illustration I heard while I was at the ACBC conference. Keith Palmer said something like this: Imagine you’re on a plane and the pilot tells you that the plane is going to crash and no one will survive. He then tells everyone to pull out the parachute from under their seats, put it on, and jump out of the plane. Faith in your parachute is not knowing how parachutes work. Faith is not remembering all the statistics you’ve heard about the success rates of parachuting. Faith is not telling yourself it will be okay. Faith in your parachute is not putting the parachute on. Faith is not telling everyone else to put their chutes on. Faith is not pushing other people out of the plane. Faith isn’t praying that everything will be okay. Faith in your parachute is putting the chute on and jumping out of the plane.
Remember what we learned last time? Faith without works is dead. If your behavior doesn’t march in step with your belief, then you don’t really believe . . . it doesn’t matter what you say or what you know. If your actions don’t submit to your faith, then you may have every verse in the Bible memorized, but your faith is dead. And dead faiths don’t save anyone.
I really need to move on, but I just can’t stress this point enough. You and your kids don’t do what you do because you know what you know. You do what you do because you believe what you believe.
Now, I don’t want to complicate this issue, but there’s an important point that needs to be made about how many kinds of faith there are. There are actually three kinds of faith. And it’s this complication that causes so much confusion in Christianity.
If you were to tell your born again child, “You’re sinning because you don’t believe God.” Your child might say, “What are you talking about? Of course I believe God!” Well, yes and no.
The first kind of faith is a Dead Faith. Basically, it’s not faith. It’s a delusional knowledge that masquerades as faith. Or it’s a faith in some things that doesn’t embrace everything God says about salvation. In the same passage that talks about dead faith with no works, James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” The demons believe in God with a Dead Faith. Their choices don’t submit to their belief. That means that if your faith doesn’t produce a lifestyle that glorifies God, your faith is no better than the demons who will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. And actually, I believe the demons come out a little better than we do, because at least the demons are shuddering. They may not submit to Christ, but they’re afraid of Him because they believe He is Who He says He is. They at least have some actions that align with their faith. I will mention this, a born again believer can have a dead faith. Hold a minute and I’ll explain how.
The second kind of faith is Saving Faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” John 3:16 tell us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But my favorite passage on this subject is John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”
The beautiful thing about saving faith is that once we’ve put our faith in Christ to save us, He does the miraculous work of sustain and preserving our faith. No one — not even ourselves — can take us from the hand of God.
But then there’s the third kind of faith; it’s called Sanctifying Faith. In Matthew 17:19-20 we learn, “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Now, does having “little faith” mean we have “little salvation?” Are we teetering on the edge of losing our salvation or something?
In Mark 4 we read that Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat and a storm came up on the Sea of Galilee that was so powerful these seasoned fishermen thought they were going to die. Jesus is awoken, and with a word He calms the storm. And then he turns to His disciples — many of which are genuine believers at this time — and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Does that mean they lost their salvation?
No, Sanctifying Faith is the daily trust we put in God and His commands for our life choices. This is why not every Christian is perfect the moment they’re saved. This is also why some bear fruit that’s thirtyfold, and some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. Our conformity to the image of Christ and our maturity is a result of the strength of our Sanctifying Faith.
Now, I’ve already taken a lot of time, but this is so important, and I want to make it applicable to you and your family.
If your child is not born again, their faith is either nonexistent or Dead. Even if they believe there’s a God, that’s not sufficient to be born again and sealed by the Spirit. They do what they do because if God doesn’t exist or isn’t knowable, there’s really nothing worth living for except yourself. God created all humans to be worshippers. Your children either have to worship God or worship themselves. Even if they do wonderful things for other people, if they’re not saved, the only motivation they can have for being nice to other people is that they like being nice or it benefits them. Their every word and action is a direct result of what they believe about God, His Word, and themselves. This is why being the Evangelist Parent we talked about in Episode 63 is so important if your child isn’t bearing fruit of repentance.
As for your born again children, though they may have put their faith and trust in the shed blood of Christ to save them from their sins and are sealed by the Spirit and preserved by the Father, their growth from glory to glory is a direct result of whether or not they believe what God says about the Christian life.
Now, I mentioned earlier that you born again child can have a Dead Faith. In fact, all Christians can and do multiple times a day. Any time we sin, the faith we claim to have in God is not working itself out in our actions. It’s like saying we have faith in our parachute, but then fashioning our own wings, leaving the chute on the plane, and trying to fly toward the sun like Icarus.
Just like Saving Faith is the key element in our Evangelism Parenting, Sanctifying Faith must be the crux of our Ambassador Parenting.
Now, I decided to add an additional, closing episode to this series where I’m going to do nothing more than give you practical examples of how this works and how you can use this truth with your Revolving Priorities we learned in Episode 39.
But for now, let me give you one example: Let’s use the tattling illustration from Episode 93. If your born again child comes to you tattling because she loves herself more than she loves her sibling or she wants to get him in trouble and hurt him like he hurt her, then you can know that your daughter is doing what she’s doing, saying what she’s saying, and feeling what she’s feeling because she wants something. And you can also know that she wants what she wants because she’s believing something about God, His Word, and herself.
Your job as a parent is to help her submit to Christ. Conforming her mere actions and words will never address her heart. Even telling her to change her attitude is nearly impossible unless she understands the connection her emotions have with her beliefs.
The single best thing you can do in that situation is help your daughter figure out what she’s believing about the situation. And in a sinful scenario like this, there are two types of belief problems. First, she’s not believing Truth, and second she’s believing a lie.
You need to help her understand the lie she’s chosen to accept, and help her see how believing that lie is an attack on the God of the universe.
And I’ll give you some more assistance in that responsibility next time and the time after that.
Wow. I feel like I really blew through that. It’s so important. This is it. If we ask ourselves, “Why do I believe what I believe?” the answer is this — I choose to. Belief is simply that. It’s a choice. No amount of knowledge or experience or facts or examples are necessary to believe. We’ve all met people who heard the tiniest piece of Truth in a salvation tract and they believed it with all their heart, while others choose to reject God despite all they’ve been taught and all they’ve experienced and all they know.
It’s just a choice.
You either choose to believe God or not. Ken Collier puts it this way, “Just two choices on the shelf: Pleasing God or pleasing self.”
That’s it, my friends.
Now, please don’t underestimate the importance and difficulty of parenting in this Truth, but the concepts are simple enough.
Remember, I want to equip you to actually use this Truth in your own life and then let it overflow into your kids’ lives.
For now, though, I want to make you aware of a special opportunity. I’ve encouraged you to go to our Patreon page if you believe the Lord would be glorified by you supporting TLP every month. But we not have a new way you can be a blessing to this ministry and the family it serves. If you go to TruthLoveParent.com, you will learn that there are five different ways you can support TLP. One of those ways is to sponsor an episode. For a one time gift of $10 you can sponsor an upcoming episode. There’s no commitment beyond that. Now, there’s plenty more I could say, but from now on the support TLP link in the description is going to link you to TruthLoveParent.com where you’ll see all the information about every way you can support us.
You'll also be able to find today’s episode notes posted in Taking Back the Family. Of course, if you join The TLP Family you’ll receive an email every time we post something new on our blog.
Okay, so if faith is The Merest Christianity, then we need to ask a very important question: faith in what? Our next episode is called “Truths Your Kids Need to Believe.” We’ll discuss the nature of faith, belief, and trust a little more, and we’ll talk about the fact that even though belief and knowledge aren’t the same thing, you can’t believe in something you don’t know exists. I’ll explain that more next time.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that we’d love to answer your questions on a future show, so please send us those questions to TeamTLP@truthloveparent.com
You may not be as excited as I am about today’s talk, but I believe you will be as you study it more. This is the key that unlocked a deeper understanding of my God and my relationship with him. This changed me on a spiritually molecular level, and I pray it will be an important part of your family's maturity.
See you next time.
Leave a Reply.
Join The TLP Family and receive email updates when we publish new articles and episodes.
Subscribe to Our Podcast