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If you’re just joining us, I’m going to ask that you do not listen to today’s episode. You really need to go back and start with episode 80. The previous three episodes will equip you with everything you need to understand and put today’s content into practice in your life.
But listening to today’s episode without the necessary foundation will — at best — create confusion, and — at worst — appear to be something it’s not.
The Celebration of God exists to help disciples of Christ grow in their walk with Him. We don’t want to do anything that would confuse that process.
Now, for those of you who are ready for Part 4, if this series has been a blessing to you in any way, will you please rate and review this show. The more people who find us and tell their friends about us and review us and share us on social media, the easier it will be to connect with disciples of Christ all over the world and help them experience A Year Long Celebration of God.
And don’t forget that we have free episode notes, transcripts, and tons of worship resources at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And — with that — let’s talk about how we can change what we believe — if we’re believing lies.
All sin is a result of worshipping self. We want to do something for our own glory and satisfaction, so we do it.
Therefore, in order to stop worshipping self and — instead — give that worship to God, we need to understand how to change what we want. We need to stop wanting to satisfy the Lusts of the Flesh, the Lusts of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life.
And last time we learned that we want what we want because we believe what we believe.
But was does it mean to believe something? Or we might ask, “What is faith?”
And I would agree that questions like these must be answered, and they must be answered biblically before we can hope to mature in our worship of God.
And — by the way — I would highly recommend that you don’t assume you know the answer. You very well may know the biblical answer to how to change our beliefs, but if you’re anything like I was so long ago, you may find that you’re working understanding of faith isn’t biblically informed.
So, let’s start by asking “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 with facts. Trust is not awareness of truth.
One of the most damning lies in the whole world is that faith is either a religious word for knowledge or it’s a blind acceptance in a higher power.
Let’s talk about the first one. Too many people in the world today are under the delusion that their 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 chimed in and said, “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 with a tinge of annoyance, “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 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 word “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 of 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 2 + 2 = 4. 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 has become a fact to which I’ve mentally assent.
And it’s safe to say that most of us don’t get into too much trouble in these areas, unless of course we refuse to accept that 2 + 2 = 4 or that gravity exists . . . then there are consequences.
But there are some things in this life 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 — pun intended. Any given chair may not submit to the scientific and experiential knowledge I’ve accepted about chairs.
At least 5 times in my life I have sat in a chair only to have it give out on me in one way or another. And, no, I’m not an excessively overweight individual. I’m just lucky, I guess.
This category of knowledge/belief, unfortunately, causes more people trouble than the previous one.
Many people know the science and experience of drug abuse, but how many of those exact same people 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 our sin will find us out, and yet we hide it anyway. Adultery hurts everyone involved, and yet people choose to believe that it won’t affect their family the same way it’s affected every other family.
And here we’re starting to see the difference between knowing something and believing something. I can know the chair is safe and still 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 us 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. And I totally believe we need to be studying apologetics and teaching it to other disciples of Christ.
We need to be knowledgable and wise. But we weren’t there to see any of it happen. We don’t have proof. We have evidence; but we don’t have proof.
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 writers of the Scriptures are telling the truth. We do not know.
And this is why people struggle with the Bible.
It requires belief.
We can use apologetics to show people the evidence that suggests the Bible is — in fact — true, 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. Faith is not the same as knowledge. I can believe something I don’t know, and I can know things I don’t believe.
And if this makes you uncomfortable, it should.
We and our fellow disciples of Christ are such control-freaks. We want to know everything with all certainty. We want to have experiential evidence that proof 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?’”
Peter knew Jesus could walk on the water — he was watching it happen — but he had to believe that Jesus could cause him to walk on the water. He had no proof of that.
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?”
That is so powerful!
What you know is not the same as what you believe.
Every single year I encounter people who say they know they’re saved because they prayed a prayer, or because they have some biblical knowledge, but they’re not really saved because they don’t really believe.
To this point, I want to encourage you to listen to an episode I did for Truth.Love.Parent. It’s called “The Second Most Important Question to Ask Your Kids.”
And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids. This is the second most important question you could ever ask anyone.
You can ask people all day long if they’re born again, if they’re 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 in His Word and can illustrate it in their lives. Listen to the episode, you’ll better understand what I mean.
Let me share with you an illustration I heard while I was at an 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 even 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.
Now, I really need to move on, but I just can’t stress this point enough. You and your fellow disciples don’t do what you do because you know what you know. You do what you do because you believe what you believe.
That means that if your actions contradict what you say you believe, your actions are telling the truth and your words are lying.
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 five kinds of faith that fit into two main categories.
And it’s this complication that causes so much confusion in Christianity.
If you were to tell your born again friend, “You sin because you don’t believe God.” Your friend will likely say, “What are you talking about? Of course I believe God!”
And that answer is both true and untrue.
Let me explain.
The first category of faith is Dead Faith.
And there are three kinds of Dead Faith.
1. The first is Misplaced Faith. Misplaced Faith is faith in something other than God. If I believe that Santa Claus will take me to his polar workshop when I die, then my faith placed in Santa is a Misplaced Faith.
Countless people in the Bible had misplaced faith. Jezebel and Ahab believed their false gods would save them, but they both experienced the wrath of the one living God.
2. The second Dead Faith is Confused Faith. This refers to someone who is personally deceived about what they believe. They’re convinced they believe in God, but really they just know things about God. They have confused knowledge of God with belief in Him. People who have confused faith live a confused life. They talk like they believe in God, but their life choices constantly betray what they profess.
I think Martha is a good example of this. Her brother, Lazarus, had just died. Jesus visited and said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha replies, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Martha knew that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. She knew He fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah, but in just a short time she would show that she didn’t really believe that Jesus was God in human flesh.
In fact, Jesus had to confront her about her unbelief. When Jesus commanded that the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb be removed, Martha cried out, “‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.’” But “Jesus *said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
Martha acquiesced to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, but she didn’t really believe it. Otherwise, she would have had complete trust that everything Jesus was going to do was exactly what needed to be done and shouldn’t have been contradicted by her . . . a mere mortal.
3. And the third Dead Faith is Partial Faith.
A good way to illustrate this is faith in Christianity instead of faith in the Gospel. Paul was a good example of this before he was converted. He — like the rest of the Pharisees — followed the Old Testament Law in all the wrong ways. He would say that he believed in Yahweh, and he thought his obedience of the Old Testament Law was proof of that fact. But the legalism of the Pharisees showed that they didn’t understand the God they claimed to worship. They believed God was judging them based on their works instead of understanding that God would save them based on their faith.
Part of what they believed about God was right, and a big part was wrong.
This happens all the time. When people claim to believe in Jesus, and they quote the Scriptures, and they devote their lives to following Christ, but — in their mind — Jesus’ love would never allow Him to send anyone to Hell . . . they’re not really believing in the Jesus of the Bible. They’re believing in their own false version of Him, a full faith in a partial Jesus.
Another good example of Partial Faith is the demons. In James we read, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
The demons don’t submit to God as their King. They do not believe they must, but they do believe that He is powerful. That’s why they shudder.
The demons have a right belief about the power of God, but they don’t have a right belief about the position of God. They still believe they can win.
Those three faiths are Dead Faiths because they are not belief unto salvation through a relationship with the true God of the Bible.
The second main category of faith is Living Faith, and there are two kinds of these.
The first 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 sustaining and preserving our faith. No one — not even we — can take ourselves out of God’s hand.
But then there’s the second kind of Living 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?” Were the disciples teetering on the edge of losing their 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 was awoken, and with a word He calmed the storm. And then he turned to His disciples — many of whom are genuine believers at this time — and said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Does that mean they lost their salvation? They didn’t have Living, Saving Faith?
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 and progressive growth 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 fellow disciples.
If you or your friends are not born again, your faith is Misplaced, Confused, or Partial. Either way, it’s Dead.
Even if you believe there’s a God, that’s not sufficient to be born again and sealed by the Spirit.
That means that you’re living for yourself. If God doesn’t exist or isn’t knowable, there’s really nothing worth living for except yourself.
Since God created all humans to be worshippers, you either have to worship God or worship yourself.
And even if you do wonderful things for other people, if you’re not saved, the only motivation you can have for being nice to other people is that you like being nice or you like the benefits of being nice. Your every word and action is a direct result of what you believe about God, His Word, and yourself.
Now, if you are born again, though you may have put your faith and trust in the shed blood of Christ to save you from your sins and are sealed by the Spirit and preserved by the Father, your growth from glory to glory is a direct result of whether or not you believe what God says about the Christian life.
Now, here’s the thing. Even a born again believer can exercise Dead Faith.
In fact, all Christians can and do have Dead Faith multiple times a day. Every 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.
Now, I want to end by revisiting the object lesson from our last episode.
I call that object lesson The Faith Knife. Obviously, you now understand why I don’t tell people that before I show them.
Also, I forgot to mention last time that the biggest part of the illustration was up to my nurse friend. The nurse was supposed to act like she was putting a knife under a bag, but she really just put it in her first aid kit.
Of course, every time I say that, I recognize that I exercised a lot of faith in The Faith Knife illustration as well. What if she hadn’t followed my instructions? I didn’t know for sure if she had done what I asked. I implicitly trusted her.
But we’re going to revisit the Faith Knife because we don’t just want to understand what faith is, we desperately need to understand how we can change our faith.
If I am a born again believer — I fully possess Saving Faith — but if I momentarily substitute my Sanctifying Faith for Partial or Confused Faith, I’m going to sin. If I believe that my lying or looking at pornography or stealing isn’t that big of a deal — it’s okay — then I’m believing a lie.
So I take my internet usage or my words or even my church attendance, and I offer it on the altar to self . . . believing that it’s not that big of a deal.
How do I change that? How do I not believe that same lie next time?
And — you know what’s really terrible about this illustration? I know that lying is a sin! I know that pornography is a sin! I know that stealing is a sin!
An unchurched, unsaved person doesn’t even know it’s a sin. They have a half-excuse. I don’t!
So, how do I change.
Well, do you remember Kelly from the Faith Knife?
I’ve just asked her to smash the final bag that she believes has a knife under it.
She doesn’t know it has a knife under it. She’d very much like to look under the bag so she could know one way or another, but she can’t. She either believes there’s a knife under the bag, or she doesn’t.
Let’s say that she’s completely convinced that there’s a knife under the bag. Will she smash it with her hand? No way, not unless she believes that maiming herself is a good idea.
So, how did she go from believing there was a knife under the bag to believing it was safe to smash the bag?
Remember, she was told to smash the bag, but didn’t do it immediately. Her actions, her words, and her emotions proved she didn’t want to smash the bag.
Well, according to Leeza, Kelly obeyed me because she trusted me. At what point did that happen?
I would argue — from having done the Faith Knife so many times — that it happened mere moments before she smashed the bag.
How did she go from almost crying and backing away to confidently smashing the bag? How did she go from interpreting her adrenaline response as fear to focusing that energy to doing what she was told with all her heart?
Here it is . . . she chose to trust me.
That’s it. It was a momentary choice. She was previously choosing to believe there was a knife under that bag that would hurt her, and then she chose to believe there wasn’t a knife that would hurt her.
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 about Him.
Faith is a choice.
You either choose to believe God or not.
As I’ve mentioned before, Ken Collier puts it this way, “Just two choices on the shelf: Pleasing God or pleasing self.”
That’s it, my friends.
Faith is believing that something is trustworthy because it’s true. Dead faith believes that all the wrong things are trustworthy. But Living Faith believes that everything God says is trustworthy.
Now, please don’t underestimate the importance and difficulty of living in this Truth. The concepts are simple enough, but the temptation to believe my own experience or lean on my own understanding or demand that I know everything before I trust — those temptations are so incredibly strong.
You do what you do, say what you say, and feel what you feel because you want what you want. And you want what you want because you believe what you believe.
And you believe what you believe because you choose to believe it.
So, if you want to mature in your worship of God, if you want to stop sacrificing elements of your life to self and instead give them to God, you must choose to believe that it’s necessary.
You need to choose to believe that sin is only ever going to displease God and destroy you. You need to choose to believe that God’s way really is best. You need to choose to believe that it doesn’t matter what you feel or think or what experiences you’ve had, God is completely trustworthy.
Now, we’re not done with this study.
There’s still one very important episode we need to have in order to truly grasp this biblical truth and put it into efficacious practice in our lives.
That’s why next time we’re going to talk about Learning, Understanding, and Trusting. We’re going to see the absolutely vital part that knowledge and understanding play in our ability to trust God.
And we’re going to talk about cake.
That’s right, I’m going to introduce you to another of my favorite objects lessons. It involves a simple choice that may or may not have lethal consequences.
I call it The Cake Illustration.
Please join me next time as we wrap up this study of how to grow our worship.
And please, as an act of worship to God, will you please trust Him this week? When you’re tempted to disobey His will, when you’re tempted to believe that He’s not in control, when you’re tempted to think it doesn’t matter what you do, please choose to trust God instead.
He promises to give you a way to escape every temptation, but you’re not going to take that way of escape if you don’t believe you have to.
Please choose to believe it.
I’ll see you next time.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.