Beliefs lead to faith, resulting in actions
Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2017
We can believe things without it making much difference but faith, a deep confidence, compels us to action. There are a number of Bible verses saying in essence, “faith without works is dead” so perhaps some only have beliefs. This article discusses beliefs that some of us consider key elements of Christian faith resulting in “on earth as it is in heaven.”
My initial points come from the New York Times, which I’ll agree is an odd source for this subject. However, one comment said, “it is ironic that the NYT may be the only major newspaper that keeps Christ in Christmas this year.” Before Christmas, there were three opinion articles in the NYT about Christianity. They were: “Humanizing Jesus” by Peter Wehner; “Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller?” an interview by Nicholas Kristof; and “Varieties of Religious Experiences” by Ross Douthat.
Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Center, said of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus that “God clearly wanted to instruct us about how we should live in this life.” Further he said of the Incarnation (Jesus as both God and human) that it “bestowed worth on people considered contemptible, unessential and valueless – ‘the least of these,’ as Jesus put it…. That Jesus love was undiscriminating and inclusive.” Further, “God can bestow mercy amid our struggles and that in time He can repair the broken areas of our lives.” Finally, Wehner says, “Jesus was far less concerned about rules than He was about relationships and reconciliation.”
As you might expect about half of the 271 comments to Wehner’s article were negative with one saying “pure nonsense.” Others used words such as “myth” and “fantasy.” However, what was VERY encouraging was what the other half said including: “To be a Christian it is also (in addition to believing fundamental truths) necessary to live like Christ in this world.” And, “The question is not what others have done with Jesus. It’s about what I’ve done with Jesus.”
Ross Douthat, Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, began his article by saying “It’s Christmas: indulge me” and later in the article says, “as a strictly intellectual matter, I am very confident that God exists.” He then ends saying, “all the varieties of religious experience …. should be interpreted in the light of one specific history-altering experience: a divine incarnation, a baby crying beneath a pulsing star.”
Nicholas Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, posed questions to Timothy Keller; a leading Evangelical minister. Kristof asked if believing in the virgin birth is an essential belief? Keller responded, “a religion can’t be whatever we desire it to be” and goes on to say “because Jesus was not just a great human being, but the pre-existing Creator God, He miraculously came to earth as a human being.”
In regard to the reality of resurrection Keller says, “The Christian Church is pretty much inexplicable if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection … There is nothing illogical about miracles if a Creator God exists but to prove that miracles could not happen, you would have to know beyond a doubt that God does not exist.” He concludes by saying, “The Bible is clear about two things. First salvation must be through grace and faith in Christ. Second God is always fair and just in all His dealings” as far as the inevitable question of what about people who have grown up away from any real exposure to Christianity.
Chuck Colson wrote a wonderful book titled “The Faith: What Christians believe, Why They Believe it, and Why It Matters.” Dr. Robert George, McCormick chair of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, says of Colson’s book, “he vividly presents the joy of Christian living and the astonishing power of Christian faith to transform lives and renew entire civilizations.”
Rev. Jan Tolbert, my minister, said, “it seems like the Christian faith has evolved into a faith that puts a great deal of emphasis on ‘right beliefs’ and less on our actions.” However, the above paragraphs have some “right beliefs” because the Christian faith includes certain beliefs. That said, the best way to see what is really important in our lives is to look at our check book/credit cards, calendar and emails/Facebook postings.
“How I should live this life, what have I done about Jesus, joy of Christian living, transformed lives, renewal, relationships and reconciliation,” all referenced above, point to examples of “right actions.” Actions of selfless love in the early church was the start of Christianity becoming the largest body of faithful believers in the world and it continues.
The above is but the tip of the Christian faith. Additionally, it is supported by about 5,000 years of history, archeological discoveries, scientists and other notable people living faithful Christian lives, many documented miracles and transformed people.
While some of the aforementioned quotes are rather highbrow God did give us a brain. Nonetheless it says in Matthew 18:3 “unless you become as children you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” referencing the humility, dependence and trust children have. Like children we need to be obedient to our Father.
If you want to have “blessed assurance” of your faith and Divine guidance of how you live out your faith I suggest regular church attendance at a Bible-centered church that seeks God’s will; having friends whose actions align with their profession of faith; daily devotions with prayer, Bible study, reading about the lives of great people of our faith such as C.S. Lewis and William Wilberforce; and all of this resulting in the Holy Spirit revealing God’s will for our daily lives.
Jeff is a commissioned Colson Fellow, served 12 years in the Georgia House of Representatives and sold his business in 2012.