Saturday, June 14, 2014

Non-saving faith vs True saving faith

James 2:19 "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."

Today's post features a curious statement made by James that designates a type of faith that we could term "non-saving faith". In James 2:14-26 James is discussing saving faith versus non-saving faith.  James deals with this subject practically in James 2:14-17 and then illustrates what he is talking about in both the doctrinal realm in 2:18-25 and physical realm in 2:18. The point of James' discussion is that true saving faith will produce works, whereas counterfeit, non-saving faith produces nothing.  James 2:18 represents the heart of James' discussion: "But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Among the details of James' discussion is an extreme illustration he gives of demons having a kind of faith in James 2:19. Such a verse may seem shocking to some, being that it is hard to imagine demons having any faith at all.  Yet the demonic realm is classified as having their doctrine right but clearly their choices, lifestyle and very nature betraying what they profess. In today's post we want to look at what distinguishes non-saving false faith from saving true faith. 

Demons and non-saving faith
Let the reader take note of the many times demons made some amazing statements to Jesus or about Jesus, and how it was clear that their faith was non-saving faith:

Matthew 8:29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (ESV)

Mark 1:24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.” (ESV)

Mark 5:7 "And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

Luke 4:33-34 "And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.” (ESV)

Acts 16:17 "And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.” (ESV)

Acts 19:15 "But the evil spirit answered them “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (ESV)

The statements recorded here in sacred scripture reveal an orthodoxy among the demonic realm that would score an "A" on any theology exam.  However with regard to their practice (their orthopraxy), they would all score a big fat "F". Why? In all of the instances just recorded, we can note the actions that followed and understand why James used such an extreme illustration in 2:19 to warn readers about the non-saving faith that truly is tantamount to having the faith of a demon.

1. Non-saving faith is selfish
2. Non-saving faith recognizes judgment but not salvation
3. Non-saving faith loves darkness more than Jesus
4. Non-saving faith bears no-fruit
5. Non-saving faith destroys the soul
6. Non-saving faith chooses to run away from Jesus

Such non-saving faith grows like a look-alike weed (a tare) alongside true believers in this world. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Non-saving faith will ultimately choose to protect the interests of the one exercising it rather than see Jesus Christ as more excellent than the praises of men. (John 12:42-43) Such non-saving faith will get religious rather than exercise true repentance. Non-saving faith craves the excitement that comes with the Spirit's illuminations in the Gospel rather than partake and ingest the Christ of the Gospel to Whom the Spirit points. (Hebrews 6:1-8) The Apostle Paul even warns of how in the last days there will be people in congregations who gather to themselves teachers who will cater to their flesh and turn their ears away from the truth in non-saving faith. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

So how do we make sure we have saving faith?
First and foremost, if you are claiming to be a follower of Christ, and if you find yourself asking the question: "So then how do we make sure we do not have non-saving faith?", then be encouraged because only true saving faith would have such genuine concerns. Secondly, true saving faith is described by what it pursues and clings to - Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried and risen for your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Note this encouragement right after a scathing warning about false-faith in Hebrews 6:9-11 "But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end." Genuine faith has things that accompany it.

Then thirdly, true saving faith is fruitful. James' whole point in his discussion in James 2 is that the one who possess true saving faith will bear fruit. Jesus notes in Matthew 7:16-19 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits."

Closing thoughts
If in the course of reading this post you discover that you do not have true, saving faith, then take heed to the clear direction of scripture in Romans 10:8-10 "But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

If on the other hand you know in whom you have believed in, and know that He is able to keep that which was committed unto Him until the time of His return (2 Timothy 1:12), then take heed of these instructions from Jude 20-25 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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