"Do You Have Saving Faith or The Faith of Demons?"
It’s been nearly five years since I moved to Globe to serve as the pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church. Since then, it has been a privilege to write for this paper. Each week, I consider who my audience may be. Perhaps some are fellow believers who attend Bible-believing churches. Some may be non-believers who merely stumble upon the articles and read out of curiosity. However, I believe that some readers may be people who have the faith of demons.
What does this mean? James 2:19 tells us, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
If you were to ask strangers if they believe in God, what might most people say? According to a 2015 Gallop Poll, 75% of Americans identify as Christian. However, another poll from the Hartford Institute of Religious Research states that only about 20% actually attend church regularly. That's nearly 200 million people who claim to believe in God and be Christians, yet never step foot in a church. What is the disconnect?
Of course I am not equating salvation with church attendance. However, true followers of Christ, those who have been born-again by the Spirit of God and fully forgiven of their sins, should and will desire to be a dedicated member of the church (Hebrews 10:25). True Christians live in a way that points to the validity of their faith. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, but are not connected with His body (Romans 12:5), His church (Colossians 1:18, 24), what picture are you giving to the world? In other words, why should anyone believe you?
Consider this: If someone claimed to be a football fan but you saw no proof of their profession, what would you assume? "I'm a huge football fan! No, I don't have a favorite team. No, I don't watch the games. I don’t even know the rules..." Hmm... Doesn't sound much like a football lover, does it? You wouldn't believe this person despite their profession. So why then do we accept any person's fickle confession of Christian faith when they have nothing to support their words?
You see, it's one thing to believe in God, to believe that He is the Creator and giver of life. In fact, the Bible says it’s utter foolishness not to believe that. Still, the Bible makes it clear that even demons recognize the existence of God. However, demons are (obviously) not going to heaven! Demons are not saved from their sins! Demons are not pleasing to God! The faith demons have in God doesn't give them any good standing with God. It causes them to shudder because they know their end is near. They know they will spend eternity in the "lake of fire and sulfur” (Revelation 20:10). So why would we assume any different outcome for those with the same sort of faith demons have?
My point is not to be cruel but to help us see things clearly. There is a big difference between saving faith and the faith of demons. Which do you possess? Do you have faith in God? Does that faith cause you to shudder at your sin and to turn to Christ for forgiveness? Or does that “faith” simply cause you to check off the "Christian" box on the hospital form? Does your faith in God give you a deep desire to be with other believers in worship on a weekly basis (Hebrews 10:25), or simply to show up on Christmas Eve and Easter?
One of the scariest verses to me in the Bible is not the “fire and brimstone” passages, but Matthew 7:21-23. Here, Jesus points out a hard reality; namely, there are people who think they know Jesus and are following Him, when the truth is quite the opposite. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” These people claim service to Jesus, and what is His response? “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Because of false hope, because they have been deceived or are self-deceived, they will never truly come to know Jesus. I fear for their eternal destiny.
Do you truly know Jesus, and does He know you? I don’t want you to go about your life with a false hope. I don’t want you to die and stand before the holy Judge without Christ as your advocate. So I encourage you to question yourself right now. You see, in our modern American church we tell people to look back to their baptism, or the time they walked the aisle. We tell people not to question their standing with God because they’ve prayed the “sinner's prayer”, they attend church, or they read their Bible occasionally. However, the Bible says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
This may be a good place to start: 1. Do you hold fast to your confidence in Christ as your savior? Or does it depend on who you are with? (Hebrews 3:6)
2. Do you desire to live in obedience to God and His word in faith and morals? Or do you follow the whims of the flesh and the norms of culture? (Luke 6:46)
3. Are you growing in holiness and purity as the Spirit works in you? Or are you enslaved by the flesh? (1 John 3:3)
4. Do you desire to display the fruit of the Spirit which is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Or would you be better characterized by the works of the flesh? (Galatians 5:19-23)
5. Do you desire to be with God’s people? Is being part of the local church a priority? Or do you think that church is optional? (1 John 3:14, Hebrews 10:25)
Examine yourself while there is still time. Don’t go through life with a false hope! At the same time, don’t think that if you follow a list (like the one above), then that will make you right with God. No, testing yourself is a means of revealing your heart to yourself. No one else can do this for you. If you fail the test (as Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 13:5), your only hope is to call out to God. Humble yourself before God, recognize your failings, and trust in Christ alone. Then come to truly know Him through His holy inspired word, the Bible. “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
Do you see what I'm getting at? I can't judge your heart; only you and God can. But at the same time, I implore to do just that. Test yourself: examine your life and your actions. Do they reflect the life of one who has surrendered body and soul to Jesus? Or does your life reflect one whose faith is like that of demons?