KNOWING THE TRUTH OR BEING RIGHT
Look at these two questions; "Do you believe in God?", and "Do you believe that God exists?" Do you believe in God? What kind of belief? Do you simply believe God exists? What is different about these two questions? Are they really the same question asked in different ways, or are they two different questions?
As a child I was raised to believe, and in my child's mind, my belief was in the existence of God; that He was there, in Heaven. My family went to services on Sunday (sometimes), and in my smaller world, everybody believed because everybody was at church. And my world view was that my belief in God simply meant that God existed; He was!
This position is a tacit belief that God exists. It’s merely a mental assent and recognition of a supreme being. This position assumes that God is there, watching over His world. This belief simply asserts that there are two positions; belief and non-belief. Belief (there is a God), and non-belief (there is no God).
Perhaps the most familiar and most quoted bible verse is John 3:16; "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." NIV
I have had many conversations over the years about what this verse really means. Some would say that simply believing in God's existence (or presence) is what this verse implies. If mere belief in His existence is what this verse means, then anyone who holds to the tacit belief inherits eternal life. My question to us is this; 'What is the truth regarding this verse?' What kind of belief are the scriptures speaking of?
In the letter from James (the oldest of Jesus' four younger brothers) to the scattered Jewish people throughout the known world, James admonished his fellow countrymen regarding belief; "You believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that - and shudder." James 2:19NIV. This is an example of mental assent or agreeing that God does in fact exist.
The apostle Paul writes: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made (created), so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20 NIV. So then, we see that the creation itself testifies to the existence of God. We should be able to bring ourselves into the belief of God’s presence simply because of the world around us (and the stars for that matter) that He created.
Now, back to the question of belief. Does mere belief in God’s existence bring us is into the state of inheriting eternal life [John 3:16]? If the devil and his angels believe and tremble [James 2:19], then a mere admission or belief that God exists is not sufficient to inherit eternal life. Our belief must be more than an acknowledgment that God does indeed exist. Our belief must be a belief that includes faith, and faith is the catalyst that moves us to think and act in the way our God wants us to live, not just a mere acceptance that God is. “Faith comes from hearing (understanding) and hearing (understanding) comes from the Word of God.” Romans 10:17
Our spiritual maturity is directly connected to our understanding – more understanding, more maturity. One way to look at this is to think about how we read our bible. Do we read it like a magazine subscription or do we study it? Look at it another way; what was the last scripture or passage that changed the way you think or behave? When you can answer that, you can know that your belief and faith are moving you in the right direction.
Always seeking truth,