Not so in North America. While we protest the removal of Christ from Christmas, in reality there is little persecution here. Perhaps because it is relatively without cost to “become a Christian” many claim to believe in Jesus, but really do not. Perhaps it is the thing to do, or they were raised in the church and make assumptions. Some claim faith when they really want ‘fire insurance.’ Sadly, far too many “believers” actually have no genuine saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
I know some of them. One is a sweet woman who is kind toward others. She seems as if she wouldn’t harm a fly, and talks about God in a nice way. Yet she does not know Jesus. Her niceness is a surface thing and sometimes the real person shows through, a person filled with anger and deceit.
How does this happen? We once attended a church where the pastor often spoke against what he called “easy believism” whereby a person was told if they “walked the aisle and prayed the sinner’s prayer” they were in. These people often have no idea what salvation is about.
For others, their “faith” is a temporary thing. They have problems in their lives and turn to God for solutions. When the problems go away, so does this “faith.” It is insufficient for eternal life.
Another “faith” is when a person assumes that because they believe God exists, or Jesus exists, or even that Jesus died for the sin of the world, that they are okay with God. However, James wrote, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!” (James 2:19) Such faith is not saving faith.
Saving faith is more than mere human decision. Jesus told Nicodemus that he could neither see nor enter the kingdom of God unless he was reborn spiritually, something only God can make happen (John 3).
In fact, God is involved in everything to do with believing in Jesus. Without God being at work, there is no salvation, no genuine faith. We cannot do this ourselves. The Apostle Paul was so concerned about the power of human persuasion, reasoning, and even manipulation, that he said:
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)How is this practical? First because it established the reality of my own faith. While people did talk to me, no one convinced me to become a Christian; it just happened. Jesus came into my life and I believed Him. I was not trying to believe, nor did I have any preconceived ideas. Not everyone has the same experience, but everyone who is genuinely saved recognizes the power of God in their salvation. They know they didn’t do it; God does it.
Second, this helps me when I want to share with others how they can have eternal life. I cannot talk them into it. If they are going to believe in Jesus, it must be because He is at work, not because I’m pushing, persuading, encouraging or convincing. Real faith is about Him, not about my presentation skills.
Of course I don’t like the “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” part, another issue in which I need God.