April 18, 2017

True or False?

One of my cousins holds a position in a denomination and claims that her hope is in Christ. She is a nice person and we connect on many levels, but when it comes to faith and the Word of God, I sense a barrier. Her ‘faith’ is not the faith that Scripture clearly describes.

Today’s devotional speaks of ‘false faith’ and the difficulty of detecting it, yet Jesus knew it. He knows the hearts of people . . .

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23–25)

They “believed in his name” but something was missing.

In other passages, Jesus describes these who claim to believe and appear to have faith, but He said they did not and their false faith could be recognized by their fruit. This is a euphemism for what faith produces. Christians are filled with love, joy, goodness, etc. (see Galatians 5:22-23) but not false teachers:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20)

This ‘bad fruit’ can be hidden behind a show of goodness, good deeds, and so on, but Jesus knows the heart. The quality of our fruit will eventually show up, particularly in trials or when tested by opposition.

Obedience to the will of God is another marker. False faith may claim to do God’s will, but Jesus knows the motivation behind what they do. He distinguishes between ‘good works’ and actually doing His will . . .

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23)

That is, miracle workers and self-proclaimed prophets are not what they claim or appear to be because they do not have a person relationship with the Lord. In another passage, some said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28–29).  

In that conversation, Jesus goes on to explain that doing the will of God begins with first believing in Jesus and also relying on His very life for everything. The outer man can mimic the deeds, but cannot have the heart of Christ if they do not have a saving relationship with Him.

Another marker that differentiates true and false is ‘hearing and obeying.’ Jesus told them:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24–27)

Genuine faith follows through with obedience, yet faith is always the reason for those actions.

Today’s devotional goes on to say that false faith cannot produce a heart broken over sin, broken to the point that all it can do is cry for mercy, not use good works trying to earn God’s favor. True faith relies on Christ alone for salvation, on grace not works, on mercy not performance. True faith knows total helplessness.

False faith fails in the submission department too. Unless that sinful nature has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, it cannot believe or submit to Jesus as Lord. Even genuine Christians know how that old nature continues to attempt to ‘do its own thing.’ Without the glory of being made new, I would not be able to say yes to God. New birth changes the heart and without it, being ‘religious’ is a sham.

Jesus, You know who is who — and what each person believes. At times, I sense false faith in others, but cannot rely on that without being careful to look for obvious evidence. Better yet, I need to examine my own life, make sure that I am believing in You and giving evidence to my faith by staying true to what You say and how You tell me to live. Most of all, I need the integrity of living out what You have put in, of letting You rule my life from the heart. thank You for being my Savior and the Lord of my life. I let you down at times, but You never fail and are the One in whom I place my trust and my life.

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