Are We Unbelieving Believers?

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What does it mean to be a “believer in Jesus Christ? The vast majority of Christians think that it means “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth and died for my sins. He rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into Heaven, and will one day come again.” 

These basic ideas make up the heart of the Apostle’s Creed—the creed that has served as the definition of what constitutes traditional Christianity since about 140 AD. If you believe those statements, you can legitimately call yourself a “Christian.” 

However, my thesis today is that believing those truths does not necessarily make you a “believer who is believing.” What do I mean?

The word “believe” – pisteuo – means “to entrust,” or to “put faith in.” It is more than simply to give mental assent. It means that you can’t have biblical faith and be a believer in a chair while standing up. You cannot say, “I believe in that chair to hold me up when I sit in it” and be a believer in that chair. Pisteuo means you must entrust yourself or give yourself fully, in every way, to that chair. You can only believe in that chair, biblically, when sitting in it!

Those of us who have had an experience with the Lord have done that, and we became “believers.” However,  Paul says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). Paul says salvation is just the beginning, the introduction, to a relationship with our Heavenly Father that continues just as it began, i.e., daily, moment by moment, looking at, recognizing, and fully owning my sins and then humbly repenting. 

I am shocked at the sins my Daddy continues to lovingly show me as I am learning to walk in this way. An example I have shared before is particularly pertinent here. One Sunday morning several years ago, I concluded my Sunday morning sermon, closed my Bible, and prayed the concluding prayer. Then, looking up at the congregation, I thought to myself, “Wow, Andrews! What a sermon! You had ‘em in the palm of your hand. What insight! The depth of your exegesis, the breadth of your understanding! Amazing!” and then waited for the congregation to come up and congratulate me.

I saw it—for the first time in 30 years of preaching—and I know I had done the same thing after every sermon all during that time. The Lord had graciously, kindly and lovingly, taken the scales from my eyes and shown me my sin. I was seeking glory for myself, plain and simple, when all I know and whatever gifts I may have are all from HIm, and He deserves, literally, all the glory! 

I was mortified (I somehow, foolishly, expected more of myself) and eagerly repented. But, lo and behold, I did the same thing the next Sunday, and then the next, and every Sunday afterwards; I even think this way each week as I send out these blog postings! Self-seeking, self-aggrandizement, and self-promotion are who I am; it is worked into my very nature, and there is nothing I can do about it as long as I am imprisoned in this “body of corruption.” 

Am I actually saying that there is no hope to improve, to somehow shed this incredible preoccupation with myself and my “abilities,“ my “accomplishments,” and my “successes?” 

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, but those now-recognized sins are not disappointing, depressing, or discouraging. As a matter of fact, recognizing—1.) I am a hopeless failure in all my attempts to get out of myself and be a “good” person, and 2.) facing, embracing, and repenting for my failure—are the first two steps toward “sitting in the chair of faith” and becoming a “believing believer.” 

However, we do not stop here. There is a third and final event our loving Heavenly Father has for us to experience in our walk of faith. 

Just as we now see with spiritual eyes and embrace the depths of our sin, we will also see, with those same eyes, to embrace the depths of what happened at the cross: our utter, complete eternal forgiveness! “It is Finished!,” cried Jesus on that cross. 

Do you believe that the judgment of a holy, righteous God was poured out there on the Lamb of God, who died on that cross for the sins of the whole world? If so, does that not mean that God has no wrath left? He is no longer a “just God” toward His people, meting out judgment with a furrowed brow in the cosmic court of divine justice. He is now ruling the world as only a loving God toward His subjects, His people—because of the cross! Believe it, because it’s true!

What does that mean? It means that God is never disappointed, discouraged, disgusted, or displeased with you, even if you let him down, fall into heinous sin, curse HIm, deny Him, or even become His enemy. Since the cross, with His justice satisfied, He has loved us just as Jesus told us we will one day love our own enemies—by His Holy Spirit living in us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27, 28). For a believing believer, this command becomes a promise!

Yes, He will discipline you—“take you to the woodshed”—when necessary, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”

But that discipline is always from an overflowing heart of love. He is saying, “Don’t worry. I’ve got it. I’ll take care of that with some ‘severe blessing’ I’ll be faithful to send your way that will fix you right up!” It is not punishment for your sin—that was all expended on Jesus at the cross—but loving discipline to train you and bring you to maturity.

So, the final event in becoming a believing believer, after seeing your sin and repenting of it, is to BELIEVE that in the very midst of that sin, God’s love and forgiveness for you never wavers. You are the apple of His eye just like you are, His favorite child, and He would give His life for you—and He did!

You are the little four-year-old child with his/her hand in Daddy’s, walking through life, watching Daddy take care of everything—lodging, food, education, activities—and hearing Him tell you time after time, “Don’t worry, I got it.” You have now become a believing believer!

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  1. Bob Peck says:

    So, unlike when people go bankrupt, break a leg, or suffer some other calamity, then say “who God loves he chastens,” in reality, God corrects more like a good teacher who says “well, you didn’t pass the test, so, I’m keeping you after class to pour everything I’ve got into you until you do pass the test, graduate, and go on to bigger and better things.” That’s a whole different kind of correction than thinking God is a father who corrects us by breaking our leg. 

  2. Roemer Family says:

    The chair analogy is helpful – You cannot say, “I believe in that chair to hold me up when I sit in it” and be a believer in that chair. Belief is an action that requires faith. Many can say they BELIEVE, but it doesn’t mean they have RECEIVED Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Even the devil BELIEVES in God and Jesus. So I think a better term for a truly saved individual is to call them a ‘Receiver’ (as opposed to just a ‘believer’). Thank-you for your insight!

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