I recently read an article on how to spot a liar.
Maybe I can save you some time and summarize what I learned from it. It is very tough. I know I have never been very good at telling when someone is lying to me. But I think the most difficult kind of liar to spot is the one who has actually gone and deceived himself.
Obviously, we all know, it is very possible to fool others into believing something that is not true. It is also possible though to fool yourself.
This is certainly the case when it comes to ones relationship with God. It is completely possible to fool other people into thinking you are a Christian because you are saying the right things about Jesus and yet not be a Christian. It is also possible to actually think you are a Christian when you are not.
Now, I am sure, some of us, we have known that for a long time. But for others of us, we hear that, and we are like, wait, what?
Is it really possible for a person to go to church, listen to the Bible, know the facts about God and Jesus, and even verbally agree with those facts, to even think he is right with God and still not actually be a Christian?
Jesus’ answer, is pretty clearly, yes.
That’s a big part of his point with the story about the two houses at the end of his sermon on the plain in the gospel of Luke.
You have these two people who come to Jesus and hear Jesus, and so they both look like they are interested in Jesus, and yet the one person does what he says and the other person, does what he wants instead, and Jesus says, those two choices, have very different results.
“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like, he is like a man building his house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on a rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
And ultimately, obviously, he’s talking about judgment.
Even though the one person comes to Jesus, hears Jesus, verbally respects Jesus, because of the way he responds to Jesus, at the end of the day, he’s going to be judged. And I know, we like to think, that there are only two categories, people who say they are Christians and are, and people who say they aren’t Christians and aren’t, but there’s a third category, people who say they are Christians, but aren’t, and it’s not just Jesus either who stresses that, it’s all the other writers of the New Testament as well.
I think in particular about his half brother, James.
Like take for example, what he says in James chapter 2, verse 14.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?”
And he is asking a question.
James is kind of like, all right, here’s someone who says he has faith, and ok, I am not going to argue about whether he think he has faith or even whether or not he has a kind of faith, I will grant you that, but what I do want to know, is what’s the good of him having that kind of faith, if the kind of faith he has does not produce works or obedience?
Can that specific kind of faith, the faith that doesn’t produce works, save him?
And his answer is no.
It really can’t.
Because it’s dead.
“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
It’s a dead faith.
He compares it later to the faith of devils, where, they know the right information about God and even have an emotional reaction to God, they shudder, but that doesn’t do them any good. It doesn’t save them from judgment.
Which should I think cause us to start asking ourselves, some questions.
That’s the point.
Like, do I have saving faith?
Is my Christianity real?
I can hardly think of any question more important than that. If not everyone who says they are a Christian is a Christian, if it is possible to be deceived, if there’s a kind of faith that doesn’t save, then it makes sense to ask, what kind of faith do I actually, have?
Obviously you are not saved by how much faith you have, you are saved by Jesus. But Jesus saves through faith, a certain type or quality of faith, and so it’s good, to ask yourself do I have the kind of faith that actually unites me to Jesus? Not probably, maybe, every day, we are not always having to go around asking questions, testing, but at least at some point, we do have to take a good look at ourselves.
It’s actually commanded, 2 Corinthians 13:5.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
And you have to test yourself a little, because we are usually so easy on ourselves, and the way a lot of people excuse themselves is just by saying they have faith, I believe, when what they mean is they know some facts about God and Jesus and agree with those fact, when actually if you look at their faith a little more closely, you’ll see, they are deceiving themselves, and maybe others.
But not, at the end of the day, God.
And so, I think this is really important, I want us to be able to answer this question, I really do, am I a Christian, and to be able to answer that question, I am saying, we have to know a little about what saving faith looks like.
It’s good to know what saving faith is not, hey, that’s dead faith, but it is another thing to know what it is and in the next several blogs, we’ll be turning our attention to God’s Word, to discover His answer to that very question. What is saving faith?