“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:5)
There is a great deal of talk about “faith” these days. Having faith. Keeping the faith. People of faith. Faith values. Faith ministries. Stepping out in faith. Faith initiatives.
It seems just about everyone has faith.
But trying to discover the OBJECT of their faith and the SOURCE of their faith opens up a whole can of worms.
Because folks just don’t want to probe beneath the surface these days. It is an unspoken rule not to question when someone says they “love Jesus”. Or that they “believe in Jesus”.
We are taught not to question what someone specifically believes about Jesus?” Or to ask them in which Jesus they are actually trusting?
Words Mean Things
It is easier to just go along with the program, join together in activities, hug each other and pretend we are all on our way to heaven. That we are all brothers.
Assuming that their faith also includes heaven. Or some version of it with 39 virgins. Or some quantity of virgins unspecified.
That reminds me of a childhood friend I used to see fairly often. He grew up in a mainline protestant church similar to the United Methodist church where I grew up. But he was of a more socially and politically-liberal bent than me and would often challenge the biblical foundations of my new faith. “Mocking” me might be a more accurate term.
One evening, he and I were eating dinner at a local drive-in. And he asked me about the definition of “evangelism”. So, I tried to remember some biblical verses to clarify what “evangelism” actually meant. He stopped me before I had a chance to make any point. He said that he just wanted a “definition”. Not necessarily a biblical one.
You see, he had recently been appointed as the “Evangelistic Director” of his local church; and he needed some idea what to do. Any idea. A “framework”. Whatever.
I came away from that exchange a little wiser than before. My eyes were opened, once again, to the reality that we are surrounded by religious people. Often very devoted and moral people who are as ships without a rudder tossed upon a stormy sea.
And they do not know, or maybe do not want to know, the truth of the scriptures.
However, the language of our faith is critical. People may use the same words. Use the same phrases. They may even use the same Bible verses.
But what are they really saying? We can hear a similar message from two different men and think they are saying the same thing.
The Subtlety of Error
Unfortunately, we live in an age of subtly and deception; making it difficult to know what is truth and what is error.
Because error can come in many forms:
- A teacher may declare error boldly. As with an in-your-face challenge. Causing you to doubt that anyone would be so arrogantly false.
- A preacher may declare error subtly. Causing listeners to misunderstand his true meaning.
- He may use the same words as you do. While meaning something entirely different.
- He may purposefully leave vital elements out. Causing you to assume he believes all the same stuff that you do.
- He may purposefully leave vital elements out. So that he may blend in with those that teach a false gospel. For whatever cause he believes justifies his compromise.
Listening for the Silence
To give you an example of “leaving elements out”, I recently listened to the history of a very famous and popular evangelist. Early in his career, someone wrote to him asking why he consistently did not preach on the power and effectiveness of the blood of Christ?
This evangelist said that it was not his job. That he left that subject to the pastors to preach in their local churches.
How could anyone think that?
Strangely enough, I know what he was doing.
He was avoiding the controversy of the blood of Christ. Because this evangelist had made a decision early in his career to avoid anything which would give offense to the mainline apostate churches. He specifically sought the participation and association of those churches with his crusades. He would not preach in towns where they were simply invited to attend; he required that they must also be participants in the leadership and counseling for his nightly meetings.
He knew that these same apostate denominations had been removing hymns from their denominational hymnals that would mention the blood of Christ. They considered the “blood” references to be a part of an offensive “slaughterhouse” religion that did not fit their more, socially-acceptable mainstream gospel.
So, what teachers DO NOT SAY is also critical.
Because, as Christians, we tend to subconsciously fill in the blanks created by missing information in spiritual messages. We fail to understand that this information may be purposefully left out.
Clarity is Critical
That simple tactic presents to us one of the keys to discerning the truth in this age of deception. We must listen carefully to the words spoken, to what is meant by those words, and to the concepts left out.
Our faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17) God supernaturally gives us faith as we choose to believe Him. And we are born again by the Word of God. Just as we are born again by the blood of Christ.
It is not a question of preaching with intellect or cleverness or the eloquence of words. Faith is based on simple belief in the profound statements of God; taken at face value for their most straight-forward and simple meaning.
So, when you are listening to all the guys out there supposedly giving our the gospel, remember
To clarify their definitions
To listen for what they DON’T say!