Faith Beyond Belief!

A man once said to me, “I have a hard time accepting the idea that God will only let me into heaven if I believe a certain thing or a certain way. So I live my entire life and, at the end, it all comes down to whether or not I believe something to be true? I’ve seen big changes in my friends and family members who believe, so I want to believe, but I have a hard time accepting this.” The man’s openness was refreshing, and I completely understood his skepticism. For if belief is nothing more than admitting the truth of a matter, I think he has a point. Mere acknowledgment of fact, however sincere, is something less than transformational. The apostle James gave voice to the sentiment this way: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”1

Biblical belief is so much richer, so much warmer, and so much more substantial than an academic nod of agreement from afar. For the foundation of our faith is so much more than a mere notion or idea; He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in whom life exists. Jesus assures us, “as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”2 So also the apostle Paul attests of Christ, “All things were created through him and for him,” he writes, “. . . he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”3 The belief to which God calls us, then, far surpasses mental assent; He invites us to a place called faith, where we entrust our very lives to Him in whom eternity exists. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”4

Taking this cross-over step of faith, we emerge from the shadows of our hiding and enter into restored relationship with God. We experience Him as He transforms us, and we enjoy Him, for He is not a belief system of our making, but the abundant life of our longing.

If the Spirit is stirring in you to be reconciled to God through His Son, you can respond by praying:

Jesus, I know I cannot gain eternal life on my own or by my own merit. I do not live as you would have me live. For this I am very sorry. I believe you are the Son of God and that you paid the penalty for my sins because you love me. I believe you rose again to never-ending life and that you offer that life to me as a gift. I entrust myself to you, receive your gift now, and by your promise, cross over from death to life. Fill me with your Spirit and use me for your honor and glory. Thank you for your precious gift of life in me.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

[Click here to read more about salvation through faith in Christ in Romans 10:6-13.]

1 James 2:19
2 John 5:26
3 Colossians 1:16, 17 (ESV)
4 John 5:24

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Tribute

Keith Agee was a classmate of mine, a friend—quiet, very bright, and a heck of a nice guy, off the football field, that is. On the field, he was a defensive coordinator’s dream—dogged, laser-focused, and loved to hit. One day in a scrimmage, Keith leveled the running back and then stood over him, laughing as the ball carrier writhed in pain there on the ground. It was at that point or soon thereafter that Keith, new in his faith in Jesus Christ, began to sense God calling him away from football. He had nothing against the game itself, nor did he feel others should follow suit; it was personal. The coach repeatedly tried to talk him out of leaving the team (who could blame him?), but for Keith it was a matter of hearing God and obeying Him. His teammates were disappointed, and he received some criticism, but Keith had such peace, humility and integrity about him—and he spoke of his new life in Christ with such joy and conviction—that he was widely respected and held in high esteem.

If ever someone lived life as though executing right out of the believers’ playbook, it was Keith. We are chosen, says Peter, to be God’s people, that we might “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We “abstain from the passions” of this world while loving the people of this world, living honorably, so that even those who speak against us “may see [our] good deeds and glorify God on his day of visitation.” That was Keith. One could look to him and know his God was real. I know I did. Though it was another 10 years until I came to peace with God through faith in His Son, it was the life-witness of Keith Agee and others like him that gave me hope and kept me going on the path to life in Christ.

Keith went on to become a pastor and today all five of his and Sally’s children are in ministry. Who can imagine his legacy, and now theirs? Three years ago, Keith left this world behind him and stepped into the next, victorious. It is difficult to imagine him any more joyful than he was here on Earth, but I suspect he is.

Immeasurable joy awaits us, as well. In the meantime, we, too, execute from the believers’ playbook like so many who have led the way before us, proclaiming God’s praises and living honorably, so that others see Christ in us and dare to place their hope in Him. May this be our legacy, too.

Lord God, shine through this life and through your entire church today, that others would see you and glorify you through faith in your Son. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in 1 Peter 2:9-12 (ESV).]

Saint Paul, Meet Tammy Jewell

I must have marginalized it as eloquent rhetoric, this passionate declaration from Paul, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. . . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”1 I never doubted the apostle’s sincerity, but it seemed a tad aspirational to me, that is, until I met Tammy Jewell.

On most days, you can find Tammy actively searching troubled Columbus neighborhoods for women who are trafficked and in need of most basic care. Hers is not a passive quest, but an urgent one: “We go to the dollar store and to the free dental and medical clinics, because we often find them there,” she says. “We walk up and down Cleveland Avenue, we’ll go to a nearby Wendy’s, and we’ll find them sleeping on porches of boarded-up houses.” Tammy has also found clever ways to let these, the downtrodden, find her. “We’ll take our fishing poles to where the homeless fish, and we open up a cooler full of water bottles. They come over and strike up a conversation, ‘What are you girls doing?’” (Snagged another one!) Prayer meetings in the park attract people randomly; even gang members who won’t step inside a church may wander over to an outside gathering.

So, when Tammy finds society’s lost, what does she do for them? She gives them desperately-needed hygiene items and whatever else she has for them at the moment—energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and devotionals (“Our Daily Bread”). She tells them that God loves them and that they don’t have to live life this way. As they talk to one person, says Tammy, “One becomes two, three, five, seven.” Hope stirs, and trust spreads, even if just a little bit. She gives them her business card, so they know how to contact her for more hygiene items, more care, more hope, more love, more gospel.

What drives the Pauls and the Tammys among us to sacrifice the comforts and conveniences of this world and exhaust their moments and days for other people? I believe it is this: they have escaped brutal bonds of constraint and tasted a freedom so sweet that it cannot be hoarded, it must overflow. Paul’s tormentor had been the Law, which tantalized him with a righteousness it could never provide. Tammy was trapped as one “owned” and trafficked, tethered there by invisible chains of drug addiction. Yet in the sheer joy of liberation and truth, both returned to serve and to proclaim freedom to those still confined.

We have to wonder, who are the “all people” around us, the “as many as possible” for whom we, too, must become “all things”? They’re there, certainly, and probably easy to spot if we just remember what our life once was—our own struggles, our own moment of release, and our own gratitude for those who came and found us. Hmm …

Move over, Paul; make room, Tammy. You’ve got company.

[Click here to see how the apostle Paul lived and served among the Thessalonians in order to “win as many as possible” there.]

1 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22