When I say Statements of Faith, I mean those lists of what various churches or ministries believe the Bible teaches about God, humans, Jesus and his gift to us of salvation and the promise of eternal life. You know – those lists of truths you’re asked to affirm in order to join a church, or work for a ministry. It’s not the truthfulness of that information that makes me nervous – it’s actually calling that list of what essentially are doctrinal truths, a “statement of faith.”
It may even be dangerous to say that our church has a “statement of faith.” Because, doctrine we believe only on an intellectual level, even if we have faith in them, is still not faith as God sees it. It leads many to falsely assume that if they agree with those statements of truth, that they then have faith – which they very well may not have.
Faith is like Fire Faith – true faith is a lot like fire. Let’s assume I was able to write the definitive book on fire, The Complete Book of Fire. And, let’s also assume it was a thoroughly, accurate description of the chemistry of combustion, with lists of all the elements you need to have a fire, how to start a fire, keep it going, cook on it, put it out – a complete book of fire. You would still not actually have fire. Why? It’s only when a person actually does what the book says and assembles all the elements they need to build a fire and introduces and external spark or heat source, do you have fire. In fact, we only know we have fire when we see it’s light and feel its heat. That’s the way it is with faith.
When certain truths regarding our own sinfulness and Christ’s sacrificial love for us are “assembled,” or made known to us, and we really believe them with conviction and passion, a source outside of ourselves, the Holy Spirit, ignites the fire of faith in us and we are born again, we call that type of faith, “salvational” faith.
But, living lives of faith goes beyond this on-time salvational faith. The heroes of faith in Hebrews demonstrated their faith by how they lived. In the same way, others will know we have faith, only when our lives are so radically changed that they feel our fire – when they see our love for God and they feel the love of God lived out in our words and deeds!
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:18-19, 26
So, that’s why I’d prefer churches and ministries have Statements of Doctrine, rather than Statements of Faith. We are saved by faith, not doctrinal correctness!
Bonfire or Pilot-Light? But, that raises a second question, why is it that this fire of faith for so many, remains only a pilot light, rarely if ever becoming a flame that truly lights and warms the lives of others? Why have so many children and students responded enthusiastically at summer camps and other evangelistic events, only to be essential unchanged a few years later?
Well, I suppose it’s possible that the pilot light was never really lit to begin with – that their response was more emotional, than out of heartfelt conviction. It’s also possible in some theological traditions that the pilot light blew out – starved because it was never fed by true repentance or obedience to the will of God and a love for God.
However, there’s a third possibility, that they simply never understood that their lives now belong to God and that he therefore, expects their public and private allegiance. He expects the fire of faith as expressed in courageous obedience!
What is true faith? In The 10 Second Rule, I wrote this, “My definition of faith is this: courageous obedience to the teaching of the Bible (to truth). And embedded in every act of courage is risk – doubt and fear are part of the package. Living by faith happens anytime our confidence in God over-rides our fears.”
Without radical faith living, a person should not assume they are actually born again. While I believe in the doctrine of “assurance of salvation,” I also believe too many Christians believe they have it, but don’t! I meet with guys all the time who believe they are believers simply because they show up for church on Sundays, believe in God and the Bible and volunteer in some ministry in the church. On the other hand, Jesus himself warned us with these words, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
For better or worse, our true “Statement of Faith,” is the life we live. That’s what we truly believe!
Why not share this blog with your Bible study or discuss it with a friend – (perhaps one who’s fire has dimmed?)
How following Jesus works in real life.
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