Avoiding a Critical Error: Faith versus Doctrine
This article deals with an extremely important issue. If the reader can grasp the teachings of Jesus in this article, they will enjoy much additional freedom and peace. At the same time, however, we should be challenged to not compromise. Let us start with these words of the Master.
"And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, 'Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.' But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and implored him, saying, 'Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.' But he answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' But she came and began to bow down before him, saying, 'Lord, help me!' And he answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.' But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once." (Matthew 15:22-28)
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:24-33)
Here we see Jesus define faith for us from opposite view points. The first woman he says has great faith, and the second is a general chastisement of having little faith.
The Canaanite woman was seeking God's help for her demon-possessed daughter. This, I'm sure was a very grievous hardship for the woman who no doubt loved her daughter, which daughter was suffering from harmful behavior, described as cruel by the mother. She, a Canaanite woman, who was not part of the nation or traditions of the Jews who were supposed to be the people who had faith in the living God, was crying out to Israel's true Messiah for help. Jesus started testing her by not responding immediately to her petitions, and by reminding her that he was sent by his Father first to lost sheep of Israel. But she passed the test by bowing before Messiah, and humbling herself before the one in whom she had true faith. Jesus tested her one more time, reminding her that it is not good to take good food that is intended for the rightful children (lost sheep of Israel) and instead give it to mere pets (best translated little puppies)(or in this illustration, non-Jews).
The woman passed the final test with great humility and thus success, even referring to Messiah as "master". She demonstrated, after a bit of testing, that she had faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah sent from God. Messiah responded by not only granting her request - to heal her daughter from the demon possession - but commending her as having "great faith". The woman trusted in God and Jesus of Nazareth, as God's anointed one, to be able to heal her daughter. And her trust in God to be able to heal her daughter of that cruel torment, was great. She didn't have the privilege of having all the knowledge of the Jews about Jesus' Father, and yet without all that knowledge of the Jewish scripture and tradition, she had great faith that Jesus of Nazareth was God's Messiah. As Jesus said elsewhere, she had child-like faith.
In the passage in Matthew, Messiah teaches us that we cannot live for wealth or material things and God at the same time...we must choose our master and live accordingly. Then he graciously gives us the reason why we will be all right if we don't live to gain or accumulate material things, but rather to serve the King. He gives examples of how his Father takes care of the lesser creatures of His creation, providing them with all the food, clothing and shelter they need. He tells us not to worry about where our food or clothing is going to come from tomorrow, but rather trust in his Father to provide those things for us. And then he says that if we do worry about our food and clothing - and thus spend our time and days storing up material things - then we have little faith. And so, Messiah defines faith in this teaching, as a trust in the Father to provide the basic material things we need to survive physically on this earth. A simple trust in the Father will cause us to not live for material things and to not worry about how our basic physical needs will be met. So again, Jesus defines faith as a simple trust in the person's of himself as God's representative, as well as the Father Himself.
If you look through the gospels at Jesus' use of the term faith, what you will see is that he defines faith as he does in the passages above. Faith is a trust or confidence in God to meet our basic physical needs, and more importantly, our spiritual needs, the foremost of which are forgiveness, hope and Life. Faith is more than a mental belief that God exists...it is an actual trust in His Person to meet my most important needs, and the greater our faith, the more we will know Him and thus see our greatest needs have little to do with material things.
PLEASE NOTE THAT JESUS DOES NOT DEFINE 'FAITH' AS DOCTRINE, BELIEFS OR 'THEOLOGY' ABOUT HIMSELF OR GOD.
Now many bible people will react against this truth and say that Jesus teaches much about the importance of beliefs. They are sincere in this objection, but sincerely wrong. Jesus does say, many times, to "believe in me". This phrase means the same as "have faith in me" as far as Jesus' Words are concerned.
When Jesus urges someone to "believe" something, he urges them to either believe what HE says, or believe in him.
PLEASE NOTE, JESUS DOES NOT SAY BELIEVE THE BIBLE OR THE OLD TESTAMENT (unless it was an accurate saying about him!) OR PAUL OR ANYONE OR ANYTHING ELSE (unless we are repeating his Words or teachings!). Rather he plainly and simply says believe what I SAY and believe IN ME.
Please reader, research what is said here and verify that it is true, for it has very serious implications for you if you reject this truth.
A Great Error of Bible-anity
Those people and their organizations which say they are part of 'Jesus Christ's church', and who say they believe the bible, usually have a "statement of faith". It is a written document containing beliefs that they say are essential in order to 'be saved' or to be accepted by God. Usually these documents contain belief's supposedly ABOUT Jesus, God, and about bible doctrine. As we have seen, it is impossible to have a list of doctrine about Jesus or the bible, and say that by believing those things, you will be 'saved' or accepted by God. Jesus himself says that faith in his Father and himself is what brings a person into salvation, NOT intellectually accepting a bunch of beliefs (or partaking in a bunch of rituals), even if those beliefs contain the Words or teachings of Jesus.
Please listen to him:
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)
Did he say, 'your beliefs about me saved you'?
Did he say, 'your doctrine has saved you'?
Did he say, 'your correct bible understanding saved you'?
No, he did not say these things. Rather, he plainly says that the woman's faith in him saved her...that her faith in him as who HE SAYS HE IS resulted in repentance (a changed life) and forgiveness of her sins.
Remember, faith is a trust in someone or something, and Jesus of Nazareth says that eternal life is given to those who have faith in his Father and himself as HE reveals his Father and himself - and thus live according to the Light's Words.
It is important to understand the following distinction. It is possible for a person to have both real faith and wrong beliefs, and thus be a child of God heading for the Father. In other words, a person can have real faith (and thus be heading for the Father) in spite of having wrong beliefs about Jesus. This would be true of most people since when they first enter into salvation, they are relatively ignorant of Jesus and don't know him well.
For people who have heard the basic teachings of Jesus, there is only one belief that a person needs - working with real faith - in order to be saved. And that belief is that Jesus of Nazareth is who HE says he is...the Way to heaven, all the Truth that eternally matters, and the source of Life eternal. If a person BOTH has true faith AND has received those truths from Jesus, then they are a child of God and are heading towards the Father.
However, it is not possible for a person with no true faith - and yet who has a more proper intellectual understanding of even Jesus' teachings - to be heading towards the Father. If this is true, and Jesus says it is, then what about the person who thinks that having proper bible doctrine or knowing the scripture is the way to the Father? They are even further away from the Truth, who is Jesus alone, and thus from properly knowing those they ought to place their faith in. These are those who search the bible and think that having proper religious or bible doctrine is the way to heaven, and yet they refuse to come to the Messiah AS HE PRESCRIBES with his own words - simply, as a small child.
The Heart of Bible-anity
Most of bible-anity, and it's cousin christianity, teach and proclaim that if a person has the correct set of beliefs about Jesus and the bible, then they are acceptable to God. The bible is a big book with many moral truths and human wisdom, along with some falsehoods. This is why there are tens of thousands of bible sects in the world today. Each sect identifies a certain truth or truths from the bible (or worse yet adds more 'revelations' from more men and create more books they claim contain 'revelations from God', like the mormons and the book of mormon, or the average evangelical leader's study bible), and says that their truth/doctrine set is what is needed to be believed in order to be saved. They then defend their doctrine set against the other groups who identify a contradiction (or even a perceived discrepancy) in the bible that goes against their doctrine set. All the while, most of them say they believe there are no contradictions in the bible, and when one is found, they run to their scholars or prophets so-called in order to produce the intellectual slight-of-hand and double-speak to convince them no contradiction exists.
Once they are justified in their belief that the contradiction is not actually a contradiction, they say that the other person or sect cannot see that 'truth' because of x,y,z reason. Those reasons usually include things like, 'they don't have the Holy Spirit', or, 'they are blinded by Satan to this critical doctrine', or, 'their traditions blind them to this essential truth', or, 'they don't have the great prophet's revelation' or, 'they are demon possessed'. There are many condemnations to be sure, but it results in what covers the earth at this time...the bible-religious organizations all divided and fighting for their own religious power and influence over other people.
Most bible people will object to the truth that a person can have wrong doctrine about Jesus or the bible, and yet still be heading for heaven. They believe this because they have believed the falsehood that a person's beliefs about the bible (or even ABOUT Jesus) is what makes a person acceptable to God.
The truth is that a person's faith and resultant love for, and obedience to, the Father and the Son is what makes a person both pleasing to, and accepted by the Father and the Son - NOT their beliefs about God.
A reasonable question to the truth that a person can have wrong beliefs about Jesus and yet still be acceptable to God, is what then is the motivation to continue to seek Jesus and receive more truth? The simple answer is because Jesus tells us to. He commands that we ask, seek and knock, and that eternal life itself is to know him and his Father. To know him and his Father means we need to really know him by HIS Words, and more importantly, to receive them. This happens over time and requires diligence, discipline and effort...perseverance through failures. He warns us many times to not be misled or deceived, and falsehood misleads and/or deceives us.
Another important reason that we ought to continue to seek Jesus and know the Truth better, is because our faith can be built up by the Truth. In other words, the better we know the Truth, the more we can be DOING what he says, and this leads to an exercising our faith in a way that is pleasing to the Father, which should be our goal.
It is important to understand that our faith is not caused by truth...it merely has opportunity to exist or grow from our hearing the truth. By hearing the truth, we know what to do and whom to place our trust in. But placing our trust in the Father or the Son is what faith is about, and truth will not cause us to do that. Rather, it can only point us to whom we ought to be trusting in...whom we ought to have faith in.
In like manner, our faith can be harmed by falsehoods we believe. The falsehoods can encourage us to remove our faith in the Father and the Son, but holding those falsehoods in our mind will not necessarily cause us to do so. Only when those falsehoods cause us to reject and deny Jesus and his Father AS JESUS REVEALS THEM (not as the rest of the bible bible or some prophet so- called reveals them), do they play a role in destroying our faith. But ultimately, if we did have true faith to start with, we must stop trusting in the Father and the Son in order to be rejected by them.
Freedom to Not Condemn
Understanding these things about faith - which are directly taught by, or deduced from, the teachings of Jesus - will encourage us to fulfill the teaching of Jesus of not judging others. In terms of understanding where another person is at spiritually, the best we can do as followers of Jesus, is to determine if another person has correct intellectual/mental understanding of Jesus' Words and teachings and is willing to try and do what Jesus says. What we cannot determine is whether they have real faith or not if they intellectually profess to believe in him. True faith is primarily demonstrated by our actions - our life - not described by our words. So, we should not judge whether another person has true faith or not, for we cannot determine that by their beliefs. And even the best of the followers of Jesus sin at times, so even our behavior is not always a reliable indicator as to whether we who professes to be a follower of Jesus have true faith or not. The greater our faith, the more we will be like the Master...and thus the more our lives will be patterned after his teachings.
Does this mean that we should be with other people who are believing errors about Jesus of Nazareth? Well, I would say that every person who has been exposed to bible-anity or christianity has held wrong beliefs about Jesus of Nazareth (including this author). The question is misleading. A better question would be, should we share our lives with other people whose false beliefs cause them to disobey Jesus? The answer to that is clearly no. If a person is unwilling to try and change in order to conform to Jesus' Way, then we cannot help them, for they are not yet listening well to Jesus who is the follower's only Master.
True Faith Leads to Faithfulness
Make no mistake, to have true faith in the living God and His Son means that a person will have a passion to love them back by doing what they say. And the only right way to do this is to listen to the Son who alone perfectly represents his Father. So, again, if a person hears the teachings of Jesus (not the bible or others who say they speak for Jesus yet who do not speak HIS truths) yet will not receive what he says, then they are having trouble loving the Truth and their faith, if they have any, will be hindered.
In this regard, most religious people are deceived by a belief or beliefs that nullify or contradicts Jesus' teachings while at the same time saying that is not the case. For example, a person says they believe Jesus' teaching that we are to love our enemies, while at the same time saying is it right to listen to a government who tells them to take a weapon and kill an enemy. In this case, they are not listening to the real Jesus, but a jesus of their own religion's making, and this is an indication that the real Jesus is not their Master. In cases of people believing contradictions, they usually use religious relativism to justify their disobedience to Jesus saying that people can legitimately interpret that teaching of Jesus (for example, love your enemy) in different ways. Again, this is an indication that they do not yet love the Truth well.
It is one thing to say it is hard for me to do what the Light says. I might struggle with sin, but as long as I confess it and go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, and continue to try and do what he says, then I am justified before the Father. It is another thing altogether to deny or nullify what the Light says in order to avoid the truth. I could be a very moral religious person, yet ignore the Light and refuse to do the more important things he asks for. The former is justified while the latter is not.
Another common objection to the truth that right doctrine is not the equivalent to faith, is, 'well, I know that God is working through pastor so-and-so, and I just know he has real faith'. First of all, we cannot know if a person has true faith or not, period, for faith cannot be infallibly proved through outward behavior. Outward behavior can merely be a sign that a person might have real faith. And frankly, how much faith is needed to give speeches in comfortable settings to people who admire you? Real faith is typically exercised when we are in a position of helplessness where our physical life or someone or something we highly value is endangered. So what 'faith' is shown by going to the religious building once or so a week to partake in the speeches and rituals?
More importantly, Jesus warns us to not be mislead by people who come in his name, and who even perform miracles and signs, let alone who seem like really nice religious leaders. What we can know is that pastor so-and-so is claiming to represent Jesus, even while he practices disobeying him by usurping Jesus' place of being his follower's only pastor, leader and teacher. This is not good, for those who make a practice of outwardly declaring that they represent Jesus of Nazareth, and yet disobey him, are in a very bad place. Does this mean they don't have any real faith? No, it does not mean that, and even then we should not condemn them as being beyond the reach of the Father's mercy. It does mean, however, that we should rebuke them, and if they don't listen to Jesus, stay away from them or we will be misled, for Jesus warns us of this.
"Many people who claim to represent my Father but instead proclaim falsehoods will arise and will mislead many." (Matthew 24:11)
To a person carefully listening to these truths, the objection usually arises at this point, 'are you saying that we should leave our religious organization'? The answer is no, I don't say that, but rather Jesus of Nazareth says this. Please listen to him:
Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the religious leaders were offended when they heard this statement?" But he answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Matthew 15:12-14)
What is difficult to understand about, "Let them alone"? Nothing, but those not listening to the Light will always have an excuse to justify their devotion to the religious systems of this world, which systems endorse their loving their life in this world contrary to the Master's plain teachings. 'Well, maybe THEIR religious leaders, but not our pastor...he is not a false prophet...'
How can we identify a false prophet? That is a fairly simple task for those who know the standard of Truth well. If those who say they speak for God and who say they follow Jesus have teachings or practices that go against, nullify or contradict the Words and teachings of the standard, Jesus of Nazareth, then they are a false prophet.
In conclusion, we should understand the difference between faith and mental beliefs (doctrine). This understanding should lead us to avoid judging a person's faith, for we cannot know for certain how much faith a person has. This should lead to less condemnation of others (a favorite hobby of self-righteous religious people and the thousands of sects they represent), and more of doing what the Light says.
On the other hand, while the freedom of knowing the Light leads to being slow to judge other's, it does not mean we compromise our beliefs, which beliefs should be based solely on the Words and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. While we have compassion on others, we cannot endorse or implicitly support (by listening to them or seeing them lived out week after week) falsehoods which prevent or hinder people from growing in their faith in, and thus love for, the Father. And our not compromising the Truth's truths will lead to this:
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (John 15:19)
Please, dear reader, don't think this does not apply to your religious organization - what you call 'your church' or your spiritual community. Who do you think persecuted the Light during his first coming? The big, mean secularists? The immoral agnostics? No, it was the religious leaders and their followers...
Nothing has changed.
Jesus never said it would be easy to follow him...in fact, he said it would require turning away from all that the world says is valuable, and instead following him. And to follow him requires faith as great as a mustard seed. On the other hand, it is quite easy to think I have all the right bible doctrine, and yet not have any real faith. The easy way to death is to fit into any of the thousands of bible sects and adopt their doctrine as your own, and continue a life which manifests a love for this world.
Our loving Father wants what is best for us, but we have to be willing to do what His Son says in order to experience that love and thus to know Him. We have a clear choice given by the Son. May we be wise after our King, and judged as stupid by the world...especially the religious world.
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