Happy New Year!
This month I ask a very important question. What does it mean "to believe in God"? Or as Christians, what does it mean "to believe in Christ"? The answer to this question is the very foundation of our faith. The Bible is very clear that salvation is by faith.
Surprisingly, people who say they believe in God are often the very ones who glorify Him the least. The reason is that people can mean different things when they say "I believe in God." To some, "I believe in God" means they believe He exists. Such an "I believe in God" confession is a statement of knowledge rather than an expression of faith. In the same way, we can believe that the devil or hell exists too, but that is not faith.
Put ten random people in a room, and ask them to explain what it means "to believe in God" and you will probably have ten distinct explanations. This sad state of affairs has left people without confidence regarding salvation. Many have satisfied themselves with "You believe what you want to believe, and I'll believe what I want to believe" and have accepted ambiguity as just part of the mystery of faith. Something as important as faith should not be left in ambiguity! It is not okay to "agree to disagree." Faith is too important.
So what is faith? What does it mean "to believe in God"? Faith does include cognitive knowledge. It does believe that "God exists." It also confesses that we are sinful and helpless in our sin, and that we need a savior. It believes that God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. It believes the promise that salvation is offered to all who believe.
But faith is more than just cognitive knowledge. By faith we trust in God and dare to be in a relationship with Hom. It is one thing to be able to say "I believe everything that the Bible says about God." But it is something entirely different to live as if it were true. It is an entirely different thing to live with God as the center of one's life and to live with an eternal point of view. A person who believes he is an eternal being lives this short mortal life differently than a person who believes that "this world is all there is."
A person who believes that God cares about our daily affairs, and believes Jesus' promise "that He would be with us always," celebrating with us in good times and comforting us in bad, lives life differently than a person who does not believe. A person believes that an omnipotent God loves them and has plans of good, trusts that all things will work out in the end. These are just a few of the aspects of faith.
Faith is not something which we work in ourselves, neither is it sustained by our own works. It is a gift from God brought to us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Through the Word in Baptism, we received the faith which brings salvation. Through the Word preached and in the Lord's Supper, our faith is strengthened. God gave us the Church, the Fellowship of Saints, to encourage and strengthen one another with The Word.
May this coming New Year bring a renewal of the Word in all our lives. God bless you all in this coming New Year 2012.