Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Demon Faith vs. Saving Faith

In my last entry I offered the following challenge:

Think deeply about the following challenge question:Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on De...Image via Wikipedia
How does my faith differ from the faith of demons?
(James 2:19)
Seriously, make a list. Write it down. What do the demons believe? Keep in mind that the demons have known God all of their lives, they have always seen Him with their eyes, they have witnessed every work He's ever done. Everything you know, they know, and much more. They have knowledge and belief, but not saving faith.

What do you have that they don't have? What is your faith that theirs isn't? Write it down. Seriously. Do it.

I covered this topic a little bit in November, 2008 (See "Reasonable Sacrifice?"). But I thought for the sake of continuity, it wouldn't hurt to revisit the ideas and perhaps add to them a bit, especially for those who may not have read that earlier entry. So here goes.

How does my faith differ from demonic faith?
  • Demonic faith knows that God is holy, and hates His holiness. It would love to see Him corrupted if possible. A human with such faith refuses to believe that God hates sin...at least not his sin. Or, he knows that God's holy standard condemns him, and he shakes his fist in response. He either refuses to obey, or he obeys with gritted teeth.
  • Saving faith knows that God is holy, and treasures that holiness. It rejoices in the fact that He cannot be corrupted. A human with this faith obeys because he loves God's goodness and rightness. When he disobeys (and he sometimes will, because he's not yet perfect) he grieves and repents, grateful for the forgiveness he receives. And just as anyone naturally gravitates toward what he loves, this person will naturally become more obedient.

  • Demonic faith knows that God is completely in charge, and it hates that fact. It does everything in its power to usurp His authority, ignore it, or rebel against it. A human with such faith will insist that humanity and human desires should be the center of the universe. His religion, if he has any, will be completely man-centered. He will reject the authority of Scripture, demand pleasure, freedom and rights at all times, and will only respect a god who agrees with man's preeminence. He may be totally self-centered, or may be a philanthropist serving humans other than himself, or anything in between. But God will not have preeminence. Humans (self or others) always come in first.
  • Saving faith knows that God is completely in charge, and wouldn't have it any other way. It trusts His power and has no confidence in the flesh. While it still isn't perfect, it grows increasingly obedient because of its trust in God's perfect knowledge, love and will. A human with such faith develops increasing peace, joy, and confidence because the burden of responsibility rests squarely where it ought to rest...on God. He takes Christ's yoke (he's not indolent), but he is free to serve unselfishly because he serves God first, and takes God's love to others.

  • Demonic faith must obey because it has no choice, but it gnashes its teeth and hates obedience. A human with such faith may be very religious; a strict legalist, in fact. But he wishes there were no such thing as this demanding God, and he casts a longing eye at every debauched sinner. "There, but for the severity of God, go I," he thinks, envying those who have it better because they are not enslaved by Christianity. He isn't even sure he'll like Heaven. (Without enjoying anyone else's sin vicariously like he gets to do on Earth, won't Heaven be boring?) But he figures he'll have to put up with God and His ways in order to avoid Hell.
  • Saving faith obeys willingly, trustingly, and even joyfully (not perfectly, but increasingly as time goes by). A human with such faith looks at the lost and shudders...not with pride, but with the certain knowledge that they are missing out on the best in this life, not just for eternity. He shudders, too, because he knows who he was when he was lost, and that he could so easily fall back into that life, but for the grace of God. He sees the chains of bondage to sin, and yearns to see the lost liberated as he has been. And his obedience does feel like liberty, because he's free to be the new creation that God made him to be.

  • Demonic faith may acknowledge that God's way is the only way, but it wishes for a different one. A human with such faith will trust in Jesus as a way, but not as the way. His thoughts of salvation center around the mercy he feels that humanity deserves, and not about the glory due to the Holy One.
  • Saving faith not only agrees that Jesus is the only way, but also sees how beautiful and right that is. It becomes jealous for God's glory with a holy jealousy. A human with such faith will read the Bible as a God-centered book, and will increasingly live a God-centered life, intent upon glorifying God so that others will see His unique worth. They will have a growing desire to see others worship God as God deserves, knowing full well that this will also be the only way that humans will ever find true joy.

  • Demonic faith depends on itself. It cannot depend on God for anything...not for joy, for pleasure, for salvation, for life, for death, or anything else. A human with such faith wants no savior, or at least will accept only a partial one. He adds his own works to Christ's, or else depends on his own works entirely. While he may decide to do something he calls "trusting Christ" for what happens after death, he cannot trust for what happens in this life. He trusts his own schemes for pleasure, his own plans for profit, his own ideas of what is best for himself on this earth.
  • Saving faith refuses to trust self for anything. It thanks, praises, and glorifies God because it has found Him to be the true source of all that it needs. A human with such faith recognizes his own incredible unworthiness, wouldn't dream of the possibility of saving himself, and will grow ever more certain that Christ is the fountain of everything he needs, of every delight he seeks.

To sum it up, demonic faith knows everything about God, and hates everything it knows. Saving faith knows less about God, but loves everything it knows and wants to know more.

Do you see here that I'm not talking about perfection? The one with demonic faith and the one with saving faith will still sin. But there will be an ever-growing difference between the two, because they revolve around different centers. They may wobble a bit in their individual orbits, sometimes moving a bit further out or in, but their focal point never changes. An immature Christian may only see God more distantly than a mature one, but what he sees will draw him like gravity. Love will pull him closer, and will cleanse him and sanctify him as he goes. He doesn't become sinless, but he sins less and less.
He will increasingly hate the sin
that offends the God
he increasingly loves.

A non-Christian, his heart deadened by sin, will see nothing of the true God at all, because what he does see of God repels him, and he covers his eyes. He's committed to his center of gravity, and nothing but a miracle from God will change that. The closer his love pulls him towards his godless center (self), the more he will hate the God who offends the sins he loves.

What's your center of gravity?

Yes, you may wobble. Yes, you see through a glass, dimly. Yes, you stumble sometimes. But if you could have everything you want at this very moment, would your heart leap after the things of the flesh, or would it leap for God? If you could be freed from God, freed from Christ, and still avoid Hell, would that sound like a bargain to you? Do you think Heaven would be a great place to spend eternity even if Christ were not there...if it were only a place of endless fleshly pleasure? Or have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good...all the good you want, all the good you need? Are you just longing to be freed from this body of sin so you can enjoy Him forever? Would Heaven be boring without Him?

Do you, however imperfectly, revolve around the Son?


Anonymous said...

After all this, there is only one thing to say: Have reverence for God, and obey his commands, because this is all that we were created for. ECCLESIASTES 12:13 TEV

Avalon said...

Oh Betsy... this is so reassuring to me. I love the questions you ask. They are so provocative. And I find myself realizing that if I could have the kind of faith that would allow me to peacefully open my arms wide to hungry lions (if that's what it took to glorify Him), I wouldn't trade that for all the money in the world, or for anything else the world has to offer.

If only those with demon faith could begin to fathom the freedom of letting Him be in control. The ease of His yoke and the lightness of His burden. Oh, what joy!

Thank you for yet another beautifully thoughtful entry.

Esthermay said...

Triumph! You’ve just drawn the line between a mature discipled Christian and most Christians. Saving faith is what the CROSS gave us. The rest is just religiosity.
Great Thoughts!! I am especially drawn to the idea that humanity and human desires are the center of the universe! OH! How sad that our Christian leaders of the day even buy this load of &@#(!!! Our needs mean nothing. It is GOD’s heart and His Kingdom that are all-important – not our “needs.”
Your writing is so solid and - yes (like Avalon says) reassuring. THank You.
~esthermay @The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

Jennifer said...

Betsy, have you ever read "The Unrepenting Repenter," by Jim Eliff? Your article does for faith what his does for repentance. Great stuff, thanks!

Betsy Markman said...

I hadn't read that article before, but I have now! I have bookmarked it, because it makes many excellent and helpful points. Thank you for sharing that link with me!

Laurie M. said...

Oh Betsy, you've made me have chills. You perfectly described me before I was saved - all those years as a hypocrite. And you've perfectly described the differences. I've sometimes wondered if I'm deceiving myself still, but then, I never loved the holiness of God before; I hated it. I never cared if He was glorified - never. I'd have prefered heaven if there was no God in it. And that's all changed. Those are the deeper changes, more convincing to me than any of the cleaning up of lifestyle that has also taken place. It is a miracle, when a heart is changed.

Thanks again for speaking encouragement to my heart.

judy@frontporch said...

Fabulous post!!! I love questions, like these that push me to not only think about what I believe, but examine my life application. I also appreciate your use of "saving" faith. Very different from what many think with the word "faith" -- it is the line in the proverbial sand.

During Christmas I pondered a similar question that dogged me for a couple of months:

How does the way my family celebrates Christmas look different from that of unbelievers. The part that is seen by the world. It was tough. So is your question. Love it!

Am I really an alien in this world? Thank you!

Mary Moss said...

You pose some pretty probing questions. This post is a good reminder to be intentional about our faith and our daily walk.

LauraLee Shaw said...

This is outstanding, Betsy. Well-written and with much wisdom.

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