Recently, while meditating on various definitions of faith, I came up with my own:Faith
is taking God seriously. This was the result of encountering so many Christians who claimed
to have faith, but did not take God seriously.
To take God seriously means to take His Word seriously. If a person speaks to us, but
we ignore—or even reject—much of what he says to us, we certainly are not taking him
seriously. In fact, we are guilty of disrespect.
The same applies to God. If we ignore or reject much of what He says to us through the
Scriptures, we are not taking Him seriously. We are, in fact, treating Him with disrespect.
Yet this is how many Christians are relating to God. They treat His Word like a smorgasbord,
picking out those portions that appeal to their taste and passing the others by.
There are four practical ways in which God’s Word applies in our lives: His promises,
His commandments, His prohibitions and His warnings. We will take some examples of
each in turn and consider how they may apply to us.
The four Gospels contain many wonderful promises of Jesus, but before we claim these
for ourselves it is important to ascertain to whom each promise was given. The Gospel
writers make a clear distinction between words that Jesus spoke to His disciples and those
He spoke either to multitudes or to individuals who were not disciples. There are more
than 900 verses recording words spoken to disciples and about 860 addressed to nondisciples.
The distinctive mark of true disciples was commitment. They had made an unreserved
commitment to obey and follow Jesus, regardless of personal cost. Jesus Himself laid down
“Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
“Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
(Luke 14:27, 33)
Obviously we who are alive today were not present when Jesus was actually speaking.
Before we apply any of His promises to ourselves, we need to ask: Am I the kind of person
to whom Jesus was speaking? Do His promises apply to me? Do I have the right to claim
For example, John 14 contains glorious promises, such as:
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do.”
“If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
“Because I live, you will live also.”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.”
(verses 13, 14, 19, 27)
But these beautiful promises were given only to a group of committed disciples. Peter
spoke on behalf of them all when he said, “See, we have left all and followed You” (Luke
18:28). To claim these promises without fulfilling this condition is not faith, but presumption.
We each need to ask ourselves: Am I a disciple—or just a church member?
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He
who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the
truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3–4)
Our response to God’s commandments reveals our true spiritual condition. Obeying
them is proof that we know God.
The Bible contains many commandments covering various areas of our lives, but Jesus
sums them all up in one that takes precedence over all others:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved
you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)
By obeying this commandment we fulfill the entire law: “For all the law is fulfilled in
one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
Love is the end purpose for which all other commandments were given: “Now the
purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from
sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk . . .” (1 Timothy
1:5–6). Any religious activity which does not produce love is merely wasted effort.
It is on this basis that we must assess our obedience to God’s commandments. We need
to ask ourselves: Is my life an expression of God’s love?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the
love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)
God here forbids us to love the world. He compels us to make a choice. We can love the
world, or we can love God the Father. But we cannot do both. It must be one or the other—
either love of God or love of the world.
In the language of the New Testament, “the world” comprises all people and all activities
that are not submitted to the righteous government of God’s appointed ruler, Jesus Christ.
As such, the world—whether consciously or unconsciously—is in rebellion against God.
To love the world, therefore, is to align ourselves with its rebellion.
The pull of the world in all our lives is extremely strong. It offers us many allurements
and enticements. Some are seemingly innocent, yet within them is the subtle poison of
The media is one main channel of the world’s influence, with all the forms of
entertainment it offers. I have come to the conclusion that “entertainment” is not a Christian
concept if it leaves people entirely passive. In the Bible God ordained for His people seasons
of joyous celebration, but the people themselves were part of the activity. They were never
merely passive spectators.
Furthermore, much of contemporary entertainment is permeated by moral and spiritual
impurity and has a subtle defiling effect. Some years ago Ruth and I watched a movie that
was a brilliant piece of comedy with first rate acting—but it contained a few sequences of
vile language. We felt inclined to go and watch it a second time, but eventually we decided
that we would not expose the Holy Spirit in us to the vile language in the movie.
Finally we decided that we would never voluntarily expose ourselves to anything that
glorified sin and dishonored Jesus Christ. We also make it a principle not to keep in our
home any book or other object that dishonors Jesus.
Does that seem radical? Perhaps it may be. But then Christianity is a radical religion.
In Matthew 24 Jesus gives a prophetic preview of conditions in the last days. He begins
with a warning against deception: “Take heed that no one deceives you.” In verse 11 He
repeats His warning: “Then many false prophets will arise and deceive many.” Deception
is the greatest single danger that confronts Christians in the last days.
In Matthew 24 Jesus addressed His warning to the apostles whom He Himself had
chosen and who had been continuously with Him through the 3
1/2 years of His ministry.
If these apostles needed such a warning, how can any Christians today imagine that they
are immune to this danger?
Yet I have encountered not a few Christians who seem to feel that the warning against
deception does not apply to them. This reaction is, in fact, an indication that deception is
already at work in them.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 Paul reaffirms the warning against deception in connection
with the rise of the antichrist.
The coming of the lawless one [the antichrist] is according to the working of Satan,
with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those
who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Many charismatic Christians have the attitude that any message or minstry
accompanied by supernatural signs must necessarily be from God, but this is not true. The
Bible indicates that Satan can also produce various kinds of supernatural signs. The glib
acceptance of everything supernatural as being from God actually opens a door to
There is only one sure safeguard against deception: it is to “receive the love of the
truth.” This goes beyond merely listening to sermons, or even reading the Bible. It implies
an intense and passionate commitment to the authority of Scripture that affects every area
of our lives. It produces within us an instinctive reaction against any message or ministry
that is not faithful to Scripture.
God offers to each of us this “love of the truth.” Are we willing to receive it? Shall we
take His warning seriously or shall we ignore it?
Yours in the Master’s service,