BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
(Note: although this article was written one year ago, it is still relevant today, so I publish it again with some minor changes).
Last month I watched a two hour ABC 20/20 news program on religious faith. As it turned out, that is mostly what it dealt with: religion. There is a great difference between religion in general, and true Bible faith; between religion and salvation; between Christendom and Christianity. It is the difference between Christ and Satan! It reminded me of an article I wrote in 1984 titled Millions Drugged On Religion. I have considered reprinting it, but much of the information in it is obsolete because of changes in the Soviet Union, and the Eastern European communist bloc. Yet today, as it was then, most of the world is religious.
The 20/20 segments revolved around various kinds of faith that people professed. There was a segment about a Hindu woman in India called Amma, who has become famous worldwide through a “ministry” of giving people a hug. Thousands at a time come to see her. She speaks a message, mostly her Hindu concepts of love, though she claims to be “of no particular religion”. Her main focus is hugging people. She gives a big motherly hug to each stranger that comes forward in a line to receive one. It is said to give emotional healing to those who come. I can see how it would, especially for someone who felt they were unloved, as many do in our day.
Another segment dealt with a completely paralyzed girl named Audrey Santo, who gives off some kind of healing aura to those who come to see her. Religious portraits and statues are said to “weep” oil. Several examples of oily icons were given. Her mother, who selflessly cared for her night and day, was seen as the biggest promoter of her daughter’s healing power. The daughter later died.
There was a segment with the “Rev” Peter Popoff, a religious charlatan that I knew about over 30 years ago. At that time this fraud was going around in his “healing meetings” and claiming to be the son of Haralan Popov, a Bulgarian pastor who was imprisoned for over 13 years for preaching the gospel. I worked with Brother Haralan at Door Of Hope ministries at that time. One of our representatives heard Peter Popoff make the claim that Haralan was his father in a public meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. Peter Popoff was exposed as a liar shortly thereafter when it was learned that his father was really George Popoff , another Bulgarian, and no relation to Haralan Popov (both spellings are used for this common Slavic name). For instance, there is a famous Russian clown named Oleg Popov. He is now 77 years old. As the ABC piece says, about that same time Peter Popoff was exposed as a religious fraud using the scam of being prompted beforehand about people he “prophesied” about, and allegedly healed. Now, in 2007, he is back, and his latest scam is selling “magical” waters purported to heal. As of January 2008, Peter Popoff has dropped the "Miracle Spring Water" and now is promoting his new "Miracle Manna Bread".
There were nuns and monks presented in cloisters, and they made their declarations that their faith was “fortified” by the disciplines of cloister hood. There was a priest in Connecticut reportedly casting out demons. They also presented those who had faith in “their own good thoughts” as promoting healing, business success, supposed spiritual growth, etc..
There was recently a man on Regis and Kelly who said his life was changed by faith in his “inner self”. He essentially said that he was his own “god”. Oprah Winfrey has been promoting a book, The Secret, which also supports some new concepts of faith. She recently has conducted internet seminars with Eckhart Tolle, a new age guru, and writer of A New Earth. Basically they are saying faith in anything is okay. Whatever "floats your boat". It is roughly the same old concept taught by earlier New Age teachers. Add in some “name it and claim it", and give it a new twist called “laws of attraction", and what do you get? A best seller book!
Now it’s June, and the presidential election is only five months away. Remember, the politicians running for president started earlier than ever this year. In earlier interviews, several of them were falling all over themselves to express how much “faith” they have. Yet some of them who talked about “their faith” believe it is alright to kill babies in the womb!
ALL DO NOT HAVE GENUINE FAITH
What are we to think about all these presentations of “faith” in light of the Bible? Are these genuine manifestations of the true faith? Do we have definite guidelines to help us discern the true and the false? We certainly do, and what we saw on these programs, for the most part, was not Bible faith. I will endeavor to show from the Bible what faith really is.
Many who have no real understanding think that all persons have faith, yet scripture says: “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith”( 2 Thessalonians 3:2). This verse shows that not everyone has true Bible faith. There are unreasonable men (and women), who do not have it. There are wicked persons who do not have it. They can’t reach into their “inner self” and find it -- they just “have not faith”.
I might add that everyone does have faith in something if you define the word as trust, or belief. You may trust yourself, based on your ability, to drive a car. You may believe that the airplane you ride on will land at its destination safely, based on your understanding of the aircraft, the pilot’s training, past statistics, etc.. But this is a natural faith. What we are defining is a supernatural faith.
GENUINE FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD
True faith is a gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). You can see by these verses that salvation is a gift of God, because both the grace and the faith that bring it are God’s gift. Again, it is “not of yourselves” as all persons do not have faith, nor do all have grace, it is the gift to God’s elect. “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God‘s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1). Do you not see that this is a special kind of faith? It brings to the acknowledging of the truth and brings one to seek godliness.
GENUINE FAITH HAS THE PERSON OF CHRIST AS ITS OBJECT
What is truth, as Pontius Pilate asked? We should say Who is truth? Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). True faith has an object and that object is Jesus Christ. As the Son of God , He is the only way to get to the Father. In the same context of John 14 Christ tells his disciple Philip: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father: and how sayest thou then. Show us the Father?” (John 14:9). The same Jesus Christ that told him (and us), is the person who told the unbelieving Jews “Before Abraham was, I Am” ( John 8:58). He was identifying Himself as God: “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” ( Exodus 3:13,14). There can be no doubt about what He meant. Those Jews in John chapter eight surely knew, for they tried to stone Him! The object of true faith is Christ who reveals the Father to us. He is God, as the Father is God. The other Person of the Triune Godhead is also involved in this leading us to true faith. The Holy Spirit sets us apart to Christ: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).
Remember the main texts in recent articles I published (available by scrolling down on this blog). First, in The Philippian Jailer: when the jailer cried to Paul and Silas “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30,31). Faith is a noun. Belief is a synonym of faith. Believe, or believing, are verbs. To believe is faith in action. Paul and Silas directed the jailer, who was convicted by the Holy Spirit, to believe on Jesus. Jesus Christ is the object of genuine faith.
Another example from A Miracle in Gaza. The evangelist Philip was asked the following question by the Ethiopian eunuch, after expounding Isaiah 53 to him, and preaching Christ to him: “See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36,37). Again we see the object of faith or belief is Jesus Christ.
GENUINE FAITH IS IN CHRIST AND IS THE ONLY TRUE FAITH
The Greek word, pistis, is many times translated faith in all English versions of the Bible, and is used not only as belief, but sometimes to represent the entire system of Gospel truth itself (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). Another example from an article I revised and reprinted , Looking Unto Jesus by Adolphe Monod. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)
Then in the epistle of Jude it is written: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude v. 3).
Establishing from God’s word that faith in Christ is the only true way of salvation, and the collective faith which He established called the church (the true Christian church that Jude, and all the New Testament teaches about), what about these who have these “acts of faith” that do not have Christ as their object? Jude even tells us about them, and where we are today, for he wrote concerning a future apostasy.
“But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” Jude v.17-21). This is the kind of faith we must have -- a most holy faith. The faith once delivered unto the saints. Beloved friends, you better make sure you don’t fall for some false teaching -- some false gospel. Your very soul is at stake though you may feel secure. Make your calling and election sure. Make sure your faith is in Jesus Christ, and no other! “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved“ (Acts 4:12). Paul warns us all “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another: but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).
Strong words. We better be careful what we hear and accept, and preachers, you had better be extremely careful what you preach, for preachers and teachers have the greatest responsibility of all! "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Fear not Ecclesiastes
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