Saturday, August 17, 2013

Belief in Christ vs Belief in Belief

Today, on Facebook, well-known pastor, author, and conference speaker John Piper wrote:

One cannot be wholly believing while watching oneself believe. Hence assurance comes not from looking at faith, but Christ.

I don't agree with Pastor John on everything, but he is most definitely a brother in Christ, and God has most certainly given him a great amount of wisdom, and for that I am very thankful. This sparked a conversation in the comment section (as his posts normally do), among which was this question:

So-my question is how do we look at the book of James and 1 John where works are an essential fruit of true conversion, but still look fully to Christ for assurance. How do we keep that in perspective?

That is a wonderful question, and one that deserves much thought. This was the response that I offered:

"Belief" assumes an object, and for the Christian, that object is Christ. We have the God-given ability to think about what belief & faith are, but when our belief & faith become the object of our belief (if that makes sense) in place of Christ, we crash and burn because our belief is no longer "plugged in" to the One who provides us the strength to endure in that belief. Our own belief is limited in its sustaining power, so making belief itself the object of our belief seals our failure. Our belief, then, depends on Christ to endure through all adversity and trascend through all time, because Christ himself endures, transcends, and is forever.
To put it analogously, imagine a tree that has the ability to walk back and forth on the earth. This tree can inspect his fruit and know that it is there, but cannot depend on the fact that fruit is there right now to mean, of necessity, that fruit will be there later. Why? If he travels across the land, and takes nothing but the fruit of his branches to eat on his journey, he will be sorely disappointed when he reaches up to his own boughs to discover that his fruit ran out. Instead, he must keep depending on the presence of the farmer, the water, the right weather, and the nutrients in the soil; he must stay rooted in the presence of the farmer to continue bearing fruit. The tree is us, staying rooted is our belief in Christ, wandering & eating his own fruit is believing in our own belief and what it produces, and the weather conditions, soil, water, and farmer are all Christ. If Christ is present and our belief is in him, we can be sure that fruit will likewise be present.

Perhaps I'll develop that concept into a poem or a short story...

I don't know if the commentor ever saw my response, or if he ever will; but if he did I hope it was edifying, and I hope that this also provides clarity for any of you that likewise struggle with the balance between the presence of works and faith in Christ. This obviously is not the final say on the matter, and I am by no means a theologian (many of which disagree about this very thing), but my prayer is that it may ease some minds as they are turned back to Christ again.

If I do end up writing a story, I'll be sure to post it here.


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