Hebrews 11:1--"Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, or title deed) of the things (we) hope for, being the proof of things (we) do not see and the convictiion of their reality--faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses." Amplified Version.
Faith: "Belief, conviction, trust, confidence, certainty, sureness, credence, reliance, dependence..." Roget's Super Thesaurus, Second Edition.
Faith: "Giving credence, trust, or holding something or someone as true," from Basic Theology, A Popular Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, by Charles C. Ryrie.
Please bear these definitions in mind as we delve into a couple of current and popular false doctrines, in light of the Holy Scriptures.
It is very apparent to me that the core teaching of various proponents of the "Word of Faith Movement" is that a person can obtain anything and everything he or she wants by believing just the "right" sort of things, praying in just the "right" sort of way, and/or acting in a certain way.
[To give the "benefit of a doubt, it may not be the express intention of the "proponent," but the hearer of the message may take what is said to mean just this in meaning, which produces the same result. In other words, the preacher says to the disciple, "Do this, and that, believe this, and believe that, give this amount, or pledge that amount, and these scriptures, Hezekiah 2:17, III Corinthians 5:17, and II Jude 14:5, will produce such and such results in your life!" Now the preacher may not realize it, but God has been effectively removed from the matter of faith in this disciple's mind, and who is there to replace him but this person and his "faith"? Unless it is the preacher himself, which is then a deification of the preacher, not the disciple! People do it all the time, and it works miracles, does it not? But that does not justify it.--Ed.].
In this way, a person can, in effect, (be self-deceived and think to) switch roles with God, making Him our servant, and ourselves taking His place as master and lord.
MAY IT NEVER BE!
This same teaching is at the very heart of ancient magic. (The essence of Magic is to play God. Magic seeks to manipulate real things and people through "magical means" such as incantations of ritual words and the frequent use of various materials put together in a secret way that is supposed to affect reality the way the user desires--a truly demonic-laden procedure which all Christians are forbidden by the Bible to engage in!--Editor) Faith is not some sort of "Principle or Force" of the Universe that even God must obey. It is not some kind of whip that we can use to force God to do our bidding.
True faith must have an object, such as faith in the transcendent Triune and Almighty God, or in what God has to say. Faith is subsequent to God, and therefore it is dependent on God, our Sovereign Lord.
We can believe God, for He is faithful and true, and He cannot lie, for this would violate His very nature.
In other words, faith in faith can avail nothing, but faith in Almighty God can move mountains!
Mark 11: 22 & 23: "And Jesus answered, saying to them, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him." --New American Standard, cp. Matthew 17:20 and I Corinthians 13:2 (Note that verse 23 is predicated on verse 22 and with the clause, "Have faith in God" in particular)
Having faith in God in the New Testament is equivalent to trusting in the Lord of the Old Testament (all the more reason to trust it in regard to whatever the Bible says about faith, regardless of what covenant--Ed.)
I find that Proverbs 3: 5-7 sums it up best: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil." N.K.J.V.
James 4: 1-4: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from desires that battle with you? You want something but don't get it, you kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (Or) when you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God..." New International Version.
Remember, it is to be God's will, not ours. His way, not ours, and in His time, not in ours.
We who are Americans are, on the whole, impatient. We want what we want when we want it--yesterday! And also, there are those among us whose creed is greed, and God is gold! (In other words, we are materialistic and Mammon-worshiping, or tend strongly to be such as Americans. Often, we think to excuse this in ourselves, by saying piously that God made us "stewards," when actually we aren't humble and faithful stewards but merely indulging ourselves in as much material things as we can obtain, all despite the warnings about the many, serious snares of wealth in the Bible.!--Ed.)
Ephesians 2: 8 & 9: "For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation), through (your) faith. And this (salvation) is not of yourselves, of your own doing, it came not through your own striving, but it is the gift of God, not because of works (not the fulfillment of the Law's demands), lest any man should boast, it is not the result of what anyone can poossibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself." Amplifed Version.
They are joining with the ungodly, with the immoral, with the Christ-haters. Christians are even flocking to the banner of political leaders who are making themselves out to be America's Hope for Change! These political candidates and leaders like to pontificate on faith and religion (Barak Obama, for instance, lately spoke about the Sermon on the Mount, as if he were a theology student or theology professor!), for the sake of very self-serving, unBiblical political agendas! How dare they! That gives them in the minds of carnal, reprobate and gullible people a messianic aura, and too many Christians, who should know better, are seduced by it! I cannot go into all the forms this false or heretical Christianity takes--they are too numerous to mention! I would rather promote what is genuine, and leave the chaff for God's Wind to blow away!--Ed. It may be that some parts of a ministry are good, even very good, being Bible-based, but other parts are not, being fleshly or religious, not based on Christ alone. For instance, supposedly "faith-based ministries" routinely use the marketing techniques and selling strategies of their ministry products just like the world--in fact, they use the methods of the world--routinely, as though these were always godly methods and are above question. This was not George Muller's way--and THERE IS NO QUESTION HIS MINISTRY TO THE ORPHANS OF LONDON WAS FAITH BASED! IT WAS NOTHNG BUT FAITH-BASED, BEGINNING TO END! So what are these faith-based ministries--SO-CALLED--today? They talk a great deal about faith and trusting in God or this and that thing we want or need. But do they really trust God? Do they have faith in God for their own ministry? Then why do they use the world's Madison Avenue methods to promote their enterprises? Why do they announce their needs publicly and cajole and wheedle and entertain and othewise persuade on TV millions of Christians to give and give and give to their ministries, citing all sorts of urgent needs as their excuses. Nobody seems to question these ministries--since they proclaim to the whole world, and show case by case, all the good they are doing to needy people round the world, to orphans as well as bringing the Gospel to the unevangelized in far out places on this globe. The secularist, atheistic world is not fooled. The world thinks that these ministries are hypocritical and greedy and fake. They have a point. Did Jesus use such methods? Obviously not! People supported his ministry, but he was not asking and seeking people's aid. Never once does scripture record that he asked for money or assistance.
Not once! A fish provided some money one time, but God provided the fish, not a person! Peter merely went and extracted the coin from the fish's mouth!
The Father provided, and Jesus prayed no doubt about his needs, and it was not made a public matter or the concern of his followers. What about the feeding of the five thousand, on two occasions? God the Father provided the banquets! A boy came with his lunch, offering it up, but that couldn't feed five thousand men and their wives and children! The Father multiplied that little lunch so that it fed everyone, with an abundance of food left over. That was not the effect of anything humans did--it was totally divine, the doing of the impossible that only God can do. Why don't we follow His example? Or at least George Muller's!
This fleshly Christianity that claims to be faith-based but is not can be based on works righteousness, or doing something to merit Christ's grace, or a desire to manipulate God for one's advantage, spiritually or materially. Can we look at what is going on in the churches and in our own lives and not be grieved by the amount of fleshly Christianity there is? Clearly, God is blessing ministries that are claiming to be faith-based but use the world's fund-raising strategies of mass mailings and sale of books and tapes. That is not wrong in itself--but it isn't faith--it is Madison Avenue expertise working as it has always worked. You don't need faith for any of that (look at the huge corporations built on it, with no credit to God whatsoever!). Yes, there is faith in the launching of ministries, in the stepping out to expand them, to trust God for the money to support the operations of the ministry, and so on--that is real, but when you use the methods of the world to keep it going, what is that but fleshly and not faith-based? It doesn't really bear examination. George Muller would have shaken his head at the sight of such "faith." Obviously, it is not faith at all, but it "works." And it is an accepted practice, so people think it is faith, when it is not. The grand buildings, the great crusades, the ministry outreaches globally--all are highly impressive (and the good they do for orphans and needy people of all kinds can't be denied or depreciated), but when based on Madison Avenue fundraising, the foundation of all this impressive ministering may not be faith at all. God will be the Judge. I am glad I don't have to be the Judge. After all, only He knows the heart of a man. Nevertheless, as Duane Smith warns, we must heed the Word of God concerning such practices, for the end of them is hay, wood, and stubble, all of which will burn up at the Judgment of the saints by Christ.--Ed.