Bread – True Belief

March 4, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, March 4

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Deut. 9:13-21; Heb. 3:12-19; John 2:23-3:15

            Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72

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In Deuteronomy today, we have Moses recounting his descent from the mountain with the two tablets of the law, only to come upon the golden calf.  Moses tells the nation Israel that “You had turned aside quickly…”  Deut. 9:16b  This is probably an understatement.  Moses had barely disappeared to speak to God on the mountain before Moses brother and chief assistant (chief priest) Aaron and most of Israel turned away to false gods.  He might have well said “you turned aside instantly” and he would have been accurate.  There was no staying power in the people.

 

In Hebrews today, we read why there was no staying power.  The writer of Hebrews says “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness….Who were they who heard and rebelled?  Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?…And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”  Heb. 3:12-13, 16, 18-19.  Here a significant connection is made.  What is described as the act of disobedience (the “turning aside”) in Deuteronomy is now described in Hebrews as the act of unbelief.  Disobedience and turning aside arises from unbelief; unbelief causes disobedience and turning away to other gods.

 

Jesus speaks of the same thing in the Gospel of John today.  The reading starts off with this statement that “many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in His name.”  John 2:23.  But immediately following this, we see that Jesus did not rely upon the stated “believed in His name.”  We are told that “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for He knew all men.”  John 2:24.   The remainder of the reading today is Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (in part), where He tells Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is reborn, reminding Nicodemus that it is only the Spirit of God which gives birth to spirit.  John 3:3-8.

 

So we are confronted in these readings with two types of belief.  One belief is stated – “I follow Moses.  I follow God.  I believe in the name of Jesus Christ.”  That kind of belief results in turning away as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  It is marked by disobedience, chasing after false Gods, and rebellion.  It is the type of belief which is no more than the natural extension of the natural man.  It is unholy because it does not have its origins in God, but in man.  It is the kind of belief which Jesus would not rely upon, because He knows what is in man’s heart.  It is a counterfeit belief, unable to save, unable to transform, unable to cure, with no power and no strength.  Yet, in many respects it is the kind of belief which the modern church encourages.

 

Then there is the second type of belief – one which is born of the Holy Spirit speaking to our spirit, one which is initiated by God, made holy by God, given power and strength by God, saving and transforming, marked by obedience and staying the course, standing the ground.

 

We don’t like to talk about in “nice” Christian circles, but there is a litmus test for which kind of belief you have.  It is the litmus test of obedience.  It is the litmus test of staying the course and standing.  Now it is not an absolute litmus test, for none except Jesus is perfect and none except Jesus is without sin.  However, it is a tendency litmus test — in which direction are we moving?  The Israelites moved as far away from God as fast as possible after church was over (Moses left).

 

After church is over, which direction are you moving in?  The answer will say a whole lot about whether your belief is stated or real, whether it comes from man or from God.

 

And if you are concerned that your belief may just be of your doing, then let’s pray with the boy’s father who asked Jesus for a miracle – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24.  And take the miracle when it comes.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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