Summary: Believing and belonging must go together for a growing effective Christian life.

When “Believing” Isn’t Enough

Matthew 7:13-28

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Introduction: Frank could be your next-door neighbor. He’s a decent hardworking guy. He doesn’t have any glaring faults as far as you know. Of course, his wife might tell a different story. But we won’t go there. One Saturday afternoon, Frank is helping you work on your car. Just casually, the topic of Sunday plans comes up. You see an opportunity. So you ask Frank if he and his wife would like to join you for church and then go out for lunch someplace.

Frank isn’t offended, but neither is he interested. His response goes something like this. “I’m not much into church. Don’t get me wrong now. I believe in God an all that. But all of that religion stuff isn’t for me.” You offer a few encouraging words and re-extend the invitation. When he again declines, you decide to drop the discussion for now. “Maybe some other time then,” you say, “the invite is always open.” The two of you return your attention back to the brake job.

We all probably know a lot of Franks. His perspective is pretty common. What about it? Is believing enough as Frank insists? How important is this church stuff? I want to tackle those questions today. I know I am preaching to the choir for the most part. After all, you are here today. But beneath Frank’s comments are some underlying issues that even those who are in church every Sunday may need to think about. Some of these issues are at the heart of the second purpose of the Purpose Driven life.

Before we dive into today’s topic, let’s review for a moment. We are into the third week of our 40 Days of Purpose. We are exploring God’s reasons for our lives. We are looking for answer to the question, “What On Earth Am I Here For?” Our source for this journey is God’s Word. Surely we should settle for nothing less! But we are using Rick Warren’s bestseller The Purpose Driven Life as our roadmap. I encourage you to keep reading the PDL. It is designed to be read a chapter at a time each day for forty days. Even if you have charged on ahead in the reading, I hope you will go back and read the daily reading again for each of the 40 days.

I want to say it again so you don’t miss the point. We are using Rick Warren’s book as our roadmap but our search is really about God’s Word. No matter how helpful this (PDL) or any other book may be, it must never become a substitute for this book (Bible)! We must never loose sight of that principle in this place!

Using Rick Warren’s terminology for what the Bible says, God put each of here for five purposes. Walk through with me again. 1) We were planned for God’s pleasure—that worship. 2) We were formed for God’s family—that fellowship. 3) We were created for Christ-likeness—that discipleship. 4) We were shaped for God’s service—that’s ministry. 5) We were made for God’s mission—that’s evangelism or spreading the Good News about Jesus.

What about Frank? Is believing enough? I am not so concerned this morning about Frank. I am not here to condemn the Franks of this world. After all, as my grandma used to say, “Every pot’s got to set on its own bottom.” I am more concerned that those of here understand why we are here and why our relationship with God is about more than saying we believe. Let me explain what I mean when I say “believing is not enough.”

First, believing is not enough when our view of faith is less than the Bible’s. Note that I put “believing” in quotes in my title. Everything turns on our definition. I’m not just quibbling about words here. Something very important is at stake.

As some of you know people sometimes argue about religion. I know you won’t believe me. Just take my word for it. They do. A lot of it is just quibbling over traditions and speculations. Sometimes folk are really saying the same thing, but don’t listen well enough to realize it. One of the issues over which doctrinal debates sometimes occur is the issue of “faith only.” Some of you know what I talking about. You have those discussions with friends or maybe in a Sunday School class. If you don’t know what I am talking about, that’s fine you’re probably better off for it.

Here’s my position. Listen closely. We are saved by faith alone, by faith alone in Christ alone. No one has their sins forgiven or will go to heaven because they earn it, deserve it, or demand it. It is wholly of God’s grace. The Bible says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “By grace are you saved through faith and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

But as one great theologian (John Calvin) explained it, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” It is in that spirit that I say “believing” is not enough when our definition of believing is less than the Bible’s.

You probably heard the old illustration of Jean Blondin the famous French tightrope walker. The incident supposedly actually happened. Blondin’s most famous stunt was walking across an 1100 foot long cable stretched 160 feet above the base of Niagara Falls. He first performed it 1859. He did it many times after that, with many variations. Sometimes blindfolded, sometimes backwards.

On this one occasion, thousands of tickets were sold to the crowds who stood on both sides of the falls. Drums rolled, Blondin appeared and began his performance. He walked to the middle of the falls and returned. He then stepped to a platform and asked the crowd how many believed he could do the same thing while pushing a wheelbarrow. Hands went up everywhere. He then asked how many believed he could do it with a person in the wheelbarrow. Again hands went up everywhere. “Who will volunteer to be that person?” Every hand went down!

You ask me if I believe in doctors. I say, of course, but then I add I never go, not even when I am sick. Do I believe? I go to the doctor. He examines me and says my cholesterol is dangerously out of whack. He tells me to watch what I eat, get some exercise, and gives me a prescription. I go home I eat a triple cheese burger and watch ballgame on television. Do I believe in doctors? Well maybe in some strange way. I believe doctors exist. But that’s hardly the point. The question is “Do I believe my doctor.”

Note how Romans 4 cites the example of Abraham. “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (3). The Bible’s question is not do I believe in God or do I believe that Jesus lived. Make no mistake about it, that’s a good start. The real question is “Do I believe God?” Do I believe what he says about my condition? Do I believe what he says about the remedy for my situation? Do I believe it enough to do what he says about it? In the Bible, believing means more than believing IN God. It means believing God.

The faith of the Bible is never just a mental think. It involves the mind, the emotions, the will, and the body. That’s why I think the Bible always places the physical act of baptism in the context of receiving Christ. The act of baptism doesn’t save us. Baptism apart from faith is meaningless. But nor is baptism an optional ritual. It is a God ordained, Jesus commanded way for faith to become more than just thoughts and words. Baptism also of necessity involves at least one other person. This brings us a second reason believing is not enough.

Secondly, “believing” is not enough when our view of self is more than the Bible’s. This brings us to the heart of our Purpose Driven Life reading for this coming week and that second purpose for which we were created. We were formed for God’s family. The question is this, “Can a person live a God-honoring, Christ-following life part from active involvement with a group of other believers. I say the only way you can answer yes to that is to take a whole lot more exalted view of yourself than the Bible does.

We need one another (the church) because we are not self-sufficient. We are not immune to temptations, struggles, and moments of doubt. Life can be tough. Alone we are vulnerable. Together we are strong.

Listen to how the Bible says this: “It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. {14} Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. {15} Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. {16} From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:1-16 NIV). Living for God is a team effort. It takes more than what I can do by myself. It requires more than you do by yourself!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. {25} Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25 NIV). We need one another. We need the encouragement that comes from meeting together. We were formed for God’s family.

Conclusion: I hope everyone of you believes. I hope you believe that God is and that he is a rewarder of those seek him (Heb. 11:6). I hope you believe in Jesus Christ, that he alone paid for the price of yours sins on the cross. I hope you believe that in your heart and confess it with your mouth. But I also hope your believing is more than words. I hope that it is trust in God, that you not only believe in Him, you also believe Him!

I hope you don’t try to live your faith alone. You need to be a member of the church. You need to sign up. You need to show up. You need to plug in. You need to be plugged into a network of Christians who support and encourage you and who you encourage and support.

***Dr. Roger W. Thomas is the preaching minister at First Christian Church, 205 W. Park St., Vandalia, MO 63382 and an adjunct professor of Bible and Preaching at Central Christian College of the Bible, 911 E. Urbandale, Moberly, MO. He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian College (BA) and Lincoln Christian Seminary (MA, MDiv), and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).