Summary: Believing and belonging must go together for a growing effective Christian life.
When “Believing” Isn’t Enough
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).