What kind of “belief” saves you?

theology thursday_edited-1

Great thinkers in the past have divided biblical faith into three categories which are helpful for us to determine what it means to really believe: noticia, assensus, and fiducia. This is helpful– especially in light of James 2, which indicates that there is a kind of faith that cannot save.

Noticia refers to the idea of “knowing”. This is knowledge of the right doctrine. This is understanding the right truths. If an unbeliever visits a church long enough, and begins reading his Bible, he may get the facts right but not believe it.  I’ve known atheists and agnostics who understand Christian doctrine better than some Christians I’ve known. Obviously, this kind of knowledge doesn’t save you.

Assensus refers to the idea of “agreeing”. This is agreeing with the right doctrine. It means assenting to the truth of Scripture. This would be the kind of belief that agrees with the gospel but isn’t actually changed by it. James would call this kind of faith “dead” (James 2:14). A person could have all the right content (noticia) and agree with all the right facts (assensus) and yet still be unsaved– for true faith always results in real life change.

Fidutia refers to personal confidence and trust. This is the idea of “trusting”. This is not only knowing the right doctrine and agreeing that it’s true, but personally responding to the gospel by turning from known sin, taking a posture of surrender and submission to Christ, and believing with confidence that all God’s promises are yours in Christ. This kind of faith results in life-change, where the believer constantly strives to put Christ on the throne of his life.

Where do you stand?

Is your “faith” simply knowing all the right doctrine?

Is your “faith” agreeing to the truths of the gospel?

If your faith is merely knowing and agreeing, it’s time for you to take another step, because only a fidutia kind of faith saves. Personally trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, surrender to him as your master, turn from your sin, pursue righteousness, and believe that his work on the cross has delivered you from the power and penalty of sin.

How the Gospel Changes Us

Jesus beatenYou who know me know that I can’t stand lessons or sermons or advice that tells me that I need to be a certain way. Don’t tell me I need to love people more, I already know that. Tell me how to change my heart so that I will love people more. Advice that aims at changing my behavior first is a short-cut, it’s shallow, it breeds legalism, and it’s ultimately fruitless and futile–most importantly, it’s lacking grace. As a pastor I need to stop demanding behavior and start shepherding hearts toward a grace-filled life. The first step in doing this is repentance.

Repentance is the act of turning from sin toward obedience to God, motivated out of love for God. For many of us, the act of repentance is very easy in concept, but incredibly difficult–borderline impossible–in deed. Why? Because repentance involves much more than the will. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians, “for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what EARNESTNESS this godly grief has produced in you, but also what EAGERNESS to clear yourselves, what INDIGNATION, what FEAR, what LONGING, what ZEAL, what PUNISHMENT…”

Earnestness for reconciliation, eagerness for restoration, indignation at our sin, fear of its consequences, longing for righteousness, zeal in pursuing it, willingness to endure punishment for it– these are not acts of the will. I cannot will myself to feel these things. So how can I come to this state of repentance? If we are to turn from our sins in repentance, what must we do?

Paul gives us a great hint in Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” God’s kindness to humanity in Jesus Christ, that is the GOSPEL, is what leads humanity to true repentance, which results in a changed heart. Knowing, understanding, and experiencing God’s grace to us, through Christ, will lead us to repentance. The grace of the gospel is the most practical and useful message for all people of all ages, because it leads us to repentance.

And true repentance is what changes our lives.

The Point: BECOME AN EXPERT ON THE GOSPEL (know what exactly Jesus did for you and how his death burial and resurrection affects you TODAY)