“But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to those believing in His name, those being born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
This is a proper translation from the Greek of this passage but, even so, the English inadequately expresses what God is saying; the problem revolves around the word “believing”. This is one English translation of the Greek verb pisteuo; but the Greek notion of “belief” carries with it a sense of a belief, the evidence of which is manifested in trust.
We live in an era when modern western Christianity can be characterised as belief without trust; that is, people are prepared to believe in the blessings and promises of God, but are unwilling to trust Him with their own lives; this is “crossless Christianity”. True Biblical faith is belief plus trust and is evidenced by spiritual power and authority in the life of the believer.
The power that must accompany faith is the power to take up your cross and follow Him; it is your cross that you must take up, not His; and everyone’s cross is different; one might have to take up his cross to crucify his pride, another his lust, another his covetousness, another his self righteousness, another his judgementalism, another his bitterness, worldliness, ungodliness etc. It is only as you seek the Lord to know what there is in you that needs crucifying that you will know.
That is but one manifestation of the power that must accompany Biblical faith; but there is more, and it can be described as the power of knowing and the power of doing. Knowing power includes, for example, the power to hear His voice personally; the power to know what to pray and when to pray; the power to know what you, personally, should do in a given situation. Doing power includes, for example, the power to obey God; the power to act upon the things that are made known, the power to wait until you hear from God.
There is little seeking after these things going on today; most seeking is for the blessings of God, for the things that we want for ourselves or our loved ones; it is as though Christians don’t want to seek to know what God wants of them, being fearful of the answer.
This is why Christianity in the western world is so powerless; a false gospel giving a false idea of grace adds up to a false faith. But the sad part is that a false faith adds up to a false salvation.
The Pauline epistles have been so misinterpreted in postmodern Christianity so as to remove, almost entirely, any understanding of the necessity for fear of the Lord. In the modern Church, the emphasis in Paul’s teaching is on the gifts of God’s grace, on forgiveness for sins, and other promises of divine blessing. Peter said that many things that Paul taught were hard to understand, and the unlearned and unstable distort them and, in the same sense, the modern Church has absolutely no idea of the fear of the Lord, or the wrath of God or the divine anger of God; these things are just not taught. The gospel that is being preached today is the good news only; the bad news is excised; this is to distort the scriptures, to separate the promises of God from the conditions that Gods demands of His people. The modern preacher ignores the hard stuff because the flock really doesn’t want to hear about such things as the consequence of willful sin. But such wishy-washy teaching is a grotesque parody of the true nature and character of God; the concept of Christ today is that of a nice, kind, Santa Claus figure who just goes around doling out gifts and being nice to everyone. But where there is no fear of God in His people there can be no knowledge of God in the world; the world looks at the Church and turns away unconvinced.
This is a terrible thing and makes a utilitarian object of the cross of Christ; it is to abuse the sufferings of Christ and to make sin of no effect. Wow! The truth is however, that there are both blessing and curses under the new covenant just as there were under the old. We ignore this at our peril.