Even the demons believe – and shudder.
The latest Pew Research Center survey reports, yet again, the greater percentage of Americans saying that they believe in God: 80%. I never know what to make of such professed belief in God when I look at the pervasive decline in the American culture.
What do I as a Christian mean when I say, “I believe in God”? I likely mean something quite different than what the culture means. When I stand in church and say the Creed, I am saying something far more than the proposition that there is a God. I am declaring more than an opinion on the metaphysical probability of God’s existence. Rather, with the words “I believe”, I am actually intending to say that I am entrusting my very life to God. In the Biblical vernacular to say, “I believe”, is a relational statement, not just an assertion about what I think to be true. For example, when I say, “I believe in my wife”, I am saying a lot more than I believe in the certainty of her existence. And to say, “I believe in the risen Christ”, is to pronounce more than my opinion on the evidence for an empty tomb. Rather, I am committing my life to Him.
The relational meaning of the words, “I believe”, is readily evident by looking at any lexicon of New Testament Greek. There we see that the Greek pisteuo, “I believe”, means “to have faith, to trust, to rely on, to commit, to be faithful, to be loyal.” It is a word used more of the relationship to a person than a relationship to an idea. Thus, to believe in God and the risen Christ will necessarily be revealed in one’s priorities and actions. To believe is to be transformed in one’s very core and not just one’s thought patterns.
The relational and dynamic quality of pisteuo, or, “I believe”, was emphasized by sixteenth century Reformers who declared the necessity of adding personal trust (Latin: fiducia) to one’s conviction (Latin: assensus) that the Christian faith is true. There must be an entrusting of one’s very life to God in whom one believes. For, as today’s scripture from the letter of James warns, even demons believe in God.
I might have every certainty that a neurosurgeon can successfully operate on me, but it would be something more to actually commit myself to his care. Personal trust must be added to intellectual certainty!
As Easter people, what a wondrous thing it is to say to the world: “I believe in God!” By those astonishing words we are entrusting our very lives to Him, who by death has conquered death, and lives and reigns over all!
A fellow traveler,
P. S. I am happy to tell you that beginning this next week, May 13, our devotional, This I Know: The Bible Tells Me So, will be available for you to order online at our website www.waterfromrock.org. In these 40 reflections on Scripture I have written about some things we can know for sure in the midst of life’s many ups and downs and uncertainties. How do we know? The Bible tells us so! We think these scripture reflections will add to your personal devotions, Bible study group, Sunday School class, or church! Order one or more as you would like!