“As Coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
and she’s not only merely dead.
She’s really, most sincerely dead!”
From the film: The Wizard of Oz
A Certificate of Death
The coroner in this film even issued a formal Certificate of Death for the Wicked Witch of the East. He wanted everyone to know he not only examined her, but he thoroughly examined her, and she was dead, Dead, DEAD! The overemphasis on her obvious condition is comical.
But some of us, Christians, make the same mistake but with a heartbreaking, not comic, outcome.
A Certificate of Faith?
Let me ask, if you’re a believer, do you have a formal Certificate of Faith? Do you need one?
When you believed, what was the condition of your faith? Was it sincere? Was it true? Was it real? Living? When you believed, did it make a moral difference in your life? If not–then–are you sure it was genuine?
Or was it–God forbid!–a supposed “un-saving” faith?
[[You won’t get a formal certificate for that!]]
OR is faith a word best left alone? Maybe we shouldn’t modify it? Unless “mustard seed” is the modifier:
“The apostles said to the Lord (Jesus), “Increase our faith.” The Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you (Luke 17:5-6).”
Revisiting Your Conversion
Every believer struggles with overcoming sin(s), addiction, poor health, mental health issues, et al. There will never be a person who has placed their faith in Christ and has not succumbed to the same sinful failures as the world.
Therefore, we face those issues along with the unbelieving world. We harm struggling believers when we ask them to revisit their conversion experience whenever a problem in their life ensnares them. When we ask them to assess whether they “really (most sincerely?) believed.” As if a person can be an “unbelieving” believer!
The Bible’s Approach for Struggling Believers
So, what approach does the Bible take when believers, also called God’s children, struggle with sin? Does it cast doubt on the person’s salvation? Or does it call on that person to remember what God saved them from? God gave unbelievers the right, the authority, to become children of God by simply believing in Jesus’ Name (John 1:12). And once a child of God, forever a child of God.
This is an essential question for counselors, whether they’re professionals or simply someone called alongside to help.
Live Up to Your High Calling
The Corinthian church had problems with sinful behavior. The Apostle Paul even said one of their member’s sins was worse than that mentioned in the corrupt Roman society. Yet he didn’t suggest that the cause of the sin was a lack of faith in Christ or an unregenerate heart. Paul called them all God’s children and asked them to avoid this brother until he repented of his sin. Instead of accusing them of having insufficient faith, Paul called on sinners to live up to their saved positions and to live worthy of their (unquestioned by Paul) calling.
Maybe an anonymous example will help us understand the danger of this approach. In a large Christian church, the leadership counseled an “allegedly” abused wife to submit to her husband. Under the circumstances, she reportedly refused, and the leadership “allegedly” agreed to treat her as an unbeliever, saying, “For all we know, she is (an unbeliever).” If that’s an accurate account of their approach, that is heartbreaking. Their faulty view of saving faith led them down a road where they accused an abused daughter of the King of being a lying heathen! They tore down a child to whom they should have served as a refuge.
Worst Case Scenario
An unethical counselor can control people by suggesting a person’s eternal destiny isn’t secure if they don’t act a certain way–their way! We should approach this issue the way the Bible does. It’s the ethical approach.
Do Unbelievers Need a Certificate of Faith to Go to Heaven?
If you’re an unbeliever, do you need a formal Certificate of Faith? Do you need a particular faith or quality of faith, or is believing enough?
As Christian witnesses for Christ, we also harm unbelievers when we ask them to have a particular faith. God promises that those who believe in Jesus’ Name receive eternal life (John 1:12; 6:47).
Unbelievers struggle with problems in their life (as do believers). Often, they’re not ready to believe the gospel until they’ve exhausted other options for getting to heaven. Pride is the most common obstacle to belief. People try to make it to heaven on their own merits. They don’t want to admit that their hearts are wicked and that they can’t somehow save themselves or at least contribute to their salvation. But the waters of life are complementary; Jesus offers them without cost (Revelation 22:17).
With no Barrier
Jesus paid the full price for salvation. Salvation’s available, but the person must come with empty hands. They don’t need to clean up their life to prove they have a “sincere enough” faith to deserve salvation. The Holy Spirit, with their cooperation, will help them live a better life, but that happens after they’ve believed the gospel. Asking them to stop sinning, or even at least intend to, puts a barrier between them and salvation.
Let’s be Clear
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).” There’s no qualification or demand for a specific type of faith!
For us believers, as counselors representing God, let’s NOT ask believers to revisit their salvation experience whenever they have a problem in their life. That’s not the Bible’s approach; it does more harm than good. Instead, ask them to live up to their calling and seek Jesus’ help. As our High Priest, He is the friend of sinners (Hebrews 4:14-16).
For unbelievers, let’s NOT ask them to clean up their life before they believe. Jesus paid the full price for our salvation, and He accepts the sinner as they are. Former unbelievers should clean up their life, and Jesus will help them with that–AFTER salvation.
Don’t Use Modifiers
The gospel message calls on us to believe. We should NOT place modifiers before faith or belief. Unbelieving believers don’t exist.
How much faith does it take to save us? Great question! Watch the Great News video on this page to find out more.
More questions can be found here.