By Doug Lancaster
Though the Persian Gulf war has officially ended, we are not quick to forget the events that literally unfolded before our eyes as they were broadcast on public television. The news media covered well those terrifying days, perhaps too well. One scene in particular continues to weigh heavily on my mind. As the allied soldiers were nearing the end of the war, Iraqi soldiers in great companies began to surrender. The scenes were flashed on our TV sets of how happy the Iraqis were as they finally got the food and water they needed. The problem was many were fighting for fear of their lives; not fear of the allies, but of their own commander. In debriefings, they told of their harsh treatment by Saddam Hussein. They said they were forced to be soldiers with life threats, and when they were on the front, they did not receive the food and water they needed, all these events taking place before the allied bombing actually started. The bottom line is they just did not believe in the cause for which they were fighting.
Psalm 19 shows us that David realized the way of the Lord is the perfect way. The one who would be a child of God must concede that he is not in authority, but must submit to the authority of the Almighty. Sometimes man must answer to other men but ultimately he will answer to God for how he has conducted his life.
The Bible word “faith” is used in more than just one way in the Scriptures. In one sense, it denotes the “system of belief, what is believed, the faith.” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:4-13, shows that God has revealed to man his will. He is not dealing with the opinion of Paul but the revelation of God through the Spirit. 2 John 9-11 bears out that we must abide in the faith if we would be pleasing. The reference here is to the “system of belief.” Paul also told the Galatians not to heed any “other” gospel, stating they must abide in the truth.
In the primary use of the word, faith is “firm persuasion, conviction based on hearing.” This faith is personal where the system of faith is not. Romans 10:17 shows that faith can be produced in man only by hearing the Word of God. Neither the experiences nor observations on life are capable of producing one ounce of faith. Your personal faith is dependent upon your heart as you hear the Word. This personal faith is always used of conviction in God, Christ or otherwise spiritual things. It is never in the physical but always in the spiritual.
Personal faith is essential. The Hebrew writer shows that without faith one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Paul stated we are saved by faith (Rom 5:1-2). Faith is more than a simple acknowledgment of a thing. It is the “conviction of the truth of something; the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things and the bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.” Faith is not a result of scientific proof because, scientifically, you cannot prove something unless it can be duplicated in an experiment. Faith is a result of examining the evidence God has provided for man, in hopes that man will seek after him and find him. (Acts 17:25-27)
Now to the point. Why do you do the things you do ? If the Bible teaches anything it teaches that a man is responsible for himself. Paul told of the judgment scene and shows that it will be an individual judging (2 Cor. 5:10). This means there will be no local church judgment or family judgment or judging of a group of friends. You will be individually judged on how you have handled your opportunities based on your abilities. All through the Bible there are instructions to the individual on how he can please God. If you are to please him, you must follow him (Matt. 16:24). There is no denying some things must be done collectively, but still, the individual will be judged.
Are you convicted? We “know” the authority principle. That is, we must not act without God’s authority to do so (Col. 3:17). We also “know” we will be judged individually, but do we know why we do the things we do? Could you show someone, without help, your authority for your actions ? The problem is that we are oftentimes just like the Iraqi soldiers. We are simply not convicted in the cause for which we are “fighting.”
The sad but true fact of the matter is that people act for various reasons, other than the correct ones. Some act because of tradition. Please do not misunderstand. Tradition is not always a bad thing, but some would bind tradition as God’s law. Note Matthew 15:7-9 and see what warranted the condemnation of Christ on the Pharisees. They too had a “form” of righteousness, but they tried to bind their own traditions as necessary elements of God’s law. Perhaps an example for today would be the time of worship services. Some would be unchangeably bent out of shape if the local church worship time were moved by as little as half an hour. There are literally hundreds of examples that are silly to some but are matters of “law” to others.
Some act because of influence. Just because my family or friends do a particular thing I will too, even though I really do not know why. Influence can be either a good or a bad thing. Paul taught of the danger of influence by alluding to leaven. Leaven was not a bad thing at that time. It was sour dough frequently used in making bread when time allowed. The adultery that existed in Corinth was to be taken care of quickly before it could influence others to sin (1 Cor. 5). Note also one of my personal favorites in Acts 19:28-32. As Paul finished his discourse to the Ephesians, a violent uproar occurred. Verse 32 shows that there were a variety of things being said, because the most of them did not even know why they were there. This sounds like us sometimes. Some say one thing and some another because we just do not know why we do the things we do.
The monkey is on your back and mine individually to study and know for ourselves how we must act and why. Peter informed his audience that they must be ready to make a defense for their hope. To be ready necessitates willingness and ability, for both of which I will give answer individually. We simply must take a stand for our convictions, but first make sure we are convicted. May the accusation never be made against you that you do not believe in the cause of Christ. The faith has been delivered (Jude 3), but you are responsible for your faith. Let us follow after God’s righteousness because we believe and not because someone else does. May God help us be pleasing to him.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 22, pp. 686-687
November 21, 1991