By Andy Zoppelt
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God.] for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him [condition].” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
A portion of the book of Hebrews deals with entering the Lord’s rest, faith and the Jews failure to enter that rest through faith. There is a warning to us also of not entering that rest. Without the use of faith it is impossible or there is no other means to please God, because without faith we find ourselves struggling by our own limitations based on what “we” can see, what “we” hear, what “we” feel and by the powers of “our” reasoning that draws from our carnal resources that in turn persuades us on how to react and deal with life.
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him [it doesn’t make sense]; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV
The natural man is enmity to God, it is not only self-bias, but it is greatly limited within its own nature. The natural man is bound to its own bias reasoning to the benefit of self, it will always come up with reasoning that is against God’s favor; so then, how could we have faith if we never died to self at the point of salvation? In Christianity today we have left out the most essential points to our salvation: repentance and the death to self with its rule in our lives.
We cannot and must not “lean on our own understanding” because faith draws life from a completely different source and with a different view of life from a position of being seated with Him in heavenly places. If our natural man rules in us, we cannot have faith, we are thus persuaded by its nature to live by our thoughts and values that it spins selfishly on the events of our daily life. We thus live in the world and the world lives in us affecting our decisions. We cannot see God’s control, God’s will and our position seated with Christ in heavenly places. Doubt restricts them from view. Spiritual things seem so unreal to the carnal nature and we struggle with spiritual realities. The natural man is drawn to the physical and psychological pains and needs with the only hope being deliverance, it cannot see the value of growing in faith in these events. To have faith we must allow God’s word to begin to persuade us during these times.
The Greek word for faith pistis (pis'-tis) and the Greek word for believe is pisteuo (pist-yoo'-o) they both have the same root, unlike our words faith and believe. The root of these words come from another Greek word and that is pietho (pi'-tho) which means to persuade. At the root of faith is what persuades us, what persuades us to act and what persuades us to believe and have faith. This connection is seen in Paul’s statement to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed [pisteuo] and am persuaded [pietho] that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” NKJV
What persuades us is what we have faith in. Don’t think for a second that we can just allow thoughts to run through our mind without consequences. We obey what persuades us as being important or true. Persuasion is seen in the car salesman who is trying to persuade us to buy a certain car or a friend trying to persuade us to do what he thinks best or even the devil persuading us to live a certain way and of course God and a faithful brother or sister trying to persuade us to live according to His word. What we permit and allow to persuade us will lead us either deeper into faith or deeper into doubt.
Faith and doubt share the same root of persuasion. To be persuaded by something that does not come from the source of God is a negative form of faith that we call doubt. When that source of persuasion is Jesus and His word it is faith and we act appropriately in obedience. When that source of persuasion is self-centered and self-preservation and control, it is doubt followed by rebellion. We cannot obey God if we continue to allow self to persuade us with its arguments based on our opinions and feelings. We are not limited by the resources and limits of our thinking or by the feelings we are experiencing, these limits restrict us and keep us in continual bondage and therefore we cannot do the things we ought.
Jesus said that it is truth that sets us free; too often we are persuaded by a lie that keeps us in rebellion and bondage. Bondage has limits like the chain connected to a pole; we are only free within the limits of the chain. Our thinking and our feelings are temporal based and our limited, but the gospel, God’s words are eternal and have no limit because they are based on God’s eternal being. Isaiah made that comparison between God and us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
So why do we put so much into our thinking and feelings? It is because the general concept in American Christianity is based on the individual and what pleases him or her. God is seen through the narrow perspective of the deliverer of ever uncomfortable situation and He will give us peace… and it ends there. Don’t we understand what is persuading us to believe this way is not from God?
Adam and Eve for a time were persuaded that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. They had faith in God’s command and believed they would die as a consequence. So how did they lose faith in God’s word and rebel?
Satan came along and “persuaded” them that God did not have their full interest, and by eating from that tree they would be elevated to being equal to God. The persuasion was directed to self-interest (all sin operates that way): the fruit taste good, it will make you wise and you will be like God. Satan sold them that bill of goods and they allowed him and his words to persuade them to eat. Yes, they had faith, they had faith in Satan and his words and when faith is not in God and His word, it is called doubt and doubt always leads to rebellion. The Garden became their test to see if they would act and live by faith in God’s word or rebel.
Every day we wake up we are faced with a garden experience. We are persuaded by either the source being God or Satan. We need to follow the source of persuasion to see if it is of self interest or is it in pleasing God. So many so-called Christians live out their life thinking they are saved while living in bondage. How can Jesus save us if we are being persuaded to live out our lives based on the persuasion of our flesh, carnal nature and this temporal life?
We have been mislead about reading our bibles as a ritual, some morning devotional that has little affect on our changing and growing in faith. We are suppose to allow the bible to persuade us on how to live, how to see things and what to accept as truth through the day. The bible is an instruction book, not a history book. We are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. “Faith comes by hearing [putting into practice], and hearing by the word of God [not our reasoning]. Romans 10:17, NKJ
Faith does not come by our getting into ourselves. Often I stay for months until I am walking in a given verse. I apply it to my life and continue to see how I am responding to it. I often find that my natural mind cannot make sense of it and it keeps trying to force its opinion and feelings, but that is where we find the war between the natural and spiritual for our lives. It is the place of life or death, the place of heaven or hell. The persuasion we submit to will determine a life of faith or a life of doubt.
If we have died to all the is of self and by the fact that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ, there is no problem or situation that can hinder us. That is why faith overcomes the world. That is why we can do all things through Christ Jesus… not the flesh. That is why we are more than conquers. Today’s Christianity is anemic, sterile, lethargic, passive and indifferent, it has been persuaded to follow the agendas of men who have taken control over His body.
If Jesus calls us to repent and turn from self as the source of our life and to turn to Jesus as the source of our life, how is it then there is so much bondage in the church today? It takes faith to believe that we died when Jesus died and we are seated with Him in heavenly places. That faith must be based on the persuasion of His word. If not we are going to be constantly examining our thoughts and emotions to determine reality. “I feel depressed, I can’t see His peace in me and I can’t see myself in heavenly places or even being dead to self…this all seems so strange to me.” That is the reasoning that most are persuaded to live by…that produces doubt and thus doubt causes them to be spiritually feeble as indifference and sin dominates them.
I can or I can’t is based on whether or not Christ’s words are the basis of our living day by day. Morning devotion means nothing if those words are not the persuasive words we are following. We must allow God’s word to persuade us on how to live. We must constantly set our mind on things above. We must make it a practice to focus on where the power of our life lays. We should never let sin or any thought take us captive. We cannot do all things through Christ unless God is allowed to do all things in us. Faith is not an issue where we learn to get from God; it is an issue in establishing His word in us to replace our words that for years have run our lives. What is real to us is based on what persuades us is real. There is nothing in our flesh that will allow us to be persuaded by eternal and spiritual things… we must die to self
Paul ties this whole concept in Romans 8:5-8, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds [reasoning] on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, [set their reasoning on] the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally [reasoning] minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God [produces rebellion and not obedience]; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
We read earlier that without faith it is impossible to please God; now we read that those in the flesh as their source cannot please God. The whole point of being a believer is to please God, it is not just some ritual of inviting Jesus into our heart and then kicking Him out during the first trial. We don’t have a real salvation message today based on the gospel. We have a man’s gospel for man’s interest.
If we live to please and agree with our flesh we will go to hell. We will live in rebellion, in bondage, in deception and it will be because we have been persuaded out of self interest, like Adam and Eve, rather than the words of God. Again, faith is not to get from God as a driving interest, it is to establish His word in us as the One we live by.
We are far too passive in dealing with thoughts, reasonings and feelings. We fail to see their absolute control over our being saved and free. We live our lives in this world and its events and things. We fail to see that we live in Christ in heavenly places and that takes some persuasion and training… faith. Faith reaches beyond this world, the situation and the trials, it reaches a life in Christ, and it puts all its persuasive words in accepting His word for life.
It is a war of what ultimately is going to persuades us and how we deal with that war will determine the result of our life in this garden for the life to come. What therefore persuades us is what we have faith in, that is the link between faith and persuasion. That is why we are told that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [coming out of the flesh and self] but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, [here is what Paul defines as strongholds] casting down arguments [the source of persuasion] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God [persuasion based on truth and reality], bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The source that persuades us to sin, the thoughts that present the argument to live out our lives based on self and pleasure is the source that destroys faith. This is about our life being restored to the conformity of His image and living by the same principles of life that guides His life. It is sad to say that many so-called Christians are not Christ-like, it is because we have lowered the standard to some vague understanding of what is means to be Christ-like. Overcoming, sinless, holy, obedient have been compromised by the false use of His word.
Our faith in our opinions and feelings is rebellion and it puts little credibility and authority in Jesus and His word. If we don’t aggressively move toward Jesus and His word we will by default revert to self and the direction coming from our carnal nature. Such people are not believers, how can they be saved without actually living by Jesus’ life in obedience, such are deceived by the persuasion of the lie as being truth. They are actually putting the credibility and authority on their life, on self, while only giving mental ascent to Jesus. That kind of believing was illustrated by James in 2:19-20, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works [obeying] is dead?” True faith always obeys.
Whenever we have true faith in Jesus, we obey Him. How could one believe in Jesus and disobey Him? Paul put it this way in Romans 6:11, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are [in fact[ that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death [hell], or of obedience leading to righteousness [heaven]?” NKJV What is leading you and who is persuading you???
We can say we believe in Jesus, but if we do not obey Him, then we are in fact really serving the devil. Satan in reality is our lord because he has persuaded us with a lie to live on the bases of our perceptions of the events of our life. Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve two masters, “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to [serve] the one and despise the other.” So to sin is to hate God. People who hate God and their brother don’t go to heaven period.
If we constantly get into our selves, complain and get angry and depressed, that tells us that we are not connected to Jesus as our vine and source…such is the fruit of the flesh. The Lord does not respond to those who do not serve Him and make Him their Lord. How could Jesus then be savior if He is not Lord?
In our minds we have not made the turn around (repent) when we came to the Lord. We accepted some concept that all we had to do was to accept and receive Jesus and we will be saved. But that excludes the true meaning of faith in giving Him our lives, that persuasion is from hell. We cannot receive His life if we don’t give Him ours.
1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, [How?] because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” NKJV
So to believe and have faith in Jesus is to submit our lives to Him. So for one to be saved, to be a son, to be a disciple, one must have faith, because whatever is not of faith is sin. James by no means was saying anything different than Paul when he said, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves [believing and being persuaded in a lie].” 1:22
Many so-called Christians have been persuaded in a standard of salvation that is not based on real faith. We allow ourselves to be deceived when we don’t understand the principles of believing, hearing and obeying and we throw everything into some form of grace that nullifies true faith. God only give grace to the humble, He resist the proud. Where do we get this doctrine of grace that allows for habitual sin? It is not in the bible and when I came to the Lord I was taught I should expect to sin and expect to be forgiven and that sinning is normal and there are many sins I won’t be able to overcome. Well their persuasion has been a curse in my walk with the Lord. I remember one day while driving my car down the street and crying out to God for Him to help me with this sin. He said, “I have given you my life to live by why are you living by yours?”
Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” NKJV
Peter makes a direct link of grace to obedience “Grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance [or deception]; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy [That is a command to the one who would be a believer, not an option].’" 1 Peter 1:13-16, NKJV
I don’t think sin has any part in holiness. Jesus also said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, NKJV
We have allowed false teachers in the locker room to teach us before we went out to the race that loosing is normal, the point of the race is to win and keep it as our focus. Are focusing is on giving into sins that our flesh cannot control. The teachings of men have persuaded us rather than the word and power of God. How can we ever be defeated, there is no situation, problem or trial that is superior to His power. Our faith is based on faulty reasoning and persuasion. It dawned on me one day that this whole life is a testing ground of our faith in where we will spend eternity. The next life is so great in time, importance and reality, why should we put our faith in our reasoning and feelings?
1 John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” NKJV
Seven times in the book of Revelations believers are addressed as overcomers: “he that overcomes…” How can what is born of God be overcome?
Today many are like the returning 10 spies presenting their persuasive argument why they could not enter the land, their persuasive argument led millions into bondage (hell?). Our efforts against sin have been feeble at most,
We have permitted ourselves to be persuaded by a form of grace that is not scriptural. In Titus 2:11-12, Paul states that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, [so what does this grace do?] teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” So where do we get this freedom to sin and live in rebellion to Jesus and His word? In case we have that idea, Paul said, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Romans 6:15
“Therefore [you] do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it [sin] in its lusts.” Romans 6:12
“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:2, NKJV
Saying we are a believer gives no room for dealing with sin casually. We sin because something persuades us to sin… that sinning is normal and that is the lie that must be cast down.
Romans 1:5-6, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship [Why?] for obedience to the faith [Greek: obedience that springs from faith] among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” NKJV
Acts 6:7, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” NKJV
Christianity is defined by “The faith,” not by doubters. Obviously, if we died to self and repented at the beginning, old things would be passing away and all things would be becoming new… our former pleasures and lust would be gone and we would be getting holier each day. That is the true salvation message of the kingdom of God. We would not be stuck into sin as we see most today. We are stuck in sin because we don’t have saving faith, if we had saving faith our minds would have turned from all that is of self and turned toward God. Many so-called Christians will spend eternity in hell instead of heaven because they did not have saving faith. They allowed events, trials, and situations to persuade them. They thought deliverance was the cure for all their trials, when in reality the trial was there to purify their faith. We cannot have faith mixed with our ideas and wants.
If we have faith our minds will be set on things above where Christ sits and we would be spiritually minded and not carnally minded. (Col 3:1; Romans 8:4-8) A carnal mind produces negative emotions like anger, fear, depression and frustration. God keeps our mind in perfect peace if it is stayed on Him. (Isaiah 26:3)
Today the church has become so engulfed in growth and success that it has been forced to lower the standards of salvation to allow more people to come in. They have given the people an assurance of salvation that has no basis in scripture. They take verses out of context and deny the real meaning of faith, believing, obedience and hearing. Much of the reason for our “getting saved” is based on the benefits of what the world offers.
We are either persuaded by truth or error. That is why faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If our life is persuaded by the truth of the gospel, we will therefore put our faith in the gospel. If our life is persuaded by our feelings and reasoning, then we will put our faith in our feelings and reasoning. It is hard to separate persuasion from faith. Under difficult conditions it is hard for some to be persuaded that they are dead to self and seated with Christ in heavenly places, this is because they can’t be persuaded against their feelings and opinions of the situation…so they put their lives into the hands of their carnal nature. What we see and feel too often defines reality for us, but reality is not based on what can be felt or seen.
One form of life is based on the realities of self and this world and the other is based on the realities of Jesus and heaven. Faith comes when the person allows themselves to be persuaded in Jesus’ life, eternal truth and the realities originating out of heaven.
Doubt is just misplaced faith; its persuasion has its origin in the flesh or human reasoning. Both faith and doubt have their persuasion factor. Again we see this in the 12 spies that were sent out by Moses to spy out the land, 10 were persuaded and had faith that they could not defeat the enemy in Jericho and 2 were persuaded and had faith that with God they could conquer Jericho.
Faith, regardless of its source, gives credibility and authority of the person or things that persuades it.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39, KJV
If we had that kind of persuasion in our trials, we would count them as all joy as Jesus did the cross. We can’t have faith if we allow our feelings and reasoning to be the basis of what defines reality. If our depression dominates our life over His peace that is in Christ, how can we have faith or what is the source of our faith?
How authentic is our faith? We must effectively and consistently use our faith established in God’s word defining our position in Christ. During trials faith either becomes more pure (without the impute of the flesh) or it shows that there is no faith. Testing and suffering are things that our flesh hates and rises to have its way,
1 Peter 1:7-9, “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than [the process og purify] gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire [trials, suffering, etc.] may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love [the reality of faith]. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.” NKJV
We must endure to the end to be saved, so much for eternal security. Faith and believing is the finale result of our allowing to be persuade by God. To have faith speaks of the deep convictions based on what we perceive as truth and reality. It is here where the will comes in, we have the choice to turn to Jesus as our source and allow His word to persuade us of truth and reality or we chose to turn to self with it source being our weaknesses, our feelings, our needs and our opinions. We therefore entrust our lives into the person we have faith. Faith and believing points to who we hold in high regard and therefore obey. Putting our faith in what can be seen and felt always leads to some form of doubt and rebellion. There is no gray area, we will either act out our lives on the basis of our self-centered reasoning, with its feelings and what it sees or we will act out and obey Jesus and His word.
Those who called Him Lord but did not practice righteousness, Jesus said to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:23, NKJV
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:10, NKJV
We have this notion that we are to have bible studies, the bible was never meant for the exercise of our intellect to gain head knowledge. We was never meant to be read only. It was meant for us to set into practice its revelations and commands. We must see ourselves being in Christ, seated with Him as we deal with our feelings. We must put these into practice in every situation, we must let the truth of our position in Christ persuade us. “I am in Christ, I am seated with Him in heavenly places, I am persuaded of the Christ that is in me more that the me that is in me.” We must acknowledge His continual presence and reject our life as a source. We spend far too much time practicing our feelings and opinions, hence we are bound to the flesh in a life mentioned in Romans 7, Romans 7:15, 19
“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
The answer is in 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” NKJV
If we walk in the flesh, there is condemnation and we are not operating out of the source of the Spirit to stop the control of the flesh.
What we practice, what persuades us will ultimately determine our faith and our destination in this test period in this life. We will not be given a doctrinal test; God will pull out what is in our hearts to see if we have faith. that faith or lack of it will be based on what persuaded us to act and live. If we do nothing with His provisions, His persuasive words; we will be in bondage until we die. We will not grow and sin and negative emotion will have its way. We will have to drug our minds to have peace.
Jesus referring to His coming back said, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8, NKJV
“Where is your faith?”