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“You believe that God is one. Good for you! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

-James 2:9

Back in 1859, Charles Blondin, a French acrobat, traversed a tightrope across Niagara Falls. The huge crowd watched Blondin go all the way across, then back, all the while pushing a wheelbarrow. The crowd erupted in applause and amazement, but when Blondin asked who would like to -get in- the wheelbarrow for the next trip across… the applause faded, the crowd laughed uncomfortably, and then it became silent.

Everyone watching Blondin had 100% confidence in him. After he'd survived the trek across and back, no one doubted this man’s tightrope skills, not even for a moment. But everyone knew that one tiny mistake, one misstep, would result in both Blondin’s final performance and his passenger’s inevitable demise. Nobody volunteered. That's because there’s an insurmountable gap between belief and faith. While everyone witnessed first hand and believed, there wasn’t a single person with enough faith to actually hop in that wheelbarrow.

Many claiming to be Christians today, even regular churchgoers, are like Blondin's crowd. They've read the Bible, they've heard sermons, they've sung songs, and maybe even volunteered or gone on a mission trip. Sadly though, for many it's never translated to actual faith. It's because they've been fed a lie with everlasting consequences. They’ve been told to “Ask Jesus into your heart,” to “Pray a prayer of salvation,” or “Just believe Jesus is LORD.” They’ve been told that in doing so they’ll be forever saved from sin, death, and Hell. The problem is that those instructions aren't just wrong, they’re lies. The first two, “Ask Jesus into your heart,” and “Pray a prayer of salvation,” don’t exist anywhere in Scripture. The third, to simply “Believe Jesus is LORD,” is wholly inadequate.

When approached by the religious leaders of the day, King Jesus told them exactly who He came for, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners..." and His message was a call " repentance.” Repentance is not merely feeling bad or guilty about thoughts, actions, or decisions we’ve made, but literally turning from our rebellion and sin to Christ Jesus our divine, incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Redeemer. It’s significant that the word “repent” occurs over fifty times in the New Testament. It’s significant that King Jesus’ message from His own mouth was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

We have a very real, terribly wicked, and exceedingly crafty enemy, Satan, whose desire is to steal, kill, and destroy by leading us astray. He doesn’t accomplish this by leading us into things that are initially or overtly dark and perverted. Instead, he tempts us, as he did in the Garden of Eden, by masquerading as an angel of light. An angel of “harmless” conversation, “innocent” inquiry, and “illuminating” philosophical discussion. The Devil doesn’t typically lure us into the lake of fire and everlasting torment head first. He’s a much more manipulative and calculating salesman than that.

Instead, Lucifer uses the old bait & switch. He leads us into our own cozy and private Hell one tiny step at a time. A little compromise here. A little self-justification there. Throw in a smidge of herd mentality “Everyone else is doing it.” Then he tops it off with the crown jewel of personal entitlement, whispering, “You know you deserve it!” Like Abraham’s nephew, Lot, before we’ve even realized it - we’re not just pitching a tent outside of spiritual bankruptcy, we’ve become proud, full fledged, registered residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Belief in Jesus isn’t the same as faith. Scripture reveals, “Even the demons believe… and shudder.” Satan’s minions were even unashamedly evangelical. The demons openly proclaimed the truth of who King Jesus was! One unclean spirit proclaimed in Luke 4:34, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” Then in Mark 5:7, another demon, named Legion, said, “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The issue isn’t one of belief, conviction, or even absolute certainty. Instead, it boils down to faith - which goes far beyond mere words and actions - to hearts unleashed unto unfettered worship! King Jesus said it like this, “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Not optional. Must.

As Christians, i.e. disciples, indeed followers of Christ Jesus, The Bible is the ultimate authority regarding all matters of life - period. There is not, and should never be, any synthetic distinction between matters of life and faith. For as the Apostle Paul revealed, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” And elsewhere, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

If, in fact, our thoughts, our bodies, our very lives are no longer our own but instead belong to Christ, then we will produce abundant fruit for the glory of God. John the Baptist rebuked the religious leaders and hypocrites of Jesus’ day, saying, “Produce fruit, then, in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” Like many Christians, churchgoers, and even churches today, the Pharisees had all the answers, ceremonies, rituals, sacrifices, prayers, holidays, traditions, garb, gestures, and lingo - all the religious externals - nailed down. The demons oozed belief, even publicly, meanwhile the Pharisees oozed religion. Neither is of any value to God, other than to evidence ongoing rebellion.

King Jesus came and preached a message of repentance - not just turning from sin, but turning to Him as LORD, Savior, in fact Immanuel. He’s called us, but He won’t force us to pick up. He’s commissioned us, but He doesn’t force us to cooperate. He’s said, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” To all those ripe with religion, those chock-full of belief, all those, like the demons, professing Him as LORD - even having done great things in His Name, but apart from faith, He will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” As Scripture reveals, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left… Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…' Then they will go away to everlasting punishment, but the righteous to everlasting life.”

The Good News is that Jesus is King and He doesn’t expect us to resolve the problem of sin ourselves. He’s already done -ALL- the work of salvation. At the Cross He said, “It is finished.” Our response isn’t to cooperate in our salvation or to earn it. Instead, participation in the mission of Christ is our perpetual thanks offering by putting the gift of faith He’s given us on display. As Ephesians 2:6-7 reveals, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

So what should one do if the Holy Spirit convicts that they're nothing more than a modern day Pharisee? Nothing more than a religious hypocrite or casual/cultural Christian? Here's the answer: In Mark 9, there's a story of a boy possessed by a demon. In it, Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been with him?” “From childhood,” the father said. “It often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “If You can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who has faith!” Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unfaithfulness!”

Here's what you can do... Take a page out of this man’s playbook. Call out to King Jesus. Be honest. Don't tell Jesus why you should get into heaven. Instead, tell Him where you are in your sin of unfaithfulness. Cry out to Jesus for authentic faith, which is not of our doing, but is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast. In doing so, The Son of God promises: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Even demons believe… and shudder. Even demons are evangelists. The question is, are you worshiping in spirit and truth by putting the surpassing riches of God’s grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus, on display for His everlasting glory? That, right there, is what separates the sheep and the goats.

Grace and Peace,

-Kevin M. Kelley

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