Questionable Teaching #8: Faith Is Just Believing, Nothing Else!
Those who promote unbalanced grace teach that there is no need to say No! to sin or to ever discipline the flesh. To be transformed into Christ's image, all we need is "just believe" and do nothing else! There is no need to take personal responsibility, no need for self-denial. Well, guess what? Demons "just believe" too!
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! (Jas. 2:19)
Believing is only part of the story. The other part is repentance. Five times in Revelations 2-3, Jesus expected the Christians in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea to repent (Rev. 2:5,16,21-22; 3:3,19). For example, to the Church in Thyatira, Jesus commended them for their faith,
I know your works, love, service, faith ... (Rev. 2:19)
The members of Thyatira were already true believers in the Lord but their lifestyles were defiled by sin and sexual immorality. Jesus didn't just exhort them to only "just believe" and then rest to do nothing else. He warned them of facing dire consequences "unless they repent of their deeds (v. 22)." Without repentance —a change of mind and action—there can be no true victory in the Lord.
Questionable Teaching #9: By Just Having Faith, All Your Bad Habits Would Disappear Effortlessly!
The teaching basically goes like this: the best way to overcome bad habits is by praising God and claiming your position in Christ. Simply by doing that and nothing else, all your bad habits would eventually disappear effortlessly!
Is it true that when we fail, our part in overcoming temptations is just praising God and doing nothing else? Does it mean that if a drug addict wants to kick his bad abusive habit, all he needs to do is just thank God and do nothing else? Does it mean that if you struggle with a violent temper problem, all you need to do is just praise God and do nothing else? Of course, not!
... Faith without works is dead. (Jas. 2:20)
By faith, we are indeed made more than conquerors in Christ positionally and we should stand upon this promise of God, even when we fail. However, the Bible does require decisive actions from us. Merely claiming our legal positions in Christ is only part of the solution, not the entire solution! We have a responsibility of disciplining our flesh and renewing our mind.
And do not he conformed to this world, but he transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
Is discipline needed for the victorious Christian life? Yes, in fact, the word "disciple" comes from the word "discipline!"
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27)
I think Rev Kong Hee is trying to make the point that to be transformed into Christ's image, we must have repentance (ie. by his definition, a change of mind and action); we need to take personal responsibility and discipline the flesh, and that those who promote "unbalanced grace" teach that we can be transformed simply by faith, which Rev Kong Hee claims is taught as "just believe".
Firstly, let me say that I don't believe there is such a thing as "unbalanced grace" or conversely, "balanced grace". The bible only contrasts grace with works, never as balanced versus unbalanced - "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Rom 11:6, NKJV)
So then, how are we transformed into the image of Christ? By grace or by works ie. taking personal responsibility and disciplining your flesh? In QT9, Rev Kong Hee asks whether it's true that "our part in overcoming temptations is just praising God and doing nothing else?" He says "Of course, not!". I ask, "Why not?!"
TRANSFORMING BY BEHOLDING
2 Cor 3:18 (NKJV)
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Cor 3:18 shows us exactly how we are being transformed into the image of Christ from glory to glory. Take note that the transformation is an ongoing process - we are BEING transformed - and the verse tells us that:
1. We must have an unveiled face.
2. We must keep beholding (an ongoing process) the glory of the Lord.
3. When we keep beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Does the verse say we are being transformed by repentance? Or disciplining our flesh? Or saying no to sin? NO! We are being transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord! And how are we to behold the glory of the Lord? Let's take a look at the verse again - "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord". Can you see it? No? Let me show you one more time - "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord". Can you see it now?
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE MIRROR?
What do you see when you look in a mirror? YOU! But what is the "YOU" that you see? A sinner who needs to keep confessing his sins to God? A forgiven sinner who needs to keep repenting? A sincere Christian who needs to discipline his flesh? Then you will NOT be transformed!
What do you need to see in order to be transformed? The glory of the Lord! More accurately, you need to see, in the mirror, that YOU are the glory of the Lord! You must be thinking, "How can I? I still have many bad habits! I still sin very often!" That, my friend, is not YOU; that is your flesh but that is definitely not YOU.
YOU are a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:17, 21) for YOU are now in Christ (Rom 6:11), and Christ is now in YOU, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). The reason why you can't see the glory of the Lord reflected in YOU is that your face is still veiled.
Paul explains what the veil is in 2 Cor 3:
5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 6 He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!
12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Many Christians today still do not understand that they are now under the new covenant mediated by Christ. They still have their faces covered in a veil, trying to see the glory of the Lord through old covenant ie. the Law which glory has faded away. They still think that they have to live a holy life in order to be holy, so that God will be pleased with them. That is so wrong, my friend! You live a holy life because Christ lives in you. You live a holy life not by trusting yourself, thinking that you can discipline your flesh, but by trusting in Christ (Gal 2:20):
Gal 2:19-21 (NLT)
19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
REPENTANCE = CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK
In the book of Romans chapter 12 verse 2, Paul says “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think”. That is true repentance! In the same book of Romans, Paul sets out for us right in the very first chapter how we are to change the way we think: that we are no longer righteous by following the Law; by trying to do good but we are now righteous by faith - “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."” (v17). This is the GOSPEL!
We, the righteous, are to live by faith. What kind of faith? Faith in Christ's blood - “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Rom 3:25) The new Living Translation has a clearer explanation:
Rom 3: 23-26 (NLT)
Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
We all fall short of God's glorious standard. Whatever we do is not going to meet His standard for “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). We are acceptable to God only through the blood of Christ for “he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus”.
Now that we are MADE holy before God in Christ, we now live OUT this holiness through Christ in us. We do not live holy lives to BECOME HOLY; we live holy lives because we ARE HOLY. Would you agree that living a holy life would mean that we triumph over sin? Would you like to know how to triumph over sin? Once again, Paul shows us how in the book of Romans:
“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17)
We will triumph over sin and death when we receive God's wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ! Can you see it now? All this about getting rid of bad habits, overcoming temptations, violent tempers etc has got nothing to with our own efforts or our self discipline! It is all about Christ! It is all about we being in Christ and Christ in us!
If we can achieve all that transformation through our own efforts, why is there a need for Christ? We are making the grace of God meaningless! (Gal 2:21) Getting rid of all sorts of bad habits through self-discipline is just behaviour modification; you still want to do them but you control yourself not to do them.
God wants true transformation and He does that when He puts His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts (Heb 8:10). We will naturally NOT WANT to do those bad habits anymore because God has replaced our old wants with HIS wants.
HOLY LIVING IS A FRUIT OF SALVATION
Holy living is a fruit OF our salvation, not a requisite FOR salvation. Jesus himself said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)
How do you abide in Jesus? John 6:53-56 (NKJV) - “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
Instead of focusing on ourselves, on disciplining our flesh, we should focus on eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood. What does that mean? In order to carry on living our earthly lives, all of us have to eat food and drink water. When we eat and drink Jesus' flesh and blood, we are living an eternal life, not just an earthly life. What is eternal life? “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
The Corinthian church was involved in sexual immorality and Paul wrote a letter to correct them by telling them:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20, NIV)
Paul did not rebuke them by saying they lacked self discipline. Paul rebuked them for their lack of knowledge of who they are in Christ! Essentially, Paul was saying that if they knew what they should have known, then they would not be involved in sexual immorality:
Their bodies are members of Christ himself.
Their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
They were bought at a price.
Do you know that in the book of 1 Corinthians, the word “repent” does NOT appear at all? NOT EVEN ONCE! Yet, the Corinthian church repented! In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul says, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
KNOW THE LORD
The Corinthian church repented ie. they had a change in their thinking. They came to know who they really were in Christ, and as a result, they changed their ways. True transformation comes when you focus on getting to know God and His only Son, Jesus Christ.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know
what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,
according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:17-21)