“I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” – Mark 1:24
Do you have faith? What kind of faith do you have? Is it an informed faith? Do you take comfort in defining your faith as knowing who Jesus is? Do you think that is sufficient faith for eternal life? If so, I have to inform you that you are relying on demonic faith. The demons believe in God. Demons know quite a lot about God. In the gospels they knew more about Jesus than the religious people of the day. They believed and knew that Jesus was: “Jesus of Nazareth . . . the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34); “the Son of God” (Mark 3:11); and “the Christ, the Son of God!” (Luke 4:41). Demons demonstrated their knowledge by identifying the apostles as, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17-18). Their proclamation was annoying and counterproductive to the ministry. Paul eventually cast them out of their human vessel. But demons believe in the existence of God and know who His ministers are.
This demonic faith in God is more than a lot of people have today. Today many people deny the existence of God or that Jesus was a literal historical figure. Many deny that Jesus is the Son of God or that He is “the Christ,” the Savior of the world. Many deny that Jesus is God, the second Person of the Triune Godhead. This is because the god of this age has blinded unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4-5). He has blinded the lost and deluded them into thinking either there is no God (e.g. atheism), that there are many gods (e.g. polytheism), or that God is everywhere and in everything (e.g. pantheism). There are those who have been deceived into thinking “God” is who they conjure Him up to be. This is nothing more than idolatry; God in man’s image. God is who He says He is, not who we say He is. Still others follow false religious views of God (e.g. Islam). The god of this age, Satan, has deluded people into misinterpreting faith in God and in particular the genuine saving faith of the gospel. This should not surprise us. Scripture warns, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
The deceptive doctrinal teaching of demons seeks to strike at the core of genuine saving faith. It pitches the idea that saving faith is merely the accumulation of knowledge or assent to certain things. But such a definition is no better than the faith the demons themselves hold! And they are not going to heaven. They are destined for an eternal existence in hell. Is that the kind of faith you want? Is that the kind of faith you are relying on? The apostle James spoke of such faith saying, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). In these words James enlightens his readers in telling them that not even belief in a monotheistic God is enough to save them. No, demons have a theology; and much of it is correct theology; but they are still destined for hell. What’s your theology? What kind of faith are you relying on for your salvation? “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
What then is the nature of the faith that saves us? What is the difference between the genuine saving faith of gospel and the faith of demons? The apostle John addresses this very question of distinction when he is inspired by God to write:
- 1 John 3:7-10 – 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 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.
From these inspired words of God’s revelation truth we see that genuine saving faith, faith that is of God, is faith that “practices righteousness.” It is faith that is applied to life. It is faith that makes a difference in the way we live life. It is a faith that is by nature repentant. Repentance is an aspect of saving faith that is all too often misplaced and forgotten. Repentance (Greek metanoia) means a change of mind and heart that results in a change of living. Repentance is a one-hundred-eighty degree turn from sin to God (e.g. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Repentance was preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39). The gospel of God’s grace is meant to lead people to repent of their sin (Romans 2:4). God desires all sinners to repent of their sins and come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). Saving faith therefore, is faith that leads to measurable change in a person claiming to be a Christian. Genuine saving faith does not practice sin. “He who sins is of the devil.” A “faith” that does not lead to righteous living is not a saving faith. This is not a works righteousness statement, for the faith that genuinely saves opens the door to God’s working in and through us for righteousness’ sake (Philippians 2:12-13).
These verses tell us that the purpose for Jesus coming was to destroy the works of the devil. That would include all his false and deceptive doctrines about the nature of faith. Jesus came to establish the sincere truth that “Whoever is born of God does not sin” (cf. John 3:1-21). The person with genuine saving faith hates sin. They have received spiritual eye transplants so that like their God they have become “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). You can’t claim to be genuinely saved if you are living in a sinful state contrary to the word of God. You aren’t genuinely saved if you live in contradiction to God’s holy word which He esteems more highly than His own very name! (Psalm 138:2). You can’t be a walking contradiction to God’s word and be a true genuinely saved Christian. If you think you can, you have fallen prey to the pernicious deceptive influences of Satan and his demons.
There is one distinguishing characteristic of those who are genuinely saved. There is one evidence that separates the child of God from those with mere demonic faith. There is one point of clarity that reveals the truth about who you are and whether or not God sees you as an opponent or ally. That one all determining characteristic that exposes the truth is love. It is not the love of the world. It is not love that saves. But it is love defined by God and it is love that is the fruit of the enlivening Holy Spirit in a person (Gal. 5:22a). Without the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you aren’t genuinely saved (Romans 8:9-11). And when the Spirit is in a person, so is His love. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). John says this is the message given by Jesus from the beginning (1 John 3:11). He states, “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14).
God defines and illustrates that love through Jesus’ atoning work. It is a love that acts. It is a love that makes a difference (1 John 3:16-18). He demonstrates “His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is a love that even loves its enemies (Mat. 5:44). The kind of love that distinguishes godly from demonic faith is particularly illustrated by God in the cross of Christ. Demonic worldly “love” can sit by and complacently watch those in need without moving a finger. Demonic worldly “love” refuses to give glory to God. Demonic worldly “love” is a tool for getting glory for yourself. Demonic worldly “love” is self-centered. It can give the appearance of being selfless. Demonic worldly “love” uses emotions to justify selfishness or inaction. Demonic worldly “love” can even seek to show the world that “good” can be done apart from God. Such demonic “love” manifests itself in secular or false religious humanitarian efforts (few as they may be). This demonic worldly love proves one is not of God. This is not God’s true love.
But what we need to understand is that demonic faith is faith that resides solely in thought. Demonic faith believes but continues with a rebellious heart. Genuine saving gospel faith is a matter of the heart. God pours out His love in our hearts. “If you believe in your heart” is where genuine saving faith resides (cf. Romans 10:9). “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). Demons believe and tremble because they have and continue to rebel against God in their hearts. They want people to settle in the anti-salvation state of mere cerebral faith. Demons preach a doctrine of assent to knowledge that is cut off from any actual application to life.
The bottom line is the faith that saves; the faith that is all God intends it to be, is faith of the heart. Genuine saving faith involves giving Jesus your heart. It is total surrender. It is forsaking all alternatives and trusting completely in the saving work of Christ for salvation. It is knowing Him, fully surrendering to Jesus, IN YOUR HEART. It is faith that relinquishes control and lordship to the King of kings and LORD of lords, Jesus.
Do you have faith? What kind of faith do you have? Is it an informed faith? Is it faith like a demon? Or do you have genuine saving faith; faith that not only knows who Jesus is, but gives your heart to Him in full surrender? “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.”