Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What does 'believe' really mean?

Did you know that over time the words we use take on another meaning? Before i was a kid, 'cool' meant something 'almost cold'. However over time it changed to mean something that was 'appealing' or 'pleasing'. Nowadays the word 'sweet' means' cool' when it used to mean the 'opposite of sour'. Or the word 'sick' means 'cool' or 'pleasing' (I am losing track!) when it used to mean 'not feeling well'.


I believe the same thing has happened to the word 'believe'! I believe that the word 'believe' has been watered down to a much different word over time. In my current usage here it intimates "i suspect to be true, but am not thoroughly convinced".

This is from the Strong's Concordance which you can find online or you may have a copy. Here is what the word underlying Greek word for Believe means.

G4100 πιστεύω pisteuō pist-yoo'-o
From G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ): - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Here are some of the first definitions in the Merriam Webster dictionary of the descriptive words used for G4100.

FAITH
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

CREDIT
1 reliance on the truth or reality of something

ENTRUST
1 : to confer a trust on; especially : to deliver something in trust to
2 : to commit to another with confidence

None of these words indicate 'suspicion of being true'.

It would seem silly to me if:

John 3:16 if you suspect that Jesus is Lord then you probably have eternal life.

Or

John 3:16 it is highly probably that Jesus is the Messiah so you should probably come on over to the Christian viewpoint because you just might have eternal life if everything works out ok and somehow by a miracle you happen to be right even though we know science says miracles don't happen.

The word 'believe' in today's vernacular seems to mean "i give credence to the probability". Like i 'believe' it is going to rain tomorrow, but i am not so thoroughly convinced that i entrust my life to it. I will not get my head chopped off or be burned at the stake for this belief or suspicion of the probability.

So lets move on to another way of tackling this.

If you follow my blog or podcast, you know that i am constantly driving home relationship with Jesus is paramount. Read Matt 7:21-23 or Luke 13:25-28 and you will see that not having a relationship with Jesus gets you into big trouble.

What would happen if you used today's vernacular of "believe" to define your relationship with your family?

Your spouse asks you to make a sandwich but you don't believe with absolute certainty that your spouse exists. That would pose a problem and they probably wouldn't be your spouse much longer!

Or maybe you don't really believe that your spouse asked you to make a sandwich. You suspect that they may have, but you decide not to make the sandwich because you are not 100% certain that the statement was even made.  There is no immediate repercussion for this action so now your behaviour becomes a habit.   If this behavior is repeated over and over again, is there any definable attribute that you even have a relationship with your spouse? Basically your spouse at that point is relegated to a mythical figure.

What if you receive a handwritten note from your spouse to make a sandwich and you are not sure if it is was from your spouse or not? You don't recognize the handwriting so you discard it as possibly being irrelevant. A panel of experts are consulted and they all say that the note isn't real and it probably should have been caught by your spam or junk mail filter. This gives you license to disregard the whole thing. This repeated behavior leads to you not believing the Author of the note as being your spouse and therefore not fulfilling their requests.

If you do not have a relationship with your spouse how can you believe or trust anything they say? Without relationship, you might as well give similar credence to a stranger on the moon. 

This is an example i like to use to illustrate what i believe 'believe' means.

If you are sitting in your house and you 'believe' it is on fire, are you going to get out of the house or continue confessing with your lips that the house is on fire?

If you truly believe the house is on fire, then you will get out.

A final verse to drive home the nail in the proverbial 'believe' coffin.

Rom 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Whom you actually obey is your Lord.

Whom do you obey?

Whom do you believe?




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