The gospels tell us that Jesus tangled with demons during his days on earth. Things did not go so well for the dark side in those conflicts. Okay, I don’t know much about demons, but this much I do know: they believe in God! The apostle James wrote:
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)
If a survey-taker asked me if I believe in God, I would say “Yes!” If he asked me if I shudder, I would say, “Sometimes.” Nevertheless, the Bible indicates that this is not enough.
Surveys tell us that a vast majority of Americans believe in God. This is like saying most politicians believe in “the future.” Actually, believing in God has little to do with how we answer surveys, what we verbally claim, labels we wear, or what we post on Facebook. It has more to do with what we do.
Long ago, the apostle Paul knew people who claimed to know God, “but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). Brace yourself for what follows. Paul continues; “They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”
Paul was not writing to Titus about avowed atheists or agnostics. He was referring to people who would tell a survey-taker that they believe in God, but still live on terms (spiritual and moral) of their own making—as if God were non-existent. For many of us, believing in God means having someone to be angry at when things go wrong. Some of us focus more on our disappointment with God than on God’s disappointment with us.
Faith must run deeper than all this. James also said, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22). Our eternal hope is not rooted in what we claim but in what Jesus did and what we do about that.