Faith vs. Mental Assent

Note: Today we bring you a sermon from a brother in Kenya, Bishop Simon O. MacOnyango of the Kenya Center for World Evangelism. This sermon is reprinted here with his kind permission.
bishopmaconyangoPreached By Brother S. O. MacOnyango on 11th August 2013 at Kahoya Believers Fellowship, Eldoret.
Main Text: 1 Corinthians 1:21-29 … New Living Translation (NLT)
……20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
21 Since God in his wisdom (revelation or divine truth) saw to it that the world would never know (receive his truths or receive Him by revelation) him through human wisdom (head knowledge – mental assent), he has used our foolish preaching (revelation) to save those who believe (receive the truth or revelation). 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom (mental assent). 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified (the revelation), the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense (doesn’t make sense against all proven human facts)….24 But to those called by God (embrace the truth) to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom (revelation) of God.25 This foolish plan of God (revelation) is wiser than the wisest of human plans (mental assent), and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise (had revelation or had the capacity to receive the divine truths) in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish (not appealing to our mental faculties) in order to shame those who think they are wise (have head knowledge or mental assent). And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God (when and if we receive these divine truths)
Note: words in brackets are mine and only meant for teaching purposes
John 7:38….New American Standard Bible (NASB)….38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being (from the revelatory not mental assent) will flow rivers of living water.’”
Many of us Christians have mental assent of things of God and take it for FAITH….We may know that God exists but actually DO NOT have faith that HE exists. Mental assent looks so much like faith that there is a very fine thin line between the two.
Mental assent means intellectually accepting or knowing the Word of God to be facts but not receiving it as a Truth – admiring it and agreeing with it BUT not receiving the revelatory element of it …. That doesn’t do us any good. In essence, mental assent agrees with and knows more about God but does not believe in God.
The mental assent agrees and knows that the Bible came from God and that it is God’s word BUT does NOT take it as revelation, and that every Word of it is a fact BUT NOT the Truth see! When a crisis comes however, s/he says, “Yes, I know (NOT BELIEVE) the Bible is true, but it does not work for me in this situation.” We often quote Scriptures we don’t really believe to be TRUTHS.
We so many times mentally affirm the promise! In many years in my ministry and family life I  lived like that BUT wondering why I am not making any haed way despite my superb memory of the scriptures….. that …….  “God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19”,….. that in itself was beautiful ….  but for so many years I never took these bible verses as God’s TRUTHS by making them personal. Such a Christian may be successful in knowing much about the Word, but as far as spiritual life is concerned has failed. The true believer is a doer of the Word who receives it as a TRUTH. The believer builds on rock, while the mental assent builds on sand. (See Matthew 7:24-27.)…… In Africa witchdoctors, sorcerers, and fortune tellers keep Bibles as one of their paraphernalia….if you happen to consult one…the first consultation is for you the client to open a bible at random…. keeping the bible in itself DOES NOT help a thing….we can have so many of them in public places, in public schools etc, but who teaches people to receive it as GOD’S TRUTH not like any other novel!!
A variation of mental assent is “sense/head knowledge.” This is the attitude that says, “If I cannot see it and weigh it against all available facts known, then it is not real. I’ll believe it when I see it.” The Bible tells us, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:17). This means that faith and sense knowledge are not compatible….I am not against teaching of critical thinking because I am a student of the same.
Faith is the substance and evidence of things that our sense of conventional knowledge cannot see. (See Hebrews 11:1, for definition of Faith). Sense knowledge is the biggest obstacle to faith because; in many cultures we are trained and conditioned to live by our five senses. If we cannot analyze something and empirically conclude that it actually works, then we do not believe it is real. However, God says He has promised is already reality. Yet it won’t become manifested reality in our lives  until we believe it is real before we see it-through fully trusting in Him and His Word. That is how faith operates.
Again, the Bible says “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. Note carefully that this verse does not say that faith is the EVIDENCE of things that do not exist. It says that faith is the evidence of the things you CANNOT SEE.
For example, you cannot always see how God will meet your need. However, God says, “It’s already met; believe me.” That is living by faith. If you live by any other means, you will have high blood pressure, depression, and fear and end up in a mental institution. You will live in frustration because you will try to figure out how to meet your own needs (even spiritual) when you do not have that capability. God says, “I will supply all your needs. I have everything worked out. Trust Me to do it.”
If we are mentally assenting to the God’s word and NOT receiving it as a divine truth, we will continue to live below your privilege for too long as SONS. We will need to start living by faith (the truth of God’s word) so that God’s Word can come to pass in our lives and ministries and in every spheres of our involvement.
I may say “Well, I need more faith.”……Brethren Faith is SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY to obtain. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Here is the thing……..When we receive the Word then exercise that knowledge (the heard WORD) by the enablement of the Spirit we let it filter through our knower man to our spirit man then we receive it as a revelation (GOD’s TRUTH), it is then that our faith begins to grow…..
I HAVE known many Christian that I have personally led to the saving faith and BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST who never went beyond the baptism leave alone to command anything in that NAME!…in fact one Brother remarked to me during one of my teaching sessions……Brother Simon, you are a remarkable teacher of the word…I realized that He truly agreed with every scripture I put forth…. But down the line what I did to the Brother at the river here in Eldoret was ‘DRY CLEANING IN JESUS NAME’ not ‘BAPTISM IN JESUS NAME’. Why? Because he did not receive my teachings on Baptism as the TRUTH but FACTS of the Bible!
Mental assent is what defeats the child of God who regularly attends church more than anything else. Most Christians are not missing it in what they know about the scripture, but in what they believe (receive as truths). Faith is an act that emanates from our spirit NOT mental faculty! Mental assent just says; “I am blessed and highly favored” while refusing to receive it as a truth provided in the Word. Here is what mental assent is:
• Mental assent knows 100% that the Bible is the word of God .
• Mental assent agrees and knows that Jesus is the Son of God.
• Mental assent agrees and knows that Jesus was raised from the dead.
• Mental assent will say I believe the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. Mental assent knows that BAPTISM IS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST …. Mental assent is beautiful, BUT IT WILL NOT embrace the truth …. Every time we read the Word or hear good teaching then we let filter through our mental faculty….that is the process…. by the enablement of the Spirit of God and put it to practice, our Spiritual life is strengthened a little more. The Word is the seed. Once we put the seed in the nursery (knower man) then it turns into a seedling then eventually transfer it to the actual garden (the spirit man) the seed is going to grow because the power is in the seed.
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. DO WHAT IT SAYS.” This verse separates mental assent from faith. James says if we think listening to the Word by itself will make the difference, then we are deceiving ourselves. We must learn what we have heard and received by believing and then acting upon it in faith NOT AS A MATTER OF RITUAL.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people…. There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ I will not, he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. (Matt 21:28-31)
The second son mentally assented to the words of the father but never did anything beyond receiving the word.
Although the first son was initially rebellious (hardened in the heart) he ended up agreeing to his father’s request and doing it. Jesus was showing us that we cannot just say we know BUT we must believe. WE HAVE TO LIVE OUT OUR FAITH BY DOING WHAT GOD ASKS. WE SHOULD NOT ONLY AGREE WITH HIS WORD AND WILL, BUT ALSO embrace it as a TRUTH not simply what the Bible says (facts)….
Brethren, faith is not a feeling though it produces a feeling. Faith will make us feel good when our bodies are healed, our needs are met and our lives are victorious! But it is not a feeling! The feeling and the healing (manifestation) follows the saying and the doing (faith)! You say it by faith (knowing it to be the TRUTH not what the Bible simply says) when you feel nothing or even feel terrible and you act like what God has said is true. This is so simple that a child can understand it yet most children of God struggle with grasping it.
May the Lord bless us and every one of us in the coming weeks!
Brother Simon MacOnyango

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