Saturday, February 9, 2019

Scriptural Make-Believe

My wife and I have five children, two of whom are now adults, and we know from experience how much little children love to make believe. Children make believe with cars, trucks, ambulances, dolls, cardboard houses, and other props. They use their imaginations and pretend that those things are real. There is a Scriptural type of make-believe, but before I prove it to you, let me begin by defining the expression.

Definition of Make Believe
When used as a noun, those things considered to be "make-believe" are things that are imagined or pretended to be true or real. It is the action of pretending or imagining that things are better than they really are. Make-believe is pretense, especially of an innocent or playful kind; feigning; sham: the make-believe of children playing. When used as a verb, to "make believe" is the action of a pretending that what is not real is real. It may also mean pretending or imagining that things are better than they really are. When used as an adjective, "make-believe" means imagined or pretended.

Etymology of Make Believe
I like to study the etymology of words and expressions, discovering how they originally developed.  So I did some research on where this expression came from . According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, make-believe as a noun meant "pretense, false or fanciful representation" in 1811. It was taken from the verbal phrase "make believe," which was used in children's talk by 1773 for "pretend;" see make (v.) + believe. As an adjective, "unreal, sham, pretended," by 1824. The noun form "make-belief" (1833) was "Substituted by some writers for MAKE-BELIEVE; the formation of the latter, being misunderstood, was imagined to be incorrect." Let's-pretend (n.) in the same sense is attested by 1904 (the verbal phrase is from 1848). To make believe (v.) in the sense "cause to believe" is from late 14th century.

That confirmed exactly what I thought. The expression originally came into being by adding the verb "make" to the verb "believe" meaning "cause to believe." This expression has always referred to pretending that what is imaginary or not real is actually real. By acting as if imaginary things are real, the person doing so, such as a child, causes himself or herself to believe it is real. In other words, it is to make oneself (and sometimes others who observe the one pretending) believe that something is true or real, when it is not.

Scriptural Examples of Making Believe
Now that we have established the definition and the origin of this expression, you may be wondering how there could possibly be a Scriptural form of this. Let me begin with a couple of easy examples that you're probably familiar with. Abraham made believe that his wife Sarah was his sister, while they were staying in Gerar in the Negev (Ge 20:2). It was only half true, because Sarah was his half-sister, but he was in fact married to her. So to pretend she was not his wife was a form of make-believe, and it fooled Abimelech. Another example is when Isaac made believe that Rebekah, his wife, was really his sister, because he was worried that the Philistines would otherwise kill him in order to marry Rebekah (Ge 26:1-35). This was a case of like father like son, in which Isaac walked in his father Abraham's footsteps.

Another example is where David made believe he was insane. "David...was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard." (1 Sam 21:12-13, NIV). It worked quite well at making Achish believe he was crazy. "Achish said to his servants, 'Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?'" (1 Sam 21:14-15, NIV).

Another example is where the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites by making believe they came from far away, when actually they were near neighbors of the Israelites. They did this by wearing worn-out clothes and sandals, carrying moldy bread and dry, cracked wine skins (Jos 9). In this manner, they successfully fooled the Israelites, who sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore, the Israelites made a peace treaty with them, rather than annihilate them as they did to their other nearby enemies.

Then there were the spies sent to Jesus by the chief priests and teachers of the law to keep a close watch on Him. The spies pretended to be honest, hoping to catch Him in something  he said, so they might hand Him over to the power and authority of the governor (Lk 20:20). That was the time they questioned Him about paying taxes to Caesar, but He saw through their duplicity and outwitted them. He knew they were only making believe they were righteous and trying to trap Him. When they saw they were unable to do so, they became silent.

One last example from Scripture is when Jesus was walking with the two men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection and talking with them, but they did not recognize Him. Do you remember what He did? Jesus made believe He was going further, even though He intended to go inside with them and surprise them by revealing His identity to them. "And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther." (Luk 24:28). The Greek word for "acted as though" is "prospoieomai" meaning "pretend (as if about to do a thing): - make as though."

In all of these examples of people making believe, they were acting as if something was so that was not. This does not mean that Jesus lied or deceived the two men on the road to Emmaus. He just acted as if He were going further until they invited Him inside to break bread together. He knew what He was about to do to reveal Himself to them. But what I want to talk about next is a different kind of make-believe. I want to use this expression in a way that does not fit it's proper definition. So you could say I am creating a new usage of the expression with a new definition.

Sanctified Imagination
We possess the mind of Christ (1 Co 2:16), so when we imagine the Word of God coming to pass or being performed, we are thinking His thoughts. God has given every one of us an imagination, and just as we can use it to imagine things that are displeasing to Him, we can use that same faculty of imagination to picture real things coming to pass.

We do it all the time without realizing it. For example, when we read a news article about a coffee shop worker at a highway rest stop using CPR to resuscitate a truck driver who has collapsed outside in front of his rig, we are using our imagination to picture something that really happened. Or if we read a passage of Scripture about a true, historical event such as the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (Ex 14), David killing Goliath (1 Sam 17), Jesus healing blind man’s eyes (Joh 9), or Jesus appearing to His disciples inside the locked room after His resurrection (Joh 20:19-20), we use our sanctified imagination to picture these things. Therefore, this same faculty that was once used for sinful purposes, and which has the ability to imagine things that are not real, has the power to visualize that which is true and real according to God’s Word.

It’s no different for you to imagine your reunion with a loved one who is actually coming to visit you after a long period of separation. In the same way you would imagine meeting them at the airport and embracing them, you can imagine the Lord coming back in a cloud of glory with all His holy angels (Mt 16:27; 24:30-31; 25:31; Mk 13:26; 1 Thes 4:16-17; Rev 19:11-16). You can imagine Him healing you or someone else in answer to your acting in faith upon His promises in His Word. You can imagine heaven according to the description of it in Revelation 21 and 22. Others may call it imagining things or making believe, but we call it acting in faith upon God’s Word. It’s called walking by faith. Step out and believe that what God has said is true. Take Him at His word and the impossible becomes possible.

Walk by Faith and Not by Sight
Consider that the righteous shall live by faith (Rom 1:17; He 10:38). We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). That means "we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Co 4:18). That's what the ancients were commended for, and I'd like to call that "making believe." I don't mean they were pretending that things were real that were not real. They were acting as if the things that were not yet seen were seen, and that's what faith causes us to do.

According to the apostle, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Heb 11:1-2, NIV). When you have faith, you are confident in what you hope for. You are sure about what you do not yet see in the natural. You do so, because you believe that what God said in His Word is true. So you act as if His Word is true, even though to others it may seem like you are making believe, since they don't share the same faith in God as you. As the apostle Paul said of them, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." (1 Co 2:14). To them it seems foolish when you act as if the Word is true, because to them it's as if you are believing something false, but wisdom is proved right by all her children. True faith in God and in His Word always produces good fruit.

Three Tenses in One Verse
Jesus said, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Mt 21:22, NIV). He said, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mk 11:24, NIV). There are three tenses in this verse. First there is the present tense in which you now ask for something from God in prayer and you now believe. The asking and believing are present tense. The past tense comes into play in that you believe that have already received it. "Have received" is past tense. The future tense is that "it will be yours." Ask God in prayer (present), believe now (present) that you have already received it (past), and it will be yours (future).

When you believe that you have received what you ask for in prayer, that doesn't mean you can see it yet in the natural. When God created His creation, He created it from that which was invisible. Scripture says, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Heb 1:3, NIV). All that we see -- the trees, the grass, the animals, the sky, the stars, the sun, the moon, and all the people -- was made out of something invisible. God called it forth by His Word, "Let there be light," and there was light (Gen 1:3). He spoke forth the things He created and they came into existence. He is the God who "calls into being things that were not." (Rom 4:17b, NIV). When God calls into being things that were not, those things to Him are very real even before they come into being. In other words, they are no less real before He calls them into existence. They are no less real simply because we cannot see them in the natural. He was not pretending, since pretending is based on that which is not real.

Therefore, when we ask for something in prayer and believe that we have received it, we begin speaking and acting like we have already received it, even though it will only become ours in the natural realm in the future. "It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak..." (2 Cor 4:13, NIV). This is not pretending either, since it is based on that which is true and real, not on that which is imaginary, false, or unreal. This is the Scriptural form of making believe. We are making believe that we have already received what we have asked for in prayer. This is the key to receiving from God what we ask Him for.

Reality is Found in Christ
Let me be clear that this is making believe that the things that are true and real, according to the Word of God, are in fact true and real. For reality is found in Christ (Col 2:17b, NIV). Paul wrote, "But just as it is written, 'things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.' For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." (1Co 2:9-10). This means the Spirit of God reveals to us the things God has given to us, so that we may lay hold of them by faith. The Spirit of God enables us to know in our hearts and see with the eyes of faith what God has given to us, which we cannot yet see with our natural eyes. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God." (1Co 2:12).

All God's Promises Are Yes for Us in Christ
The Scriptures are full of promises for the righteous. They are like hidden treasures buried between the pages of our Bibles. They are ours for the asking, but we must claim them in order for them to become ours. When I was at a conference one time, they had a raffle in which each guest had a numbered ticket which they entered into a sweepstakes contest. If their number was drawn, their name would be announced to come and claim their door prize. But they were only awarded the prize, if they showed up at the desk to claim it. If they failed to claim their prize, it would technically be theirs for the taking, but it would not actually become theirs for any practical purposes, and they would leave the conference without it. In the same way, we must claim from God by faith in prayer the promises in order for them to become ours. This applies to salvation, healing, deliverance, and whatever else God has promised us. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (2 Cor 1:20, NIV).

One way to explain this is with the following illustration. It's like walking down a corridor, in which the doors are labeled with whatever is inside the room on the other side of the door. One door says, "'Peace," another is labeled "Healing," and still another "Provision," etc. In Christ, you have the keys to unlock every door, and all we have to do is open them by saying the "Amen" (literally "So be it"), in order to go inside and claim what is in the room for ourselves. But even though we have the keys to all those doors, we still must do our part to say the "Amen," in order to open the door and receive.

More Scriptural Examples of Making Believe
When we make believe, as disciples of Christ in God's kingdom, we may appear crazy to those who observe us. Since they don't believe as we do, they may see our faith as foolishness, presumption, or pretending. This is what happened to the ancients when they walked by faith. Noah seemed foolish to his neighbors, as he built an ark over a period of a hundred and twenty years and declared that there would be a flood, even though there had never been rain before. He appeared to be making believe, but he was saved and they all perished. Lot seemed foolish to his sons in law and appeared to them to be joking. They thought he was making believe, but he was saved and they were destroyed. David seemed foolish to his brothers when he stepped up and volunteered to fight Goliath. Perhaps he seemed to his brothers and to Saul like a boy who was making believe he was a soldier, when in fact they were the real soldiers. But he was the one who fought and killed the giant, and not them.

Perhaps the Lord Jesus appeared to the Pharisees and teachers of the law to be making believe when he spoke about them tearing down this temple and that He would rebuild it in three days. They thought it was a preposterous statement, but He was referring to the temple of His body, which was raised on the third day after they crucified Him. They ridiculed Him for saying He was the King of the Jews, not because they took Him seriously, but because they thought He was making believe. When Peter was called into the room of Dorcas, who had died, and the women who knew her all begged him to raise her from the dead, he had to make believe she would be raised when he prayed and called her forth. The only assurance he had that it would happen was his faith in the name of Jesus Christ. The same was true when he healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful.

Practice Exercises
OK. Are you ready to do some practice exercises?  Remember that there is a link between the physical and spiritual realms. What you do in the natural realm will transfer to the spiritual realm and vice versa. Try doing the following exercises with faith in God and conviction in your heart:

  • Lie on your face on the floor, cry out to God in repentance for your sin with sincere contrition and ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name. Then believe that you have received it according to 1 John 1:9.
  • Ask for and receive the Holy Spirit deliberately as they did on the day of Pentecost, according to Luke 11:11-13, Acts 1:1 and 8, and Acts 2:1-4 (see Baptized with the Spirit).
  • Kneel before the throne of God in prayer (Ps 95:6).
  • Bow at his feet in worship and prayer (see Bowing Low in Worship).
  • Smile lovingly and adoringly at the Lord with your eyes closed as your worshiping Him.
  • Tell the Lord you love Him, and expect Him to say, "I love you, too."
  • Kiss the feet of Jesus (Ps 2:12).
  • Give Jesus a loving hug.
  • Talk to Jesus like He is right there in the room with you.
  • Pull up a chair in front of you for Jesus to sit in, while you talk with Him.
  • Pull up an empty chair at the dinner table and dine with Jesus.
  • Pray before reading the Bible and ask God to speak to you. Then read it and expect Him to do so according to Hebrews 4:12.
  • Actually put on the invisible armor of God, according to Ephesians 6:11-17.
  • Act like Mark 16:17-18 is true, since we know it is.
  • Lay hands on the sick in Jesus’ name and expect them to get well. 
  • Command the demons in the name of Jesus to depart from you or someone else, and believe that they have obeyed you.
  • Take the sword of the Spirit and cut down those demons.
  • Once you have prayed and asked for something for yourself or someone else, actually believe that you have received it already, and act like you would if you knew you had received it. This involves immediate joy, thanksgiving to God, peace, and assurance.
  • When you are reading Scripture, each day, search for promises and claim them aloud in prayer for yourself and/or others. When you do, write “PC” (for “Promise Claimed”) in pencil in you Bible next to that verse.
  • Read about Your Identity in Christ, according to God's Word, and thank the Lord that each of those realities are true of you (see here).
  • Bind love and faithfulness around your neck as a necklace, and write them upon the tablet of your heart according to Proverbs 3:3. (see also The Wardrobe of the Saints).
  • Look up to heaven, open wide your mouth and ask the Lord to fill it, according to Psalm 81:10.

Closing Words
I hope I have clearly conveyed that when we walk by faith, it is very much like making believe. In a practical sense, it involves the same basic process as making believe, in that we are acting as if something already exists or already belongs to us when in fact it is still invisible. The difference between traditional make believe and Scriptural make believe is that the former is based on that which is imaginary or not real, while the latter is based on that which is true and real. This is one reason why we must become as little children in order to enter the kingdom of God. Little children like to use their imagination and make believe. It comes easy to them and they don't need to be taught to do it. So let's become like little children and practice making believe the things that are real, according to God's Word, are actually real, and the things that are true, according to God's Word, are really true.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible NIV, as noted, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. Other Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, copyright Lockman Foundation, used by permission. Image of child firefighter may be subject to copyright of The Hanen Centre, used according to Fair Use Act for educational and commentary purposes only without intended infringement.

Author's Note:  If you have not yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit, please read Baptized with the Spirit.  If you have not yet been baptized with the fire of God, then please read Holy Fire Baptism. If you enjoyed this message, you may also like other articles about prayer, like Prayer Promises, which you can find on the Home page of this blog, as well as other articles of mine like The Wardrobe of the Saints, Link Between Two Realms, and Bowing Low in Worship. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master."  Now let me ask you a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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