When you look critically at many of our Christian lives you will notice that most of just have the mental assent that God exists but actually do not have faith in the Almighty God. Mental assent looks so much like faith that many people cannot see the different between the two.
Mental assent means intellectually accepting the Word of God as true – admiring it and agreeing with it-but not allowing it to have an impact on you, so that it doesn’t do any good in your life. In essence, mental assent agrees with God but does not believe in God.
The mental assentor affirms that the entire Bible came from God, that it is God’s revelation, and that every Word of it is true. When a crisis comes however, s/he says, “Yes, I believe the Bible is true, but it does not work for me in this situation.” S/he often quotes Scriptures he doesn’t really believe. For example, he might mentally affirm the promise, “God will supply all my needs according to His richers in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19”, but never trusts God to do so by making personal application of this verse in his own life.
A person who mentally assents to God’s Word says , “Lord, what You said is wonderful!”- and leaves it at that. I can imagine God replying, “Thank you. Now will you please do it?” Such a person may be successful in knowing much about the Word, but as far as His Spiritual life is concerned, he has failed. The true believer is a doer of the Word and not a hearer only (James 1:23). The believer builds on rock, while the mental assentor builds on sand. (See Matthew 7:24-27.)
The only way God’s promises will become a reality in your life is for you to act on them-and you can’t act on them without faith. As a matter of fact, the very Word promise requires faith. If I promise you something, that means you do not have it yet, so you have to believe I will give it to you. Everything God said He will give us are the “promises of God.” God says to us, “I promise I will do this for you, but in reality, it’s already done. I want you to believe that what I promise is real. It is already accomplished, because I back up every promise I make.”
A variation of mental assent is “sense knowledge.” This is the attitude that says, “If I cannot see it, 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. Faith is the substance and evidence of things that your sense 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 alone. 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. You will live in frustration because you will try to figure out how to meet your own needs 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 you have been mentally assenting to the truth but not acting on it, you have been living below your privilege for too long. You need to start living by the faith that God gave you so that His Word can come to pass in your life. People say, “Well, I need more faith.” Faith is easy to obtain. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). When you receive the Word, your faith grows. Every time you read the Word or hear good teaching and put it to practice, your Spiritual life is strengthened a little more. You don’t receive the Word of God without being changed for the better. The Word is the seed. Once you put the seed in good soil, the seed is going to grow because the power is in the seed.
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the Word (of God) and so deceive yourselves. DO WHAT IT SAYS.” This verse separates mental assent from faith. James said if you think listening to the Word by itself will make the difference, you are deceiving yourself. You must learn what you have heard by believing and then acting upon it.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people,
“What do you think? 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 do what his father asked but never took any action on it. Although the first son was initially rebellious, he ended up agreeing to his father’s request and doing it. Jesus was showing us that we cannot just say we believe. WE HAVE TO LIVE OUT OUR FAITHBY DOING WHAT GOD ASKS. WE SHOULD NOT ONLY AGREE WITH HIS WORD AND WILL, BUT ALSO LIVE IT.