What do we mean when we say we believe in Jesus? That’s a strange question to ask at this point in the discussion, but in some ways it is reflective of how we behave when it comes to our Faith. Many of us grow up in the church or are, at least, exposed to Christianity at an early age. We believe we know who Jesus is and what he represents, but don’t always ask if that belief is true to what the Bible teaches. Is it just conditioning devoid of true understanding? Consider the concept of Christian Atheism. A quick look at Wikipedia reveals the concept as such:
Christian atheism is a form of cultural Christianity and an ethics system drawing its beliefs and practices from Jesus’ life and teachings as recorded in the New Testament Gospels and other sources, whilst rejecting the supernatural claims of Christianity.
In other words, Christian Atheists treat Jesus as if he is a character like Paul Revere or Johnny Appleseed. They likely believe he existed, but look at the New Testament as a series of tall tales meant to illustrate a particular philosophy. While it may be admirable that people who do not believe in God can read the New Testament and still see the value of Jesus’ teachings, is their belief the kind that saves? No, it is not.
The kind of belief that saves cannot discount the supernatural elements of the Bible. The kind of belief that saves has to acknowledge that Jesus is divine and that he rose from the dead. Dissecting the philosophy of Jesus’ teachings from an intellectual standpoint may have its value. Through God’s guidance, this study may even lead to greater understanding of the teachings, which would certainly be helpful when sharing the Gospel with a variety of people. However, belief in God is not an intellectual endeavor. It must be based in faith. Aspects of the Bible and Christian belief are fantastic and not based in worldly logic or reason. Belief in Jesus won’t make sense to people who are not willing to look past their own “wisdom.”
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent, I will frustrate.” – 1 Corinthians 1:19
True faith in God and Jesus, in particular, means accepting the full story told in the Bible. We must believe there is value in the parts of it that make sense to us as well as the parts that may seem a little far-fetched. Part of salvation involves a confession of belief in Jesus. That doesn’t just mean acknowledging that he existed. It means professing that he is Lord and that he came to this world not solely as a man but as God in the flesh.
There is another side to this discussion. What does belief look like? Many say they believe, and maybe to some extent they are telling the truth, but how can anyone know if such a claim is true? Some opponents of Christianity have claimed that Christians believe that sinning is acceptable. They say that Christians think repenting erases all sin and therefore we can live our entire lives in a loop of sinning and repentance with no consequences. This is a gross misrepresentation or misunderstanding of Christian principles. It is true that when we believe in Jesus as Lord, God forgives us. This belief should be accompanied with sincere repentance and turning away from our sins. It is also true that Christians don’t immediately cease all sinning when turning to God. However, the belief that Christians can use repentance to remove mistakes like an eraser on a pencil is wrong. The writer of Hebrews says:
“But my righteous one shall live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. – Hebrews 10:38-39
True belief in Jesus leads to the saving of the soul. True belief leads to God living inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Once the Spirit is in us, He doesn’t just lie dormant. He is active. He convicts us when we do wrong. He works to move us away from the sin that plagued us. No one can develop true belief in Jesus and remain the same. A Believer may not change completely overnight, but a transition must take place. If a person claims to believe in Jesus, but they live their lives exactly the same after coming to that belief as they did before, then that belief is likely false or maybe that person has just not bought into it fully. Either way, it is not representative of the type of belief that has been discussed in this blog over the last few entries.
If our belief is genuine, it should show in our behavior. It’s true that our good works and adherence to the Law have no part in us receiving salvation. However, it would be a mistake to believe that the actions of a Believer, good or bad, do not matter. The Bible tells us that as children of God and followers of Jesus, we are meant to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Your works cannot save you, but your salvation should result in a desire to do good. Your faith is only truly fulfilled when it’s exhibited through action.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. – James 2:20-22
Ultimately, belief isn’t just something we say we do; it’s supposed to be a way of life. So if you say you believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, do your best to live your life in a way that reflects that belief. If it seems overly difficult to do that, then take a moment to reflect on what you truly believe and pray to God to show you the way. One sure way to exercise your faith in God is to reach out to him and submit to his guidance.