Christians very easily say that they believe in Jesus. We might comfortably accept that the historical account – the recorded stories about Jesus – are true. We consider the lessons that Jesus taught to be correct, good and worthwhile and even do our best to live by them. Our belief probably inspires us to affiliate ourselves with Christianity in some way – probably through membership of a local Christian Church congregation. But is this what it means to truly believe in Jesus?
Within the common context and definition of the word “believe, it’s easy to see why John 3:16 is the Christian Church’s favorite and most memorized verse. If you’re reading this, you probably know it by heart, but I’ll quote it anyway:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
For many years of my church-raised life, John 3:16 was the only verse I had memorized from the Bible. That is still the case for many Christians. It seems that many hold on to this single verse from scripture as an assurance that, because I believe in Jesus, I am saved.
But there are tough questions that need to be asked:
- Is my belief truly grounded in a living, vital intimacy with the risen Jesus Himself?
- Or do I just accept as true the historical accounts about Him?
- Or is my belief merely an intellectual agreement with His teachings?
- Or perhaps my belief is based only on my personal decision to be connected with the religious organization that recognizes Him as it’s most important historical character?
Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
The belief that Jesus describes and calls His followers to goes far beyond our common vernacular and understanding of what it means to believe. Belief in Jesus requires committed “oneness” with Him and nothing else. Oneness with Him will incorporate acceptance of the historical record, agreement that His teachings are true and an active connection with The Church. But true belief in Jesus the Christ must not be limited to or based on any of these lesser things.
In the words of Oswald Chambers from today’s My Utmost For His Highest:
“To believe is to commit. In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally, and reject anything not related to that belief. In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally to my convictions and refuse to compromise. But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.
Then, when I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and He says to me, “Do you believe this?” I find that faith is as natural as breathing. And I am staggered when I think how foolish I have been in not trusting Him earlier.”
“Our temptation is to look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted.” C.S.Lewis