Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Is Believing in Jesus Really Enough?"

Tony asked me to explain why some Christians say that all you have to do is to “believe in Jesus,” and that that is enough to get into Heaven. Tony not only believes in the fact of Jesus’ holy life, mission to save, atoning death, and resurrection. He puts his trust in Jesus every day, for the things that he will face and the people he will be interacting with. “What does it mean to believe in Christ? Is believing in Jesus really enough to be saved?”

There are two issues here; the resurrection and the English word, “believe.” In English, we can use “believe” either to mean that (1). we think that something is true, or (2). more profoundly, it can mean to actively trust that something or someone is able to do for you, what they claim. If by “believe in Christ,” one intends the first meaning, I see no guarantees in scripture that that “believer” has any guarantee of Heaven. When scripture speaks of “believing” in Jesus, the word “to believe” is:

Pist-yoo-o; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing,) . . . To entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being): -believe (-r), commit (to trust), to put in trust with.”

Do you believe in the historic Jesus only? Or do you also believe (entrust yourself to) Jesus, who is alive today, and who is Lord? This is the question to put to the person who says, “Believing in Jesus is enough.” Anyone can believe in Marco Polo or Napoleon or Jesus’ earthly existence, by what historians have written, if by “believe in” they mean, believing that they existed and did some or all of what is claimed about them. But Jesus is living, and is actively Lord!

Believing in the risen Savior means that you will be hearing from Him, and responding according to your faith, daily. Salvation is not some passive category, which a person simply finds that they fall into. Being saved is as dramatic an act, as death and rebirth itself! We were in darkness and Jesus has come to take us out of that. He didn’t just flip on the light switch. The darkness is still there. The Father, through Jesus, literally rescued us out of it, bringing us into His Kingdom of Light.

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:13

Salvation is a journey. Jesus described Himself as “the way.” If you are already at your destination, you don’t need “a way.” You need a way when you are lost. And lost is how Jesus found us. To truly believe, we have to think of Jesus as an active agent, leading us out of one world and bringing us into another. When Jesus talks about salvation, He tells us that He is the only way to gain admittance into Heaven.

Are you offensive? If you are traveling down Salvation Road, you smell. It is written:

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
2 Corinthians 2:15

If you read around that verse, you’ll find that to the unsaved, you reek of death. Unbelievers worldwide will take offense at the cross for different reasons. My Muslim friends get offended because we claim that Jesus (whom they say was only a prophet) was beaten and crucified and buried. They don’t believe that Allah would let that happen to one of their prophets. My American friends get offended because we claim that Jesus is the “only way” to Heaven.

“Options” is one of America’s false gods. We fight to keep or increase our "options." We're bred to feel deprived if we don’t have “an option.” We feel that it is every person’s right to have a choice about everything; apparently even including who saves us. Almost anywhere else in the world, people happily live without options or choices in education, profession, marriage partner, or health care. That is unimaginable to most of us here. But be that as it may, we don’t get to choose between possible saviors.

Mankind was lost and literally hell-bound when Jesus came. Out of love He says:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13,14

I don’t need to argue with my American friends. If they really believe in Jesus, these are His words:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, there is no way to the Father but by me.”
John 14:6

Jesus is not only the guide; He is the way! When I lived in rural Haiti, there were no streetlights in our villages. I had 20/20 vision. But at nighttime, if there was not a bright moon shining, I needed friends to guide me home. My Haitian friends could see just fine at night. But I didn’t grow up in rural Haiti. I had electricity my whole life. My eyes never adjusted while there. I always had to “believe in” my friends to bring me home. Believing simply that Haitian people existed as I walked back to my room, would have had me ankle-deep in cow pies and falling into tarantula occupied ditches. As friends walked me home at night, I’d laugh amazed, “How did you see that?” And they’d laugh amazed, “How can you not see that?” My eyesight was evidence that I was a foreigner there.

True believers are foreigners while here on Earth. Our eyes were created for Eden, but sin put us in utter darkness. As foreigners in this strange land, we need Jesus to bring us home. Paul wrote:

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”
2 Timothy 4:18

Jesus says He is “the way.” If you are already at your destination, you don’t need “a way.” You need a way when you are lost. And lost is just how Jesus found us.

Maybe the problem is that people don’t feel lost. People don’t know their Bibles anymore. They believe Jesus existed, but don’t bother to heed His words. If they did, maybe they would agree with Mark Twain, who wrote:

"It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

That is not an unhealthy view, when one reads verses like Matthew 7:21. (See for yourself; it is too troubling!) We don’t have an option, as to who can save us from Hell. There is only one who has shed His blood, and only one Whose blood was acceptable, for mankind to be able to be rescued. That person wasn’t Buddha or Muhammad or Mary or Krishna or your Grandfather, “who was like this really good man.” It is Jesus the Christ. Peter said:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

If belief in Jesus’ existence was enough, demons could be saved. James wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
James 2:19

Or read the account of the demon in Acts 19:13-16. That demon said, “Jesus I know,…” But demons cannot be born again children of God. “Belief in” Jesus is more than just knowledge of Him. It is reliance upon Him who is alive and in our lives. He is risen!

Tony is questioned by people who seem to think that by believing the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the whole world, was buried and rose from the dead,” is all that God expects of them.

James chapter 2, is not about the difference between demons and men. He is talking about belief’s impression upon our lives.

“…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (vs. 17)

“…show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (vs. 18)

He is talking about lives, changed as a result of having received the promise of salvation. If one truly believes in Christ, then their spiritual hand is in His, and they are letting Him lead them out of darkness and into the kingdom “Light.” They are going to smell!

2 Corinthians 2:16

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