All you gotta do is Believe!
This week I heard a pastor give the encouragement to church attendees that as long as you just believe that you have assurance, then you will be saved.
Later that day, while engaging with some prisoners at county lockup, I heard several profess their belief that Jesus’ sacrifice applies to everyone automatically.
In Claiming Christ, we are considering a chapter on what the Bible means by “just believe and you will be saved”. Apparently, it doesn’t exactly mean what many “believers” want it to mean.
Wishful thinking ain’t believ’n.
Jesus’ declaration, as recorded by the apostle John, offers a very simple promise:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”.
And yet as the apostle James reminds us, even the demons believe–but they ain’t headed for heaven!
If you just want it bad enough, does that mean you believe? Does doubting your deceptability ensure your eternity, even though God promises that many will believe a lie? Is God obligated to reward sincerity with salvation as a type of faith without works?
Can you raise yourself from the dead to eternal life just by shear will power? If you confess faith with your mouth, have you become the possessor of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket for the chocolate factory in the sky?
So what does the Bible mean by believing? I’ll offer several hints:
[in context of the Jn 5 passage above] “How can you believe if you make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (v.44)
Jesus is asking a rhetorical question to make the point that if you don’t put forth effort toward what God expects, then you don’t get to claim genuine belief.
To those who “hear my words”, the Spirit teaches:
“Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey [so that everything will work out] just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” (Dt 6:3)
As the leading caution into what is well known as the Jewish Shema, the divine promise is conditioned on follow through. But some will complain, in spite of the contextual evidence already cited by John, that this promise was part of the limited Old Covenant and not specifically a reference to eternal life.
So we turn again to the New Covenant to see if what was true back then holds true Today. To those who wanted to identify a blessedness according to one’s situation, standing, role, lineage, or identity, Jesus retorts”
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”. (Lu 11:28)
Or more specifically identified with the gospel of salvation, Paul states:
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous…as my gospel declares.” (Rom 2:13-16)
For anyone familiar with preceding posts, it should be well evident that works don’t earn salvation, but they do play a critical part in revealing whether or not a claimant (someone who thinks they are a Christian) is accepted by Jesus as a true, believing disciple.
The fruit of faith must display itself through obedience. For those given time by God to grow in faith, there is no other evidence for genuine belief than living according to every detail that proceeds from the Word of God.
A good tree must produce good fruit. It cannot look healthy while not producing fruit, like the fig tree Jesus cursed for not producing fruit out-of-season, when he wanted it.
Belief cannot disobey. Belief cannot obey some things while ignoring other commands in Scripture. Belief cannot be born again belief, while returning to God empty.
True believers follow as Jesus instructs. They live like Jesus did. They obey.
If you can hear this, then you are encouraged to live it and profess it accordingly, to honor the Lord and demonstrate biblical belief that is promised to result at the return of Christ in eternal life.
That is the evidence of real believ’n, don’t ya know.