What Are We Believing If We Believe In Jesus?


reading-the-bible-835822-mThe Bible says in John 3:16 that whoever believes in God’s Son will have eternal life. Jesus Himself spoke those words.

The Gospel writers sprinkle evidence throughout their books that Jesus was that Son. Consequently, we would be accurate to say that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. But what exactly are we to believe about Jesus? That He existed? That eternal life is in Him? That He is God’s Son?

Perhaps we should start by saying what this phrase does NOT mean.

We are not to believe that Jesus was a good example. Yes, He was, and we are to follow Him, to live as He lived, to obey what He said. But doing all that is 1) not possible apart from supernatural power; and 2) not going to give us eternal life. We know this from the totality of Scripture.

Let’s use a sobering example. Say a married man is unfaithful to his wife just once, but in that one act of infidelity, he contracts a venereal disease. No matter how faithful he acts from that time forth, he will not cancel out his faithless act. His fidelity is what he owed his wife all along, and giving it to her before or after his adultery does not scrub out the faithless act or its consequence.

So too, if someone says he believes in Jesus as a model for how to live, good for him. If he could actually do so, he would now be living as he should have all along. But this new behavior would not scrub away the life lived in contradiction to Jesus’s example. In other words, living as Jesus lived cannot bring that eternal life John 3:16 promises.

Believing in Jesus also does not mean believing that He will make this life more comfortable for us or that He will fix our heartaches, keep our loved ones safe, help us to get a better job, or make us better wives or husbands. He may do those things. But the truth is, He wants to do more.

Two missionary couples were killed some years ago by Somali pirates. If their belief was in Jesus making them happy, they must have been sorely disappointed when their yacht was captured. I suspect they were not, because their chosen mission was to distribute Bibles. I suspect, therefore, they believed the Bible and knew that their lives were about more than comfort and ease.

Not long after, an LA fireman who died in the line of duty was buried, his funeral televised for all the area to see. His pastor, among others who spoke, gave a stirring testimony of this man’s faith — not in Jesus who would give him a comfortable life, but in Jesus who assured him of eternal life.

Believing in Jesus is also not taking to heart His teaching. Like the challenge to live as He lived, this one is also impossible and insufficient.

What, then, does it mean to believe in Jesus?

First it means to believe in who He is — God’s Son, the promised Messiah, the suffering Savior, the risen Lord, the soon to return King.

Second it means to believe in what He has done — while we were yet sinners, He died for us, bearing the punishment we deserved for our wayward hearts and willful rebellion; then He rose again that we too who were dead in our sins could be alive to God. We also must believe that His sacrifice as our substitute is sufficient to reconcile us to our Holy God. That, after all, is the point and purpose of the promise — eternal life means life with God enjoying his abiding love and fellowship and presence, here in part, after this life in uninterrupted fullness.

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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What Can We Say About Jesus?


According to the gospel writer John, the number of things that could be said about Jesus is innumerable:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
– John 21:25

Young_Jesus007Today I suppose the popular answer to the question, what can we say about Jesus, would be, Jesus is loving. Perhaps second in popularity, though I suspect, a distant second, would be, Jesus is our Savior.

I wonder if anyone would come up with what I think might be most true about Jesus. Granted, He is loving because He is Love, but that is not His only trait, so I don’t think that one gives a complete picture. Yes, Jesus saves and therefore is the Savior, but not in a universal sense.

What I think is most true about Jesus is this: He was and is misunderstood.

When He was a baby, Herod misunderstood the announcement that a king had been born, and tried to have Him killed. His parents misunderstood when He, as a twelve-year-old, stayed in the temple, going about His Father’s business. His mother misunderstood when she asked Him as an adult to turn water into wine.

But that was nothing compared to all the misunderstanding He was about to suffer. The 5000 He fed thought He would always be good for a free lunch. The crowds that pressed around Him for healing, that saw Him raise the dead or throw demons out of possessed people, thought He was on His way to Jerusalem to establish His rule. Meanwhile, His family thought He was crazy, and the men He chose as His apprentices wouldn’t believe Him when He said He was going to die or that He would rise again on the third day.

Then there were the guys who hated Him. They were convinced He would start a riot, bringing down the wrath of Rome on Judea. They feared Him for what He never claimed or intended to be and rejected Him for what He openly called them to believe.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was Pilate who thought he was in charge, not Jesus. There were the mockers at the foot of the cross who didn’t think He could come down if He wanted to. And afterward, there were His followers, packing it in, ready to go back to fishing because the last three years had been a bust, they thought.

Of course none of it was a bust. All of it was according to Plan. But the misunderstanding hasn’t stopped. People still think wrong things about Jesus. Some say He is a myth or that He was an awfully nice man, dead though He now is. Others think He came to earth to live a life of kindness and generosity so people everywhere could see how it could be done and then go and do likewise. Still others divorce him from his Father, thinking that he either was a secondary god or god in an evolved form from his Old Testament self.

Some people say that He is, in fact, the Son of God, but they think He can be manipulated by His words and because of His character. He’s a promise keeper, they say, and here is His promise in black and white, so I know I can ask for a beach house in Malibu and He HAS to come through for me or else.

Clearly a good number of His promises have been misunderstood by the very people who claim to be His followers. Meanwhile His pesky commandments so out of step with society at large, seem to be twisted or ignored, which is easy to do since fewer and fewer people read them for themselves. Consequently, if someone of standing comes along and says Jesus was this or that, thousands believe no matter if the this is a lie or the that a fabrication.

So what can we say is most true about Jesus? Maybe the best thing would be to let God’s Word have the final say on the matter.

This post, apart from some minor editorial changes, originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in February 2011

Published in: on February 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Nine Days And Counting


I hope you all aren’t getting tired of the countdown. To be honest, I’m really enjoying thinking about Christmas and searching for a way to tie in the numbers as I count down to The Day. This one was so obvious I almost missed it — for nine months Mary carried the Christ child, sight unseen to the rest of the world. Nine months she knew a baby boy was growing inside her, a special baby boy — the Son of God.

What a whirlwind. The angelic announcement, then off to see if what he said about Elizabeth was true (it was). In those three months with her cousin, Mary undoubtedly experienced the early signs of pregnancy. Did she have morning sickness? Weight gain?

Then back to Nazareth to face Joseph. But miracle on top of miracles, he too had seen an angel, so now there was a wedding to plan. Not an easy thing to take care of during her confinement. How much longer before her neighbors would learn she was pregnant? When she no longer went to the market or the synagogue, would they figure something was wrong? Would they stop by her house to see if she was sick? How was she to explain to them about baby Jesus?

The angel had called her favored, but there were days she didn’t feel so very favored. First came the questioning looks, then the whispers, cut short when she drew nearer. She could feel the disapproval, from members of her family, certainly, if not from the rest of the community. If Joseph hadn’t stood by her, she probably would have had to leave Nazareth and move in with Elizabeth.

But one day, the fears and doubts and humiliation all seemed to wash away, because she felt little baby Jesus kick. To think that this tiny boy was getting bigger, stronger, and closer to actually coming into the world! This was the child who would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High. The angel said the Lord God would give Him the throne of His father David — a throne He would have forever.

If she wasn’t living it herself, she’d have a hard time believing any of it. She was to give birth to the King? She an unmarried girl from an out-of-the-way town in Galilee. Would one single person in Israel believe what she was going through? OK, besides Joseph. Thank God for Joseph. And Elizabeth. Even when she hadn’t started showing, somehow Elizabeth knew she was pregnant and had blessed her, blessed her baby.

Actually confinement wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to her. It would give her a little time to sort out these incredible things, try to make sense of it all, to figure out what exactly God was doing in and through her. I mean, she was going to have a baby! And a husband! These were not small changes, especially when the order was backwards like this.

But of all things, even a quiet birth at home wasn’t going to happen. Some Roman edict was forcing everyone back to their ancestral lands, and she and Joseph, both descendants of King David, would be off to Bethlehem. Right at the end of her nine months.

If she’d known everything she knew now, would she have been so quick to say to the angel, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word”? Well, she was God’s bondslave, and this is what He asked of her …

Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm  Comments (5)  
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What Are We Believing If We Believe In Jesus?


The Bible says in John 3:16 that whoever believes in God’s Son will have eternal life. Jesus Himself spoke those words.

The Gospel writers sprinkle evidence throughout their books that Jesus was that Son. Consequently, we would be accurate to say that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. But what exactly are we to believe about Jesus? That He existed? That eternal life is in Him? That He is God’s Son?

Perhaps we should start by saying what this phrase does NOT mean.

We are not to believe that Jesus was a good example. Yes, He was, and we are to follow Him, to live as He lived, to obey what He said. But doing all that is 1) not possible apart from supernatural power; and 2) not going to give us eternal life. We know this from the totality of Scripture.

Let’s use a sobering example. Say a married man is unfaithful to his wife just once, but in that one act of infidelity, he contracts a venereal disease. No matter how faithful he acts from that time forth, he will not cancel out his faithless act. His fidelity is what he owed his wife all along, and giving it to her before or after his adultery does not scrub out the faithless act or its consequence.

So too, if someone says he believes in Jesus as a model for how to live, good for him. If he could actually do so, he would now be living as he should have all along. But this new behavior would not scrub away the life lived in contradiction to Jesus’s example. In other words, living as Jesus lived cannot bring that eternal life John 3:16 promises.

Believing in Jesus also does not mean believing that He will make this life more comfortable for us or that He will fix our heartaches, keep our loved ones safe, help us to get a better job, or make us better wives or husbands. He may do those things. But the truth is, He wants to do more.

Two missionary couples were killed last week by Somali pirates. If their belief was in Jesus making them happy, they must have been sorely disappointed when their yacht was captured. I suspect they were not, because their chosen mission was to distribute Bibles. I suspect, therefore, they believed the Bible and knew that their lives were more than comfort and ease.

Today in LA a fireman who died in the line of duty was buried, his funeral televised for all the area to see. His pastor, among others who spoke, gave a stirring testimony of this man’s faith — not in Jesus who would give him a comfortable life, but Jesus who assured him of eternal life.

Believing in Jesus is also not taking to heart His teaching. Like the challenge to live as He lived, this one is also impossible and insufficient.

What, then, does it mean to believe in Jesus?

First it means to believe in who He is — God’s Son, the promised Messiah, the suffering Savior, the risen Lord, the soon to return King.

Second it means to believe in what He has done — while we were yet sinners, He died for us, bearing the punishment we deserved for our wayward hearts and willful rebellion; then He rose again that we too who were dead in our sins could be alive to God. We also must believe that His sacrifice as our substitute is sufficient to reconcile us to our Holy God. That, after all, is the point and purpose of the promise — eternal life means life with God enjoying his abiding love and fellowship and presence, here in part, after this life in uninterrupted fullness.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm  Comments (8)  
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