WHAT DOES BELIEVING IN JESUS CHRIST MEANS?
Several people claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but according to the Bible, they do not. How can we know that our belief is real?
Acts 16:31 says, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
• Does this imply that all you have to do is say that you believe in Jesus and that you will be saved from hell to everlasting life?
• Or does it mean that you can confess with your lips that you believe, and keep living like you always have, disobeying the things that the Bible teaches?
• Or does it mean that we can accept that the man Jesus existed on earth and still exists today somewhere in eternity?
The Bible makes it evident that believing in Jesus is not simply saying, “I believe that Jesus existed, ” and then go on living life and never giving Jesus another thought. Indeed, to believe in Jesus is not only to say, “I believe in Him as a historical fact,” but to accept Him as the Lord of the universe and the Lord of your soul.
Believing in Jesus isn’t the same as saying that you believe the world is round. When someone believes in Jesus as their Savior, they embrace the following things in their minds, hearts, and attitudes:
1. JESUS IS THE ONLY HEAVEN WAY
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus makes it plain that when a person recognizes Him as their Savior, they exclusively trust Him to forgive them and to save them from their sins. A person can no longer trust his or her good deeds, church attendance, or religious system. They can’t trust other gods or religions either. Also, Jesus frees you from seeking to find a path to Heaven. You no longer need to walk a tightrope with God; you can know that you are forgiven for your sins and that you are going to Heaven because of what Christ has done for you on the cross.
2. FORGIVENESS OF SIN ONLY COMES FROM THE CROSS
Sin is what distinguishes the holy God from the unholy people. No good work on our part will forgive our sins and wash them away. It is only when we accept that Christ died to forgive our sins and that he opened the grace of God to us. The Bible states, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus took away your sins and suffered for them, so in effect, the punishment for your sins was cancelled. You live without guilt in God’s eyes because of what Jesus has done for you when you believe in Him.
3. TRUE BELIEF IN CHRIST
As you can see, genuinely believing in Christ is more than adhering to a historical fact or a set of beliefs. It is also more than casual to say that you believe in Christ. True belief in Christ means to trust Him alone to make you acceptable to God by way of the cross. You have faith in Christ to take you to Heaven, not in the church, in yourself, in your good deeds, or any religious act. And true belief in Christ always means that His ways will become your ways – His wishes for you will become yours – and He will become the pillar of your life. True belief is a dedication to God!
EMPOWERED TO LIVE FOR CHRIST
Christ doesn’t call us to follow Him without giving us the power to do so. We can’t live a faithful life on our own. We need some help. It’s an inside job! The main concern is not that we are not physically capable of obedience, but that we are not spiritually capable. What unites us to God’s power and empowers us to bear the fruit that He desires in our lives is the Holy Spirit’s presence. That is what Jesus said to his followers as He was about to leave them, for He knew that they could not live the life that He called them into without power of the Holy Ghost: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
When we choose to embrace the gift of salvation that the Lord offers to us and make the decision in our hearts to follow Him, He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us and enable us to change our mind, our feelings, our desires and will from what we want to become to what God wants us to become. He won’t just save us and leave us alone to live the life he has called us to live. Rather, he would give us his Spirit to live with us and in us!
The New Testament encourages us to believe in Jesus Christ. The well-known scripture John 3:16 states that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Other verses promise that those who believe in Jesus will receive forgiveness of their sins (Acts 10:43) and salvation (Romans 1:16). Believing in Jesus is obviously very necessary.
Through recognition of this instruction, many have been told that all they need to do is believe in Christ to benefit from all His promised blessings. But what many do not realize is what Jesus and the New Testament authors really meant by the directive to “believe.” Majority of people who claim to be Christians still presume that this word means to accept Jesus as the Savior.
Many well-intentioned but misguided teachers have said that there is no need for anything else, along with belief in Jesus. Their reasoning is that if any effort is involved, a person is trying to earn his salvation, which is impossible to do (Galatians 2:16). Truly, it is through grace — the favor of God towards us, including His gift of undeserved forgiveness — that we are saved (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 2:5, 8).
But if there is no work involved, does that mean that one who believes that God exists and that Jesus is God’s son, and who is willing to receive all God’s promises, doesn’t need to do anything? Does this mean that these people can live a life of sexual immorality, lying, stealing, killing — breaking every commandment of God — and still have eternal life?
Human beings have long struggled to grasp the relationship between believing in Christ and good works. There are many individual opinions and interpretations. Let’s set these aside and see how Jesus and the New Testament authors describe what it means to believe in God.
BELIEVING MEANS ACCEPTING ALL THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
After miraculously feeding 5,000 people plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two small fish, the disciples gathered 12 baskets of food left over (John 6:5-13). “Then those men, when they saw the sign Jesus did [the miracle of feeding the multitude], said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world'” (verse 14)—a reference to the true successor of Moses foretold in the Bible. These people believed that Jesus was indeed God’s Son.
When Jesus left the scene, many of those who enjoyed the delicious meal came searching for Him. They wanted Jesus to perform another miracle, claiming that it would make them believe Him (verse 30).
Instead of doing another miracle at this time, Jesus taught the men. He explained that, unlike the earthly bread that the crowd had recently consumed, He was the real bread from Heaven that would grant everlasting life to the earth (verses 32-33).
He told them that His disciples would need to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood” — referring to the symbol of bread and wine in the annual Passover service and internalizing what they said, affirming their covenant relationship with Him. In the end, this will lead to everlasting life (verse 54).
Many of those who listened to Jesus, including His followers, found this teaching difficult to understand (verse 60). Addressing this large community, Jesus then said, “But there are some of you who do not believe, for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were, who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” After this, “many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him” (verses 64, 66).
Though a lot of these same people had said that they believed that Jesus was the “Prophet” whose arrival was foretold in the scripture, yet they did not believe what Jesus said. What Jesus meant by believing in Him means believing in everything that He said. It meant much more than just accepting the free gifts that He gave.
BELIEVING MEANS CONVICTION TO OBEY
One of the many rituals of the Jews in the first century was to carefully wash their hands in a particular way before eating food. Seeing that some of Jesus’ disciples had started to eat without going through this rigorous ceremony, some of the scribes and Pharisees found fault with them and asked Jesus why His disciples had not followed this practice (Mark 7:1-5).
Jesus replied that they were hypocrites for asking that question, saying that the words of the Old Testament applied to them:
“This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Verse 6-7).
Continuing, Jesus said, “For setting aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of cups and pitchers, and many other things that you do. All too well, you disobey the commandment of God and you may keep your tradition” (verses 8-9).
In Jesus’ popular Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21-23).
In embracing the correct teaching that we cannot earn our salvation through deeds, others have naively accepted the wrong teaching that following God’s commandments does not matter. Jesus’ own words explicitly show that he wants Christians to set aside the commandments of men and keep the commandments of God — even though this obedience will not earn them salvation.
BELIEVING MEANS RESOLVING TO BE BAPTIZED
A common notion among some professing Christians is that baptism is unnecessary as all that one has to do is receive Jesus in one’s heart. In this regard, some remember in Romans 10:9, which states, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Again, the problem here is: What does it mean to believe in your heart? Once again, rather than letting others decide what it means to believe, let’s remember what Jesus meant.
When giving orders to His followers on the work they will do upon His return to Heaven, Jesus told them clearly, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16).
Jesus specifically explained that genuine belief in Him should be combined with baptism. Some passages indicate that baptism requires repentance, from a sinful lifestyle to one in submission to the laws of God (Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38).
When we look at the teachings of Christ and His apostles, it is clear that when they say that we must believe in God, it is with the perspective that believing will include baptism. Baptism is the outward symbol of a person’s new life based on turning from breaking the law of God to obeying God’s laws.
The assumption that one can believe in Jesus without obeying His instructions, keeping His commandments, and getting baptized is a common but biblically flawed perspective. Jesus answered that same fallacy in Luke 6:46 during His earthly ministry by asking, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
To the contrary, He said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8). Genuine belief in Christ is not a passive practice. The disciples of Jesus must act on His instruction!
When it comes to determining what believing in Christ means, why not believe and act on what Christ Himself said?
THE STARTING POINT
There is a starting point for everything in our life. When we invite Christ to come into our lives and decide to believe in Him and obey Him, this is the starting point of a new life. If you have never taken this decision, please take this decision seriously and understand both the consequences of not taking it and taking it. As many people will testify, when they gave their lives to Christ, they were not promised an easy life, but they were granted the everlasting relationship with God, which they were meant to have!