My Plea to Christians. My Hope for the Church. Define “Believe”

Define “Believe”, Photo Copyright Ray Majoran

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, NIV84)

There’s a scary trend happening right now in Christianity. It’s called half-heartedness. On one hand, people like the idea of having a Savior and in response, they call Jesus the “Lord of their lives.” On the other hand, people don’t like everything that Jesus had to say, so in response, they pick and choose what teachings of Jesus they want to adhere to, and which ones they want to ignore. 

Sound confusing? It is! How is it possible that someone can follow Jesus, yet ignore much of what He had to say? Jesus thought it was confusing too. In Luke 6:46 He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Here’s the kicker: as Christians, we always like to say that we’re saved by His grace. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Indeed, it is by grace that we are saved!

But if you’re not abiding in what Jesus commanded you to do, what makes you think that you’re a Christian? Because you said, “Jesus, you are Lord… I give you my heart?” 

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” And Romans 10:9 (NIV) says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In looking at these two verses alone, we’d say, “Yep, all I have to do is say the words and I’m in.” But the Bible’s not like that. The rest of the Scripture always brings context to help us understand what each verse means. Scripture is intertwined like a finely knit garment. To take one verse and not put it in context with the rest of the Bible would be wrong.

Take Job 3:2 (NIV) for example. The verse goes like this:

“He said”

That’s it! “He said”. 

He said what? 

Exactly my point! By taking single verses in the Bible and not putting them in context with other Scripture, we shortchange the Word of God and put ourselves in serious danger of being false teachers.

So when the Bible says “believe”, what does that actually mean? 

Does it mean “believe” like in fairytales? “Once upon a time, there was a Jesus far, far away…”

Or does it mean to have authentic confidence that Jesus Christ died for your sins and that He is Lord of all? And if that’s the definition that we’re going to go by, shouldn’t it change our outlook about what’s important in life and what’s not?

Tim Keller notes in his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

In my mind, to say that “I believe in something” means that I’m abiding in that belief. Otherwise, I’m just a liar whose words say one thing, while my actions prove differently.

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

Therefore, the word “believe” cannot just mean believe as in fairytale. It must mean more than that.

Now for a brand new Christian, I get it. You haven’t had the opportunity to serve the Lord yet. And people who authentically accept Jesus into their lives just before they die (like the criminal on the cross did in Luke 23:39-43) won’t get much of an opportunity to serve either.

But for those of you who call yourselves Christians, what is your rationale for not doing what the Lord has told you to do?

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Can works alone save you? Absolutely not! But you need to understand that works are proof of your faith. Without them, you really don’t have faith. You talk the talk but you don’t walk the walk. 

I’ve given lots of examples throughout this book of what unauthentic faith might look like. Here are a few more to chew on:

  • Husbands: You call yourself a Christian yet habitually wound your wife with hurtful and disparaging speech. Read Ephesians 5:25-29
  • Wives: You call yourself a Christian yet habitually wound your husband with hurtful and disparaging speech. Read Proverbs 12:4
  • Everyone: You call yourself a Christian yet continually gossip about others. Read Ephesians 4:29-32, 2 Timothy 2:16, 1 Timothy 5:13 and Proverbs 10:18
  • Everyone: You call yourself a Christian yet continually criticize and judge other Christians, putting aside the act of forgiveness. Read Matthew 7:1-5, Ecclesiastics 5:2, Colossians 3:13, Matthew 8:15-17 

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26)

The punch line

Evaluate your life and make sure that if you’re calling yourself a “Christian” then you’re living like a Christian.

Ensure that you’ve called upon the name of the Lord so that you can be saved (Joel 2:32 as quoted in Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13) and then follow His commandments.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40)

Your neighbor = your spouse, your friends, your enemies and everyone that you come into contact with.

I fear that many who call themselves Christians have ignored His commandments, making their faith out to be false. They are choked out by the thorns, scorched by the sun or devoured by the birds. (Matthew 13:1-9) 

On the day that I die, I want to be sure that I am indeed a follower of Christ and not just an advocate of the things He had to say. I refuse to be a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another.

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