Faith Baptist Church
4258 Botetourt Road
Fincastle, Virginia 24090
(540) 473-2325

What It Means to Believe

Mankind’s requirement to receive God’s salvation is just like this letter. It begins with a blank page. We have nothing which we can bring to God to merit our salvation. Neither religious activities nor moral superiority warrants God’s salvation. No great humanitarian outreach, or sacrificial death on our part for another person measures up to God’s standard to earn salvation.

The Apostle Paul explains this in a letter he wrote while in a Roman prison. He said to the Philippian believers that he had no room to boast when it came to his salvation. He boasted only in his Savior, Jesus Christ. When he was formally known as Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the early Church, he was convinced that he was living within the safety and blessings of God’s favor. He came from a very religious background of which he practiced faithfully. He was a well thought of Pharisee who was an expert on the Old Testament scriptures and the Jewish religious traditions. As a lost man he showed great zeal in defending his beliefs and in setting others straight regarding the need to obey God’s commandments as he saw them, Phil.3:4-9.

Saul of Tarsus would be compared to many of today’s faithful church goers, except for the hostile physical persecution. He would be highly moral and respectable in his community. He would be known as a man who walked close to God. His zeal prior to salvation would have convinced most men that he was surely going to heaven after his death.

But Saul came to realize that his desire to be recognized for his religious zeal was sinful in itself. He kept the Law, but not because he wanted a relationship with God; he kept the Law because he coveted the praise of men for his moral and religious works, Rom.7:7-14. He was impressed with himself, but it had never occurred to him that God was watching his life and God was not impressed. When he met the Savior his life dramatically changed. His former activities done in the name of God were now seen as arrogant displays performed as religious duties. He only gained the respect of men because they feared him, not because God favored him.

Prior to his conversion, which took place as he was on his way to persecute more Christians at Damascus, he had looked down his nose at the early believers. They were ignorant and uneducated as far as he was concerned. Their beliefs were nothing more than notions being misguided by superstition and hearsay concerning Jesus of Nazareth.

He thought Jesus Christ was nothing more than a mad man; a blasphemer who was rightly crucified; a man that weak-minded rebels foolishly and blindly followed. His skepticism kept him away from his salvation just as it does so many today. He was proud; he was religious; he was moral; he was respected, but he was lost and he was headed for an eternal Hell.

Does this man sound anything like a lot of people today?

Saul believed only in himself and what he was doing before he finally let go of his pride and acknowledged that he was indeed condemned as a sinner before God. God alone saved him, and Saul who became known as Paul, would spend the rest of his life telling others that Jesus Christ was the only Savior. What a transformation of his life. It is a testament to the supernatural power of the new birth.

Being born again is evidenced as the new nature of Christ takes over the life of the believer. To say you have believed in Jesus Christ is to say a lot.

If you have believed in Jesus Christ there should be a great transformation taking place in your life. The old things should be passing away in practice, and the new things in God should have begun to take root. The fruits of faithfulness and the fruits of the Spirit of God should be predominant in your life. An instinctive spiritual hunger for learning the word of God should be persistent just like a hunger to be fed food and drink is instinctive to our physical bodies.

If you have never had a persistent spiritual hunger for the word of God you then have never been converted to Christ. God the Father would not save you and give you such a challenging life without giving to you the wonderful spiritual food of his word to direct your life. The Holy Spirit that comes and indwells you the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Savior leads you straight to the milk of God’s word. He gives you an instinct to get the word. This is a new instinct that you have after salvation that is necessary for your survival as a child of God.

There are just some things that are so natural to a born again believer that to not have those instincts has to tell you something is wrong with your assessment of your salvation conversion.

What makes one think he or she is saved? For many the answer is ... “I told God I believed Jesus Christ was his Son, and that I believed Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins; and that I believe Jesus Christ arose from the dead as he said he would.”

All of this is the right thing to say, because this is exactly what the Bible defines as the Gospel, I Cor.15:1-4. It is true that all we have to do is believe and we will be saved. But what does believe mean? Does it mean I believe the historical and biblical account concerning the life of Christ? Does it mean I have said what I need to say to get baptized and on the church membership roll?

“The verb believe is pisteuo, the noun is pistis, the adjective is pistos. It means to believe, trust, trust in, put faith in, and rely upon a person or a thing. When these words refer to the faith which a lost sinner must place in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved, they include the following ideas; the act of considering the Lord Jesus worthy of trust as to His character and motive, the act of placing confidence in His ability to do just what He says He will do, the act of entrusting the salvation of his soul into the hands of the Lord Jesus, the act of committing the work of saving his soul to the care of the Lord. This means a definite taking of one’s self out of one’s own keeping and entrusting one’s self into the keeping of the Lord Jesus.” Kenneth Wuest - Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol.3, Vocabulary Studies, pg.28-29.

I am not bringing this out to confuse you, but to repeat what the Apostle Paul said in II Cor.13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves. Know ye not yourselves how Jesus Christ is in you, unless you be discredited?”

I am bringing this out for a very apparent reason, because so many people say they are born again; they say they have believed on Jesus Christ, but they have never shown an instinct toward themselves or others to learn the word of God, or follow a consistent obedience to Bible doctrine. One of the greatest proofs of the reality of your salvation is your consistency in learning and applying the word of God, I John 2:3-5.

Many professed Christians have shown little to no desire to fellowship with those of their alleged kind. The word of God calls the fellowship of the saints, the beloved. The Greek word for beloved is agapetoi, which means those born of the same spiritual womb.

We feed from the same milk of the word and we regularly show up to worship together. The word draws us to worship God through learning his word, and praising his name.

The old saying that birds of a feather flock together is true. If you are a child of God you will want to please him and be with your own kind, as a habit of life. Though no believer is perfectly obedient all the time; nevertheless our normal habit of life is one of inward and outward obedience to the things of the Lord. Yes, there will be times when a believer will lapse into temporary disobedience, however, he or she will eventually return to the Lord and get back to living the Christian life in accordance to the word of God.

Many who call themselves believers do not attend church at all, but they will attend everything else. And many of those things that they are attracted to are things that the lost are attracted to. Many of the things the lost are uncomfortable with some professed believers are also uncomfortable with. Many of the things the lost avoid, such as learning the Bible, praying for souls to be saved and saints to be edified, are avoided by some professed believers. The old saying is... if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck it most likely is a duck. If we walk, talk, and look like the unsaved walk, talk and look we probably also think the same way. And if we are born again the Bible says for us to let the mind of Christ rule in our thoughts.

We know attending church does not make a person a believer no more than walking into a stall makes one a horse, however, if someone is a believer he or she will want to attend church for the purpose of receiving the word of God. And if the believer is in a church that does not teach the Bible then the Holy Spirit will naturally lead him or her to another spiritual cafeteria where the believer can get the word.

A 2007 Lifeway study found seven in ten Protestants ages 18 to 30, both evangelical and mainline, who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. And 34% of those had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship, and don’t read the Bible. Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith. Of those in the new survey who believed they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior; 68% did not mention faith, religion or spirituality when asked what was “really important in life”; 50% do not attend church at least weekly; 36% rarely or never read the Bible; only 17% read it daily, and neither are these young Christians eager to share the Gospel. Just 40% said it was their responsibility.” USA Today, by Frank Pompa.

When I say it’s important to know what it means to believe in Jesus Christ, especially in light of this survey, I hope you can understand the confusion and delusion some people must be under. To say I am a born again child of God, but I do not want to learn of him, or obey him, or thank him in worship, is evidence of one who is being deceived. Do not fool yourself into an eternal separation from God after death, but do as Paul exhorted the Corinthian church to do and examine your faith. Test your faith and life against what the Bible says. If you have strayed from the faith you once proclaimed, isn’t it worth the effort to examine that faith again?

The Pastor
May 2010