WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN BY “BELIEVE”?
In the last two columns, we have looked at two specific issues we face in life. The first is that we are all guilty of living a life of sin. Secondly, Jesus lived a sinless life and took the punishment we deserved.
In John 3:16-18, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
In Ephesians 2:8-9, it is written, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Anyone who places their belief, or trust, in Jesus Christ is, in essence, credited with the perfect life Jesus lived. Their debt to God for their sins has been settled. So, an exchange takes place. Jesus accepted our punishment on the cross and we place our faith, or trust, in Him, in order to receive the forgiveness of our sins.
We might think of it this way. We are all in a race. The gun goes off. We run. But the race track is too long for us. One by one we begin to collapse. (I’d be closest to the starting gate.) Only Jesus is able to finish the race. As we pull ourselves up off the track, ashamed by where we finished, Jesus motions to us to join Him. “No,” we say, “You won it fair and square.” We head off toward the sidelines, but Jesus keeps motioning to us. He really seems to want us at the finish line. So, a few of us walk up to be with Him. He accepts the trophy as the winner. Then He turns and allows all who came to stand with Him the opportunity to hold the trophy with Him. He won it, but He’s willing to share it with whoever answers the call.
Now, think about that. Except for Jesus, we all fail. We admit we failed and head off to the sidelines where we belong. Jesus calls. After more than one attempt, some give in and walk up to be with Him. When we grasp the trophy He offers to us, we become winners with Him, even though we personally failed. Only standing up there with Him makes us winners.
It is through faith in Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness for our sins and are pardoned from the punishment each of us deserves.
So, what is this faith or belief in Jesus Christ? It is more than what most people think it is. Many think believing in Jesus Christ is like believing in some historical fact. It is something to be memorized, but it doesn’t affect their life.
The word we translate as believe in the Bible means to trust in, cling to or rely upon in the original language. We don’t cling to the fact George Washington was our first president. Unless we’re on a TV game show, we don’t rely upon the fact World War I began on June 24, 1914.
When a person clings to something, they place their full trust in it. Their reliance upon it changes their life. That is what God asks people to people to do when He asks them to believe. Faith is not static either. Trust in God grows as the believer continues to grow in the knowledge of God through Scripture.