Sunday, March 27, 2011


"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." - Jesus (John 3:16)

If there's one word I could remove from the Christian Lexicon, it's the word "believe". Why? Because we've mangled it so badly it's hardly recognizable from the original meaning the writers of the New Testament intended.

We have reduced "believing in Christ" down to the level of believing in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or Sasquatch. We've told people, and each other, that all we have to do to be "born again" is to simply "believe" that Jesus was real, or that he was the Messiah, or that he was God's son.

However, the verses we base this misunderstanding on suggest otherwise. The most famous one being John 3:16. In context, Jesus is having a conversation about the Kingdom of God with a pharisee named Nicodemus. The pharisee wants to know how he can enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus explains to him that he cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God unless he is first transformed from within. This is when Jesus says, "...whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life" and he doesn't mean, "whoever thinks I'm real" or even "whoever thinks I'm God."

First of all, since the verse is in the middle of a conversation, we know that Nicodemus wasn't having trouble accepting Jesus as a real-life person. They were in the middle of a conversation! So "believe in" here does not mean "to accept that Jesus is/was real."

Secondly, if belief were enough in itself, then what about what we do with the rest of our lives? Isn't it possible to believe in God and still having almost nothing to do with Him? As the Apostle James says,

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2:19)

See, the demons "believe" in God the way that we sometimes think we should believe in God. In fact, as James points out, they not only know that Jesus is real, they've seen Him with their eyes, and they tremble with fear! But is that kind of belief enough to save the demons? No, of course not. The demons "believe" in God but they do not put their trust in God. They will not submit their lives to Jesus and allow Him to transform them into beings who are just like Him.

God is not interested in having you and I believe in Him. He already has legions of demons who do that just fine. No, what God is searching for is a human being made in His likeness who willingly surrenders their life to Him and trusts Him enough to say, "I will submit my whole life to you and receive your amazing love for me."

God wants our love, and our complete trust in His wisdom, power and goodness. Believing is only the first step. We have to go all in.



B Crump said...

It's a Screwtape word. Too many Screwtape words. Religion, Belief, Bible, and my favorite...Church. Too much time spent pontificating, writing about, and cajoling communities of believers into "micro-definitions" of such words. Doesn't it seem odd that in a vast era of communicative technology where information passes around the globe from one individual to another in the blink of an eye that certain religious terms, phrases, and ideologies are so disparate?

Screwtape knows his stuff...

Anonymous said...

I like it! And this is the passage that came to mind (Romans 12:1-3): "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."

Aussie John said...


Now that's the truth! How I wish more would realize the fact.

Gregory Herron said...

Hi Keith & Subversives,

Love your content... finally found my purpose in life- after much wandering around in the desert - better late than never. We're studying/discussing your "Top 10 Things a Christian Should Know" list in our new equipping center community in Hong Kong...Mountaintop Group...

Mike said...

I really agree with this. I often say something similar by noting that belief is not merely assent to a proposition, but living as if it is the truth. That is belief. You can't do that once-for-all. Christ's sacrifice may have been once-for-all, but what I do with it never ends. And when I let it end, then I demonstrate that I don't believe.