Last time, we saw that there are actually many questions we must answer about belief. Which Jesus? Do I believe? Are there things I must believe? and so forth. So, let me start off with a word of encouragement – when you listen to the voice of the shepherd, when He calls you from death to life, when He renews your mind and makes you a new creation, one who’s heart beats for God, one who’s thoughts are focused on things of the Spirit and life, you will be saved. Period.
And here’s the but…BUT…that new life actually, literally, changes you. God meets you where you are, that’s true, but He doesn’t leave you there. He moves you. He guides you. He teaches you. He changes you. He resets your worldview as He moves you from death to life.
If you say you love Jesus, but remain unchanged, something and someone is horrifyingly wrong.
And it’s not God.
Saying “I love Jesus” is easy. But what do you mean when you say “I love Jesus”? How would Jesus have us define our love for Him?
Mark 12:30–31 (ESV) (30) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (31) The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Apparently, if you say you love Jesus, you should love Him in this way:
- with all your heart
- with all your soul
- with all your mind
- with all your strength
… in other words, there is not one aspect of you, your life, or your work, that should not be dedicated to Him. That is how God defines love.
Does your definition of love sound like that? Does it bring you sorrow or pain when someone makes fun of Jesus? Does it make you angry when someone teaches false things about Him? Are you jealous for His truth and His law? Do you have to “make time” for Him?
Would my wife still feel loved if I treated her like I treat Jesus? If I made time for her like I make time for Jesus?
So, when we talk about “religion”, we need to understand that religion is wrapped up in love. We are to love God…that’s relationship. And if we truly love God, we will want to do what He says…that’s religion.
John 14:15 (ESV) (15) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21 (ESV) (21) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
1 John 2:3–6 (ESV) (3) And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (5) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (6) whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
God has told us who He is, how He is to be worshipped, and what it means to be called a Christian – that being called Christian is actually definable. That there are parameters around our beliefs and our actions. But don’t take my word for it.
Let’s hear Jesus…
John 4:24 (ESV) (24) God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Must. Seriously, must? Must I? Really?
Yes, you must.
There is truth about God that must be believed in order to even properly worship Him.
I didn’t used to think about things like this very hard. I thought that “Jesus is God” was a belief like many others – a belief that was not necessary for initial salvation, but was something that a believer would “grow into” as they were being sanctified. I thought that ignorance of Jesus’ divinity was different than denying it – in other words, as long as a person did not specifically say “Jesus is not God”, if they were simply ignorant of that fact, they could still be saved. I still believe that there are things that new believers simply do not know, and ignorance of those sorts of things does not affect one’s salvation.
I used to put the deity of Christ in that category.
Now, not so much.
John 8:24 (ESV) (24) I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
The Greek text is…
John 8:24 (UBS4) (24) εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν• ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.
I find it interesting that the phrase “ἐγώ εἰμι” (ego eimi – which literally translates to “I am”) is not followed by the Greek word for “he” which is “αὐτος” (autos). Was Jesus literally saying “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” It makes sense given other things He has said, especially in the context of John 8.
But whether it’s “I am” or “I am He”, the point still stands – you must believe something specific about Jesus or you will remain in your sin.
When Jesus said this, he was talking to people who believed in him in some sense – and he pretty plainly told them it was not the right sense. Jesus told them that “any old belief” about Him wasn’t good enough – they had to believe a particular thing about him in order to escape dying in their sin – mainly that He is the “I am.” Please hear me here – I still believe that there is room for growth – if God saves a person, she will spend the rest of her life coming to a fuller knowledge and intimacy with her Savior. She will more fully know who Jesus is, what He did for her, more faithfully follow Him, etc. She may not fully comprehend how Jesus is fully God and fully man or how God exists as one God in three Persons. But she can apprehend it, and therefore believe it because Scripture teaches it, and evidently, it is something Jesus requires in order for a person to escape from dying in sin.
If someone has been shown that Jesus is God, the Great “I am”, and subsequently refuses to believe it – no matter how sincere their reading of whatever bible they have – it is proof that they have not been regenerated and will die in their sin if they remain in that belief. If they are truly regenerated, they will hear the voice of the Shepherd calling them and they will listen, and follow Him, and obey Him.
Obedience. Sounds a lot like religion, huh? Yes, Christianity actually requires something of you.
2 Corinthians 11:3–4 (ESV) (3) But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (4) For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Do we “put up with it readily enough” when we try to tell a Jehovah’s Witness that they can be saved even though their faith is in “another Jesus”?
Do we “put up with it readily enough” when we hear someone say “I love Jesus but hate religion?” and leave it uncorrected? That person is basically saying “I love Jesus enough for Him to save me, but not enough to do what He says, ‘cuz honestly, He said some pretty extreme things.”
If the Scriptures tell us that there are certain things we must believe about Jesus in order to be saved, then we must be able to tell everyone those things.
In Matthew 24, we read:
Matthew 24:3–5 (ESV) (3) As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (4) And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. (5) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
How do we distinguish these false Christs? The only way is to compare the fake christ(s) to the real one. And how do we know the true Christ? Can you just make one up and say “that’s him!”? Obviously not! The true Christ, the one who is able to save you from your sin, has been revealed to you in scripture and by the Holy Spirit. He is described in and attested to by the bible. When the bible says that Jesus is God, and someone says that you can be saved by placing your faith in a Jesus who is not God, there is a massive problem.
So, it seems that just as important as the question “Do you believe in Jesus?” is the question “Do you believe that Jesus is God?” is just as vital! By His own words, if you answer that question wrong, if you place your faith in the wrong savior, one who is not “I am”, you are shown to be dying in your sin, led astray either by your own imaginary christ or by other false christs.
So, must I believe that Jesus is God? Yes, I must.
Sorry this was long, but it’s vitally important. In the next and final post (final depending on length – we may get a part 4 of 3), I’ll be working through Romans 10 to further show that what you believe about God is just as important as belief itself…