No, really, what does it really mean?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”- John 3:16
We tend to understand that believing in Jesus is acknowledging He is God and feeling thankful for it. That’s like an alcoholic who needs help acknowledging he is an alcoholic. It’s only the first step.
First, let me say that a huge percentage of churches in America don’t even understand what it means to be saved. But once you do understand, if you truly care for what it means, you will do way more than just acknowledging Jesus as God.
Some people who feel thankful for Jesus – and this is the keyword here, “feel” – feel like they have to go to church at least once in a while to say thanks, kind of like when you buy something at Starbucks just because you feel bad about using their internet for free. It’s like you just go to church to clock in and clock out with God, saying “Hey God, I’m here. I put in the effort today. Hope you like it and maybe can fix some things for me”. You kind of go to “make things right” with God that way, especially if you had a rough week, month, year and all. Some feel more thankful than others and go to church every Sunday and help the community and others like, “See, God? I love you so much that I put in huge effort every time”. I grew up in the second group. My home church at the time had activities almost every day, and I was there at least 3 times a week, twice on Sunday alone. I loved being there and showing love to God in this way, but deep inside I thought I would be at odds with God if I didn’t do my best.
And this is where the problem lies and confuses us about the meaning of “believing in Jesus”. Believing has become a combination of acknowledging Jesus as God with working hard to earn closeness with this God. You want to captivate God through how much good you do, how much effort you put in but Jesus teaches the very opposite. This is not believing.
Jesus removed the obligation of trying hard to earn God’s love and acceptance by his death on the cross and resurrection. He gave us this love without us being able to do anything to pay him back. Believing in Jesus means we not only acknowledge him as God but we are so thankful for what He’s done and who He is that we decide to love him back.
So what am I saying then? That God doesn’t care how much good we do then? No, I’m saying the motivation behind why you do good changes when you believe.
The Bible says “faith without works is dead”. The same way you can do good works and have the completely wrong motivation behind it, making it worthless to God, you can also have a useless faith when it’s nothing but a feeling with no tangible results, meaning no good works. Good works is a consequence of having faith. Because you believe, you have now this new desire to do good, because you now have pleasure in loving; that is how our love for God is best expressed. In turn, you start losing the desire for things which God calls evil – and the more you get to know Him, He shows you what they are.
Believing doesn’t start with a feeling. I can feel deeply touched by inspiration the story of Jesus, even drop some tears, make some realizations about myself and say “Oh I believe!” and then a few days from now, all goes back to same. I am sorry to say you did not believe. The Bible says believing is knowing past the emotional. It’s to treat the truth you were told as a FACT.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Hebrews 11:1
This verse is saying that believing is when you are 100% sure that something is when you haven’t seen it yet – and that ties into hope, because you strive to one day seeing it. Have you ever seen Jesus in the flesh? No. Do you know He is the Son of God, who died for your sins and resurrected, overcoming death itself 3 days later? Yes! Is it a fact to you? An absolutely unshakable fact. If you accept this last statement as an absolute truth, even if you don’t understand it all in details, then you have believed.
Now when you believe, this truth becomes so impactful to you that it changes your entire perspective on life, and you can’t help but want to change your entire way of living, completely surrendering your decisions, actions, words and thinking in God’s hands as in complete trust, and as an act of thanksgiving . The Bible calls it “dying to self”. That is the believing Jesus talks about. Starting a sincere friendship, a permanent partnership with a partner that never fails you, and vows to have your best interest in mind every time.
Taking that stand welcomes this supernatural change that happens in your heart after that. I say supernatural because this is something we really can’t do on our own successfully all life long without divine intervention. It would completely drain us, first of all. When we believe, we open ourselves up to God to be our teacher on how to love Him, yourself and others on another level. He also teaches you what he loves and what grieves him, and you start having this strong desire to love what He loves and to turn away from what grieves Him. The ultimate goal is to be able to love unconditionally as we were loved by God in this way, but it is a lifelong process, even with divine intervention. If you have not experienced this desire to learn how to love God, yourself and others on a deeper level than humanity is used to, you have not yet believed.
The tricky part with all this, in the beginning, is to make sure this belief is directed towards the right Jesus. What do I mean by that?
Many variations of the Jesus are being taught these days, most of them selling a Jesus that never existed, making him more attractive to us for appealing to our natural desires of feeling loved without changing our flaws, for example, or desires of not getting out of our comfort zones, or desires of power and wealth etc, which are all opposite of what the biblical Jesus is all about. People, and many pastors too, will twist Bible verses to prove their point and people believe because the explanation makes sense. But just because something makes sense and resonate, it doesn’t mean it’s truthful. It’s only by studying the Bible yourself and looking to understand the context of what you’re reading, and the exact meaning of words and terms, that you can get a true understanding of Jesus’ character, values and morals, mindset, and even communication style. This requires dedication, of course, but isn’t dedication love? And remember, God himself wil empower you to love Him this way. Give your devotion to the Jesus who will indeed come through.
To love someone is to see that person as valuable. They’re someone you want to dedicate to, to have deep respect for, someone worth taking care of, worth protecting, worth defending, worth giving your trust to and worth putting your trust in. Someone you’d like to see happy and make happy. Someone you give priority to, even over your own, someone so special to the point you’d lose anything important for him/her, you’d give a body part or even your life for that person.
Do you believe in Jesus?
If you realized you have not yet truly believed but wants to do so, I encourage you to go to a quiet place right now and have a conversation with God on this. Tell him with your own words, your own way, how you now surrender your life to Him, how you now believe and is looking forward to having a long lasting relationship with Him. Acknowledge that you are a sinner and need Him to transform you into a person who loves the way God loves. I would also encourage you to pray for God to guide you to a good church that can help you understand more the new things God will be showing you in this journey.
I would also encourage you to pray for God to guide you to a good local church that can help you understand more the new things God will be showing you in this journey. There are also many churches who stream online, if you don’t have access to one physically.
I’m excited for you!! Peace be with you and talk soon!