What Does it Mean to Believe in Jesus?
By Larry Johnson
By Larry Johnson
Recently I was reading a post on a Christian Forum where someone was attempting to argue that God is not a merciful and loving God. After several replies from other forum members this person apparently realized that he was getting nowhere with his argument and he signed off saying “you guys enjoy your delusion.” My reply to that post was “the delusion is yours, not ours.” That started me to thinking that there might be “Christians” who really are living a delusion. I think “deception” would be a better word to use here for I’m thinking of those who believe they are “Christians” because someone told them that they would be “saved” if they would say a prayer, or confess sin, or promise to follow Jesus, or accept Jesus as their Lord, etc. but they were not presented a full explanation of the Gospel message. Or maybe they were presented the Gospel but failed to completely understand the way of salvation. In other words they are really trusting in what they did instead of trusting in the Gospel. These “Christians” are content to believe that all is well in their relationship with God, when, actually they have been deceived and their faith is misplaced meaning they are not genuine Christians. Another group that I am thinking of are those who, like myself, had a salvation experience but for some reason are doubting their salvation and cannot find a lasting comforting assurance of being saved. For many years I struggled with a lack of understanding of “what believing in Jesus means” therefore I lived in a miserable state of uncertainty about ever being saved.
I was “saved” in church at age 13 & baptized. Several years later I started to question whether or not I really was saved. After about 7-8 years of living without any assurance of salvation I found myself in a state of fear and misery. I had no peace. I went to the altar at church several times to make sure that I was saved. I repented of my sins, I confessed my sins, I accepted Jesus as my Savior & Lord, I committed my life to Christ, I confessed Jesus publicly, I said the sinners’ prayer, I believed in Jesus, I believed He was God’s only Son who was virgin born, I believed He died for my sins, I believed He was raised from the dead, I believed He went to heaven, I believed He is coming back someday, I promised to serve Him the rest of my life, and I believed all the things that I was told that I needed to believe. Each time I went to the altar I was looking for some kind of “sense” of assurance of being saved; I would feel saved for awhile but soon the doubts & fears returned and the misery started all over. I still had no peace.
I began to question myself about whether or not I really repented, or if I really commit my life to Christ, or if I really accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, or did I really commit to serve Him, or did I really believe in Jesus. I questioned all of the things that I had done to get saved. I even doubted if God existed or if the bible was true.
One of the bible verse that I was trusting in was Romans 10:13 “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I had heard that preached as part of a salvation message many times. I would reason with myself that since the bible says it then if I called on Jesus name that I would be saved. Then God showed me that Romans 10:14 explains verse 13 as it says “how then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Therefore, meaning that I have to “believe” before I call on His name. The real question, then, became “what is the meaning of “believing?” I was confused that Acts 16:31 says “ believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” but then James 2:19 says “You believe that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” So, my understanding of “believe” was at the center of my confusion.
During the time that I was seeking the truth about being saved I talked to my Sunday School teacher and to our pastor about believing in Jesus. Through them I found some good books to read about how to have assurance of salvation. The books were written by well known Christian authors like Dr. Harry Ironsides, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, and Dr. John R. Rice. I read those books over and over and over. Each book referred to scriptures about salvation; some I had already heard and some were new to me. I found myself saying a sinners prayer many times, each time finding relief from the fear & misery for awhile. But the relief would last for only a brief period of time and the misery would return only now it was becoming more of a fearful dread or a sense of doom. I thought I would never know for sure that I was saved.
To make a long story a short one I’ll get right to the point. After several years of living in this miserable condition I finally just gave up on everything I was trying to do and, out of desperation, I turned to God for help. One night as I lay down in bed to try and get some sleep I looked up at the ceiling and said a simple prayer to the God I wasn't sure existed. My prayer was something like this, “God, will you show me what I need to know about believing in Jesus?”
The next night I got the big family bible and opened it to the Gospel of John. That was the first time I had ever read in the bible except at church. As I started to read John 1:1 immediately I recognized that God was showing me the truth about His word and about Jesus that I had not seen before. This time was different because I was seeking answers from God Himself and I turned to Him with the attitude that He was my only hope and that I desperately wanted whatever He had for me.
God did not disappoint me. As I read through the Gospel of John, I realized that the Holy Spirit was working in my spirit to convince me that the words I was reading were the truth. By the time I read the first chapter I knew without a doubt that God is real, and that Jesus is who the bible says He is. God showed me the true grounds for having a settled peace with Him. He showed me that all of my efforts of repeating the prayers, confessing sin, making promises to Him, etc. were not faith in Him but faith in myself. God showed me that I must cease from all of my efforts to find the assurance I was so desperately seeking and to just trust in what Jesus had already done. When the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual eyes to the truth of the Gospel and I saw that my salvation rested only in the finished work of Jesus at the cross, that my sins were nailed to the cross with Him, and that when He said “it is finished” that He meant that my sin debt to God was “paid in full” with His Blood that He shed there, then an enormous sense of relief immediately filled my troubled soul.
Basically, God showed me that He wanted me to turn from myself to Him. That I must simply give up on self and transfer my trust to the finished work of Jesus on the cross; that to “believe in Jesus” means to believe that He will do what He says He will do when we place our trust in Him. Believing means that we rely on Jesus, that we leave it up to Him, that we put our eternity in His hands, that we just believe Him without questioning Him. You see, my problem was that I thought that I had to do something like say a prayer in order to get God to save me; I was trusting my actions, my efforts, and my understanding based on what I had heard from man, therefore I was very much confused and my faith was misplaced. But, when I turned to God, by reading His word, the Holy Spirit showed me the truth of His way of salvation and He immediately cleared up all of my confusion.
So, for me, the lesson I learned applies to any and all acts of “self” to get saved which fail every time. I like to say it this way: “if your faith is in your faith then your faith is not in Jesus.”
So, if anyone reading this should make the all important decision to come to Jesus to receive His gift of forgiveness of sin and eternal life, please remember to be careful about your faith; be sure your faith is in Jesus and not in anything you do. He does not need you to help Him; He wants you to trust in Him as the one who paid your sin debt “in full” on the cross.
If you say a prayer for salvation, be sure you are trusting in Jesus and not in the prayer you just said; your prayer does not save you; Only Jesus saves.
If you go to the altar to accept Jesus as your Lord & Savior, be sure you are trusting in Jesus death on the cross & not in your trip to the altar.
If you promise to follow Jesus; remember you have to receive His free gift of salvation before you can follow Him; He paid for it with His blood.
If you turn from your sin, remember to turn from yourself to Jesus first, then He will give you power to turn from your sin through the Holy Spirit.
If you accept Jesus as your savior, remember that before you could do so that God accepted Jesus’ death, as “payment in full” for your sin. Again, be sure your faith is in Jesus and not in your prayer. We are saved by God’s grace through faith and God even gives us the faith we need as a gift. The faith God gives you will be focused on the Gospel message of Jesus and will not be focused on anything you can do or have done. Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Following are some of the scriptures that God’s Spirit used to show me the truth of His Word that I needed so that I could understand the true grounds for having a settled peace with Him.
John 6:29 “Jesus answered and said to him, “this is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he hath sent.”
John 5:39 Jesus said to them, “search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
John 5:40 “And you will not come to me that you might have life.”
John 6:37 “Jesus said “all the Father gives me will come to me and anyone who comes to me I will not turn away.”
John 19:30 “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “it is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
And my favorite Bible verse, John14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one can come to the Father except by me.”