(Including thoughts from the sermons of RC Sproul)
Holy Father, Spirit of light and truth, Son of love and mercy, save us from ourselves. Fill us with light, as You are light. Fill us with love imperishable and joy eternal. May our every thought be loyal to You, and may You build true and lasting faith in us. Give us help in this, our great weakness, that we can’t see You. In Jesus’ most blessed name, Amen.
So this is another one of those teachings where I throw myself off the cliff and try to define a really abstract concept in a practical, easy-to-understand way. I think by now it really begs the question of whether masochism is a personal choice for me, or a familial sin, maybe something I inherited, or if it’s just a way of life. I’m leaning towards that middle one--I like to be able to blame my parents for my sins. I sleep better at night when I do that.
Okay, okay, I’m kidding, I’m enjoying these. So as with the other abstract ideas I’ve defined, I’m going to describe ‘belief’ according to what it does in our lives. This is a functional definition of belief, a definition that you can use and watch for in your life. I got this model from 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 5, where the Bible describes love based on how it functions--I’m just doing the same thing here with belief.
To start off, I have a really short story for y’all today, a real masterpiece of character development and intricacy, and it goes like this:
A man was standing in the middle of a highway with his friend standing on the curb a few feet away. The friend said, “There’s a car coming.”
The man said, “Yeah, I believe that, it’s a highway. Cars come all the time.”
The friend said, “This car’s coming quick. It’s actually coming right towards you.”
The man said, “Yeah, that’s totally believable. I believe that. You can see the headlights, and I hear it.”
The friend said, “I don’t think he’ll be able to see you before he hits you.”
The man said, “Yeah, that’s probably true, because of that big curve in the road. I believe you’re right.”
They waited a minute. The friend said, “Do you, uh, do you want to get out of the road now?”
The man said, “Yeah, I’ll get out of the road now.”
They waited a few more seconds. The man didn’t move, the car hit him, and he died. The end.
Now before you nominate me for a Nobel Prize in literature (which I know, many of you are eager to do after that breathtaking pillar of fictional genius), I want to ask you: Did the man believe there was a car coming?
No. No, of course not. If he’d believed there was a car coming, he would’ve moved out of the road. It was easy to do. But he didn’t believe. He wanted to continue where he was comfortable, he wanted to stay in his old routine, he didn’t actually believe he was in danger.
And that’s weird, isn’t it? He actually saw the headlights and heard the tires, but he didn’t believe the car would hit him. Judas Iscariot saw most of the miracles of Jesus. And yet, he didn’t believe. He actually did miracles himself, according to Matthew 10:1-4--and yet, he didn’t believe. The soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus saw him miraculously put a guy’s ear back on. And yet, they didn’t believe--they arrested Him anyway (Luke 22:50-51, John 18:2-11). That’s weird, right?
And this brings us to what it means to trust or believe in Jesus: Changing your life to match what He asks of you. You with me there? Reorienting your life around His desires for you, His goals for you, His ways of living, His choices, His moral requirements. And all of this comes from God filling you with desire and delight in obedience to Him--God filling you with love for Him.
Now, if you tell me that you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God, the God of the Bible, Who obviously cares very, very much about your moral life, Who is so exacting that He delivered a massive punishment to Moses, denying him entrance into the Promised Land, simply because Moses hit a rock with his stick rather than speaking to it, simply because of a technical transgression of a commandment which still resulted in a miracle, mind you, still drew water from solid rock, and yet ignored God’s instruction, and you tell me that you believe in this exacting, perfectionist God Who has promised to judge you on your every moral decision--but you get drunk every night, then do you believe? If you make a habit of lying to your friends, do you believe in a God who will judge you? If you watch porn and refuse to give money to homeless people because they need to get a job, do you believe? If you never call yourself a follower of Christ in front of your family, or your friends, or your coworkers, or anyone else who may persecute you, do you believe? (James 2:14-26, Matt. 7:13-27, Matt. 10:28-39)
No. You simply don’t believe. At all. I know you can say the words. But if you had believed that God were truly existent, and that He is watching you right now, this very moment, His eyes are on you this second, then you would have begged Him to change you already because you know you’re incapable of living up to His astronomical standard. You would have begged Him for the ability to follow Him in truth, and for His power to cause you to live righteously. You would have traded your entire decrepit, ruined life, for the privilege of pleasing the holy God of the universe, if you believed in God.
But if you believe that God is okay with your sin, if you believe that God is happy when you are happy in sin, if you believe that God serves you and wants you to be happy in this life more than anything else, or if you believe that God is different for every person and we can alter His character to fit what we want our lives to be, the Bible says you do not believe at all in the true God. There is no faith in you. There is no love in you for God.
This is the belief system of someone who will be a log in Hell. You will not go to Heaven if you believe God is tolerant of your sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Rev. 21:8). Your life must change to follow the rules of the Bible, and you must do so willingly and naturally because your heart is drawn to the rules of the Bible and you want to follow them, or you will never see God. God will build this in you if you ask Him for it--He wants to put His heart in you. But you have to ask Him for it in prayer and seek it every day by reading the Bible closely.
Therefore, I’ll say it again, really short teaching today because this is pretty easy to grasp: Belief in Jesus is revealed by living in a way that pleases Him. If you do not live in a way that welcomes God into your life because He has said He wants that from you, you do not believe. Check out 1 John to see an entire epistle dedicated to figuring out whether or not you believe in truth.
Beg God with me for renewal every day in your salvation (1 Peter 1:3-9). May you be blessed with love for God, and love for God, and love for God today, and may you walk in His light and truth and joy.