Thursday, June 15, 2006

Believing in Jesus: Neither Minimalist nor Maximalist

Alistair Begg (last 2 weeks recordings) objected to a minimalist definition of what it means to be a Christian: just believe in Jesus. That could apply to most anyone, with no commitment, and no life change. On the other hand, a maximalist definition might say that to be a Christian means to be perfectly Christ-like. We all have a long way to go on that one. What does the Bible say is involved in true saving faith?

An illustration of this comes from being clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Otherwise, the best we can do “filthy rags.” For the minimalist, maybe that means taking the “righteous robe” from Jesus and simply hanging it in the closet. One could make the argument that such “closet Christians” are not Christians at all. On the other hand, one might expect that if you are dressed in Christ’s righteousness, that you will be mistaken for Jesus. And that simply does not happen, though we would expect that, once saved, we are not just like our old selves. People say, “there’s something different about you.”

We are going to study today in the first half of the Gospel of John. He uses an interesting phrase – we believe into Jesus. Let’s see if we can figure out what this involves.

1. to believe means to receive.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12 ESV)
Think of a receiver on a car, that accepts a trailer hitch. What would it mean, if to believe in Jesus meant to “get hitched” to him. Can you think of other, maybe better illustrations of “receiving?”
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when there seems to be little connection, little reception, between ourselves and the Lord?

2. To believe means to “see his glory.”
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11 ESV)
Before that, it is like drinking water. But for those who see Jesus in His heavenly dimension, as the Ultimate Fulfilment and Absolute Satisfaction, it is as different as water is from wine.
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when we treat Jesus as though he were just “another guy”?

3. to believe means to understand what is at stake.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-19 ESV)

Perish - that is the penalty for sin. You embrace that fact that you are a sinner. You come to terms with the fact that you stand under the sentence of condemnation, and that your future is summed up in the word, “perish.” To believe means to understand the terrible problem that exists because of sin.
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when we never admit that we have a problem?

4. to believe means to obey the Son.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

It implies that you see the Son as an authority in your life. What is implied in this obedience?
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when we do not respond to Christ’s authority?

5. to believe means to “come to Jesus” for your daily (spiritual) sustenance.
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35-36 ESV)

No one eats just once, and anyone who says they believe, and yet does not continually keep coming to Jesus does not seem to have truly believed. This, of course, is the idea behind “Daily Bread,” which implies that true Christians will desire a daily relationship with the Lord.
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when we have only a 1-time experience of coming to Christ?

6. to believe means to have the Spirit,
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:38-39 ESV)

It is the Spirit within us who produces a “heavenly flow.” His presence will be expressed. How does this show itself?
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when evidence of the Spirit’s presence is absent?

7. to believe means to expect (hope)
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

We believe, in the face of earth’s impossibilities, that there is absolutely nothing that Jesus cannot do, even if it means raising the dead. What do we expect Jesus to do? What is our hope?
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when we live as though this is all there is?

8. to believe means to have been changed
“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36 ESV)
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46 ESV)

We have changed from one sphere (darkness) to another (light); and to be related to the King of the new kingdom (sons of light) as opposed to being related to the Tyrant of the old kingdom.
Q: can we be confident that we are believers when when there is no distinguishable difference between our lifestyles and those of the world around us.

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