Many in our culture claim to believe in a higher power. They might even go as far as to call Him God. And while they may not spend time in fellowship with other Believers or follow the Bible in their day-to-day lives, they would even consider themselves to be Christians. But is this what it means to be a Christian? Is believing in God or attending church from time to time enough? Or is there more to it than that?
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Defining what it means to believe…
To some, believing in God is enough to claim Christianity. But is that what Jesus meant when He called us to believe in Him?
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (emphasis added)
The Greek word for “believe” in this passage is pisteúō, which means “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.” (Strong’s Definitions)
When Jesus spoke the words in this famous Bible verse, He wasn’t simply telling His disciples to believe God exists. Believing requires both commitment and trust. It’s not enough to believe that God exists. It’s not even enough to believe that Jesus came and died on a cross. Even the demons believe these things to be true…
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? – James 2:19-21
Abraham’s belief in God was credited to him as righteousness when he acted upon his belief and obeyed God’s commands. His outward actions demonstrated his inward belief and trust in God. Yes, faith alone saves us, but real faith will produce good works in our lives. Because in the end, a true believer in Christ will produce good fruit. (Matthew 7:16-20)
Do your actions demonstrate your belief in God?
Defining what it means to receive Christ…
Do you remember the moment you received Christ into your heart and life? Receiving Jesus means to welcome Him in and to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out. It’s not about praying a prayer, but rather it’s about being born again.
A spiritual transformation takes place when you surrender your whole heart to Jesus. This goes far beyond our modern definition of what it means to receive. We aren’t simply receiving but rather embracing Him and surrendering every single aspect of our lives to Him. Mark 10:15 tells us to receive the Kingdom of God “like a child.” When a child takes hold of something, they do so wholeheartedly, with enthusiasm and excitement! Have you received Christ in this way?
Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. – Mark 10:15
Defining what it means to follow Jesus…
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23
Following Jesus is more than simply obeying His teachings. Yes, we need to obey Him. But following Him means that we follow in His footsteps daily. We take up our cross, die to ourselves, and live in new resurrection life. We continue His ministry by spreading the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. And we submit to the Holy Spirit’s lead in every area of our lives just as He did.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. – Galatians 2:20
Jesus defined what it means to be a Christian when He told His followers to pick up their cross and follow Him.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.