What Do You Believe?
How would you reply if someone asked, “What do you believe?” Do you know that what a person believes dictates how they behave. Last Sunday, I quoted former atheist Lee Strobel who wrote “…other religions are spelled “D-O” because they teach that people have to DO a bunch of religious rituals to try to please God. But Christianity is spelled “D-O-N-E” because Christ has done it all on the cross and we just need to receive Him.” Receive Him by faith. When it comes to Christianity, people believe one of two things:
- Their FAITH in Jesus will make them acceptable to God or
- Their good WORKS will make them acceptable to God.
At the church in Rome, there were those who believe that eternal life was obtained by faith in God while others believe that they could work their way into heaven. Even today, people have a hard time with ‘faith’. Yet we live by faith everyday. For instance: When folks get ill, they go to the ER and see a doctor whose name they can’t pronounce. He gives them a prescription they cannot read. Then they take it to a pharmacist they do not know who gives them medicine they do not understand and yet…they take it. Now, that’s living by Faith much like it says in today’s scripture (Romans 3:21-31).
It seems the Jews in the Roman church believed that if they obeyed the Law (10 Commandments) that it would make them acceptable to God. That if they worked at being good, if they did good things, then it would get them to heaven. But Paul wrote in v 28, “… a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Basically, we are justified by faith… not works. So, how does this “justification by faith” really work?
Well, in truth the teaching of “justification by faith” is what separates biblical Christianity from all other beliefs. In all the other beliefs, man is working his way to God. Only in true, biblical Christianity is man saved as a result of God’s grace through faith. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
If you believe that you were saved by faith in God’s grace and not because you earned it, not because you deserve it, not because you’re good enough, then you believe in “justification by faith.” Justification is being saved. And then “sanctification” is when we strive to become more like Christ. The Bible says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”” (Matthew 16:24)
Basically, Jesus is talking about who’s in control. But most people like to be in control. That way, they can determine if they are “good people.” And being in control makes a lot more sense than “denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Jesus.” That requires putting Jesus first and giving Him control of their life.
That’s one of the reasons the other religions teach that unless you do good works you’ll never please God and you’ll never see heaven. Because they teach the holier you are, the more God is going to love you.
But when it comes to getting into God’s family and spending eternity in heaven, “good works” won’t do it. Unless your soul has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus then you’ll pouring “good works” into an unclean vessel. If you want your good deeds to please God, then you’ve got to let Jesus cleanse you on the inside first.
So how do you get cleansed? As we discussed last week, it’s by accepting God’s free gift of salvation through hearing the Gospel, faith in His Son, repentance of your sins, confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior and being baptized. We read in v 25, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood –to be received by faith.”
Now someone may ask, “If faith is all I need to receive Jesus, then why should I deny myself, take up the cross and follow Him afterwards? Why can’t I just live the way I want to?”
Well, Jesus is way ahead of you. That’s why He said “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Now keeping His commandments won’t give me salvation. So why should I keep them? Because I love Him. If you don’t love Jesus, then you really don’t believe in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to live for Jesus. And to live for Jesus is to suffer for Jesus. So if we love Him we’ll keep His commands like He asked us to.
So if you do things for those you love and if you love Jesus, then shouldn’t you do things for Him? Such as being in church? Didn’t He tell us “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together”? (Hebrews 10:25) And if you love Jesus shouldn’t you be studying your Bible? Didn’t He say “…but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)
And if we love Jesus, shouldn’t we be seeking Him in prayer? Didn’t He say, “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face always.” (Psalms 105:4) If you love Jesus you’ll be careful what language you use, what kind of friends you hang out with, what kind of movies and TV shows you watch? If Jesus is living in you, then you must always be asking, “What would Jesus do?” in all that you do.
In our recent trip, we used the GPS to find our destination. The GPS allows us to know exactly where we are and where we want to go. And now, you can use a chip and your GPS to keep up with your car, your pet, your kids, well just about everything. We can know exactly where they are and so they’ll never get lost. Well, the Bible tells us that God has placed His own GPS chip inside of us: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
With Jesus in you, you’ll never be lost and God will always know exactly where you are!