“‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”-John 3: 16-18
The words above are the most famous in all of Scripture when it comes to belief. They tell us that if we believe in Jesus then we will find salvation through him. These are comforting words to those of us who believe in Jesus, but they are also a challenge. They are a challenge because belief itself can be a challenge. I am not talking about doubt, although that is a part of it, but rather what does it mean to truly believe something?
This coming Sunday, Tasha and I will begin a brief sermon series entitled, “This I Believe.” For the next two weeks you will hear about a core belief, grounded in Scripture, that each of us holds. I won’t give them away now but they are coming. Then in the final week I will preach on what is believed to be one of the oldest Christian creeds; a few lines from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It should be a provocative series which, we hope, will inspire you to consider your beliefs.
But why wait until the series to get started? I will just ask you today, what do you believe? Think about it for a moment; don’t answer right away. What do you believe? What are your core beliefs? Surely you believe in Jesus, the Trinity, the Church, the Bible. But this is where belief can get challenging, as I mentioned above. I say this because what I have found is that often we think we can easily answer questions of belief, but when pressed some of us can struggle with them. What do we believe, really? And even if we know what we believe, how strongly do we believe it? Let me give you an example. Do you believe in the Ten Commandments? I don’t mean do you believe they are a thing, because obviously they are, but do you believe they hold a prominent place in your ethics and worldview? If the answer is yes, then allow me to ask a follow up? Do you observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy? If so, how? If not, why not? I believe in Sabbath for sure, but do I really hold it in the way that the Ten Commandments would lead me to? Do I truly honor God in my observation of the Sabbath? Am I thorough enough in my discipline around it? These are real questions I ask myself.
Belief is a funny thing. Most of our beliefs mean a lot to us in our heads, but then as we lead our lives we apply them with varying and inconsistent fervor. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about belief, I do not believe that he meant that we merely needed to make an intellectual assent to the truth of Jesus as Messiah. I believe it is more than that. I believe that part of what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is, if you believe in me you would have come in the daylight. Think about that for a moment. I believe that Christ is calling us to build our entire lives around him; that belief is no small or causal thing. So over the next few weeks I invite you again to consider what it is that you believe. Consider your core beliefs not merely in relation to your intellectual ideas and values, but also as regards the ways in which you live them out in your lives. What do you really believe?
Prayer: Holy God, I thank you for sending Jesus Christ into the world. I thank you that he is our savior. On this day please help my belief and my unbelief. Please allow my belief to grow not only in my mind but also in the ways I lead my life. I thank you for all you have done for me, and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.