This past November, I posted an article I wrote talking about what I consider to be the most dangerous verse in the Bible- John 3:16. If you have not read that, please click the November archives tab and read it. The premise of that article was to alert people to the dangers of what can happen when we don’t properly disciple our new believers. When we are not diligent and we are not careful in how we present the gospel, young people can be left to interpret the gospel for themselves or worse, they can be led to think that all they have to do is believe in Christ’s existence- a simple head knowledge. I shudder to think of how many people stood in judgment and were met with the unpleasant surprise of finding out that it was more than just head knowledge. In any instant, that is the problem that I presented in that earlier article, but I found that there was a problem with it the article. What I didn’t address was the solution. How are we to teach the saving power of faith in Christ without missing the mark with John 3:16?
The problem with John 3:16 is, like I have said before, we take a very worldly interpretation of the word believes. Our worldly mind makes is sound like a simple acknowledgment of Christ’s existence is all we need to be saved. I LOVE VBS- please hear me when I say this; and Aunt Tina, if you are reading this please know that I LOVE VBS and I think our VBS director is the best by the way. However, I think this is why we see so many “repeat offenders” coming down the isle each summer at our Vacation Bible Schools. They have erroneously thought that a simple belief is all it took. They return to their lives and are unable to deal with the barrage of sin and they creep back into old ways. Why? Because they were never transformed to begin with. In order to communicate the gospel effectively, we need to explain what the word “believes” means in that passage. I think we sometimes, as a church nationwide, get a little to caught up in the number of decisions instead of the quality of the decisions. I myself have been guilty of that in my ministry.
So- what does the word “believes” mean in John 3:16? I think you will find the answer in Luke 9:23.
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
I put this together just recently as I am preparing to begin a six week Bible study with my college group on the book Not a Fan by Kyle Idelman. Idelman uses this verse as the fulcrum for his Not a Fan premise. As Idelman says, we are not called to be God’s cheering section, we are called to be in the game, an active part in His plan. We need to be actively seeking Christ with everything we have. We are called to a life not based on ourselves, but based on our heavenly father and helping other people. What does that look like? What does that word believe mean? It means that once we accept Christ, once we have given our life to Him and ask Him to be Lord of our life, we deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow Him. That means that to accept Christ as our Lord, we must stop looking for the things that please us. We must stop trying to make ourselves more comfortable and get ourselves ahead. Christ said that the two greatest commandments were to love God with our whole self and love our neighbors. Neither of these commandments put us first! We also must step up bare our cross. Not a cross you wear or the cross in your church; the same grueling, agonizing cross that Christ bared for us. Taking up your cross against the people who say your faith isn’t ok. Taking up your cross will not win you popularity contests, money, fame, or success. In fact, we must be ready and WILLING to suffer, be ridiculed, and in some cases die. It is only this kind of life that leads to life eternal. THIS is what it means to believe in Christ.
For a lot of you, I suspect that you once had that kind of passion for Christ; a passion that may have long since died out. I imagine that you’d like to feel that way again. Good news, you can. You can get off the sidelines and begin living a life dedicated and totally sold out for Christ. You can begin making a difference in your church and the lost people around you. There are lost people every where and if we have become happy or content with them remaining unchurched, then our spiritual compass is broke. Go, serve, spread the gospel- show the lost what it means to believe, show them what it means to follow Christ.
For others, you never once gave your life over to Christ. You simply had a head knowledge and you never allowed God to be the God of your life. Good news, you can do that now. Fall on your knees, get someone to pray with you, and ask God to come into your life and your heart. Confess that you are a sinner and that you want to follow Christ the rest of the way. Tell God that you are ready to let go of selfish ambition and you are ready to pick up your cross and follow Him. You can do that right now- and if you do, share it with everyone. Salvation comes to whosoever truly believes.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach