“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” (John 8:31-32)
Belief in Jesus Christ is not enough. Belief that He existed, belief that He is God, and even belief that He died on the cross and rose again– simply believing that any of those things happened and are true does not set you free from sin, nor will it save you from being eternally separated from God. Hell is real, but so is His gift of salvation.
There is a difference between head knowledge, and living a transformed life through faith, because of that knowledge. I can believe and know in my head that the police and the laws they uphold are real and exist, but I can still choose not to honor them nor live by them. Believing in something is useless without any responsive action, and in this example, without any obedience.
James 2:19 reminds us that even the demons believe in God. Matter of fact, the demons probably know more about God and His reality than most people on earth do. But just because they have head knowledge about God, doesn’t mean they have a relationship with Him. It doesn’t mean their lives or existence are transformed by Him. It doesn’t mean that they abide in His Word and follow Him in obedience. It doesn’t mean they surrender to Him as their Lord and Savior. Quite clearly, Satan and his demons believe in and have head knowledge of Jesus, but they are at the same time in complete opposition to God.
Jesus definitively states in John 8:31-32 that while we may have belief, we are only truly His disciples IF we hold on to His teaching. And He is not stating this in a legalistic way. The original Hebrew text uses the word “meno”, which means to abide, dwell, or continue in.
Jesus is saying that those who are His true disciples will abide in His Word– dwell in it and live it out. His teaching is the basis of our life, and our actions and deeds will reflect that. James 2:26 reminds us, “As the body without spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
Saying a prayer of belief and acceptance of Jesus is definitely a great start; but it’s exactly that, it’s just a start. Stopping there would be like opening the cover of a book and not reading any further than the introduction.
Being a true follower and disciple of Jesus (a.k.a a Christian), involves life transformation that only God can do through the power of the Holy Spirit. You are spiritually “born again” and become a brand new creation in Christ, completely dying to your old self and taking on a new identity (2 Cor. 5:17). It’s not up to us to change ourselves, but it’s up to us to ask God to change us. And when He does, in no way does that mean we will be perfect or sinless, but our lives, hopes, dreams, desires, and priorities should radically change as we grow and abide in His Word more and more!
Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Be encouraged, for as we commit ourselves to seeking God and fellowship with Him, we will surely find Him and find truth. He desires true worshippers, and will respond to you in faith as you seek Him in faith. Now’s the time to move beyond belief, and become a passionate follower of Jesus!
Heavenly Father, if there is anything holding us back or standing in the way of us being true disciples of Jesus, I pray that you would remove those things from our lives completely. Help us to know your truth and be freed by it. Help us to move from a beginning stage of head knowledge to a mature stage of deep faith, characterized by lives that completely abide in Your Word. Transform our hearts and minds today by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may bring You honor and glory all the days of our lives. Amen!
[From January 8, 2019]