Monday, June 10, 2019

Anonymous Asks (44)

“If you are not a Christian and believe that Jesus died on the cross to relieve us of our sins, can you still go to heaven?”

There is a significant difference between believing about someone and believing in someone.

The book of James points out that even demons get some of their facts right. They are strict monotheists, for one. Mark’s gospel records that unclean spirits repeatedly fell down before Jesus and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” In that respect, the demons were better theologians than the Pharisees, who hotly disputed that very issue.

However, believing something correct about Jesus — even something very important indeed — doesn’t mean demons are on their way to heaven. Far from it.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul teaches that salvation depends on (1) declaring publicly that Jesus is Lord, and (2) believing God raised him from the dead. A person of whom both these things are true can reasonably be called a Christian.

Confess and Believe What Exactly?

That said, it is important to understand all that these brief phrases really mean. They are not merely orthodox theological formulations. They have very personal implications.

For instance, it would be ridiculous to tell all your friends that “Jesus is Lord” while at the same time refusing to do any of the things he has commanded his followers to do. “Lord” means master, ruler, the one calling the shots. The old hymnwriter rightly responded to the claims of Christ with the words, “King of my life I crown thee now.” That’s what it means to call Jesus “Lord”. It means you are prepared to re-order your life and your priorities so that Jesus comes first. Of course you will not do it perfectly all the time. Nobody does. But by calling Jesus “Lord”, you are declaring in principle that your own life has a new purpose, a new object and new standards by which you plan to make all your daily choices.

That takes trust. Personal trust. You would not allow just anybody to make the rules for you. People only give away that sort of power over their actions when they fully believe the person to whom they are offering it is able to do a much better job of ordering their lives than they are.

Belief Has Ongoing Implications

Also, when someone says “Jesus is Lord” and really means it, he or she becomes teachable. He becomes subject to other believers, in the sense that he allows his fellow Christians to weigh in on his choices whenever they are speaking on behalf of his Master. When told an area of his life is not currently subject to Christ, a real believer takes that seriously. He does not merely laugh it off and carry on doing whatever he pleases.

Furthermore, if we really believe God raised Jesus from the dead, it follows that the penalty for our sins has been paid in full. If God is satisfied with the sacrifice of his Son, there is nothing more I need to do to add to that sacrifice. Because of this, I stop doing good works in hope of becoming saved, and begin to do good works because I am saved.

Moreover, the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead means he is not just able to save me by dying for me, but he lives on to keep me after I have come to believe in him. I have an ongoing, personal, day-to-day relationship with God that is only possible because Jesus is alive and speaking to him on my behalf. So Jesus is not just a historical figure or a shining example to me, he is a living, present reality.

More Than Getting the Facts Right

There is a great difference between believing things about Jesus, and putting your trust personally in Jesus. We are not promised we can go to heaven if we get the facts right. “Eternal life,” Jesus said, is summed up in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he sent.

That’s a personal relationship, and that’s what God requires.

1 comment :

  1. • I think that this actually ties in better with the noble savage question that has already been addressed by one or more blogs here. In other words, there simply is no instantaneous process whereby everyone simultaneously has an epiphany and has become the ideal Christian (which is of course not their fault due to the constrains of this world). It is therefore a mistake to underestimate God's understanding and tolerance of that situation and his methods with regard to saving all suitably disposed human beings.

    It is much more important to be concerned with your willingness to acquire and maintain a good disposition in the long run. Unfortunately, that is where Christianity is (and has always been?) under attack in the private and public sphere.

    Her Evangelical Megachurch Was Her World. Then Her Daughter Said She Was Molested by a Minister.