A key phrase in our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is that which speaks of believing in Him.
John 3:16 declares, "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish." The jailer at Philippi asked the question, "What must I do to be saved?" and God's answer through the Apostle Paul was, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thine house."
What does that mean to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? In Luke 8:13 we read about those who believed for a while, and then fell away because there was no root. In James 2:19 we read, "The devils also believe and tremble." In Acts 8 we read of the Samaritans who believed Philip as he preached concerning the things of the Kingdom of God. Yet we know they were not saved at that point because they had not received the Holy Spirit, and Romans 8:9 teaches us that, if we do not have His Spirit, we are none of His. Likewise in Acts 19 we read of the twelve Ephesians that believed, but they, too, at that time were not saved because they had not received the Holy Spirit.
What then does it mean to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? How can it be that on one hand God tells us to believe in Christ, and yet on the other hand God tells us there were those who did believe and yet were not saved. Certainly the devils who believe are not saved.
These apparent contradictions instruct us that we must look very carefully at the word "believe." There is far more to believing than just having a knowledge that Christ is the Savior, that He came to earth in the flesh as the God-man, that He paid for the sins of those who are saved, and that He rose again, having become completely victorious over death. Satan knows all these things, and yet he is unsaved. Unfortunately, there are a great many people in the congregations today who know these things and are still unsaved.
You see, there is a vast difference in believing with our minds or even with our emotions than in believing with our whole personality. To believe so that I am on the way to salvation means that I have hung my whole life on Christ. I have committed my whole being to Him. I have surrendered my will to Him.
I understand that more than a hundred years ago there was a man named Blandin, who actually stretched a tight rope across Niagara Falls and, in the presence of Edward VII, who then was Prince of Wales, did many extraordinary feats upon it.
Suppose that you were at Niagara Falls, and a man with that kind of ability with all his equipment was there to attempt such a feat. You watched with great interest as he and his assistants on the other side of the gorge were able to get the wire stretched more than 1000 feet across these mighty falls. Then your interest turned to enthusiastic admiration as you watched your new friend walk out over those falls with nothing more than a balance pole in his hand. Any misstep would mean sudden death for him, for surely he would plunge more than 160 feet to the rocks or the churning waters below. Yet he was so able, so clever, so experienced that seemingly it was impossible for him to fall as he went through the most complicated routine out in the middle of that dancing wire. Finally, he came back to shore and spoke to you:
"What did you think of my act?" And you with greatest sincerity and honestly replied: "I think you were terrific. I have not seen anyone with such tremendous ability to balance so beautifully in such a precarious situation." He then asked: "Do you think I could go through the same act with a man on my shoulders?" You instantly replied, again very honestly: "I believe you could do that without the slightest trouble. You are an exceedingly skillful tightrope walker." Seeing your enthusiastic confidence in him, he then suggests: "Look. You see the crowd that has gathered. Let's give them a demonstration of this. Suppose you climb on my shoulders, and let's show them that I am able to do this."
The moment of truth has come. You have just assured your friend that you believe he could perform his act with a man on his shoulders. You thought you were entirely convinced that he could do it, but now he has asked you to commit your life to him. If he failed, both of you would plunge to sure death below. Suddenly you realize that life is more important than risking it with this daring gymnast. The trust which you had placed in him emotionally because of your excitement and enthusiasm in seeing him in his death defying act vanishes like a vapor. The trust that you had in him by which you believed he was unconquerable in his abilities suddenly has become tarnished. You realize with utmost clarity you are not ready to believe in him to the point of entrusting your life into his care, and so your answer to him comes perhaps hesitantly but certainly with great depth of feeling: "I believe you could walk out on that wire with a man on your shoulders, but I am sure that I am not the man to do it with you. I must confess I do not believe in you that much."
Perhaps this poor illustration will serve to indicate the character of believing that is prevalent in so many today. How many are emotionally carried away with a trust in Christ because of the spiritual excitement that often is in evidence! How many intellectually are ready to acknowledge all kinds of wonderful things concerning Jesus Christ! Many of these are convinced that they are saved because they believe these things emotionally or intellectually, but they never have come to the point where they have entrusted their lives to Him, where they have hung their whole lives on the Lord Jesus Christ.
A true saving belief in the Lord Jesus Christ involves the act of self denial. Jesus declared in Matthew 16:24-25: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life will lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it."
This self-denial is evidenced in the fact that we earnestly desire to crucify the flesh and its desires. We want Jesus Christ to be on the throne of our lives with our wills altogether subordinated to Him. This self-denial is suggested in another way by the language of 1 John 2:3-4 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Because we have been saved, which is the result of that saving faith, there therefore will be found within our lives an ongoing earnest desire to be obedient to Him. This obedience is not there because of a desire for reward or merit of any kind whatsoever, but is a result of the fact that we have become born again. As born again inpiduals we have a continuing love for God.
This trust in the Lord, which is believing that leads to salvation, will be the kind that can stand the test of being alone in a sin-cursed world. Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27 "If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."
From a slightly different vantage point He said in I John 3:13 "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you."
You see, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ means that we have, by His grace, taken our stand with Him from this time forth and forevermore. We want Him to be Lord of our lives regardless of future circumstances.
But how can I believe this way? If I look at my life honestly, I am in rebellion against Him. I want to go my own way. I am my own man. I want to do my own thing. How can I surrender my will in this fashion to someone else?
Wonderfully, even the ability to believe in Christ is a gift of God. While such belief is contrary to every fiber of our beings, if we pray to the Lord for such a trust, and beseech Him that we want to have our wills surrendered to Him, God in His Pine mercy will give us that faith. But we must ask for this honestly. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is the moment of truth. It is the time when we recognize that all others avenues of escape from our sins and the wrath of God are closed. Christ is the only answer. The wonderful offer of salvation still rings out, declaring that, if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved.
Have you entrusted your life to Him? Have you abandoned your whole being to His care? Have you come to the realization that in yourself you are spiritually bankrupt and therefore deserve to go to Hell to pay for your sins? Have you come to the place where you realize that only in Christ can there be an answer for your sins? How gracious our Lord is that we can still go to Him in our rebellion and beseech Him for that saving faith which will lead to eternal life.