Garrison Keillor observed, “Most people do not really believe. They have tried to believe and they wish they did believe and are sorry that they don’t because they like to be around people who do. So they come to church and enjoy the music and hallowedness of it all, but the faith is not in them.” Quoted in The Celtic Way of Evangelism, George G. Hunter p. 111
Hunter goes on to point out that the faith that is in many Christians is nothing more than folk religion. Their faith revolves around consumerism (what’s in it for me), moralism (just live by the rules), or a form of therapeutic self-talk (I just want peace and happiness). Much of modern Christianity can be summed up as, “go to church, live by all the rules, and then you get to go to Heaven.”
Keillor, I think, is on to something. We want to believe and we try to believe but we don’t. Maybe the problem is that we don’t understand the concept of what it means to believe. Then again maybe the real problem is we have never come to grips with whom we believe in.
Speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit (the Counselor) Jesus says, “And when He comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness, and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in me.” John 16:8-9
Jesus is pointing out that the definition of sin is to not believe in Him. (v. 9) An interesting exercise is to go through the Gospel of John and see what Jesus says about belief. The first chapter of John introduces us to Jesus, He is “the Word”, (v. 1) and He is “the true light”. (v. 9) “All things were made through Him”, (v. 3) and in Him “was life”. (v. 4)
In verse 14 of John Chapter 1 we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld His glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Then in verse 17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
So, what do we have here? Jesus is the Word, the true light, the creator of all things, the sustainer and giver of life, He became flesh and dwelt amongst us and through Him we receive all grace and truth. And lest we forget, He is greater than Moses the lawgiver, because He comes with grace and truth. If reading these insights into Jesus as recorded in the opening verses of John doesn’t make you want to praise and worship God for His goodness, grace and love I don’t know what ever would.
But, the verses I really want to focus on are 10-13, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (italics mine)
In John 17 Jesus pronounces a prayer of dedication to His disciples that He will be soon leaving. He states, “For I have given them the words which thou gave me, and they have received them and know the truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me,” (v. 8).
Notice the sequence, the disciples heard the words then they received them, and know (or experience) the truth and that leads to belief. This sequence is found in numerous places throughout the New Testament and is similar to the sequence in John 1:10-13.
Jesus came to His home, His own people, (the Jewish nation) and they rejected Him. He the “Word” gave His words to the people but unlike the disciples who received them they “received them not”. (v. 11) But, to those individuals who did receive His words it was because the words spoke to them.
We can all hear the words of God but that is not enough. We must experience or “know the truth”. (John 17:8) Christ has to get deep down into our heart to transform us from the world of selfishness and egotism into disciples who put others before self and foremost, our faith in God.
The end result of this process of hearing, receiving, experiencing the grace and truth of the Gospel in both John 1:10-13 and John 17:8 is belief. “But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.”(v. 12)
Who is it that gives power to become “children of God”? We don’t make ourselves children of God through anything we do nor is it, “of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” (v. 13). All we do is hear the words of grace and truth, receive them through the Holy Spirit, and we will experience the transforming love of God’s grace in our lives that leads to true belief.
In the Old Testament the name of God, the glory of God, the goodness and the face of God are all interrelated to a great extent. Here in John 1 we are introduced to these aspects of knowing God in a New Testament context. If we believe “in the name” of Jesus we become “children of God”. Then in verse 14 which I have already quoted we see the Word (Jesus) is “full of grace and truth, we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son.”
In Exodus 33 Moses asks God, “I pray thee, show me your glory.” And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name.” (v. 18-19) God goes on to tell Moses, “Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” (v. 23) Here we see the interrelationship of glory, goodness, name and face of God.
In John 1 we have the use of the “name” of God, mention of “His glory,” and by inference “His goodness.” All that is missing is the veiled face of God as related in the Old Testament. Now, here is where the readers of John are in for a big surprise. “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” (v. 18)
To see Jesus is to see the goodness, the glory, the grace, the name and the Face of God. When I believe that God is good to me, filled with grace towards me, writes His name upon my heart and reveals His face to me, I have become a believer and have “passed from death to life.” John 5:24b
Belief is not so hard once we know whom we believe in instead of what we are to suppose to believe in.
* Folks, the persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…