WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO BELIEVE IN JESUS?
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
— John 20:30-31, ESV
As John nears the end of his Gospel, he summarizes what he has written and states his express purpose. He has recorded the seven major “I Am” statements made by Jesus, along with a host of other pronouncements and sermons. He now harkens back to the seven major “signs” performed by Jesus, and this on the heels of Jesus’ greatest sign, His own death, burial, and resurrection. John’s purpose has been to put the person and work of Jesus Christ on display “so that you may believe.”
With his approximate one-hundredth use of the verbal and active form of the word “believe,” John has clearly defined faith as the active, ongoing, trust in an obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is a flame that has to be ignited but never goes out. Faith is a foundation that never moves thought all the world around it may crumble. And faith saves, eternally, with sure spiritual signs pointing to a changed person with undying love and loyalty for the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do you know you have really come to believe in Jesus?
To believe in Jesus means you have been transformed by His power (2:1-11). The first miracle in John records Jesus at a wedding in Cana, where He transforms ordinary water into the finest wine. It brought joy to all who tasted it, and it inspired the beginnings of belief in those who first followed Christ.
Salvation by grace through faith in Christ begins with such transformation. It is God’s power, and God’s monergistic power alone, that converts a plain, ordinary, sinful human being into a believing, trusting, saved, eternal child of God. This sign in chapter two, along with Jesus’ teachings to Nicodemus in chapter three, boldly paint belief as beginning with a new birth, a regeneration, a great change in the mind that moves the heart and drives the will in a person who really believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps those who come to Christ younger or older converts with less salacious sins (in the eyes of man) have experiences of grace that are less radical, but they can be no less transformational. Time, and other signs, will tell
To believe in Jesus means you obey His word (4:46-54). Jesus’ second sign was scored in Cana, too, when He miraculously healed a Roman authority's son. This was the one where Jesus did not visit the child personally, but gave the father His word, Jesus’ word, God’s word, that the son is healed. “The man believed the word (ref. 4:50).”
A sure sign that a person has come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation is their bedrock belief in the word of God, that God has spoken words of salvation and guidance, and that a fitting summary of these words have been summed up by the Holy Spirit and human authorship in the books of the Bible.
Those who truly trust in Christ hold the Bible to be trustworthy, and order their lives around its precepts and principles. True believers may hold different interpretations of different passages, form doctrines that deviate from one another on minor matters, but the two pillars of Christian faith, aside from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, are the authority of Scripture and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. One always leans upon the other.
To believe in Jesus means you walk with God (5:1-15). The thirds sign in John is a relatively simple one, for Jesus. The Lord takes a man crippled for almost forty years and enables him to walk. Christ had to cut through superstition, overcome unbelief, but the Lord took a depraved man by grace through faith enabled him to walk, with God.
Church rolls are filled today, especially in Baptist and like traditions, with people who walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, and were professed Christians. Then, usually early one, they walked out of the church never to return. They don’t open their Bibles. They don’t pray, except to beg for things they selfishly want. They don’t walk with God; therefore, they are not true believers.
The Christians life is a long walk, filled with pitfalls, detours, and struggles. It is not a perfect walk. But, when faith is a perfect gift from God, it is a persistent walk. It goes in and out of church gatherings, in and out of Holy Scripture, in and out of seasons of prayer. It traverses valleys and climbs mountains. It never stops until it reaches Heaven, with many a spiritual hunger to press it onward.
To believe in Jesus means you have spiritual hunger (6:5-13). Jesus feed five thousand men, plus woman and children, in the early part of John 6. But it is the latter part of the chapter that defines spiritual hunger and fulfillment. After serving as their chef then refusing to become their king, the crowd turned against Jesus and abandoned Him, except for a few true believers. Simon Peter spoke well on this occasion of the spiritual hunger abiding in them (ref. 6:68-69).
Physical beings have physiological and psychological hungers, for food and drink, for clothing and shelter, for friendships and love. Spiritual beings, or born again believers, have spiritual hungers, like those which define the believer who walks with God. We hunger for God’s Spirit and word, for the fellowship of likeminded believers, to consume and bear true spiritual fruit, to help lead others to Heaven.
A person without the normal human hungers is either full, terribly sick, or dead. So it is that unhungry unbelievers walk through the world too full of the world’s pleasures, too depraved, and too spiritually dead to believe. Truly believing in Jesus unto salvation places a persistent hunger for God into our souls, and puts the Lord Jesus Christ on a pedestal.
To believe in Jesus means you see Him as preeminent (6:16-21). Everyone loves the story of Jesus walking on the water, and rightly so. It is miraculous, it is dramatic, it rescues, it saves. But perhaps most importantly, it puts Jesus above. Jesus is above the powers of earth, wind, and sky. Jesus is above all. Jesus Christ is Lord.
One of the most destructive doctrines to ever dive into the discussions of faith has been the dispensational dichotomy of believing in Jesus as Savior, certainly, and Lord, optionally. It contends that saving belief can belong to any person who accepts the facts of the gospel of Jesus and asks for forgiveness of sin. Jesus becomes Savior. Whether or not Jesus ever becomes Lord, preeminent above other love and longings, is optional. This gives false assurance to the millions of fake Christians who profess faith but steadfastly refuse to practice the faith.
If I may combine a couple of cliches, let me state that if Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all, and if He is not Lord of your life, He is not the Savior of your soul, either. This does not mean you have to be perfect, but it does mean you see Christ as perfect, His commandments as priorities, and His will as supreme. But to see things this way, you must have spiritual sight.
To believe in Jesus means you have spiritual insight (9:1-7). The man born blind from birth could not see Jesus at all, literally, at first. He heard Jesus, though, obeyed Jesus, then, and finally could see Jesus, face to face. This is a pretty good spiritual chronology.
I marvel at unbelief in the world. There are authors, educators, newspeople, even actors that I admire greatly for their abilities and intellect. But they don’t believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor pose any sense of a biblical worldview about historic or current events. How can so many people, so much more gifted and smarter than me, not see the love and truth of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ? It is simply because their senses have not been touched by the Lord.
Even I can remember reading the Bible or hearing the gospel before my conversion to Christ at the age of twenty. It mostly made no sense, except for the spurious sentiment and searing lie that God loves everybody, God forgives everything, and God allows all mankind and dogs into Heaven. God has to touch our eyes with grace, with spiritual insight, before we can see sin and its degradation, eternity as a two-fold consumption, and the gospel of Christ as the only solution.
To believe in Jesus means you have been raised from the dead (11:1-44). John wrote the Gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The signs of certain faith are as sure as the miracles of Jesus, but the end of the means is eternal life with God. In the gospel, God takes the dead and raises them to life.
Lazarus’ resurrection is the seventh sign and the perfect parable of the gospel. It preemptively pictures the powerful prose from Paul’s pen in his letter to the Ephesians: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins … for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ref. Ephesians 2:1, 8-10).
Salvation is a resurrection, based on belief in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. A saved life shows signs. The signs include spiritual birth, faithful obedience, a constant walk, spiritual hungers, spiritual insights, spiritual life, and a pedestal where Jesus is placed atop as Lord. To secure such real belief, “These are written,” the signs and sayings of John’s Gospel.
So, do you really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?