A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE?

In John 3:16, Jesus tells us that whoever believes in him has eternal life.

That’s quite a promise. I mean, the demons believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God – the Messiah – so does that mean the demons have eternal life?

Of course not. We know that the demons are on their way to the eternal lake of fire, despite their knowing beyond a doubt who Jesus is.

What, then, does it mean to believe in Jesus? It can’t simply mean to believe that he’s the son of God and the Messiah because, again, the demons believe that for sure (scripture tells us so), but they’re not saved.

So what does Jesus mean by believing in him?

Let’s think about this for a minute.

What else in life do you believe?

I believe that if I walk out in front of a bus that’s barreling towards me, I’m going to get run over by that bus and likely killed. I don’t want to be run over by a bus and killed, so I operate in my belief and I don’t walk out in front of any buses that are barreling towards me. I act on my belief.

I think Jesus meant the same thing when he said that those who believe in him have eternal life. Many people say they believe in Jesus, but they go about their everyday lives as if they don’t: They unapologetically break the Commandments, they never open a Bible to read what’s in it, and they essentially live the life of unbelievers, even while claiming that they “believe”. In other words, they purposely walk out in front of countless spiritual buses barrelling towards them and still think they’re spiritually safe. Surely the reward of Heaven can’t be won that cheaply? Surely Jesus meant that it took more than just to say (or sing) “I believe” to get into Heaven?

I am certain that Jesus did indeed mean that it took much more than that to get into Heaven. I am certain that, in God’s economy, to believe means not just to think something is so (like holding an opinion), but to live that belief. It’s not a superficial mental or emotional state that’s referenced in John 3:16; it’s a whole-body, whole-soul, whole-mind, core position that, once adopted, guides everything you do and say. Your belief is so deeply entrenched within you, so inseparable from who and what you are, that it molds your thoughts and actions, mostly without your even having to think about them in advance.

Belief is not the steam rising from a teacup full of tea, but the tea leaves themselves resting at the bottom of the teapot. There can be no tea without tea leaves, though there can be steam from any number of sources. Genuine belief is like tea leaves infusing and informing and flavoring the water in which they rest, whereas superficial belief is like steam that looks the same whether it rises from a teacup or a sewer grate.

I would wager that the belief steam rising from most Christians these days comes from a sewer grate. Belief that is stated but not lived is not what Jesus meant in John 3:16. How do we know that? Because Jesus, in other parts of the Gospel, clearly explains that it takes a certain amount of doing this-and-that and of not doing this-and-that to make it Home. Think of the parable of the sheep and goats. Think of the parable of the virgins and their lamps. Think of the rich young ruler. Think of Jesus outright stating that those who believed they were fast-tracked to Heaven based solely on their belief of being a certain tradition and heritage were destined to remain on the outside, gnashing their teeth for all eternity. Think of Jesus stating that you’ll be held to account for every word you utter. Think of Jesus stating that you have to be born-again.

John 3:16 is a great comfort to those who truly believe and whose lives – both outer and inner – reflect their belief. But for those who mistakenly assume that just saying “I believe!” is their ticket Home, a hard awakening awaits them, like it did the goats and the foolish virgins and the children of Israel who assumed Heaven was their reward simply for being children of Israel. Think of how many who were of age (20 years and up) at the start of the exodus actually made it to the Promised Land. In case you’ve forgotten, only two made it all the way.

That’s a sobering statistic if ever there was one, and that’s just for the temporal reward of the earthly Promised Land.

Why would the eternal reward of the heavenly Promised Land be any easier to obtain?

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 6 REFLECTION (NUMBERS 11-36:13)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 6: JULY 28

NUMBERS 11 – NUMBERS 36:13

God lays it all on the line in today’s reading. He holds nothing back. He tells the children of Isreal exactly what’s going to happen to them over the next nearly 40 years and why it’s going to happen. And he lets them know that they have no-one but themselves to blame.

  • Years ago, I heard someone preach on this part of scripture. She said that the Israelites were prevented from entering the Promised Land because they complained. At the time, I thought that was rather frivolous of God to lock people out of the Promised Land just for grumbling. I mean, everyone complains every now and then; even Jesus complained. So clearly, there was more to it than that.
  • Yes, as this reading shows us, there was much more to it. The Israelites weren’t punished for complaining; they were punished for saying that they would rather be slaves of demons in Egypt than servants of God in the wilderness. In other words, they were saying that they’d rather GO BACK TO LIVING IN THE WORLD under the authority of demons and the demon-inspired Pharaoh, if that meant they could eat and drink their fill. They preferred slavery under Satan to freedom under God. In so choosing, they were rejecting God’s offer of the Promised Land: They were rejecting God.
  • I was born-again from atheism in 1999. I can’t imagine even for one millisecond wanting to go back to that horrendous state of being under the authority of Satan and his demons, separated from God. As I’ve said on multiple occasions on this blog – the worst day I’ve had as a born-again believer is still infinitely better than the best day I had as an unbeliever. And I’ve had some bad days these past 22 years (all the result of my own stupidity). Even so, the presence of God’s Spirit made the bad days not only bearable, but enabled me able to step back even while they were happening and view them as teachable moments. It never occurred to me during any of those self-inflicted “teachable moments” to want to be an atheist again, that is, to go back into the world under the authority of Satan, separated from God.
  • God keeps his promises, but he also follows through on his warnings. Shortly after springing them from Egypt, God had promised the Israelites that if they were obedient to him, they would be rewarded with the Promised Land. At the same time, he warned them that if they were disobedient, they would lose the Promised Land. God’s punishments NEVER come out of the blue. He warns and warns and warns and warns and warns, and then time is up.
  • We have to understand as we read through the Bible that these are not just words written long ago about people long dead. They are living promises and living warnings that are as equally applicable to us today as they were three thousand years ago. That is the purpose of scripture. That is why we read it and learn from it. God wasn’t just warning the ancient Hebrews what would happen to them if they were disobedient; he’s warning us.
  • Where do you see yourself in the children of Israel? Who do you identify with? Are you one of the millions who were grumbling and complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt where they had plenty to eat and drink and a comfortable place to live? Or do you see yourself as Moses or Aaron, who were doing their best to shepherd their people but feeling it was mostly a lost cause? Or perhaps you identify as Joshua or Caleb, the only two over the age of 20 when they left Egypt who remained obedient to God for the 40 years of wandering?
  • I don’t know who you identify with, but it had better be with Moses or Aaron or Joshua or Caleb, because otherwise you’re going to get thrown to the wolves in the form of plagues, fire from heaven, the ground opening up underneath your feet, etc. None of the ~600,000 men who were of fighting age (20+) when they left Egypt made it into the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb, and neither did any of the men older than fighting age, or any of the women 20 or older. Only the children who were under 20 the day they left Egypt made it into the Promised Land, along with Joshua and Caleb. The rest perished in the wilderness.
  •  Love the story of Balaam’s talking ass! It serves as a reminder that: 1) animals are always obedient to God (science calls it “instinct”, but we know better) and are able to see things we can’t, and 2) God will use whatever resource he has at hand to get his message across and carry out his plan of salvation. If all he’s got at hand is an ass, then he’ll use an ass.  😀

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It doesn’t get any more high stakes or serious than this. If you’re born-again, you’re wandering through the wilderness of the world led by God’s Spirit. He’s guiding and protecting you. You are no longer under the authority of Satan; you are under the authority of God. You move when he tells you to move, you sit tight when he tells you to sit tight, and you make do with what he provides. This is your lot for the rest of your days if you’re born-again, and it’s a blessed, blessed, blessed state to be in. There’s nothing better on Earth.

But if you don’t move when he tells you to, and don’t sit tight when he tells you to, and aren’t satisfied with what he provides, and keep looking back over your shoulder longing for the days before you were born-again God help you, because no-one on Earth can.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF is directly below.