Charles Stanley - What It Means to Believe in Jesus?
What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? All through the Bible you and I find these verses, they're talking about believing in Him, but what does that mean? It's very evident in the scripture that in order for a person to have their sins forgiven, in order to be saved, as we would say, in order to go to heaven, a person must place their faith in, must believe, must place their trust in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message because there are so many people who think they believe in Jesus Christ but who do not really and truly understand what that means.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to John chapter three and that verse of scripture in John that's the most familiar of all, John three sixteen. You say, "Well, I know that one by heart". Well, I'm sure that most of you probably do, but I want you to turn there, if you will, for a moment. I want us to read this verse. Jesus was talking to a very knowledgeable man, Nicodemus, about his relationship with God. And He said to him, "Except a man be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God". And so, in the course of that discussion, Jesus comes down to say in verse fifteen, "That whosoever believes may in Him have eternal life". And then He says in verse sixteen, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life," or everlasting life.
But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Well, that is the purpose of this message, and what I want to do is to explain from a biblical point of view what does it mean to place your trust in Him? How do you know that you've done that? And so, it's interesting in scripture how very clear God has made it. For example, he says in John chapter one, if you'll turn there for a moment. In John chapter one in the twelfth verse, He says, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power or the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name".
Now, to believe in His name, for example, the name represents everything a person is. So, when a person believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the same as believing in Him. You'll recall, for example, in Acts chapter sixteen, verse thirty-one, when the Philippian jailer and Paul were talking, he said, "What must I do to be saved"? And Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved". You recall in Romans chapter one, Paul said, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe," that is, the gospel of Christ who all believe in Him. For example, he said in Romans chapter five, verse one, "Therefore, being justified by faith," which means to be declared no longer guilty, but now righteous, saved in the eyes of God.
"Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God". He said in Ephesians two eight and nine, "For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast". You and I could go all the way through the New Testament, verse after verse after verse, every single time it is placing our trust, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the question is, it's very clear that's what you have to do. But what does it mean? Well, I think there are a lot of people out there who are very deceived, who really and truly believe that somewhere along the way, they have believed in Jesus Christ, and therefore they are safe, they are comfortable, they are saved. So, what I'd like to do is to think for just a moment with you about what these people are thinking and how they think when they say, "Yes, I do believe".
Well, I think there are some people who genuinely would say to you, "Yes, I believe the Bible. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ". And therefore, they think that they're saved. What they're saying is, I believe the facts. That is, this is the Bible, this is God's Word. I believe the Bible does teach about God and the Bible does teach about Jesus. I believe all those things. They're talking about believing facts. Then someone comes along and says, "Well, I do believe. Oh sure, I believe in Jesus. My mother believed in Jesus, my grandmother believed in Jesus, my whole family's believed in Jesus. Sure, I believe in Jesus". What they're saying is, I do believe in the fact that there was such a man as Jesus Christ.
Now, the truth is, their degree and the quality of their belief is the same as if you said to them, "You went to school"? "Yes". "You study history"? "Yes". "Do you believe there was a man named George Washington"? "Yes, I do". "You believe there was a man named Abraham Lincoln"? "Yes, I do". "You believe there's a person named Jesus"? "Yes, I do". Same category, same level and quality of belief. They're believing facts about a person. That is not New Testament belief. So, you come along and somebody, you say, "Well, do you believe in God"? "Yes, I do believe in God. I've always believed in God, grandmother believed in God, I believe in God, I've always believed in God. Don't think I'm an atheist, I believe, just 'cause I don't live like you want me to live doesn't mean I don't believe in God, so I feel very comfortable when I die I'm going to heaven. I believe in God".
You ask somebody else, they say, "Well", and what they're saying is I believe in the God that you're talking about in the Bible. And so, you ask somebody else, "Do you believe"? "Well, here's what I believe. I believe there's a God. Let there be no doubt about it. I don't believe in this whole idea of evolution. I believe there's a God, and therefore I believe that if I believe in God, then I'm okay and I'm safe and I'm going to heaven because I believe in God". There is a difference in intellectually affirming the truthfulness of a fact or intellectually affirming the truth of what you say and placing your trust, your faith, in Jesus Christ as your Savior, all the difference in the world.
Now, the question comes, that is, what's the cause of this kind of deception that people live in? Well, I think some people genuinely do not understand, they misunderstand the scripture when it says believe. They just put that on the level of daily belief. Yes, I believe that piano's sitting there. Yes, I believe I'll be able to get up and go to work tomorrow morning. Yes, I believe my car will start when I put the key in the ignition. And so, they just put all that kind of belief in the same category and, my friend, that's not what we're talking about. And so, they genuinely misunderstand. A second reason is this: I believe that people purposely, deliberately limit, listen, limit what their faith encompasses.
And so, here's what they decide. Here's what I believe. I believe there's a God. I believe He's a good God. I believe one of these days when I die, I'm going to heaven just as, like anybody else, because I think I'm just as good as anybody else is, and therefore I believe in God. And so what do they do? They don't want to get into the scriptures. They don't want to get into this thing about Jesus Christ and being born again. They deliberately limit the quality and the degree and, listen, they limit the stretch of their faith. They're only gonna limit it to what? To their lifestyle. If I am expected to believe something that interrupts my lifestyle, if I'm expected to believe something that limits the way I want to live, then my faith is limited to believing in God and in Jesus, the kind of person I think He was and the kind of person I think God is.
And therefore, they misunderstand. It is a deliberate misunderstanding. And my friend, listen, you'll never get to heaven if that's your idea of belief in Jesus Christ. Then there are those people, of course, who've been misled. They go to church, and I think this is so very important that this is why I'm spending this time today in this message because, for example, oftentimes children go to Sunday School, to Bible School, to Vacation Bible School. Oftentimes in revivals and things get all hopped up and heaped up and the pressure's on. Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me. And somebody's calling 'em, "Now, come on to Jesus, come on to Jesus, believe in Jesus". And oftentimes the invitation is so nebulous, the invitation is so far removed from a scriptural invitation that people walk down the aisle, they're not sure what they're supposed to believe. Just believe in Jesus.
Well, you know, if I was sitting out there and somebody said, "If you'll just believe in Jesus and come on down here and tell us you believe in Jesus, you'll go to heaven when you die," man, I'd run down here if I was lost. If that's all it took because, you see, most of the time the idea is you believe in Him as a fact. That is, believe in the fact that He was and He is and so forth. That will not do it. Oftentimes people being misled. Now, I'm not saying that somebody would deliberately mislead 'em, I'm simply saying this, we have to be very careful when a child, for example, says, "I want to be saved," that we help that child understand what is meant by being saved and what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. Because any child's gonna grow up in, and with parents who love the Lord and bring their children to church.
Say, "Well, do you believe in Jesus"? "Sure, I believe in Jesus, my mother believes in Jesus, my father believes in Jesus, my pastor believes in Jesus, I believe in Jesus". What does it mean to believe in Him according to the scripture? So, oftentimes a person is misled. And so they don't really and truly understand what they believe. Now, so we have to ask ourselves the question: Then what does it mean to place your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin and have the Holy Spirit come to live inside of you and live in your life? What does it mean to know in your heart that you are right related to Him in such a way that when you die, you can die singing "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see" with absolute, total, perfect assurance.
Somebody says, "Well, can a person ever really and truly be that assured"? Turn to First John. Revelation, Jude, Third, Second, First John. Listen to what John says. He says, "This is the reason that I am writing this epistle to you," to those who were to be his readers. He says, for example, verse thirteen of First John chapter five. He says, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life". Very important we understand what believe means because our eternal life depends upon it. Listen to what he said now, verse thirteen, these things, all that he's written in these first five chapters. These things I've written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know. He says that you may know that you have eternal life. God wants us to place our trust in Him for salvation.
God wants us to know, He wants us to have absolutely unwavering, unquestionable assurance that we have a relationship with Him that absolutely cannot be tampered with by the devil or anyone else. Absolute assurance, that is the will of God for us. Now, that being the case then, we go back to what he said in John chapter three, verse sixteen. He says, "Whosoever," listen, "whosoever believes in Him, would," what? "Would not perish but have everlasting life". Now, I want you to jot three things down. I want to give you three words. And you can jot them down on something, but you need to keep these somewhere. Put 'em in the back of your Bible somewhere. This is not the ultimate definition I want to give you, but it's a very important part. What does it mean to believe in Jesus?
Well, first of all, if I'm gonna believe in something, I've gotta have some knowledge. First word is knowledge. If I'm gonna believe in something, believe in what? What is this? Why is this? Where did it come from? What's the origin of it? What am I to believe? First of all, if I'm gonna place my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, I've got to believe something. What is it that I am to believe? So first of all, there's gotta be knowledge. There are some very basic things that are absolutely essential for me to believe if I am going to be saved, if I'm gonna trust Christ as my Savior, if I'm going to heaven when I die. Number one is this: I must believe that Jesus Christ is deity, that He's God. If you do not believe that, here's what happens.
Now watch this, if Jesus Christ is not God, He is, listen, He is not sitting upon the throne with the heavenly Father. You know what He was? He was no more than a man who is here on the same level with all the rest of us men who have our naturalness and who have our sinfulness and who walk, at times, in the flesh. That is, if He is not deity, then what could He do for me? But if He were just a man. So, I must believe that Jesus Christ is God. Somebody says, "Well, I don't think it's necessary to believe that Jesus Christ is God in order to go to heaven".
Well, let me ask you a question: Then who is He? If He's not God, who is He? Is He a prophet? Then He was a sinner, 'cause all, everybody else has sinned. Well, is He just a great preacher and a teacher and a healer? Was He a false prophet? You see, if Jesus Christ was not absolutely who He says He is and who He says He was, then He was a liar. If He was not who... He said, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father". "I and the Father are one". And one of the things that caused so much turmoil around Him was the fact that He claimed to be not only the Son of God, but He claimed to be God, deity. And His resurrection was absolute, listen, absolutely the proof of that.
Now, so therefore, I must believe, first thing I must believe that He's deity, that He's God. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Second thing I must believe is this: that I am a sinner and my sinfulness has separated me from God and my only hope of salvation must come through God. That is, I must believe and recognize that I am a sinner. I must believe that Jesus Christ is deity, that He's God. I must believe that my sinfulness has separated me from God. The Bible says our sins have separated us from God. I must believe that. The third thing I must believe is this: I must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin, and that when He died, He paid for my sin in His death.
Now, you say, "But how much of this awas I supposed to know when I was saved"? I'm coming to that. Just hold that. First of all, I must believe, I must believe without a shadow of a doubt Jesus Christ is God. Secondly, I must believe that my sinfulness has separated me from Him and that I need to be saved by something He's gonna do for me I can't do for myself.
Number three, I must believe that Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for my sin. The fourth thing I must believe is that Jesus Christ not only died for my sin but He was resurrected from the grave. Because you see, if Jesus only died, He can't do anything for me today. Listen, He died for my sins and He's resurrected and His resurrection validates every single thing He claimed to be and everything He did. So, the first word, first thing that's necessary for true New Testament belief is knowledge. Second word is conviction. That means to simply be truly, listen, fully convinced of something. So therefore, when we talk about believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, what I believe I am, listen, I am fully convinced and persuaded that what the Bible says about Him is true. I am fully convinced and persuaded that He is who He says He is. I am convinced and fully persuaded that He will do what He says. Convicted.
That is, if there's no conviction, for example, fully persuaded what He says about my sin, that I'm separated from God, fully convinced and persuaded what He says about the consequences of my sin, that I'll die without Christ and be eternally separated from Him. Because you see, without any conviction, I'm not gonna move, I'm not gonna budge. It's not enough to have knowledge, factual knowledge, about Jesus Christ, who He was and who He is and what He says He'll do. It's not even enough to be fully persuaded, fully convinced that these things are true, though it is very important.
Because when you think in terms of conviction, you recall that Jesus said in John, when he talking about, when he's talking about the Holy Spirit coming. He says the Holy Spirit will come and He will come to do what? To convict the world of sin, of our sinfulness. To convict the world of the righteousness of Christ, which means that He was so right, so holy, and so pure that He was able to die for our sins and to convict the world of the judgment to come. What does that mean? It means that when the Holy Spirit comes to your life and to my life and begins to work in us, what's He gonna do? One of the first things He's gonna do is convict us, convince us, fully persuade us that we are sinful and we need God. He's gonna fully persuade us that the death of Jesus Christ was adequate to pay for our sin, fully persuade us that there is a judgment to come and the only thing that'll get me ready for that judgment is to have a right relationship with God.
Therefore, first of all, there must be knowledge. What's the second word? Conviction. So, give me the first two words. First word is what? Knowledge. Second word is what? Conviction. What's the third word? Third word is trust. Third word is trust. Now, when I trust, here's what I do. I move from the facts and conviction. I move from being an interested observer to becoming involved in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And so, what have I done? I've moved from just knowing the facts, knowing that I ought to do something, knowing that God is trying to do something in my life. Now I have moved into a personal relationship. I have moved into a personal involvement with a person, Jesus Christ. You see, it's always believe in Him, believe in His name. Not, listen, not just believe the gospel only, but believe in the person of the gospel.
You see, in all these verses, verse after verse after verse, what do we find? We find Him talking about placing our trust in Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him," not just believed in what He said, "believes in Him as a person". And so therefore, it's not enough for me just to believe in what He said as being true, but I must place my trust in Him. Now, so you must have three things. What's the first word? Knowledge. The second word? Conviction. And the third word is what? Trust.
Now, I want to give you a simple definition. I want you to write it down. Now, whether you write it or your husband writes it, your wife writes it, your children write it, get it down. And I'm gonna say it and then I'm gonna come back and say it very short, in short phrases so that you will understand. I asked the Lord help me, enable me to say it in a brief way, so that you can say to someone, "Here's what it means to believe in Jesus Christ". I want to encourage you to say, "Well now, should you write in the Bible"? Absolutely! Mark words, color 'em up, whatever you want to. Listen, that's what makes it precious.
I lost my favorite Bible. I didn't lose it, somebody stole my favorite Bible. Had it in a briefcase and only thing I had in it was my Bible and a Greek New Testament and a pen. Somebody stole it. I offered five hundred dollars, that's a lot of money back then, five hundred dollars for any college kid who'd go through all the dumpsters or somewhere and find my Bible. Nobody did. Well, what difference did it make? I'll tell you. Because it was so written up and all kinds of dates and things in there that I'd put in there because it was especially precious to me because it said something about what God was doing and had been doing in my life. Write in your Bible. Don't worry about that.
All right, you ready? We're talking about now what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ is to have a confident conviction that He is who the Bible says He is, He will do what He promises, and upon placing my trust in Him, I enter into a personal, eternal relationship with the Son of God. To believe in Jesus is to have a confident conviction, that is, a compelling conviction within me, I must believe this, that He is who the Bible says He is, He will keep His promises, that He will, He will do exactly what He says He'll do. And upon placing my trust in Him, committing myself to Him, I'm entering into a personal, eternal relationship with the Son of God.
Now, I could say a lot about forgiveness of sin, going to heaven, all of that is the result of placing my trust in Him, all that is the result of believing in Him. To say I placed my trust in Him, that means I'm betting on Him. I am affirming that what He says is true and I'm willing to risk my whole eternal future on that. How many of you can look back in your life and say, "I know that when I joined the church, I had enough knowledge that I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that I understood what it meant to place my trust in Him and to accept Him, receive Him as my Savior". "But as many as received Him," not facts, "as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the Sons of God". Are you certain that you've ever placed your trust in Him?
Now, as I said, I'm not being critical. I'm just simply saying this, you may believe a lot of things as facts, but have you ever moved from being an observer, a distant kind of believer, to entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by placing your trust in Him as your personal Savior? Have you ever said, "Lord Jesus," or, "Jesus, I do believe that You're the Son of God. I know that my sins have separated me from You. I am asking You to save me and I am placing, I'm asking You to save me based on the fact that You did die at Calvary and I do believe that You died for my sins and I do believe that when You died for my sins, it makes it possible for me to be fully forgiven, and when I die to go to heaven".
However, you may have put it in your words, have you ever told Him that? Have you ever done that? Or have you been one of those persons who's said I believe. As long as you believe something, that's all that matters; no, that's not all that matters. Here's what matters. It matters that when you die, you will stand in the presence of a holy God and give an account for your life. No excuse will be acceptable because, you see, God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son, sent Him into this world to live among men in the flesh without sin, to go to a cross and be crucified, and upon Him placed all the sin-debt of yourself and the entire world. He loves you that much. Then to reject His Son, to say no to His son, to ignore His Son when according to the Bible, the whole, listen, God's whole redemptive plan is wrapped up in the cross. It's all there.
That's why the Apostle Paul said it's the only thing in life I'd boast of is the cross, why? That's where Jesus made it possible for you and me to be forgiven of our sin and to have absolute assurance that when we die, we're going to spend eternity in heaven with all the glorious things that God has provided for us. Have you ever said to Him, "Yes, I do believe the testimony of scripture. I do believe that You're the Son of God, I do believe my sins have separate me from You. I do believe you died on the cross. I do believe that You rose from the dead. Do believe that You're seated at the Father's right hand even now. I'm asking You to forgive me of my sins and I'm placing my trust in You that You'll do what You said. You'll forgive me and You'll make me one of Your own".
The moment you do it, that quickly, you become a living child of God, saved forever and ever and ever. Remember the definition. Entering into a personal, eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Father, how grateful we are that You can take a verse like John 3:16 and cram and jam so much truth, that in a lifetime we will never be able to exhaust the meaning of that verse, if we took it word by word, never be able to exhaust it. There is so much of Yourself, Your love for the world, Your provision of salvation, Your gift of eternal life. And thank You that You said that You so loved the world which was Your way of saying, I do, I do, I do. Which was Your way of describing the incomparable love, inestimable love, immeasurable love that You have for each one of us, so that all of us are the objects of Your love. And You said that You would pay the full price in the death of Your Son so that there is no price for us to pay, no work for us to do, to be saved, but simply to place our trust in You, to believe that You're the God You say You are, You will do exactly what You say You will do, and that that faith alone will bring about our acceptance, our salvation, our eternal life. We bless You in Jesus's name, amen.