… “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”… Acts 16:31
That was the answer that the Apostle Paul gave to a man who asked, in desperation, “What must I do to be saved?” A simple but profound question received a simple but profound answer. When we read this, we are tempted to ask, “Is that really it?” Just believe in Jesus and your eternal destiny is changed? You are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His marvelous light? You are transformed from sinner to saint – from enemy of God to His child – from defector to disciple of Jesus? Is belief really all that we must do to be saved – really?
If so, then why did Jesus talk about leaving Father and Mother or and taking up your cross to follow Him (which is the equivalent to taking up your guillotine). That sounds like more than simply believing. It sounds a lot like doing – doing some difficult things. So what do we make of this? Is belief in Jesus really all that is required to be saved? The short answer is “Yes.” The better answer is what is often referred to as the consultant’s answer, “It depends.” It depends on what you mean by “believe.”
Here’s what I mean by that. The Bible says what it means and means what it says – but sometime we don’t. When it says, “Believe in Jesus and be saved.” It means just that. But when we say, “I believe,” we are not always truthful. Let me give you an illustration.
It is one thing to say to a friend that is starting a new business from scratch, “I believe in you.” It is quite another to take out a second mortgage on your home and empty your life savings to invest in the business. The first is saying you believe, the second is actually believing.
In the same way, when we say, “I believe in Jesus,” what do we mean by that? Do we mean that I believe that a man named Jesus existed 2000 years ago and walked the shores of the Galilee and that He was crucified on a cross for the sins of the world and then rose again? To believe that, as fact, is the beginning of what it means to believe in Jesus; but it’s not the end.
I think we get a better understanding of this when we compare belief to unbelief. Before we believed in Jesus our life was ordered a certain way – it was characterized by certain things. Some people have a natural bent toward morality – toward being the “good guy.” Others were drawn toward immortality – toward being the “bad boy.” But either way, everyone had this in common: we looked to fulfill the longings of our heart with the things of this world – good or bad. We looked for joy, for satisfaction, for meaning, for purpose, for identity, for life – in a million places other than Jesus (stuff, other people, success, power – and the list goes on). Why wouldn’t we? What we believed, or disbelieved, ordered our lives.
It follows then, that believing in Jesus changes the way our life is ordered. It means believing that my sin is forgiven because He is a sufficient Savior – I am free from guilt and declared righteous before a Holy God because of His perfect life in my place. It means believing that He is King of a new kingdom – I have a new identity as a child of God and I now live as a citizen of His heavenly kingdom on earth. It means believing that in His presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore – the joy I longed for and delights that were fleeting are now eternally found in Him. To believe in Jesus means that I believe in all of Him, in all that His Word says about Him. I may need more belief, but I don’t need more than belief; because belief means a changed heart and a change heart means a changed life.
Of course there will be doubts and struggles – but in the end, Jesus has proven to be faithful and worthy of our belief. So we don’t need to add requirements to belief or hoops to jump through to be saved or to stay saved or even to keep God happy. We don’t need to determine who has Jesus as Savior only but not Lord or the difference between saving faith and something less. We just need to believe – in the TRUE sense of the word – in the FULL sense of who Jesus is. And if we do – nothing will ever be the same – because we will be saved.