We believe and therefore speak.
It is written: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4:13).
Beyond being theological truth, what St. Paul shares there contains common sense. The way we act says a lot about what we believe. When one claims to believe something but does not act upon that stated belief, it brings the sincerity of the belief into question.
For example, take the Hollywood celebrity who rails against the evils of global warming. Yet, he flies all over the world in a private jet. He could use a greener method of travel. He could, at the very least, fly commercial to reduce the number of planes in the air. But no. He justifies his use of a private jet. Does he really believe that global warming is a big threat? His actions do not jibe with what he claims to believe.
What follow are some truths Christians would say they believe. Let us consider the logical way to act if we really believe these truths. Do our actions always jibe with our confession?
Belief #1: We believe God knows everything about us, and yet still he loves us deeply and unconditionally.
We know there are no such things as “secrets” when it comes to God. He sees what you do behind closed doors. Even the activities inside the grey matter of your brain are visible to him. He reads thoughts. So, King David writes, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (Psalm 139:1).
We also know that God is holy. He hates sin with a ferocity we cannot comprehend. When you put those thoughts together, it is terrifying. Yet we believe that in spite of our sin, God loves us dearly. Even more, we believe his love is not mere sentiment. It took action!
God loved you enough to become you on that first Christmas. He became fully human. He faced everything hardship you have ever faced and more. Like you, Jesus endured temptation. Unlike you, he always resisted. He never caved in. Then he took that perfect life and traded it for yours. He did not do this just for some nebulous “world.” Scripture says he actually had you in mind, that he even knew your name. Believe this—Jesus saw your face before you had a face, loved you, and chose to be tortured to death so that you might be forgiven for all your sins. He took your damnation so you might live in everlasting glory.
Consider your baptism. When you look at the cross, you might think, “Jesus did that for the entire world. He wasn’t really thinking of me.” That is wrong. Even if you think that way, you are still confronted by the baptismal font. The world was not at the font. It was just you! Only you. God Almighty moved time and space to bring you to that place so that he might fill you with the Spirit, giving you rebirth into faith, washing away your sin. Maybe God allowed you to be born into a Christian family; you were brought to the font as a baby. Maybe he had someone share the gospel with you as an adult, and the Spirit moved you to receive the blessings of baptism. Either way, your baptism proves that God loves you as an individual, not just as part of some large mass of people.
There’s more to Belief #1. We believe that Christ does not waver in his love. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). God saw what you did behind that closed door. He hated the action, but he did not stop loving you. That repulsive thought you had, the one you thought no one knew about since you refrained from verbalizing it… Jesus saw that. Yet, he did not stop loving you, not even for a second.
Do you believe this? If you do, it will radically affect your behavior. St. Paul writes, “[Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). St. John states it more succinctly, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
If you believe that Jesus knows everything about you and yet still loves you deeply and unconditionally, your heart melts. You begin to prioritize your life in a way that gives him glory. You live to thank him… to serve him… to love him. If you believe he loves you personally, then nothing Jesus asks of you is too great. How could it be? He literally suffered hell just for you! Why? Because he loves you that deeply. Yes, you! How then could he ever ask too much of you?
Belief #2: We believe God wants all people to be saved.
God loves you, but not only you. His love is too great, too broad, too deep. [God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
Take that word “all” and carry it around in your heart this week. Your next door neighbor. The woman who sits two cubicles down from you. The homeless lady sitting on a park bench, sipping on something hidden in a paper bag. The guy on the news who, in a fit of rage, shot and killed two people. The man who just got out of jail after serving five years for sexual assault. All people. God wants them all saved.
Again, God’s love is more than sentiment. He does not just feel warmth towards all people. “[Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
If you believe that, it will affect your behavior.
First, it drives away all fear of condemnation. If God loved some people… if Jesus died only for some… you would have to wonder if you made the cut. But God wants all people to be saved. Jesus died for the whole world. Are you part of “all”? Then stop worrying about whether or not God wants you to be saved!
Secondly, since you love God dearly and would be willing to do anything to serve him (see Belief #1), you start recognizing that one of the best ways to demonstrate your love for God is to help him in his efforts save “all people.” Which leads us to…
Belief #3: We believe that God has chosen, in a sense, to “need” us in his effort to save others.
We know that in an absolute sense an omnipotent God does not need anyone to do anything for him. All he did was speak, “’Let there be light’” and “there was light” (Genesis 1:3). What does he need us for? Absolutely nothing.
Yet, one can choose to “need” someone. When my sons were younger they loved the construction types of toys: Legos, Tinker Toys, K’nex, Bionicles, etc. We would get some sort of kit. I would sit on the floor with them, pieces spread out before us. I did not need their help to assemble that Lego airplane. Yet, it was not getting assembled without their effort. Why? I chose to need them.
When it comes to his desire to save all people (Belief #2), God, in a sense, has chosen to need us. St. Paul puts it this way.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13,14).
Paul begins by stressing that God does indeed want “everyone” to “be saved” through faith in Christ. Then Paul asks an intriguing question. How that will happen if no one tells them about Christ? Paul asks us to consider how unbelievers are going to be saved if believers do not preach to them. (“Preach” here is used broadly to refer to sharing the gospel of Christ in any context.) Paul is explaining that God has chosen to “need” us in his saving work.
Friends, this is God’s Word! You look at that next-door neighbor and you are pretty sure they do not really understand Jesus. But you say to yourself, “Well, if God wants to save them, he will save them.” If St. Paul were here, he would stare at you with a perplexed look on his face. He would ask pointedly, “How? How exactly do you expect that to happen? God has chosen to need you! He made you that person’s next-door neighbor for a reason!”
You might ask, “Why would God choose to need me?” You would have to ask him when you see him, but it is safe to say it goes back to his deep love for you. I chose to “need” my sons to assemble that Lego plane because I loved them. I wanted them to enjoy the satisfaction… the accomplishment.
There is a parallel there. Every single one of your earthly accomplishments will be forgotten. Frankly, in just a couple generations after you are dead, even your descendants will not know your name. Worldly achievements are appreciated for just a few heartbeats, but no longer. But now imagine that through your witnessing to your next-door neighbor, the Holy Spirit pulls that individual into the Church. A million years from now you will still enjoy the fruits of your labor.
So perhaps, because he loves you that much, God has chosen to “need” you so that you might do something with your life that echoes for all of eternity. Because he loves you, he wants you to forever enjoy that you were allowed to play a part in that significant work. God is good!
God has chosen to need you. Do you believe this? If so, repent of any lack of urgency you have had in witnessing to your unchurched friends and relatives and neighbors. The fruit of that repentance is to start doing what you have not yet done.
How many people do you know that do not know Jesus? Oh, they probably know his name and can cite some things they did, but they do not have saving faith in him. Do you know six people like that? A dozen? Or, how many people are in your life where you simply don’t know what they think about Jesus? You have never asked them. If you believe that God has chosen to need you, then you understand it is past time that you start asking.
Put this truth together with Belief #2. Your next-door neighbor is someone for whom Christ suffered and died. The payment for their sins has been made. Witnessing to your neighbor is not just a matter of love for them. You love Christ! Thus, you want the blood and sweat that Jesus put into your neighbor’s salvation to actually benefit them. But, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”
Belief #4: We believe God’s Word is incredibly powerful.
God tells us, “[My Word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). One again, God speaks in black-and-white absolutes. His Word does not sometimes accomplish what he desires. It always does so.
The main “purpose” of God’s Word is to make that which is dead, alive again. Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit takes a dead, unbelieving heart and makes it beat with faith. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
However, God is not a bully. The Spirit does not force someone to be converted. Man has the horrible power to reject the gospel. If someone rejects the Word, it still accomplishes God’s purpose. In that case, as an act of judgment, the purpose of the Word is to harden the individual against God. The Word makes one ripe for Judgment Day. “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5).
The primary purpose of God’s Word is to create saving faith in the heart of an individual. And God’s Word is incredibly powerful. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The same power which called the stars into existence is unleashed upon the unbeliever’s heart when they hear the gospel.
You have accounts of amazing conversions in Scripture. It was not just likely people who came to faith. The gospel was able to convert people who you would think had no chance of believing: the jailer at Philippi; Nicodemus, a Pharisee; Saul, whose job was to hunt and kill Christians.
Put Belief #2 , #3, and #4 together. You believe God wants all people to be saved. You believe God’s Word can do powerful things. That must affect the way you approach life!
A couple with two young kids who just moved into the neighborhood. When talking with them, they say to you, “We found our doctor and a good mechanic. We just need to find a good church.” You thank God for such low-hanging fruit… for the times he makes evangelism easy. But what about that neighbor who is ornery, whom you’ve heard talk about how silly , stupid, and superstitious Christians are. Is he any harder to win than Saul or the jailer? You have the gospel! It is spiritual dynamite. If you believe that, you are just as likely to witness to the ornery neighbor as you are to that young couple.
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”
Those words (found in Matthew 9:24) were spoken by a man who believed in Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. But confronted with a challenge—in this case, having a demon-possessed son—the man’s actions and emotions did not match entirely with his beliefs.
Again, this is not just spiritual truth, but common sense. Our actions don’t always match up with our beliefs. We all know that if you text when you drive, you are as dangerous as a highly-drunk driver. Yet, many of us have, in times of duress, shot off a quick text while doing 70mph down the highway. Our actions are not in line with what we know to be truth.
When that happens in our spiritual lives… when our behavior does not line up with our beliefs… there is good news.
First, Jesus love for you is indeed unconditional. Believe it. When your behavior contradicts your beliefs, his love does not waver even a little bit.
Second, Jesus paid for the sins of unbelief too. He died for the times you have not believed his Word. He also died for the times when you have, yet your actions did not match up with your beliefs.
Third, God’s Word is powerful. Through the Word, the Spirit will help you “overcome” your unbelief. He will lead you not just to believe the four truths we have discussed, but to act upon those beliefs.
C18 is a time to do that. We have set the goal of sharing Christ with one-million people prior to and on Christmas Eve. That goal seeks not just to benefit those one-million people. It is for our benefit too! We pray that God uses this time and this effort to help our actions better line up with our beliefs, that we might achieve that greater joy… that fuller sense of purpose.
If we believe…
You do believe, brothers and sisters! You would not have read all this if you did not. You believe! Ask the Spirit to give you the courage of your convictions. Then go boldly into the world, and act on them.
May God grant that among us all.
By Rev. Jonathan Hein
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