Belief Credited as Righteousness – Romans 4:3

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” – Romans 4:3 NIV

In the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, God promises Abraham a son and descendants more numerous than the visible stars. In the sixth verse of that chapter we find Abraham’s response; he believed what God had told him. Abraham was likely around 86 years old, and childless, when God promised him this, so his belief was significant. And the writer of Genesis records that God credited Abraham’s belief as righteousness on Abraham’s part. God saw him as righteous, not because of what he did, but because he believed what God told him; so much so that he acted on it.

This passage seems to be central to Paul’s gospel, using it both here and in Galatians 3:6. We also see this passage used in James 2:23 where he argues that Abraham’s faith was an active rather than passive faith. There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation. What was true for Abraham 4000 years ago is just as true for me today. Will I believe God, entrusting my life and future into his hands? And, as James emphasizes, will that faith impact how I live my life; the way it did for Abraham? Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

Come Down from the Cross – Matthew 27:42

“He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. – Matthew 27:42 CSB

This verse contains a pair of challenges made by the Jewish religious leaders to Jesus while he hung on the cross. In the first one they said, “he saved others, but he cannot save himself.” They were referring to saving in the physical sense, and indeed Jesus had restored sight, health, and even life to many. But if Jesus had saved himself from the cross, as they mockingly challenged him to, he would not have been able to save us from the effects of sin. Jesus death on the cross did save those who would believe in him, much more completely that just our physical bodies.

Their second challenge was that they would believe in him if he were to come down off the cross. I have often wondered what they would have done have he jumped down off the cross for a moment and then climbed back up to complete his mission. Somehow I doubt that it would have changed anything for them. They acknowledged his earlier miracles, and yet did not believe in him. Nor did they believe in him after his resurrection. They were not going to believe, regardless what he did. I think of this passage often when people tell me they would believe if God performed a mighty miracle for them. But would they? I doubt it.

That You May Believe – John 20:30-31

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31 NIV

Of the four gospel writers, only Luke and John provide us with explicit reasons for their writing. Luke provides an orderly account of what Jesus did in order to give certainty to one who had likely already believed (Luke 1:1-4). John, on the other had, is more explicitly evangelistic. He writes in order that we might believe, and in believing, have life in Christ. John is not writing a detailed historical account, and is likely not too concerned with getting events in the proper order. John selected seven of Jesus signs, or miracles, out of the multitude he had to choose from, that he felt would be the most useful in leading us to believe. And he concluded with an eighth and greatest sign; the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Some people will follow these signs where they lead, and will believe, trusting in Christ as their Lord and God. Others will see them and scoff. The choice is yours. Will you see and believe? Or will you close your eyes and stumble?

The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25-26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26 ESV

Jesus makes a pretty remarkable claim here. He is the resurrection and the life. He tells Martha that the one who believes in him will live. Even if they die, they will live. This life that Jesus promises to those who believe is not affected by physical death; it goes on beyond death. He continues on and promises that those who experience the life that comes from believing will never die; that this new life is eternal and is not impacted by our physical death. I wonder; if I had been in Martha’s shoes when Jesus first said this, and then asked me if I believed him, would I have answered yes? Remember, she was on the other side of Jesus own resurrection, as well as the raising of her brother.

I am so thankful that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. That in him I have eternal life; life that will endure beyond the few short years I have left on earth. An eternity to spend united with God, experiencing his glory and love (John 17:20-26). Can anything be better than that? Lord, I believe! Do you?

To Whom Shall We Go? – John 6:67-69

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:67-69 ESV

Jesus’ teaching in this chapter was confusing and challenging to those who heard him, and many had turned away and no longer followed him. I am sure that it was just as confusing to the twelve, but when Jesus asks them if they will leave also, Peter essentially says, we often don’t know what you are saying, and the homeless life following you through Israel is difficult. But we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. Who else could we find to follow that would have the words of eternal life?

Many people today do the same thing that the crowd did; they follow Jesus so long as he is feeding them and the going is easy. But when the teaching gets hard, when life gets in the way, or the novelty wears off, they turn back and no longer follow Jesus. But blessed are those who, like the twelve, recognize Jesus as the Holy One of God who brings eternal life. And, like the twelve, they remain steadfast, walking with Jesus wherever he leads.

Because God Loves Us – John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 NIV

This is likely one of the best known verses in the Bible. It is also one of the most significant; containing the heart of the gospel. Humanity is a lost and fallen race, unable to do anything to please God, condemned to perish. But God loves us, and not just some of us, but the whole world, everyone in it. God gave his Son, Jesus, to be an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. And anyone who believes in Jesus is delivered from destruction and given eternal life.

How amazing it is that the God of all creation knows and loves me, as insignificant and unworthy as I am. And he has provided a way for me to spend eternity with him. One might expect that God would require something of me in order to obtain that privilege, but no, he knows that I am incapable of doing anything that is truly good. Instead he takes the initiative, doing all that needs to be done, even enabling me to believe. All he asks of me is to surrender to him, not resisting his efforts on my behalf. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Believe in the Lord Jesus – Acts 16:30-31

He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” – Acts 16:30-31 NIV

The Philippian jailed asked “what must I do to be saved?” And in one form or another it is a question that every believer, and some unbelievers, have asked. What must I do? It is our human tendency to think that we must in some way earn such a great gift, to do something to be worthy of it. But the reality is that there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation; there is nothing I can do that will begin to make me worthy of this gift.

Paul’s response to the jailer is to simply believe in the Lord Jesus. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? For many people this word ‘believe’ is synonymous with intellectual assent; I believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States. But the word used here means much more than that. In means ‘to trust in’ or ‘to rely on’. When Paul tells the jailer to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is telling him to surrender to the lordship of Jesus; to trust Jesus with his life. The proper response to God’s gift of grace is surrender; to allow him to accomplish his good work in me. It’s not about what I do; it’s about what God does.

I Believe! Help My Unbelief! – Mark 9:24

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 NIV

I believe!  This expression is used in two ways.  Most commonly it is used in the sense of intellectual affirmation or opinion, as in: I believe that the president is good/bad; I believe that guns are evil/necessary; I believe that NCIS is the best show on TV; I believe that God exists; I believe that God loves me.

In contrast to ‘believe that’ is ‘believe in’.  While the first is an intellectual acknowledgement, the second is a statement of trust. When I say that I believe that God exists and loves me, I intellectually accept those statements as true, but that does not mean they have any bearing on my life.  Any more than believing that green leafy vegetables are good for me will cause me to eat them.  But when I say that I believe in God, I am saying that I trust him and will be obedient to him; that he does make a difference in my life.

Lord I believe, I know that you are and you are able to do great things in my life.  But help me with my unbelief, my lack of trust.  Help me to trust in you and to experience the fullness of life in you.