Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What Does "Believes" Mean

Chuckle:  John said to Nathan: “Andrea and I want to get married, but we can’t find anywhere to live.”  “Why don’t you live with Andrea’s parents?”  suggested Nathan.  “We can’t do that.  They’re living with their parents.”  
 
Quote:  “The believer may well have less use for books on religion than the unbeliever – for how can a man honestly disbelieve unless he has done himself the justice of discovering in what it is he does not believe.”  --Lionel McColver 
 
WHAT DOES “BELIEVES” MEAN?
 
    “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).
 
Christians are often called “believers.”  But what does it mean to believe?  Sometimes our modern English language is deficient when translating original Biblical languages such as Greek, the primary language of the New Testament.  There may not always be an English word that accurately conveys the specific meaning intended by the original writer.  Without understanding the broader meanings of a Greek word, we can over-simplify a Biblical subject or miss an important truth.
 
Let’s take the word, “believe.”  Today, this English word is primarily used to describe our cognitive acceptance of a given proposition or concept as being true – an intellectual exercise.  In our passage, the apostle John records the words of Jesus Himself as He tells us we must believe in Him to have eternal life.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?.  In fact, it sounds so simple that some people may say they believe in Jesus when, in fact, they are only expressing a belief in the facts about Jesus.  But our eternal destiny depends on our understanding of the word “believe” as it applies to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, how can we know we believe in Jesus, and how do we explain to an unsaved person what it really means to believe in Jesus?
 
In our passage, as well as other places in the New Testament, the word “believe” is the translation of the Greek word for “faith” which in its noun form is “pistis” and in its verb form is “pisteuo.  In John 3:16, the word translated as “believes” is “pisteuo,” which, as amplified by other Scriptures, means to have faith in; to have confidence in; to trust in; to rely upon, to give allegiance to; to commit oneself to.  These meanings describe an eternal, growing, and dynamic love relationship with Jesus Christ all rolled up neatly in the single English word, “believes.” 
 
A footnote in the NLT Study Bible describes “believe” this way:  “To ‘believe’ is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God.  It means to put our trust and confidence in him that he alone can save us.  It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans (life) and eternal destiny.  Believing is both trusting his words as reliable, and relying on him for the power to change.”
 
To authenticate our own relationship with Jesus Christ, we must understand, accept, and comply with what “believes” really means.  Also, when sharing God’s plan of salvation with someone, it’s imperative that we carefully explain what believing in Jesus entails and how it impacts their lives.  We can believe everything said about Jesus in the Bible and still not believe in him with a saving faith.  Believing about Jesus does not establish the personal relationship Christ wants with each of us.
  
I have often used this illustration to help explain what it means to believe in Jesus.  Before going to the airport, I can intellectually believe that the pilot and his airplane will take me safely to my desired destination.  However, I have not really believed until I trust my life to that pilot by boarding the plane, settling into my  seat, and the plane becomes airborne.  I have not really believed until I have entrusted my life to that pilot.  Likewise, I have not truly believed in Jesus until I demonstrate my faith by committing myself to Him and entrusting my eternal soul into His care.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse      

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