About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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This Scares Me  


I was born, raised, and have lived my life in Evangelical Christianity.  Over the last 67 years I have noticed many changes in the Evangelical church - some good - some not so good.  One good change came in the 1960's when the church forgave the guitar of its many sins.  Finally, my dad could play his once sin-infected guitar alongside the sanctified piano and organ.  Prior to dad becoming a Christian in the mid 1950's he was a well known guitar player in our community.  He had his own country-music band and radio show, but once entering the world of 1950's style Evangelical Christianity, he had to lay aside his God-given talent, his music, and his guitars. 


One not so good thing that I believe has crept into the Evangelical church is a devaluation, even a redefining, of what it means to believe in Jesus.  Believing in Jesus is fast becoming a simple acknowledgment that He is the divine Son of God.  Is that what the Evangelical church's most well-known Bible verse means?  Read John 3:16 again. 


"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."


The verb "believes" in John 3:16 is translated from the Greek present participle "pisteuo."  This word means "to trust," and being a present Greek participle, means that one, by virtue of who he is, presently trusts his life with Jesus.  A present participle emphasizes who a person is in present time, not just what he does.  I am not splitting grammatical hairs.  There is a difference between doing something and being that which you do.  An auto-mechanic fixes cars, but not everyone who fixes a car is an auto-mechanic.  To whom would you trust your car?        


John 3:16 means this.  Anyone, by virtue of becoming a born again (John 3:1 - 5), newly created (2 Corinthians 5:17), present-day, believing one, will not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 does not mean this.  Anyone who acknowledges Jesus' divinity will not perish but have everlasting life.  That acknowledgement, as important as it is, saves no one.  


When a person repents of his sinful existence, trusts his life with Jesus, receives the Holy Spirit into his being; he will be saved.  That person believes because he has become a newly created, in Christ,  believer.  I, therefore, ask: might there be some sitting in what is commonly called a church pew this Sunday who have only acknowledged that Jesus is the divine Son of God?  Might there be some sitting in those pews who have not become a newly created believer in Christ?  Might there be some who do not belong to God because the Holy Spirit does not reside within them (Romans 8:9)? 


The gospel we proclaim has eternal implications for those who accept our message.  It is, thus, vitally important that we preach the John 3:16 gospel as Jesus taught it.  If we preach a mere rational acknowledgement of Jesus' divinity, we do a disservice to both John 3:16 and Jesus.  Worst still, we deceive those thinking they are saved based on their rational acknowledgement when in fact they are not saved.  Our present-day trend to a rational belief in Jesus saves no one, and this is what scares me most about Evangelical Christianity today. 


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