About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Genuine Faith Or Another Gospel


If I had only one message to speak, I’d talk about “genuine faith”, and here’s why.  Many Evangelical preachers I heard as a youth taught that you needed to simply believe in Jesus as your Saviour in order to be  saved. They’d often ask you to repeat a short prayer to bring about your salvation.  They proceeded to teach that at some later date you were to make Jesus your Lord, which they called “entire sanctification”.  Borrowing Paul’s words, I “might” go as far as to call this “another gospel”.  In addressing this issue we need to understand how the New Testament defines the word “believe”, and what it says about making Jesus your Lord.   


To understand the gospel we need to know how New Testament writers defined the words “faith” and “believe” because they are vital to the gospel.  It’s a mistake to understand first century Greek words with our 21st century English definitions, something we often do.   


I won’t elaborate on how these two words have evolved over the centuries because I’ve done that in other articles. I’ll just say that most of us view the words  “faith” and “believe” today as “giving mental assent to something”.  For example, if I say “ New England lost the Super Bowl this year”, you might answer by saying, “I believe you’re right”.  By using the word “believe” in this context, you’ve merely agreed with what I’ve said.  That’s “mental assent”.  


If you just preach “believe in Jesus to be  saved” you might get the following response. “Okay, that’s easy enough.  I believe in Jesus. So now I’m saved. Thanks.  See you later”.  Just because someone has given mental assent to your admonition to believe, is he saved? 


The words “believe” and “faith” in the New Testament are translated from the Greek word “pistis”.  I’ve given reasons in other articles for why I define “pistis” as I do, so I won’t get into that now.  First century people understood  “pistis” as “giving oneself  to something”. 


When Jesus says “believe in me” in John 3:16, He is saying “give yourself to me”, or  “hand your life over to me”.  He is not saying “agree with me, or accept what I say about myself as being the truth”.  “Believing” or “having faith” in New Testament terms is “giving yourself to something”, not just acknowledging the existence of something.  This scares me a bit. I wonder how many people in the church only acknowledge the existence of Jesus but have failed to give their lives to Him.         


When sharing the gospel, we shouldn’t just tell people to believe unless they understand the word believe in New Testament terms, which they probably don’t.  We should tell them to “hand their lives over to Jesus and then they will be saved” because that’s the intent of John 3:16 and the word “believe”. 


Now as to making Jesus your Lord at some distant point down the road.  If “believing” in respect to the gospel means handing your life over to Jesus, then it’s obvious that Jesus should become your Lord when you first meet Him, not later.  So the old saying is true, “Jesus must be your Lord in order to be your Saviour”.


Now I know when we first meet Jesus we can give Him our lives and then take part of our lives back the next day.  Thus the struggle with trusting Jesus begins, but this is why Paul says we “live by faith”.  From day one we place our lives into Jesus’ hands and continue this process until we end up in Heaven with Him where we will continue to trust Him for eternity.       


Now as to living by faith - we get saved by faith and not by good works  and we stay saved by faith and not by good works.  Staying saved by faith means that we live each and every day in submission to Jesus as Lord.  You might say that faith is resigning yourself to the fact that we belong to Jesus, and from our relationship with Him we do many good works.  Those good works don’t keep us saved. They are the product  of being saved.  If there are no good works, there’s probably no genuine faith, as James says.      


Much of the gospel I heard in my youth emphasized, “believe in Jesus to get saved” and little about giving your life to Jesus. What you sow, you reap.  Thus you reap a “getting mentality” in your converts.  They want to get saved, get healed, get prosperous, get Heaven, or get whatever.  But getting saved isn’t all about getting.  It’s about giving to Jesus because He is Lord and we are His servants.      


If I could transport myself behind a 1950’s pulpit, I wouldn’t simply preach “believe in Jesus and be saved and try to make Him Lord later on if you can”.  I’d preach something like, “hand your life over to Jesus right now.  In sincere resignation, just give up control and trust Him with your whole life.  You may not understand all the implications now, and you may want to take your life back tomorrow, but today, you hand Him everything, and when you do, you will be saved”.


This is the bottom line to all that is Christian.  Life is simply trusting Jesus with every aspect of who we are, every day of our lives.  So I say, “trust Jesus with your whole life, which includes your salvation. Don’t just trust Him for your salvation”. Jesus can only be Christ your Saviour because He is first your Lord.


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