Thursday, January 26, 2012



Before getting into this myth I want to make it clear that I am well aware that many of you reading/listening to this series may not be Christians or from a Christian cultural background. The reason I feel I must examine several of these Christian terms is that I want to separate them from Jesus. So many of these terms are like barnacles on a ship and must be removed. Or, they are add-ons to Jesus that dilute who He is and what He intended.
Most of my life I have bought into the importance of being a believer or more specifically, a believer in Jesus. For years I have emphasized the term "believer" over "Christian", thinking this was the best identity to use that separates a person from the religious form of Christianity. If you perform a quick overview of the five Gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts), you will discover that with few exceptions John is the only one who uses the term "believe" extensively.
The damage that is done by relying on being a believer is subtle, but lethal.

FIRST-I have come to understand that this heavy emphasis upon being a "believer" is not sufficient to describe what Jesus wants from His disciples. Jesus demands more than this, as I'll demonstrate in a couple of minutes.

SECOND-Being a believer becomes a threshold experience-the very doorway into salvation-that Christians rely upon. After sharing a time of counseling a desperate man in the psych ward of a local hospital, I told this particular study group that it was so exciting to see this man's attitude of fear change into a sincere seeking for God. One of our group members quickly said, "So he became a believer?" In other words, "Did you close the spiritual deal and now this non-believer is a believer?" We seem to want this magical moment that a person becomes a believer and then all will be OK.

THIRD-Remembering the day you became a believer-your threshold experience of salvation-becomes a sure sign that your faith is genuine and not being able to nail down that date means that maybe you never actually have come into a salvation experience at all. This, too, can be a damaging experience. Recently, a pastor told one of his elders that if you can't identify that specific time of salvation faith in your life, then you are probably not a genuine believer. That night the elder interrogated his wife and she could not give him a specific day, but she felt she had come into a personal faith gradually. When the elder shared this experience with a group I was leading, he was really saddened by his discovery and it showed in his countenance.

Then I asked him, "When was Peter's specific day?" The elder sat there for quite some time and said, "I don't know." I said, "Troubling, isn't it?" "What about the other disciples? What was their specific day?" The elder saw what I was showing him and said, "So, my pastor was wrong."

The damage is done when we put such pressure on people to "make a decision" to be a believer in Jesus right now. This is why we ask people to come forward at altar calls and why we praise those who witness to the point that they have actually led someone to pray the sinner's prayer. It's all part of our instant approach to life. This wasn't the norm in the life and ministry of Jesus and it isn't the norm today!

FOURTH-To make "being a believer" so paramount, it is too easy to miss out on what happened with the early disciples and rely on man-made sound bites and clichés. Think about it! The early disciples were not "believers" in the sense that most think of it today. They were followers of Jesus and His teachings, but were a work in progress with respect to becoming believers. By the way, that process took them over three years!

To debunk this myth I want to offer some things to think about: FIRST-Demons are said to be believers. In James 2:19 it says: You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.

SECOND-The false teachers Jesus mentions are believers. In Matthew 7 Jesus refers to people who act like believers, but that's not good enough. Look at what Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Here was a group of people who spoke in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus and performed many miracles in His name, yet Jesus didn't know them. He had no personal relationship with them.

THIRD-Many of you who are reading or listening to this daily see yourselves as believers, too. So, what's the difference? There must be more to it than just being a believer!

Jesus clarifies this. Jesus makes it clear that the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of heaven are those who do the will of the Father. And what does Jesus mean by this? In the next paragraph He illustrates what this means:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Those who do the will of the Father are those who hear the words of Jesus and practice them! That's more than just being a "believer". Don't get caught up in the Christian clichés and sound bites of religiosity. Pray for ears to hear and eyes to see, then listen to what Jesus says and do it. Don't miss this! You must believe, but you must believe enough to follow Jesus and His teachings! Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Christian or agnostic, follow Jesus and enjoy the results!