A couple of weeks ago, we began to take a look at the main message Jesus proclaimed as He traveled around Judea. At the very heart of His message was the simple, yet profound, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Our first focus was defining and understanding what Jesus meant by “Repent.” We discovered, at the core, repentance has much more to do with changing our way of thinking than with sorrow for our sins or a pledge to try and do better. True repentance is all about getting our mind set on what is right and true (within the Kingdom of God). The right kind of behavior will always follow a right mindset. In order to truly respond to Jesus’ invitation to enter the Kingdom of God, we have to lay aside our old mindset and embrace the new way of thinking – we need a mindset centered on the Kingdom of God. In our time together, in the days ahead, I plan on speaking at length about the many ways in which our thinking will need to change. For now, we just need to realize that entering the Kingdom of God requires a willingness to see, and think things differently, and a willingness to apply our energies differently than we ever have before. It is a grand adventure!
But today, I wanted to take a brief look at the second requirement Jesus mentions in the message He so readily proclaimed. Not only do we need to repent (change our way of thinking) but we also need to “believe.” Something so essential, we need to understand in its fullness.
Most of what is called “faith” or “belief” today is seriously lacking in understanding and application. We tend to think that because we know the facts about something, and generally agree with those facts, then we actually believe in that something. But Scripture teaches us a different lesson.
For example, many people would say that they believe in Jesus. What they usually mean by this is that they have heard of Jesus, and of the fact that He went to the cross and paid the price for our sins. Because we have heard of Jesus, and accept the facts of what He has done for us, we conclude that we “believe” in Him. But this is not the kind of “belief” that Jesus is seeking from us.
True belief is revelation… and response. A fact is revealed to us, we accept the value or truth of that fact, but then we DO something that proves we accept what has been revealed to us. True belief is not just receiving or knowing information – it is acting upon what the information reveals. Further, our act of response is in line with the nature and extent of the fact we have been blessed to receive. In Jesus’ day, there were many who discovered that Jesus was a healer – but a few took that knowledge, and did things like tearing through rooftops to get to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12; where “Jesus saw their faith” and healed their friend); or forged their way through the massive crowds just to get a touch of Jesus’ healing power (Mark 5:24-34; of the woman with the bleeding condition, Jesus said “your faith has healed you.”); or who refused to be silenced as Jesus passed by (Mark 10:46-52; Blind Bartimaeus) and, by their insistent faith, received their miracle. The stories are many, but the lesson is simple. If the fact is that Jesus is the Source of all that we need, then we must act in accord with that fact. Faith/belief is the expression of the revelation that has come to our lives. Faith is the hand that reaches out to receive…
One of the most helpful pictures of true faith is seen in something called a trust fall. A trust fall involves a person who stands with their back to a group (often on an elevated place) and willingly let’s themselves fall back into the waiting arms of the group. The one who takes the fall, accepts the fact that the group members below him are going to catch him when he falls. They have promised to do so. But accepting the fact that the group is pledged to catch him is not belief. Belief occurs when the “faller” closes his eyes, folds his arms, and allows himself to fall backward into their waiting arms. At that moment, and only at that moment, will his belief be verified (they catch him as promised) or nullified (the group decides to let him fall to the ground). True belief is acting upon what you accept as true.
When Jesus calls us to believe, He is calling us into a trust-relationship with God. He is, quite literally, asking us to fall into the arms of a loving, and infinitely trustworthy God. He is asking us to abandon our own sense of self-reliance and self-preservation, and truly treat God as if He were the most powerful Being in the universe. The call to the Kingdom of God is a call to fall into the limitless and compassionate care of the One True King. That is why we must repent/change our thinking (it is not natural for us to depend/rely upon anyone but ourselves) and why we must believe (place our active, dedicated trust) in God’s commitment to us, and His care for us. Anything less than a true repentance and a true belief will leave us unsure and unsatisfied. If we are intent on discovering the fullness of The King, and what His Kingdom offers, then we must “repent and believe.” True Christians are those who have found what Jesus promised them – the new and living way, and who are continually acting upon what they have found.