Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Followers Always Believe But Believers Don't Always Follow

Today I want an ask an important question: are you a believer in Jesus or a follower of Jesus?  I know many of you consider this the same thing, but it really isn't.  James paints for us the contrast.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!  James 2:19 NKJV
I think the error that many churches make is on that word "believer."  Even demons believe in Jesus, but they certainly are not saved.  Satan knows exactly who Jesus is and we all know his fate.  Believing in Jesus, in that He existed, or even that He died for your sins is absolutely meaningless if you never do anything with that knowledge.  Knowing about the free gift of salvation and even believing it is there for you means nothing if you never receive that gift.  Demons believe in Jesus but they do not follow Him.  Satan believes in Jesus but certainly does not follow Him.  Let me continue by sharing a few common scriptures regarding salvation. 
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 NKJV

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9 NKJV

For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." Romans 10:13 NKJV
What it comes down to is what we believe Jesus is for our lives.  We have used such phrases as "believer" and "the name of Jesus" for so long in our churches that the original assumed meaning has been lost.  It is not that we just believe in Jesus, but that we believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.  We are saved by "faith" though grace, not mere "belief" through grace.  I could believe that a chair will hold my weight, but that does not give me rest.  It is only when I have actual faith in that chair to hold me that and actually sit in it that I get my rest.  The same is true, in a sense, for Jesus.  It is not only that we believe in Him, but that we put our faith in Him as Lord and Savior of our lives.  How tragic it would be to believe in Jesus but never put our faith in Him. 

The other issue who we see Jesus as.  We say that we believe in Jesus, but what does that even mean to us?  We talk about power in the name of Jesus.  We talk about praying in the name of Jesus.  We call it the name above all names.  I have news for you, though, there is nothing magical about the name "Jesus."  In Hebrew, his name would be pronounced "Yeshua" if we are being honest.  Why would there be some magic in the English word for the Latin word for the Hebrew name Yeshua?  Quite honestly, if you cut out the Latin middle-man we would be calling him Joshua.  You can shout Jesus all you want but just saying that name means absolutely nothing.  Let's look at a Bible passage.
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.   Acts 9:13-16 NKJV
As you can see, the name "Jesus" had no benefit for those who were not followers if Jesus.  Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses also believe in Jesus, but they do not have any saving knowledge.  Even Muslims believe in Jesus, but believe in him as a prophet.  Apparently these Jewish exorcists also believed in Jesus to some extent as they saw His named used and tried to use it on their own.  Invoking His name in any other religion is utterly useless.  It is not the Christian version of "Abracadabra."  Just calling out to Jesus is also meaningless.  What ultimately matters is not that you call His name but who you believe Him to be when you do.  Note those other Scriptures I mentioned: "Whoever calls on the name of the LORD."  and "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus."  Even John 3:16 asks to believe not in Jesus as a name but as "The only begotten Son of God."  As you can see, it is not that you believe in Jesus or even know how to say His name, it is all about believing in Him as Lord. 

And that really is the kicker.  Do you believe in Jesus as Lord?  If not, then whatever belief you think you have in Jesus is as meaningless as it is for the Muslim, the Mormon, the Jehovah's Witness, or the Jewish exorcists from Acts.  You can not truly believe in Jesus as Lord and not be a follower of His.  How can you believe Him to be Lord if you do not follow Him as Lord?  If you are not a follower, you are not truly a believer.  If you are not truly a believer, you are not saved.  I know what you are thinking "But salvation is a free gift!"  That is correct, there is no effort, work, or cost on our part to call on the name of the Lord.  Jesus does not turn away anyone who desires to come after Him.  Even after we subject ourselves to His authority, He knows we will not be perfect in all that He asks us to do.  It is not about living up to the perfect standards of God, but knowing that God imparted the perfection of Jesus upon us and desiring to come after Him as the chosen Lord of our lives.  We do not follow Him as a means to maintain our salvation, but we follow Him in love for the fact that He saved us through His sacrifice. 

I think a big problem in the church today is there are way too many believers and not enough followers.  This idea being taught from the pulpit that we can be saved with no change in our lives only acknowledges Jesus as Savior and never Jesus as Lord.  Unfortunately, the Bible does not say "All who call upon the name of the Savior."  The Bible also does not say "if you confess the Savior Jesus."   The fact is that Jesus is our Savior because we acknowledge Him as Lord and put our faith in Him.  That is what the Bible teaches.  I think for many of us, this is a question we need to ask ourselves.  Are we acting as though Jesus is Lord?  Have we ever acknowledged Jesus as Lord and meant it?  I know we all say it, but saying it as a repetition of what we were taught to say as opposed to saying it because we believe it in our hearts are two different things.  If you are not a follower, if Jesus is not truly your Lord, then ... well .. I will let Jesus say it.
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Matthew 7:21 NKJV

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