Moments after Jesus saved a woman from getting stoned, he tried to explain to the religious elite who he was. In John chapter eight, Jesus is very clear about who he is. In verse twenty-four, Jesus doesn’t hold back and tells them that unless they believe in him, they will die in their sins. Why was that so hard for them to handle? Why is that so hard for us to handle? I think that is hard for us because we don’t consider the weight of the word believe. The word believe doesn’t just mean an intellectual belief. That word “believe” means to trust in, have faith in, and commit to. That is a little heavier, isn’t it? That is what Jesus was looking for then and what he is looking for now.
It is interesting to me, that throughout the New Testament, Jesus tells people to believe to be saved. Jesus doesn’t say to beg for forgiveness to be saved, he says to believe. Turning our back on our sin always comes after believing. That’s a true story. Check it out for yourselves. The church today often paints a much different picture. The picture I see the most is the one where we must ask for forgiveness before we are accepted. That picture may have been painted with good intentions but it misses the mark. Jesus wants more than for us to ask for forgiveness to stay out of trouble.
I keep thinking of a serial criminal standing before a judge. Each time he begs the judge for forgiveness and swears to behave and stay out of trouble. The criminal wants to find favor with the judge because the judge has all the authority to punish. Intellectually, the criminal knows who the judge is but does not care beyond that knowledge. So, the cycle continues. I don’t know about you but that isn’t the kind of relationship I want. That sounds awful. Who would really want that when Jesus already wants a better relationship?
I’m going to try to drive this point home by enlisting the help of Cyndi Lauper (I know, work with me here). Feel free to hear her voice in your head while you are reading. It’s kind of nice.
We think: I need God but I am so far away. I know he doesn’t want to talk to me right now.
Jesus thinks: If you are lost, you can look, and you will find me. Time after time.
We think: I’m stuck in sin and I don’t want to ask for forgiveness. I need overcome this sin on my own.
Jesus thinks: If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting. Time after time.
Jesus wants a relationship where we actually trust him and have faith in him. He really wants us to commit to him just like he committed to us.
That makes Jesus’ words to the religious elite make a bit more sense. Imagine the difference if they had believed. Imagine the difference if we would believe.
- Mike Brewer