Believing [in] Jesus
After [Jesus] was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. – John 2:22 (NRSV)
As a teenager in an evangelical youth fellowship, I was repeatedly encouraged to believe in Jesus and to accept him as my personal Lord and Savior.
I wasn’t into the public altar call thing. But one night, alone in my room, I did receive Jesus into my 15-year-old heart. I don’t know how to describe what happened, but I felt a real shift in my being. I still do.
I became a voracious reader of the Gospels. I began to wonder, what now? What is the next step after believing in Jesus? Is that all Jesus wants? And why had I been encouraged to accept Jesus as “personal Lord and savior” when Jesus himself never asked that of anyone?
I concluded that believing in Jesus was not what Jesus wanted most from his followers. What Jesus urged, time and time again, was faith in God which amounts to believing what he believed about God. Even in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is the most self-referential, he describes himself as a conduit for divine love.
If that was Jesus’ main interest, why had no one ever asked me to believe Jesus and believe what he believed instead of, or in addition to, believing in him?
I’m a little older now and a preacher. I don’t recall ever asking anyone to believe in Jesus. I’m more interested in leading people simply to believe him and to believe what he believed. In my experience, that is the gateway to salvation.
Jesus, help me to believe what you believed and so to love as you loved.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.