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“What It Means To Believe in Jesus”

This is a transcription of a sermon by Dr. Charles F. Stanley, and part of a quality six audio-cassette series titled LEARNING TO WALK BY FAITH. The whole six tape series is available online at or by mail at INTOUCH MINISTRIES, PO Box 7900, Atlanta, Georgia 30357, or by phone 1-800-323-3747. IN TOUCH ® Copyright 1998 ©, ITM, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used with permission. All rights reserved. This sermon transcription gives clear and concise teaching on just what it means to believe in Jesus, or in other words, to be born-again, to be a real Christian. If you answered an altar call, or were led to say the sinners’ prayer, did that alone make you a Christian? Find out from this informative sermon. Are you in Christ and He in you-or do you just think you are? Find out for sure. Continue reading.

“What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? All through the Bible I found these verses that talk about believing in him, but what does that mean? It’s very evident in Scripture that in order for a person to have their sins forgiven, in say, in order to go to heaven [receive eternal life, as some would say] a person must place their trust in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Well that’s what I want to talk about in this message, because there are so many people who think they believe in Jesus Christ, but who do not really truly understand what that means. So I want you to turn if you will to John chapter 3, and that verse that’s the most familiar of all, John 3:16. You say, “Well I know that one by heart.” Well I’m sure that most of you probably do, but I want you to turn there if you will for a moment. I want us to read this verse. Jesus was talking to a very knowledgeable man, Nicodemus, about his relationship with God. And he said to him, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [More literally, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”] And so in the course of that discussion, Jesus comes down to say in verse 15, “that whosoever believes may in him have eternal life.” And then he says in verse 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Well that is the purpose of this message, and what I want to do is explain, from a Biblical point of view, ‘What does it mean to place you trust in him?’ ‘How do you know that you’ve done that?’ And so it’s interesting in Scripture how very clear God has made it. For example, he says in John chapter 1, if you’ll turn there for a moment. In John chapter 1, in the 12th verse he says, “but as many as receive him, to them gave he the power (or the right) to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name.” Now to believe in his name, for example, the name represents everything a person is. So when a person believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the same as believing in him. You recall in Acts chapter 16, verse 31 when the Philippian jailer and Paul were talking, he said ‘What must I do to be saved?’ And Paul said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’ You recall in Romans chapter 1 Paul said, ‘I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is the power of God and the salvation to all who believe.’ That is, the gospel of Christ for all who believe in him. For example, he said in Romans chapter 5, verse 1, ‘Therefore being justified by faith’-which means to be declared no longer guilty, but now righteous, saved in the eyes of God-“therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God.’ He said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” You and I could go all the way through the New Testament, verse after verse, every single time it is placing our trust, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the question is, it’s very clear that what you have to do-but what does it mean? Well I think there are a lot of people out there who are very deceived, who really and truly believe that somewhere along the way that they have believed in Jesus Christ, and therefore they are saved-they are comfortable that they are saved. So what I’d like to do is to think just a moment with you about what these people are thinking and how they think when they say ‘Yes I do believe.’ Well I think there are some people who are genuinely-would say to you-‘Yes, I believe the Bible, I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ’-and therefore they think that they’re saved. What they’re saying is ‘I believe the facts, that this is the Bible, this is God’s Word, I believe the Bible does teach about God, the Bible does teach about Jesus, I believe all those things.’ That’s talking about believing facts. Then someone comes along and says, ‘Well sure I believe in Jesus, my mother believed in Jesus, my grandmother believed in Jesus, my whole family’s believed in Jesus-sure I believe in Jesus.’ What they’re saying is, ‘I do believe in the fact that there was such a man as Jesus Christ.’ Now the truth is their degree and the quality of their belief is the same as if you said to them, ‘You went to school?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you believe there was a man George Washington?’ ‘Yes I do.’ ‘Do you believe there was a man Abraham Lincoln?’ ‘Yes I do.’ ‘Do you believe there was a person named Jesus?’ ‘Yes I do.’ Same category, same level and quality of belief, they’re believing facts about a person. That is not New Testament belief. So you come along and say ‘Do you believe in God?’ ‘Yes I do, I do believe in God, I’ve always believed in God. My mother believed in God, I believe in God-I’ve always believed in God.’ ‘Don’t think I’m an atheist. Just because I don’t live like you want me to live doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. I feel very comfortable that when I die I’m going to heaven-I believe in God.’ And what they’re saying is ‘I believe in the God that you talk about in the Bible.’ And so you ask somebody else, ‘Do you believe?’ ‘Well here’s what I believe. I believe there’s a God. I don’t believe in this whole idea of evolution. I believe there’s a God and if I believe in God I’m OK and I’m saved and I’m going to heaven because I believe in God.’ And then you ask someone else, ‘Well what do you believe?’ ‘I believe, but don’t get prying into my spiritual life, but I believe and believing is enough, so I believe and that’s it.’ The truth is, they don’t have a ghost of an idea what they believe, and the reason some people won’t tell you what they believe is because they don’t know. That’s the reason they don’t tell you. ‘Do you believe in the Bible?’ ‘Yes I do.’ ‘What do you believe about it?’ ‘Well, you know I believe it and that’s enough. I won’t tell you what I believe about the Bible.’ The truth is, they don’t know anything about it. Now, I’m simply saying this. Many people believe that they believe, according to the Scripture in God, in Jesus enough to have their sins forgiven or to go to heaven [a term he uses to mean to receive eternal life, the way some denominations look at it]. And they genuinely believe that, but what they’re doing is that they’re making a mistake. And here’s the mistake, the mistake is this. Just because you ascent, that is, you concur with something that, ‘Yes I do believe that’s true’ and ‘Yes I consider the fact that God said that, and the Bible is true’-that does not mean that you have New Testament faith.

There’s a difference between believing according to the Scripture and having, intellectually being willing to affirm or concur with someone ‘Yes I do believe those facts are true.’ And so, often times what they’re believing is they’re believing facts. They’re believing truth. And they may say ‘Yes I do believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God’-fact. ‘I do believe that the Bible was inspired by God’-fact. ‘I do believe that God is a good God and that he sent his only begotten Son’-fact. But know believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their soul is an entirely different thing. And so I say to you my friend, and I say it in a loving sort of way, you can believe all that and be just as sincere as you can possibly be and be lost and separated from God. ‘Do you mean to tell me that if I believe that Jesus Christ was, he was a good man, that he was a preacher and teacher and a prophet and came from God-do you mean to tell me that I’m not saved?’ No, if that’s all you’ve got, no you’re not. Because believing in the fact of something is not New Testament belief. And I think a lot of people are very deceived. You say, ‘But listen, do you mean to tell me that if I sincerely believe, I’m still lost?’ My friend, being sincere is fine, but being sincerely wrong will not get you to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven]. And you say, ‘Are you being critical of my faith?’ No, I’m just saying, I want you to understand what it really means Biblically “to believe.” You see, if sincerity mattered, these verses of Scripture would not be in the Bible. I can remember reading these Scriptures as a kid and it sort of frightened me. Turn if you will to Matthew chapter 7. People say ‘I don’t believe a lot about the Bible, but I do believe in the Sermon on the Mount.’ Well, you know what? You believe in the strictest portion of the entire Word of God. And it’s interesting to hear people say ‘I don’t believe in all of it, but I believe it.’ Well you’d better read those three chapters again. Listen to what he says in these verses. I can remember as a kid reading these and thinking ‘Lord, could this possibly happen to me?’ Listen to this, watch this. If sincerity would get you [into the kingdom of] heaven, these verses wouldn’t be here. Listen if you will. Beginning in the 7th chapter, and I want us to begin reading in verse 21. “Not everyone who says to me” Jesus speaking, “Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (which is to believe in him, and he says that clearly in another verse). “Many will say to me on that day” (the day of judgment) “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (teach) in your name? Cast out demons, devils in your name? And in your name perform many miracles and wondrous works?” Jesus says, “And then I will declare unto them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me you who practice lawlessness.’” My friend, if good works would get you to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven], that verse wouldn’t be in there. If just believing facts, and believing and being sincere about what you do would get you to heaven, that verse wouldn’t be in the Bible. He says it’s not that, but those who do the will of my Father and that the will of his Father is to believe in him-believe in his name. Now when it says believe in his name, remember we said to believe in his name means to believe in who he is and what he is and all the Bible says about him, because his name represents all that he is. And so sincerity just absolutely will not get you to heaven no matter what. There is a difference in intellectually affirming the truthfulness of a fact or intellectually affirming of the truth of what you say and placing your trust, your faith in Jesus Christ as your savior-all the difference in the world.

Now the question comes, that is, what’s the cause of this kind of deception that people live in? Well, I think some people genuinely do not understand, they misunderstand the Scripture when it says “believe.” They just put that on the level of daily belief-‘Yes I believe that piano is sitting there. Yes to believe I’ll be able to get up and go to work tomorrow, yes I believe my car will start when I put the key in the ignition. And so they put all this kind of belief in the same category. My friend that’s not what we’re talking about. And so they genuinely misunderstand. A second reason is this. I believe that people purposely, deliberately limit-listen-limit what they’re faith encompasses. And so, here’s what they decide. ‘Here’s what I believe. I believe there’s a God, I believe he’s a good God, I believe one of these days when I die I’m going to heaven just like anybody else because I think I’m just as good as anybody else is, and therefore I believe in God.’ And so, what do they do? They don’t want to get into the Scriptures, they don’t want to get into this thing about Jesus Christ and being born again. They deliberately limit the quality and the degree and, listen, they limit the stretch of their faith. They’re only gonna limit it to what?-to their lifestyle. If I am expected to believe something that interrupts my lifestyle, if I’m expected to believe something that limits the way I want to live, then my faith is limited to believing in God and in Jesus, the kind of person I think he was and the kind of person I think God is and therefore they misunderstand. It is a deliberate misunderstanding. And my friend, listen, you’ll never get to heaven [into the kingdom of heaven] if that’s your idea of believing in Jesus Christ.

Then there are those people who have been misled. They go to church, and I think this is so very important, that this is why I am spending this time in this message, because oftentimes children go to Sunday school, to Bible school, to vacation Bible school, and often times in revivals things get hopped up and heaped up, and the pressure’s on-“Just as I am without one plea that thy blood was shed for me”-and someone is calling “Come on to Jesus, come on to Jesus, believe in Jesus” and often times the invitation is often nebulous, the invitation is so far removed from a Scriptural invitation that people walk down the aisle-and they’re not sure what they’re supposed to believe-just believe in Jesus. Well you know if I was sitting up there and somebody said ‘If you just believe in Jesus and come on down here and tell us you believe in Jesus and you’ll go to heaven when you die’--I’d run down here if I was lost-if that’s all it took. Because, you see, most of the time the idea is you believe in him as a fact. That is, believe in the fact that he was and is and so forth. That will not do it. Oftentimes people are being misled. Now I’m not saying somebody would deliberately mislead them, I’m simply saying this, we have to be very careful. When a child, for example, says, ‘I want to be saved’, that we help that child understand what is meant by ‘being saved’ and what it means to ‘believe in Jesus Christ’, because any child’s gonna grow up with parents who love the Lord and bring their children to church and say to them ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’ and they’ll say ‘Yeah I believe in Jesus, my mother believes in Jesus, my father believes in Jesus, my pastor believes in Jesus, I believe in Jesus.’ What does it mean to believe in him according to Scripture? So oftentimes a person is misled. And so they don’t really and truly understand what they believe. Now, what’s the consequence, what are the consequences of this? Well, let’s take, for example, let’s say here’s a person who says ‘Yes, I do believe in Jesus’ and they do not understand what it means, and so their idea is that they’re just believing in the “fact”. Well, what kind of consequences is presently, that is, right now in their life? Well, right now in their life they’re not saved. In John chapter 12, listen to what he says. He says a person who has not placed their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation, here’s what he says, in verse 46 of John 12. “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness”, which means that a person who’s never placed their trust in Jesus Christ truly, that person is walking in darkness. You say ‘You mean to tell me that if I don’t believe just like you believe, I’m walking in darkness?’ No, that’s not the issue. The issue is, if you don’t believe the way God teaches in his Word. It has nothing to do with what I believe, necessarily, it’s simply, what does the Bible teach? And all I want to do is explain to you very clearly, unmistakably and certainly, very defensively (if I needed to defend it), exactly what the Bible teaches about believing in Jesus Christ-what it means to place your faith in him for your salvation. Because the Bible certainly teaches that the forgiveness of my sins is based on my faith in Christ, that my salvation, being able to die and go to heaven when I die is certainly based upon that. So for a person who is deceived, there is a consequence. First of all, they couldn’t be a very good testimony if they have never placed their trust in Jesus Christ, genuinely. They may be sincere-and say, what are they gonna do? [They’re gonna] say, ‘Well here’s what I did, I just believed in Jesus, and so I got saved.’ You may just believe in the facts about him, and that did not save you.

Well, there’s a second thing I want you to notice. That is, presently, what is the consequence? Now, what is the consequence in a person’s personal life? Now what about the consequence in their church life? Here’s what I’ve discovered. Now I’ve been a pastor for over forty years and here’s what I’ve discovered. That oftentimes people who have never truly placed their faith in Jesus Christ, have never truly been born-again, but who’ve believed all these facts about the Bible and facts about Jesus and facts about God, because that’s what they’ve been taught and their parents taught and their friends believe and so forth-here’s what happens-they come to church, they get in church, and oftentimes conflict and disunity in the church can be traced back to people who have never been saved but who claim to have been saved [not to be confused with a Christian who may start attending a local congregation, having come from another denomination, and finding that he or she doesn’t totally believe all the secondary doctrines of that new denomination they’re attending-which can cause some doctrinal disunity and disagreement. Another instance of this is being a part of a denomination that just went through major secondary doctrinal changes, which will oftentimes leave local members in many positions of differing secondary doctrinal interpretation throughout the congregation for years down the road-this happened within the Worldwide Church of God, and we still struggle with this condition. This form of disunity absolutely does not point to a lack of conversion in the attending members, so we must be very careful not to point fingers when such situations exist.] Likewise, you’ll find that those people are very hesitant to get involved in the work of the church and the life of the church. What happens is, they end up being spectators, they want to look on, because you see, ‘Don’t try to get me too committed, because my faith has a limitation, I’ve already said how much I’m gonna believe.’ ‘I’m gonna believe in God and I’m gonna believe in Jesus, but if you’re asking me to believe to the degree that’s gonna govern my lifestyle and tell me how I’m gonna live, no I’m not gonna do that.’ And so not only are there points of dissention, but oftentimes they end up being spectators and oftentimes when they do get involved there seems to be conflict that surrounds that kind of person. They’re trying to do a supernatural work in the supernatural power of God, and they don’t have it on the inside of them-because they’ve never placed their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins the way the Bible requires that, and so they just believe, and things don’t work, and they wonder why. And so likewise a person who comes to church and they’re a part of that, here’s what happens. Deep down inside of them things don’t seem to click, and they listen to the gospel and they listen to the message, and some things will maybe irritate them, or (they say) ‘You don’t have to believe everything in the Bible, you can believe part of it or some parts of it.’ What happens? That person is never quite satisfied. They hear the invitation and oftentimes the invitation irritates them. And what they don’t realize is the Spirit of God is trying to say something to them. They say ‘I’ve already believed, so it couldn’t be me-mustn’t be-give me a couple of Bufferin or something’-because they don’t want to deal with the issue the Spirit of God is trying to convict them of to show them the truth. It is the truth, the only thing Jesus said is the truth is what sets us free. And so oftentimes what happens to that person, they don’t understand why they get upset, they get confused about things-they don’t understand why their expectations are never quite there. Well, why? Because they have never genuinely been saved. They believe some facts and have been very sincere about it, but that sincerity is not enough. Now, that’s the present result.

What about the future result? Here’s what happens. The Bible says “It is appointed once to die and after that the judgment.” We’re all going to die and stand before our Lord and given an account. What are the two inevitable consequences of a person who dies and who has never placed their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin? Two things are going to happen [according to many Christian interpretations in the heaven/hell scenario, but not all are in agreement, even to what hell is or who goes their. Happily these doctrinal disagreements will vanish at Jesus Christ’s return.]. Number one, shock, when they stand in the presence of Almighty God the Lord Jesus Christ to give account for their life-dying thinking ‘I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, everything’s gonna be safe-stand in his presence and recognize, no they never placed their trust in Jesus Christ, they placed their trust in thoughts, they placed their trust in themselves-they were good enough, they didn’t need to believe in this new-birth business and putting your faith in Jesus Christ so that it changes your life-shock! Secondly, eternal separation. [Turn to the article on this Webster titled “Battle Over Hell” to see all the differing views Christians believe about the doctrine of hell. Sadly there is no agreement or consensus of belief on this subject amongst Christians.] Those two words, they sum up what happens when a person stands in the judgment who has never placed his trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his or her sins. Shock, #1, and separation, #2.

Now, so we have to ask ourselves the question, “Then what does it mean to place your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin?-and have the Holy Spirit come inside of you and live in your life.” What does it mean to know in your heart that you are rightly related to him in such a way that when you die, you can die singing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see” with absolute total perfect assurance? Somebody says ‘Well can a person ever really truly be that assured? Turn to 1 John, listen to what John says, he says, ‘This is the reason that I’m writing this epistle to you’(to those who were to be his readers). He says for example, verse 13 of 1 John chapter 5, he says “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”-very important that we understand what believe means, because our eternal life depends upon it. Listen to what he said now. Verse 13, “These things”, all these things that he’s written in these first five chapters, “These things have I written unto you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know”-he says-that you may know-“that you have eternal life.” God wants us to place our trust in him for our salvation, God wants us to know, he wants us to have absolutely unwavering, unquestionable assurance that we have a relationship with him, that absolutely cannot be tampered with by the devil or anyone else. Absolute assurance, that is the will of God for us. That being the case, then, we go back to what he said in John chapter 3, verse 16. He says, “Whosoever”-listen-“whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Now, I want you to jot three things down. I’m gonna give you three words, and you can jot them down on something, but you need to keep these somewhere. Put them in the back of your Bible somewhere. This is not the ultimate definition I want to give you, but it’s a very important part. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Well, first of all, if I’m gonna believe in something I’ve got to have some knowledge. First word is knowledge. If I’m gonna believe in something, believe what?-what is this? Why is this? Where did it come from? What’s is the origin of it? What am I to believe? First of all, if I’m gonna place my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I’ve got to believe something. What is it that I am to believe? So, first of all there’s got to be knowledge. There are some very basic things that are absolutely essential for me to believe if I am going to be saved, if I’m going to trust Christ as my savior, if I’m going to heaven [to receive eternal life-a more accurate Scriptural term] when I die.


1. [Under this first category of Knowledge are three points] Number 1 is this. I must believe in Jesus Christ as Deity, that he’s God. If you do not believe that, here’s what happens. Now watch this. If Jesus Christ is not God [God the Son, the Logos, the Word (John 1:1-11)], he is not sitting upon the throne with the heavenly Father-you know what he was [following this line of reasoning]? He was no more than a man who is [or was] here on the same level of all the rest of us men, who have our naturalness and who have our sinfulness and who walk at times in the flesh. That is, if he is not deity, then, what could he do for me?-if he were just a man? So I must believe that Jesus Christ is God. Somebody says, ‘Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that Jesus Christ is God in order to go to heaven.’ Well let me ask you a question then, ‘Who is he?’ If he’s not God, who is he? Is he a prophet? Then he was a sinner, because everybody else has sinned. Was he just a great teacher and preacher and a healer? Was he a false prophet? You see if Jesus Christ was not absolutely who he says he was, then he was a liar. He said “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. I and the Father are one.” And one of the things that caused so much turmoil around him was the fact that he claimed not only to be the Son of God, but he claimed to be God, deity-and who’s resurrection was absolute, listen, absolute proof of that. Now, so therefore I must believe something. First I must believe he’s Divinity, he’s God, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

2. Second thing I must believe is this. That I am a sinner, and my sinfulness has separated me from God, and my only hope of salvation is, must come through God-that is, I must believe and recognize that I am a sinner. I must believe that Jesus Christ is deity, that he’s God [#1], and that my sinfulness has separated me from God [#2]. The Bible says, our sins have separated us from God. I must believe that.

3. The third thing [under the heading of knowledge] I must believe this. I must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sin, and that when he died, he paid for my sin[s] in his death. But you say ‘How much of this was I supposed to know when I was saved?’ I’m coming to that. Just hold that thought. First of all I must believe, I must believe without a shadow of a doubt, Jesus Christ is God. Secondly, I must believe that my sinfulness has separated me from him, and that I need to be saved by something he’s gonna do for me, I can’t do it for myself. #3, I must believe that Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for my sins.

4. The fourth thing I must believe is that Jesus Christ not only died for my sins, but he was resurrected from the grave. Because, you see, if Jesus only died, he can’t do anything for me today. Listen, he died for my sin. And he’s resurrected and his resurrection validates every single thing he claimed to be and everything he did. Now turn if you will to Romans chapter 10, and I want you to notice this verse. Romans 10, verse 9,--Some will say, ‘Well, you know, now wait a minute, I believe in the resurrection, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I believe in the resurrection. The Bible says is if you believe in the resurrection, you’re saved.’ This verse I’m gonna give you is a typical verse that people will take out of the context of which is was written and say ‘Well, the Bible says, you believe in the resurrection, you’re saved.’ Let’s see if this is what this verse says. Look here in verse 9 now, Romans chapter 10. He says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Verse 10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Verse 11-13, “For the Scripture says, Whoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. But there is not distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding for riches for all who call upon him, for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” And then he says, verse 14, “How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed. How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard. How shall they hear without a preacher”-which says you’ve got to have knowledge-you’ve got to know something. What must I know? That Jesus is God. [For a more complete description of who Jesus of Nazareth is, log onto the introduction to the section on the book of Romans (http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/romans/introduction.htm ). For a complete look at Jesus and who he was on earth as God in the flesh, log onto the section on the Gospel of Mark (http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/1.htm ), and also on the prophecies of Jesus Christ’s first coming (http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prophecies/1stcoming.htm ), and the section “Jesus our Passover Lamb” (http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/lastsix.htm ).] What must I know?-that my sins have separated me from God. What must I know?-that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the grave. Just saying he rose from the grave gets me saved?-no. Read the first part of that verse “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord.” Here’s what that means. I believe that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, that I am accepting him and acknowledging him, and committing myself to his lordship in my life, and believing that certainly he was resurrected from the grave. You can’t take one phrase out of some passage and say, ‘Well I believe that, therefore I’m saved’-no you’re not. Therefore when we talk about what we believe we must first of all, have knowledge. So what is the first word, the first word is what?-knowledge. I must believe something, that he [Jesus Christ] is deity, my sins have separated me from him, he died on the cross for me [to pay for those sins], and that he rose from the grave. Listen, he can’t be the Lord of my life if he’s a dead man. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord”-and how did he become Lord? He died on the cross for my sins, was resurrected and is seated at the Father’s right hand-to do what?-to be Lord and Master of our life. So the first thing necessary for true New Testament belief is KNOWLEDGE. Second word is CONVICTION.


The second word is conviction. I want you to notice something here now. That means to simply be truly convinced of something. To be convicted of something is to be fully convinced of it’s truthfulness. So therefore, when we talk about believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, what I believe I am fully convinced and persuaded that what the Bible says about him is true. I am fully convinced and persuaded that he is who he says he is. I am convinced and fully persuaded that he will do what he says, convicted. That is, if there’s no conviction, for example, about my sin, that I’m separated from God, fully convinced and persuaded what he says about the consequences of my sin, that I’ll die without Christ and be eternally separated from him-because you see, without any conviction, I’m not gonna move, I’m not gonna budge. It’s not enough to have knowledge, factual knowledge about Jesus Christ, who he was and who he is and what he says he’ll do. It’s not even enough to be full persuaded, full convinced that these things are true, though it is very important. Because in terms of conviction you recall that Jesus said in John, when he’s talking about the Holy Spirit coming, he said that the Holy Spirit will come, and he will come to do what?-to convict the world of sin, of our sinfulness, to convict the world of the righteousness of Christ-which means that he was so right, so holy that he was able to die for our sins-and to convict the world of judgment to come. What does that mean? It means that when the Holy Spirit comes to your life and my life and begins to work in us, what’s he gonna do? One of the first things he’s gonna do is convict us, convince us, fully persuade us that we are sinful, that we need God. He’s gonna fully persuade us the death of Jesus Christ was adequate to pay for our sin-fully persuade us that there is a judgment to come, and the only thing that will get me ready for that judgment is to have a right relationship with God. Therefore, first of all, there must be knowledge. What’s the second word?-conviction. So give me the first two words. The first word is what?-KNOWLEDGE. The second word is what?-CONVICTION.


You say, OK now, I do have the knowledge and I’m convinced, so therefore I must be saved-no you’re not. It isn’t enough to be convicted. You know there are lots of people who come to church week after week, and the Spirit of God will speak to their heart in this place and in every Christian church where the gospel is preached, that Spirit of God speaks to that person and gets them on conviction, they get persuaded, but there is a sin in their life or something is not there that ought to be-persuaded about their tithing, persuaded about joining the church, persuaded about being saved. And you know what? They have conviction, they have the knowledge, they hear the truth from the pastor, the Spirit of God convicts them, they get fully persuaded-‘I know this is right, I know this is what I ought to do.’ And how many people say to me week after week ‘You know, I’ve been planning to join the church, I’ve been aiming to join the church. Well I know I should, and finally I’ve come…’ ‘How long have you been sittin’ there being convicted?’ ‘Oh, about two years, five years’-I think the longest has been 20 years! ‘Well, I’ve been knowing it all along.’ Well, you know what’s happened? Listen, having the knowledge that they should be a member and getting convicted of it, did that make them a member? Absolutely not. Having a knowledge about salvation, having knowledge about Jesus and knowledge about what the Bible says about the judgment, being convicted of it-does that make you saved? No it does not. What’s the word. The third word is TRUST. Now, here’s what’s happening. Now watch this. Now we have moved from factual knowledge to an inner conviction, a full persuasion that something needs to change, something needs to happen in my life. Remember we said in the very beginning that belief is a word of action? Faith is the noun. ‘I trust’-that’s a word of action. My “trust”, that’s a noun. [Faith is the substance of things not seen…”Hebrews 1. That faith is a noun-substance, not action.] Believing is a word of action. Now it used to bother me in my first church, I would talk to lots of people up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I’d try to witness to them, try to get them saved, and somehow, no matter what I did, oftentimes it just didn’t work. ‘And so I do believe’ (people would say), and somehow it just wouldn’t work, you know, they’d never come to church-no evidence of salvation, tell you right now, they don’t read the Bible. ‘But I do believe in God.’ Well you see, there’s a problem there. And it used to bother me and now I’d think ‘Now wait a minute there. There’s something wrong. All these folks telling me they believe.’ Well you know they grew up with their grandparents and great-grandparents and their great, great grandparents-they grew up in those mountain there, so everybody sort of believed and handed down [that belief without real Bible based knowledge]. You know, listen, you can hand-me-down a lot of things in your family, but listen, you can’t hand down salvation to anybody. It just doesn’t work. So it bothered me so much, and that was my first church, and I hadn’t been there that long. In fact, I had driven all over that community-I had a yellow dot on the map, I knew where every single person lived up in those mountains, visited every single household in that community, knew who was saved or at least who told me they were, and who was not. Sometimes I put a red pin where they were lost. Well there were a lot of red pins on that map, I can tell you that. But what bothered me was they kept telling me they believed. I think ‘OK God, show me something.’ So I got my Greek New Testament and a concordance and I went through the Bible. Every time the word trust, believe, believing, believed, any of those words that had to do with faith, every single time I found one, read it in the Greek New Testament, looked at it in its context, and here’s what I discovered. I remember what a fantastic feeling I had when I got through. It took me awhile to do it. Four hundred sixty some times the word faith or believe or trust is in the New Testament. Here’s what I discovered every single time somebody is expressing faith or believing-something happens. There’s no such word as I believe, period. [James 2-faith without works is dead-i.e. faith, belief, trust bring works, actions on our part, and at times, God’s part.] When I believe, something is going to happen. I believe I was saved, I believe in Jesus healing me, I believe in God answered prayer, I believe and I follow his will, I believe and I said yes to his will to my life-something always going on, we’re talking about a word of action.

Now, there are three words, give me those three words again. The first word is what?-KNOWLEWDGE. Second word?-CONVICTION. Third word is TRUST. Now, we said, first layer is knowledge. Absolutely essential. Second layer, conviction. So what do I have now? I have the knowledge, I’ve got the facts. Secondly, something’s going on inside of me, I’m under conviction. I’m fully persuaded that this is the truth. I’m fully persuaded that for me to be saved something’s gotta happen in my life. Here’s what happens. Here’s where trust comes in. When I trust, here’s what I do, I move from facts and conviction, I move, listen from being an interested observer, that will affirm that all these things are true, I move from being an interested observer to becoming involved in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And so, what have I done? I’ve moved from just knowing the facts, something, knowing that God is trying to do something in my life. I have moved into a personal relationship. I have moved into a personal involvement with the person Jesus Christ. You see, it’s always belief in him, belief in his name, not just believe the gospel only, but believe in the personal gospel. You see, in all these verses, verse after verse after verse after verse, what do we find?-we find him talking about placing our trust in him. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him”-not just believes what he said, but believes in him as a person. And so therefore it’s not enough for me to believe in what he said as being true, but I must place my trust in him. Now, I want to give you a definition in a few moments. But I want to get back to something that is very important, because probably you’re thinking about it and I certainly had to think about it. So alright, let me ask you a question. ‘You’re explaining all this to us and you’re telling us that I’ve got to have knowledge, first of all that Jesus Christ is God, secondly that my sins have separated me from God, thirdly he went to the cross and died for my sins, and I believe in the resurrection. Now, how much of that must I know, how much of that must I have known in order to be saved?’ So I had to ask myself this question. ‘Lord, help me to be able to remember if at all possible’-I was 12 years of age, I’d been going to church most of my life, some sort of church there, as I have mentioned before I’d even been to the Methodist church, Baptist church, Holiness church where I got saved. So what did I know on the morning when I stepped out of the 2nd row on the end, stepped down, knelt at the altar and began to weep and asked the Lord to save me? How much did I know? Well let me tell you what I didn’t know. I didn’t know there was such a word as sanctification, reconciliation, redemption, justification. I may have read those words in the Bible, I didn’t know what any of that meant. If somebody asked me, ‘Do you know what deity means?’ I probably would not have known what that meant. Well how much did I have to know as a 12 year old kid to get saved? Here’s what I do remember I know I knew, because as soon as I was saved five of my Sunday school friends came and knelt beside me and started praying-we all prayed out loud in the Holiness church--and they were praying out loud for me to be saved. Well I’m kind of getting saved and they’re praying for me to be saved, and I was saved. Now let me tell you what happened. The pastor said, "Charles, come up here and tell these people what happened to you.” I can remember what I said, I said, “I don’t know all that’s happened to me, but know this morning I gave my heart to Jesus.” Now, how much did I know? I knew this. I knew that I had sat and listened to this man preach for a number of years. If you ask me if I know what he said-no, that wasn’t important. I was just under the preaching of the gospel. How much did I know? I remember at least I knew this much. I knew that I believed in God and I believed in what the Bible said about Jesus. Now how much I knew about him at that point, is just what I was reading as a kid. I did know that I was a sinner, there was no question about that, I knew that my sins had separated mew from God. I did know that, because I was kneeling down there weeping, because I was under such conviction that I needed to be saved. And I believed that Jesus went to the cross and died for my sins, I did believe that he rose from the grave. Now, beyond that, I don’t know how much I believed. But you know what? Thank God I didn’t need to know a whole lot beyond that. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, that puts him on the level of a man, so how are you going to put your faith in him for salvation, if he’s just another man? Secondly, surely you know that you’ve sinned against God, he said “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” You know that you’ve sinned against God. The Bible says that your sins have separated you from God. You say, ‘Well I feel real close to him.’ That may just be an emotional feeling, but if you’ve never trusted Jesus as your savior, you’re separated. That’s what God said, that’s not what I said, that’s what God said. And the third thing, you’ve got to believe in, listen, if you don’t believe that Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for your sins, why did he go? Is it just some historical fact that just another guy who got crucified? No. He was God who came to walk in human flesh among men and to die on the cross because he was the sinless virgin born Son of God. What did I know about the virgin birth? Probably nothing, except that I read it in the Bible, and I believed whatever that meant. It’s not that you have to have a lot of knowledge. But you must have some knowledge, and there must be some conviction. Listen, you’re not even going to want to be saved unless you’re under conviction about sin. This is why you can’t make somebody want to get saved. In other words, a person’s not going to be saved until they come under the conviction by the Holy Spirit and become fully persuaded ‘My sins have separated me from God, and if I don’t trust the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior, I’m going to hell when I die.’ If a person’s not convicted of that, doesn’t believe that, why are they going to walk into church, go to any church, read the Bible, talk about Jesus, have anything to do with anything religious? And if you want to see what’s happening, you can look at the world out there, of people who have nothing to do with God, nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the Bible-you know why? Because they don’t believe truth. They have absolutely no conviction about their dying and going to hell without Christ. So, why do you expect them to get upset? Why do you expect them to join a church? Are you going to want to talk about Jesus? There’s no conviction. They’re not fully persuaded of that. The truth is, you cannot be saved-you cannot be saved if there’s no conviction. Why? The Bible says the Spirit of God must draw us [John 6:44,65]. Jesus said “Only those whom the Father gives to me are mine.” If you don’t have any conviction about sin and about who Jesus is and about judgment, you know what?-there’s no desire. God must place the desire in your heart to be saved. God must place a desire in your heart-based on what?-based on truth, on knowledge-of where you are, and who he is and what he said about what’s gonna happen. Based on a conviction I must do something about my relationship, and what I must do is to place my trust in him as my personal savior, and that when he died on the cross he paid my debt in full, and therefore if I’m gonna be saved I must accept this person-Jesus Christ-as my savior, the one who died on the cross at Calvary.

Now, so you must have three things. What’s the first word?-knowledge. The second word?-conviction. And the third word is what?-trust. Now, I want to give you a simple definition. I want you to write it down. Now whether you write it, your wife writes it, your children write-get it down. And I’m gonna say it, and then I’m gonna come back and say it in very short phrases so that you understand. Now I ask the-‘Help me to, enable me to say it in a brief way so that you can say to someone ‘Here’s what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.’ Alright, get your pencil out. You ready? Because I want to encourage you to put it in the back of your Bible. If you put it on a piece of paper or in a book, then you’ll go home and lay it down somewhere and nobody will be able to find it. I want to encourage you. You say ‘Should you write in the Bible?’ Absolutely. Mark words, color them up, whatever you want to. Listen, that’s what makes it precious. I lost my favorite Bible. I didn’t lose it, somebody stole my favorite Bible. Had it in my briefcase, and the only thing I had in it was my Bible and a Greek New Testament and a pen and somebody stole it. I offered $500, that’s a lot of money back then. $500 for any college kids who’d go through all the dumpsters where someone, till someone would find my Bible, nobody did. Well, what difference did it make? I’ll tell you, because it was so written up, with all kinds of dates and things that I’d put in there, it was especially precious to me, because it said something about what God was doing and had been doing in my life. Write in your Bible, don’t worry about that. Alright, you ready? We’re talking about now, what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ-now let me give it to you first and then you write it-to believe in Jesus Christ is to have a confident conviction that he is who the Bible says he is, he will do what he promises, and upon placing my trust in him I enter into a personal eternal relationship with the Son of God. Again, To believe in Jesus is to have a confident conviction that he is who the Bible says he is, he will keep his promises, that is, he will do what he says he’ll do, and upon placing my trust upon him, I am entering into a personal eternal relationship with him. Once again, To believe in Jesus is to have a confident conviction, that is, a compelling conviction within me-I must believe this-that he is who the Bible says he is, he will keep his promises (that is, he will do exactly what he says he’ll do), and upon placing my trust in him, committing myself to him, I’m entering into a personal eternal relationship with the Son of God. Now I could say a lot about forgiveness of sin and going to heaven [receiving eternal life]-all that is the result of believing in him. To say ‘I place my trust in him’, that means ‘I’m betting on him, I’m affirming that what he says is true, I’m willing to risk my whole eternal future on that. Alright, there are three things that are absolutely necessary for me to believe. What’s the first word?-knowledge. Second word?-conviction. And the third word is what?-trust. Now, how many of you can look back in your life and say I know that when I joined the church I had enough knowledge, that I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that I understood what it meant to place my trust in him and to accept him and to receive him as my savior-that as many as received him-not facts-as many as received him gave he the right to become the sons of God.

Are you certain that you’ve ever placed your trust in him? Now, I’m not being critical, I’m simply saying this-you may believe a lot of things as facts, but have you ever moved from being an observer, to entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by placing your trust in him as your personal savior? Have you ever said “Lord Jesus” or “Jesus, I do believe that you’re the Son of God, I know that my sins have separated me from you. I am asking you to save me, and I’m asking you to save me based on the fact that you did die at Calvary and I do believe that you died for my sins, and I do believe that because you died for my sins it makes it possible to be fully forgiven, and when I die I go to heaven [or as some denominations believe and teach: "I receive eternal life at the resurrection of the just (I Cor. 15:49-56; John 5:28-29)].” However you may have put it in your own words, have you ever told him that? Have you ever done that? Or have you been one of those persons who said “I believe, as long as you believe something, that’s all that matters.” No, that’s not all that matters. It matters this, that when you die you will stand in the presence of a Holy God and give an account for your life. No excuse will be acceptable, because you see, God so loved you that he gave his only begotten son-sent him into this world-to live among men in the flesh without sin, to go to the cross and be crucified, and upon him placed all the sin debt of yourself and the entire world. He loves you that much. Then to reject his Son, to say no to his Son, to ignore his Son-when according to the Bible, listen, God’s whole redemption plan is wrapped up in the cross. It’s all there. That’s why the apostle Paul said ‘It’s the only thing I boast of is the cross.’ Why? That’s where Jesus made it possible for you and me to be forgiven of our sin, and to have absolute assurance that when we die we’re going to spend eternity in [the kingdom of] heaven with all the glorious things that God has provided for us. Have you every said to him-“Yes, I do believe the testimony of Scripture, I do believe that you’re the Son of god, I do believe my sins have separated me from you, I do believe you died on the cross,I do believe that you rose from the dead, I do believe that you are seated at the Father’s right hand even now. I’m asking you to forgive me of my sins, I’m placing my trust in you that you’ll do what you said, that you’ll forgive me, and you’ll make me one of your own.” The moment you do it, that quickly, you become a living child of God, saved for ever and ever and ever. Remember the definition, entering into a personal, eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Father, how grateful we are that you can take a verse like John 3:16, and cram and jam so much truth that in a lifetime we will never be able to exhaust the meaning of that verse,--if we took it word by word, never be able to exhaust it. There is so much of yourself, your love for the world, your provision of salvation, your gift of eternal life. And thank you that you said that you so loved the world-which was your way of saying, I do, I do, I do-which was your way of describing the incomprehensible love, inestimable love, immeasurable love that you have for each one of us, so that all of us are the objects of your love. And you said that you would pay the full price in the death of your Son, so that there is no price to pay, no work for us to do, to be saved, but simply to place our trust in you, to believe that you’re the God you say you are, you will do exactly what you say you’ll do-and that that faith alone will bring about our acceptance, our salvation, our eternal life. We bless you, in Jesus name, Amen.”

Again, to learn more about Jesus, who he was, is log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/romans/introduction.htm (our need for a savior, who Jesus is) ; http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/lastsix.htm (the Last Six Days of Jesus Christ) ; http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/1.htm (the Gospel of Mark), and http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prophecies/1stcoming.htm (Prophecies of Jesus Christ’s 1st Coming).

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