What does it mean to believe on Christ?

Last week we quoted the well-known text in the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, 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 everlasting life”.  This makes it look as if it is extremely easy to become a christian: just believe in Christ and you will be saved. However, we have  to be careful when we make things simple, that we do not make them too simple. The great theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, in a very different context, once said, “Make things as simple as they can be made, but no simpler”, and that is good advice when trying to explain to a person how to become a christian. We must not make it more complicated or more simple that the bible makes it.

In John 3, verse 16, in the original language there is a clue to this. The word translated ‘in’ is a word meaning motion towards, or motion into. In fact the same word is translated, ‘on’ in verse 18.

Jesus Himself was an expert at explaining spiritual things, and He usually did so by illustration, and that is exactly what He has done in the passage in John that we are looking at. He calls His hearers to consider an Old Testament illustration with which they would all have been familiar. We read the story in Numbers, chapter 21, verses 4 to 9. The Children of Israel were under the judgement of God because they had begun to complain to Moses, their God-given leader, that the way was difficult. They accused Moses on account of the difficulty, saying that he should never have led them out of Egypt where they were enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. In response to their sinful complaint, God sent fiery serpents among them. Their bite was fatal, and many were dying. This brought them to their senses and they came to Moses confessing their sins and asking him to pray to God to take the serpents away. In answer to Moses’ prayer God gave him a very strange instruction. He was to make a serpent of brass and set it high on a pole so that all could see it. God gives the promise that everyone who is bitten, if he or she simply looks at the serpent they would be completely healed and saved from death.

Now this is one of many illustrations from things that happened in the old testament which explains a very important aspect of the gospel: what it means to believe on, Christ in order to be saved. Now there are many such illustrations in the Old Testament, so we have to ask the question, why did Jesus choose this particular one? Why, in this most important of all gospel passages in the New Testament, did Jesus choose this particular illustration? It is because it, more that any other, it is the best illustration of what it means to believe on Christ in such a way as to be saved.

Yes, it is simply looking to Christ, and being saved; but it is no casual look: it is the looking of those who are under the judgement of God, and hence, perishing, and who know it for sure. They have been brought to the position where they have no hope, but that Christ was lifted up on the cruel cross in order to pay the penalty for their sins, and make them Right With God.

The Way to True Happiness.

Human beings have a natural urge to seek true, lasting happiness. They spend their time and resources trying to find something  that will satisfy this urge, and make them truly happy. The problem is  that they seek this in outward things and experiences, but it is not to be found in these things. This is because true happiness is to do with the inner man, what we often call ‘the heart’. Further, it is to do with a relationship: a heart to heart relationship. Who with? With God. It is a true, real, lasting heart-to-heart relationship between us  and God. This is a relationship of intense mutual delight: we delight in God and He delights in us. This relationship is described for us in beautiful picture language in the Book of the bible entitled, “The Song of Solomon”, Chapter 2 and verses 3 and 4. There the believer, in this case a woman, describes her happy relationship with God: “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love”. This is a happiness which this world and all that is in it cannot give, and cannot take away.

The purpose of this blog is not to seek to engineer this happy relationship, but to explore it, and to point those who seek it in the direction where it is to be found. Hence the title, “Right with God”. Sometimes we experience the joy of human friendship. But then, something comes between us and our friend. Things are no longer ‘right’ between us, but they are ‘wrong’, and we feel it. There may be a great desire to put things right  between us,  but it is not easy to discuss the subject, and if things are left ‘wrong’ between us for too long it becomes very difficult to put them right.

One of the most difficult things to accept about this life is that, by nature, we are not right with God. This is because we are sinners, and we do not want  to change. But the greatest thing about this life is that God has made it easy for us to get right with Him. One of the most well-know verses in the Bible is in the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, 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 everlasting life”. The result of this is that God has not waited for us to get ‘right’ with Him, but has removed the offence, and enabled us to get right with Him by believing on His beloved Son, whom He gave to the  agony of the cross to take  our sins away.

The way the bible puts it is, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (The first Epistle of John, chapter 4, verse 10). The word “propitiation” is a difficult word, but it is very expressive and important word. It points us to the fact that on the cross, God punished His own Beloved Son in our place so that the friendship between us and Him could be healed.

With God’s help I hope to further explore  what it means to be Right with God, every week.