What does it mean to believe?
In today's world there's some disconnect about what it means to "believe" for a person of faith. We use the word to describe something we agree with, or an ideal we identify with...it's usually something we think in our head.
But in scripture, belief was understood much differently. Belief wasn't just a matter of the mind, opinion, agreement or what you thought. Belief in the mind was considered inseparable from what was in your heart, and thus your actions would be a reflection of that belief. Believing in Jesus Christ was, therefore, not just a concept with which you agreed...it meant that your life was lived as a demonstration of that "belief." This is the message in the song, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love." In other words, people should know we are Christians without ever having to ask us what we believe.
According to scripture, those who believe in Jesus Christ actually follow him. When he was here doing ministry, before his death and resurrection, that meant physically following him around and learning his teachings as well as how to do what he did. After his resurrection and ascension it meant learning his teachings, continuing ministry like he did and teaching others to do it too, worshiping him, and praying. In our time, following Jesus means worship, prayer, bible study to learn his teaching, and living your life in ways that point to the Kingdom of God the way Jesus pointed to the Kingdom of God which is defined by forgiveness, mercy, love, and justice. We do this in community--church--because we need to learn from others and we need to hold each other up in this believing lifestyle.
Jesus' death on the cross happened because those Kingdom values put people and relationships ahead of the power and ways of the world. Jesus showed us that every one matters, love prevails, and our sin and failure is never the end of the story. Jesus' death on the cross means that we follow him all through this life, trying to do our best to be like him and sharing who he is and what he represents to anyone who will listen. It also means that when we fail (and we will), Jesus forgives us and still invites us to follow him right on into eternity. He made a way for us to do that by his death on the cross because we can never be good enough on our own...so he gave us his perfection and righteousness as a gift. Now we can just live like he taught us without fear of measuring up!
So, why bother to live a life of belief if Jesus is going to forgive us anyway? Because following Jesus isn't just about a free ticket to heaven. It is about having your life transformed in this life so it is more meaningful...it is about discovering that there's this crazy peace that can sustain you even when chaos is everywhere...it is about knowing that you are never alone...it is about learning what's really important in this life: a relationship with Jesus and relationships with others!
What about your belief? Is it just saying you have faith in Jesus? Or do you believe with your life? Would someone have to ask you what you believe? Or will it be obviously by how you live your life and live out your belief?
If others wouldn't be able to look at your life and know you are a Christian....would Jesus?