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Just Believe?, Part 2


All my life I’ve heard, "In order to be saved, the only thing you need to do is to believe." But it seems to me that there’s more to it than that. Didn’t Jesus say that he would judge us in the same way we judge others? So if I believe and then judge others, it seems as though I wouldn’t be saved. I’m kind of confused. I’m not sure that if I "just believe" I’ll really be saved.

Steve Answers:

Last week I mentioned that Christians tend to embrace one of two extreme beliefs on the topic of salvation. One extreme is the one you’ve talked about–"only believe, and everything will be just fine." The other is the idea that there’s always something more that you need in order to be saved.

So which side is right? People on both sides use the Bible to support their position.

Well, there’s a natural human tendency to try to do something on our own or to somehow earn what we get. (Isn’t that the responsible thing to do?) Yet Jesus said that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (see John 3:16). But then James wrote that even the devils believe and tremble (see James 2:19)!

Confusing, isn’t it?

I’d like to suggest a different perspective. Instead of believing something in your mind (salvation) and then you get it (when Jesus returns), think of it in relational terms. For example, instead of going shopping for a box of salvation and then going on your merry way, think of it as getting a boyfriend or girlfriend.

A relationship isn’t just a matter of believing that the two of you (including you and Jesus) are friends. You then celebrate and grow in your relationship.

That’s why Jesus prayed for His disciples, "This is the way to have eternal life–to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth" (John 17:3, NLT).* And that’s why in the parable of the five wise and five foolish bridesmaids, the bridegroom said, "I don’t know you" (Matthew 25:12).

Some people think that after Jesus gives you the gift of eternal life, then you have to live a good life or you’ll lose that gift. That’s a misunderstanding.

Jesus gives you two things. First, He gives you eternal life as a gift. But He doesn’t stop there. He also gives you the Holy Spirit to live inside you so that you can then become all God wants you to be.

That’s why those who say, "I believe God gave me eternal life" but then don’t let the Holy Spirit direct their lives miss out on so much God has for them.

Here’s how Paul summed it up in Ephesians 2:8-10: "God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (NLT). 

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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