I’m sitting in Costa Coffee having just taken a funeral service. At the committal, I read the following very familiar words:
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die…’ (John 11:25-26).
I was struck afresh by this powerful, extraordinary claim made at the graveside of Lazarus by a man called Jesus and by the question he then asked Martha, the sister of the dead man:
‘Do you believe this?’
Something wonderful is very clear from these words — the vital place that simple belief plays in our eternal destiny! This belief is not a vague belief in any God or gods — it is stated to be a very clear and a very particular belief.
- How can I rise from the dead?
- How can I have (eternal) life?
- How can I live for ever?
- How can I escape death?
- How can I get to heaven?
The claim made by Jesus is that it is wonderfully simple. To get to God, to have eternal life, the only thing that I must do is to believe in Him. Very particular, very clear, very simple. Believe in Him.
So, it is not prayers, Bible reading, church attendance, good works, acts of service, acts of kindness or acts of mercy. If it were that, if Jesus had said these things were necessary, how much would be enough? It is not ceremonies such as baptism or holy communion — they don’t get a mention. Jesus simply and wonderfully said, ‘Believe in me.’
How simple, how wonderful… how kind!
But what is this belief?
Believe in him
Well, it is to ‘believe in him’, and there are two areas in which I need to believe in him: who he is and what he has done for me. I must believe who Jesus claimed to be — he claims to be God and he claims to be a man. Read any of the gospel accounts, and you will quickly discover this. It is such a profound truth (one Person and yet two natures, divine and human) that millions of books must have been written on the subject. Now, belief that gets me to heaven does not and indeed cannot know all the depths of this truth — but true saving belief believes it to be so!
Equally vital, I must believe in what Jesus did for me. Oh, and he did so much! But essentially, I must believe that he died for my sins – his life was given as a ransom payment for my sin. He died so that I might live!
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brings us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way, and The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Here is a mind-boggling truth of which we will never sound the depths, but belief that gets me to heaven believes this to be true!
As the hymn puts it
He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by his precious blood.
And that is it — simple, wonderful … kind. Jesus asks, ‘Do you believe this?’.
If I had the space, I’d of course explain that real faith comes with its inseparable twin, repentance! Repentance means that true belief produces a wonderfully changed life – a life that does go to church, pray, read the Bible, perform acts of mercy, love and service – but that’s another article!