Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him– Hebrews 11:6 NASB
I am a cerebral person.
Sadly, in my case “being cerebral” does not mean I am especially smart. It simply means I get stuck in my own head a lot. I will read an article, have a conversation or hear a news story and then I will dwell endlessly on all the conceivable social, spiritual, and political implications of what I heard, read or talked about. This past week, I spent a shocking amount of time thinking about what Reverend/Senator Raphael Warnock tweeted on Easter.
The later deleted tweet said:
“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”
Reverend/Senator Warnock’s tweet got me pondering all sorts of questions regarding life and faith. Like, Which seminary did this guy attend? Has this dude even read the New Testament? And of course, the always deep: “why God why?”.
Most of my questions centered on a a subject I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the years. Questions like, what exactly makes a person a Christian? And: what does one have to know and/or believe to be saved? The quick and easy answer comes from Romans 10:9: confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
What exactly does it mean to” believe in your heart”? How does one know if they have believed enough to be saved? What exactly does “confessing with your mouth entail? How does one know if they have really believed in their hearts Jesus is Lord? Is it possible to honestly think you have confessed or believed without doing it right?
Argh! I told you I get stuck in my own head sometimes.
Anyway. These are questions worth asking because what we believe about life and God and how we get to God has eternal consequences. I don’t know everything there is to know about this subject but I do believe it is essential for Christians to embrace the following three truths at some point in their faith journey in order to be a Christian:
You have to understand you can’t save yourself-
Human beings cannot save themselves. People simply do not have enough inherent goodness in them to get the job done (Isaiah 64:6) . Period. Nor, are there enough good deeds in the world for a person to earn their own salvation. Even if there were no one would do those deeds with the right heart attitude because even the best people almost never do the right things with the right motivations. Admitting we are sinners who can’t save ourselves is really the first step in the faith journey. Jesus is called “savior” precisely because we desperately needed someone to do the work of salvation for us (Luke 2:11). Until we embrace that reality authentic salvation will be elude us.
You must believe God knows more than you do about right and wrong-
Thankfully, God graciously “brings us along” on the moral journey of faith. Few people begin their Christian life in full agreement with God about what is morally good and right. That said, Christians must have a certain level of humility concerning the moral limitedness that goes along with being human. At some point in our spiritual journey we have to stop shaking our fists at what God says is right and true and simply accept His proclamations concerning what is and isn’t morally acceptable (Psalm 7:17, Psalm 11:7). If we don’t our faith probably wasn’t genuine to begin with.
You believe God is who says He is and will do the things He says He will do-
Knowledge of the Bible is not a prerequisite for salvation. However, fear of the Lord is (Psalm 25:14, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 14:27). Christians must believe there is a God (DUH) and that He is vastly superior to humans in every way. We must also agree God is worthy of honor, worship and obedience. Fearing God simply means we really, truly believe God is who he says He is and He can do the things He says He can do. If we do not fear the Lord it is really hard to be a Christian regardless of what we have declared or confessed.
As I close this post I do so with a high level of spiritual anxiety. It is not my place to judge the spiritual journey of another (Matthew 7:1). I don’t know Raphael Warnock. I don’t know if he is a Christian or an unbeliever or something in between. He eventually deleted his tweet. Perhaps he was having an off day. I know have written things I wish I hadn’t. Maybe he feels the same way? I’m certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My hope in writing this post is that everyone reading this will examine their own belief system to see if they are “in the faith” (2nd Corinthians 13:5).