Many Christians use words they can’t really define like “justification” and “sanctification” or even faith. What does the Bible mean when by “faith”? Let’s look at Mark 8:27-37 for help.
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus asks his disciples who “they” say he is. When my fellow elders and I launched Revolution we heard a lot about what “they” were saying. When I would ask who “they” were, I received evasive answers.
Faith in Jesus is never “they say…” but “I say that Jesus is the Christ.” One must make a public declaration or not make one at all. That’s why baptisms should never be done behind close doors. It isn’t a magical rite but a public declaration that one is giving their life to Jesus as Lord and trusting him as savior. It is a public death to self and proclamation of loyalty to Christ. This death to self must be total but, as many of us have learned, it isn’t so easy.
Peter learned the hard way that the public declaration is just the beginning. Peter left the “they say…” crowd and signed his name to the Kingdom. But he didn’t quite understand what it meant. He has been raised to believe in one type of messiah but then God sends another.
Ever feel disappointed by Jesus? I have because I made the same mistake Peter did. I constructed my own version of Jesus, which means I really didn’t have faith in Jesus but in something else.
Fortunately for me (and you), God is forgiving. But in order for us to truly grow into a faith where we are willing to give up our very lives for the Gospel, we must be willing to be rebuked as Peter was, admit we are wrong and pray the truth of God seeks deep within our minds and hearts. For true faith is total commitment. It is signing your name to the Kingdom, which calls for everything.
This week I read the story of an assistant district director for the communists in Vietnam during the 1970′s. He watched Christians and heard a radio broadcast from Voice of the Martyrs because it was part of his job to monitor these “dangerous people.” But through his spying, he heard the Gospel and came to faith in Christ. He preached the Gospel. He was warned to stop by his superiors. He was removed from power. He was imprisoned for 12 years in a hell hole. He even contracted leprosy. Yet, he worked hard and was kind to his guards and fellow prisoners.
After 8 years, the guards began to trust him. He was able to work alone and someone smuggled a Bible to him. When the guards asked him what it was, he began reading it to them! Many became Christians. They were removed for it. The communist government sent more guards. They heard the prisoner preach as well. How many came to faith through this 12 year ordeal? Only God knows.
When he was released he thanked God for the opportunity. Can you fathom that? He thanked God for being imprisoned, nearly starved, sometimes tortured and riddled with diseases! How? He signed his name. He has the faith Jesus was speaking about–belief, trust, love and commitment that is all-encompassing.
Have you signed your name?