Do I believe in Jesus?

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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Bible is crystal clear - "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved", and "...that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".

It's just one word - believe. However, I know that it's not that simple. It's not just believing that Jesus existed/exists. It's not just a mental assent. It's more than that. What does it mean to believe? And do I believe?

Here is my situation in life:

I believe that God's word paints a true picture of my spiritual state. I believe that I am fallen in Adam, and that this corruption and my own resulting sins will ruin me and have me heading for God's punishment, and that God's punishment will be just because He is a just God. This is not just a merely intellectual assent, but it creates a real fear in me. This is something that I want to avoid, if at all possible.

I believe that Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect and holy life, which Adam did not and I could not. I believe that he also died a criminal's death for sins he did not commit, and that he is "the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the World". I believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

I believe that Jesus Christ rose on the third day, bodily, and was seen by many witnesses. I believe that he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I know that if I am to ever be saved, it can only and must only be through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. For me to be saved, I must be united to Christ in his death and resurrection, wherein my sins are laid upon him and his righteousness is laid upon me. Any good works I have are not good enough and will only condemn me as they are all tainted with sin, even the best of them. In fact, I have no desire to be saved in any other way than what is prescribed in the Bible. I don't want to present God with my "good works" because I know they are tainted. The Scriptures present such a beautiful picture of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and I have no desire to be saved in any way but through and by him.

I know that Jesus Christ calls us to follow him. He calls us to give up our sins. I sense in myself a desire to flee from sin. I sense in myself a battle between two forces - the pull to sin and gratify my sensual desires, and another force, which causes me to resist - even when no one is looking and I could "get away with it". I cannot sin and be comfortable in it. Furthermore I have noticed in my life a real desire to live a godly life, and I have noticed progress in certain areas. I am not the same man now that I was at age 18.

Finally, I know that whatever it means to believe, that I cannot work it up in myself. Faith, we are taught, is the gift of God. Therefore, if I am to believe and thus be saved, it must be worked in me by God himself. It is belief (faith) that unites to Christ and all his benefits.

Perhaps all that I have written indicates that I do in fact believe. I hope so. I think that if I truly understand what it means biblically to believe, and then recognize that in myself, then it will give me a great sense of assurance. Then, the promise of John 3:16 will really come alive to me, and I will be sure that I truly do believe, and have everlasting life. So, in summary, I ask two questions:

1) What does the Bible mean what it says "believe"?
2) Does my description above fit the biblical definition of belief? Why or why not?

I would really appreciate your help...and prayers. I hesitate to say that I am getting the upper hand in the battle for assurance of faith, but I think it might be happening. Oh that God would work a hearty assurance in me...so that I might be used by him. Oh that he would preserve me from my own sloth in the task of making my calling and election sure.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brother,

Search out what and when this specifically plagues you. I question if this dreadful feeling (how I would describe it) is legitimate. Meaning, it might be a temptation by Satan to drive a wedge between you and OUR lovely Savior. I hope you have godly men to talk to about this, especially those who are further down the trail than you. I don't doubt you. If your conscience is clean, meaning you are not in some grievous sin and struggling under the guilt, then relax and know that your Redeemer lives! And if you are in grievous sin, turn from it and turn toward your Redeemer who lives! Belief is active. Read through James with the understanding that the good works you are partaking of and proving your faith with have been prepared for you ahead of time by God. Faithfully walk in them.

Brother, He knew you were a sinner when He went to that cursed tree. He knew you so much more than you could know yourself. He knitted you in your mother's womb and sustains your life now. He breathed His Spirit into you giving you life. He is right now preparing a place for you! He holds you up in prayer before our Father and has girded you up in His Spirit. Izaak, my friend and brother, feast upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for He has given Himself for you.

Here's the rub, if you will, don't chase an ever-elusive feeling. Yes, you will have moments of immense comfort, and that is a gift from the Lord. However, you must hold on to the truth of the Gospel. Sing in your heart, "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so..." Pray unto the Lord for these things. He will surely give in time.

Much love to you, friend.
 

Branson

Puritan Board Freshman
I have always found Hopeful’s retelling of His conversion in the Pilgrim’s Progress to be encouraging, specifically on what it is to believe:

“HOPEFUL: I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding, and thus it was. One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at any one time in my life; and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. And as I was then looking for nothing but hell, and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw the Lord Jesus looking down from heaven upon me, and saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But I replied, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner: and he answered, "My grace is sufficient for thee." Then I said, "But, Lord, what is believing?" And then I saw from that saying, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst," that believing and coming was all one; and that he that came, that is, that ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood in mine eyes, and I asked further, "But, Lord, may such a great sinner as I am be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee?" And I heard him say, "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. Then I said, but how, Lord, must I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be place aright upon thee? Then he said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. 1:15. He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Rom. 10:4, and chap. 4. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. Rom. 4:25. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Rev. 1:5. He is the Mediator between God and us. 1 Tim. 2:5. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. Heb. 7:25. From all which I gathered, that I must look for righteousness in his person, and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood: that what he did in obedience to his Father's law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes full of tears, and mine affections running over with love to the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.”
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
If you look within yourself for sufficient evidence of saving faith, you will always despair. If you look to Christ as the savior of sinners, recognizing that you are a sinner, you will have reason to hope.
If I look within myself, I see that my faith is small; my belief a sham; my motives ulterior; my thoughts and affections corrupt. So I look to Christ and see there everything I am not, given to me freely, and I do not wish to look away.
"Look unto me, ye ends of the earth, and be saved"
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brother,

Search out what and when this specifically plagues you. I question if this dreadful feeling (how I would describe it) is legitimate. Meaning, it might be a temptation by Satan to drive a wedge between you and OUR lovely Savior. I hope you have godly men to talk to about this, especially those who are further down the trail than you. I don't doubt you. If your conscience is clean, meaning you are not in some grievous sin and struggling under the guilt, then relax and know that your Redeemer lives! And if you are in grievous sin, turn from it and turn toward your Redeemer who lives! Belief is active. Read through James with the understanding that the good works you are partaking of and proving your faith with have been prepared for you ahead of time by God. Faithfully walk in them.

Brother, He knew you were a sinner when He went to that cursed tree. He knew you so much more than you could know yourself. He knitted you in your mother's womb and sustains your life now. He breathed His Spirit into you giving you life. He is right now preparing a place for you! He holds you up in prayer before our Father and has girded you up in His Spirit. Izaak, my friend and brother, feast upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for He has given Himself for you.

Here's the rub, if you will, don't chase an ever-elusive feeling. Yes, you will have moments of immense comfort, and that is a gift from the Lord. However, you must hold on to the truth of the Gospel. Sing in your heart, "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so..." Pray unto the Lord for these things. He will surely give in time.

Much love to you, friend.

Thank you for this post. It is indeed, a dreadful feeling. And I deal with it very often. I do have godly men to chat with, but I sometimes feel as if I am a bother to them. I want to be able to deal with these doubts of anxiety myself, because I deal with them so often. I am trying to stock up an arsenal for that battle. I do not believe I am living in a grievous pattern of sin.

I have often heard the advice of simply "looking away" from myself and "looking to Christ". My sinful flesh even wants to turn "looking to Christ" into a work, but I reject that line of thinking. It is not the quality of my looking to Christ that saves, but Christ who saves. But I do wonder about this "looking to Christ". Is this what it means to believe? I do look to Christ and Christ alone for my hope of salvation. I have thought to myself, if I could be in his presence (prior to his glorification), I would fall down at his feet, grab his ankles and say "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Gen. 32:26). My affections are drawn towards Christ, even knowing his challenging call to suffer. Is this proof that I "believe"?

John 3:16 should be an immense comfort. Not, as the Arminians would interpret the passage, that it is "possible" to be obtain eternal life if you believe (a prescriptive interpretation), but rather that since a person does believe, therefore that person has eternal life (a descriptive interpretation). So my question is rooted in this - do I have that "belief" in Jesus Christ? Not perfectly, of course, but if it is there I should be able to recognize that it exists.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have always found Hopeful’s retelling of His conversion in the Pilgrim’s Progress to be encouraging, specifically on what it is to believe:

“HOPEFUL: I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding, and thus it was. One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at any one time in my life; and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the greatness and vileness of my sins. And as I was then looking for nothing but hell, and the everlasting damnation of my soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw the Lord Jesus looking down from heaven upon me, and saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But I replied, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner: and he answered, "My grace is sufficient for thee." Then I said, "But, Lord, what is believing?" And then I saw from that saying, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst," that believing and coming was all one; and that he that came, that is, that ran out in his heart and affections after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood in mine eyes, and I asked further, "But, Lord, may such a great sinner as I am be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee?" And I heard him say, "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. Then I said, but how, Lord, must I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be place aright upon thee? Then he said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. 1:15. He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Rom. 10:4, and chap. 4. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. Rom. 4:25. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Rev. 1:5. He is the Mediator between God and us. 1 Tim. 2:5. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. Heb. 7:25. From all which I gathered, that I must look for righteousness in his person, and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood: that what he did in obedience to his Father's law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes full of tears, and mine affections running over with love to the name, people, and ways of Jesus Christ.”
The bolded is extremely helpful...if this is what it means to "believe" and "come", then I believe that God has worked these in me. Now, I just need some exegesis to back up Bunyan's claim. If you can think of a sermon or book that would help, please let me know.

Izaak
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
If you look within yourself for sufficient evidence of saving faith, you will always despair. If you look to Christ as the savior of sinners, recognizing that you are a sinner, you will have reason to hope.
If I look within myself, I see that my faith is small; my belief a sham; my motives ulterior; my thoughts and affections corrupt. So I look to Christ and see there everything I am not, given to me freely, and I do not wish to look away.
"Look unto me, ye ends of the earth, and be saved"
Is this faith/belief? Like the Israelites who looked up at the serpent on the pole? All they did was look, I'm sure with varying degrees of confidence.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Saving faith is not only knowledge and assent, but trust. It is trust that makes saving faith different from historical faith. So brother, trust in God for your salvation, certainly. But trust him to guide your work through the day, to sustain your health, to provide for your every need, to supply patience, perseverance, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, guidance for everyday living, etc. Trusting Christ will more and more look like relying on him for everything, be it spiritual or physical. (1 Tim. 4:10)

Before getting out of bed in the morning, pray about the tasks that are set before you, looking to your savior for strength and guidance. Continue asking for that guidance throughout the day. Look for things to be thankful for and give thanks.

Remember, blessed are those who put their trust in God (Psalm 34:8).
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Izaak, my brother, I am confident to say you are a Christian. You are saved. Your belief, which you possess, has obviously been gifted by God to you and is unto salvation.
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman
I am currently reading, very carefully and prayerfully, through Matthew Mead’s “The Almost Christian”. Perhaps something like this could help. It may also be worth at the same time to work through something like Obadiah Sedgwick’s “the doubting believer”.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Since you cannot do anything about the strength of your faith, other than to exercise it, the only thing you can do is look to Christ, the Object of saving faith. As it turns out, the strength (or size) of your faith isn't a material factor. Jesus points out that faith only as small as a mustard seed, "the smallest," is all one needs, because the efficacy of saving faith is not in faith, but in the Object. Paul writes that some have the gifting of great or extraordinary faith, but this affects nothing as to whether all without exception who are saved are saved through faith alone. Therefore, weighing one's faith in the scales is a false measure. Faith in Christ is not something I once exerted, and got in the door of salvation, and now I walk by sight and strength. Faith in Christ is all I ever had, or will have. It isn't faith in faith that helps me, but to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

There are some whose exercise of faith does not produce noteworthy "muscles." Many simply live with life-sustaining faith, developing and maturing the way the majority of mankind function bodily, neither too frail nor too agile/powerful/etc. Some men are so weak in body, that they will never (in this life) manage what for many is an average pull. But they are still alive, and some who go on spiritually struggling for a lifetime must always take their comfort from the knowledge that as many times as they need the reminder that Christ is their strength, he IS their strength. He is no less theirs (and no more to others) than he is unto all who look to him in faith. And he does not look at them in that weakness of theirs, and despise this one or prefer that one, on account of which one has the stronger faith. It is his strength alone that holds anyone close to him and will not let him go, and not our "powerful" purpose.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Since you cannot do anything about the strength of your faith, other than to exercise it, the only thing you can do is look to Christ, the Object of saving faith. As it turns out, the strength (or size) of your faith isn't a material factor. Jesus points out that faith only as small as a mustard seed, "the smallest," is all one needs, because the efficacy of saving faith is not in faith, but in the Object. Paul writes that some have the gifting of great or extraordinary faith, but this affects nothing as to whether all without exception who are saved are saved through faith alone. Therefore, weighing one's faith in the scales is a false measure. Faith in Christ is not something I once exerted, and got in the door of salvation, and now I walk by sight and strength. Faith in Christ is all I ever had, or will have. It isn't faith in faith that helps me, but to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

There are some whose exercise of faith does not produce noteworthy "muscles." Many simply live with life-sustaining faith, developing and maturing the way the majority of mankind function bodily, neither too frail nor too agile/powerful/etc. Some men are so weak in body, that they will never (in this life) manage what for many is an average pull. But they are still alive, and some who go on spiritually struggling for a lifetime must always take their comfort from the knowledge that as many times as they need the reminder that Christ is their strength, he IS their strength. He is no less theirs (and no more to others) than he is unto all who look to him in faith. And he does not look at them in that weakness of theirs, and despise this one or prefer that one, on account of which one has the stronger faith. It is his strength alone that holds anyone close to him and will not let him go, and not our "powerful" purpose.
Thank you very much for this. I understand that it is not the strength of the faith that saves. Some have a very strong faith, some weak. But there must be some essential similarity, common to all who have saving faith, no? I guess I am asking, what is saving faith? I should probably just go read our confessions.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Izaak,

"Saving faith" is simply being alive unto God, aware of His goodness to those who trust Him, and resting in the promises of His word. Perhaps the question should be, Are you alive unto God . . . do you know Him? From what you have written it is evident to me that you are, and do.

So what is the problem? It seems like a great cloud of doubting thought hovers over – and within – your head, short-circuiting the child-like simplicity that cries to Him in need and trusts Him in His love to sustain and care for you. When you break through and hold fast this simplicity, resisting the ever-maddening and confusing complexity – which is not of Him! – you will emerge in blessedness from a long sojourn in the wilderness.

He will enable us to control our thought-life. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7). The Spirit of Him who dwells in you mightily can do this.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thank you very much for this. I understand that it is not the strength of the faith that saves. Some have a very strong faith, some weak. But there must be some essential similarity, common to all who have saving faith, no? I guess I am asking, what is saving faith? I should probably just go read our confessions.
WCF 14.2 "By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are ACCEPTING, RECEIVING, and RESTING upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Knowledge, assent, and trust in Christ. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, Heb.12:2.

Ps.37:7, "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself." Be the little child (in faith) Jesus called you to be, Mk.10:15, cf. 9:36-37.
 

dhh712

Puritan Board Freshman
....
I have often heard the advice of simply "looking away" from myself and "looking to Christ". My sinful flesh even wants to turn "looking to Christ" into a work, but I reject that line of thinking. It is not the quality of my looking to Christ that saves, but Christ who saves. But I do wonder about this "looking to Christ". Is this what it means to believe? I do look to Christ and Christ alone for my hope of salvation. I have thought to myself, if I could be in his presence (prior to his glorification), I would fall down at his feet, grab his ankles and say "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Gen. 32:26). My affections are drawn towards Christ, even knowing his challenging call to suffer. Is this proof that I "believe"? ...
I've thought much of the same thing in my prayers, that "looking to Jesus" seemed like a work too. We seem to have similar struggles regarding assurance of faith--it seems the evil one wants us to doubt, to look at the wretchedness of our yet sinful lives and think "How could someone who has been saved by Jesus still act like this?" And no, these aren't heinous sins that do not make me want to run from them time and time after I keep struggling with them--much of it is deep-rooted anger, use of foul language and the desire to be alone more than with others. And I have seen God's grace in my life breaking down these strongholds upon me; it's just a vicious battle that Satan won't back down from easily.

In my prayer time, I am plagued by these deep-rooted sins that come up over and over and over again that, while I have seen his grace in these battles there are also the times when I seem to move miles back from where God has brought me. I come to his throne and all I can think about is what a hypocrite I am and even praying seems hypocritical to me, an act of someone who's just doing that to check the boxes. I know these are the influences of evil trying to make me look at myself and my own works to see if they are good enough instead of relying upon the work of Jesus.

In these times the only thing that brings rest to my mind is to look to Jesus. I can't really explain either what that looks like, it's more of a mental understanding, an acknowledgment. I just long to flee from this cursed body of death and be with him and no longer have sin come between our relationship. When I go to church I feel it is a glimpse of heaven as I put away all that anguish and rejoice in being in the presence of the Lord, and hear his awesomeness pronounced and his wondrous mercy upon us. I just want to stay there and sing his praises and hear his word and be with others who have praise for him upon their lips and hearts.

The understanding I've come to from hearing his word preached is that if you have this desire to flee from your sins and acknowledge that only Jesus has done what it takes to make us reconciled to God, then you do believe. It's a matter of how you mentally regard yourself and your God. Anyone can say they believe, and many can even make up a good pretense before others to make a good show of how they do. But it is a matter of the heart or mind. That is why only God can truly know who believes upon him and looks to him alone for salvation. We can even be tricked by the devil into thinking we believe when we don't which is the tactic I feel that he uses for people like me and you and many, many others. So we think, are we just thinking we believe when we actually don't? The devil wants us so much to look at our lives--and we should, to a certain extent; to examine ourselves is very important. I wish I could remember the wording exactly and I don't recall where I heard it, could have even been here, but there is such as thing as something like a "malignant" introspection. It can be way overdone to where we are looking nearly exclusively in ourselves for our salvation and proof of it there instead of relying by faith upon the work of Jesus.

I think you are along the right way of thinking to see "proof" (and knowing that there really is no such thing, it is a matter of faith) of belief as in looking to Him and craving his blessing and work in your life--a need that is at war with the sin remaining in ourselves and which craves righteousness in our lives and others. To try to draw that out by an example from my life, say that I make excuses for my anger and am not horrified at my use of bad language and think What's the big deal if I want to be alone all the time, I go to church once a week, isn't that enough? It shows a comfortableness in a life of sin.

And there's so much more to say about this, how even this is more along the lines of looking to ourselves too much; but I feel it is a good start, to do this examination to see what really are the reactions we have to sin all around us and in us. And in God's word he does speak of the vicious battle between the new life which God has given us and the old life of sin that was once all we knew; if we abide in Jesus, we will surely have this feeling of conflict until that old part of us is entirely cleared away. And that unfortunately won't happen until we finally are called to our heavenly home where there will be no more sin to plague us and interfere in our fellowship with our beloved Lord and Saviour.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello again, Izaac @De Jager,

Why not cut through all the ideation and appeal directly to His heart as a child would: "Lord, bear witness with Your Spirit to my spirit that I am Your child (Rom 8:16), for I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me (Psalm 109:22)."
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello again, Izaac @De Jager,

Why not cut through all the ideation and appeal directly to His heart as a child would: "Lord, bear witness with Your Spirit to my spirit that I am Your child (Rom 8:16), for I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me (Psalm 109:22)."
Thank you. This is a good idea.

I think I have been listening to the lies of the devil for far too long. I think he wants me to think that God isn't really gracious, or that he holds out his Son to me and then pulls Him back as if I have to produce something to earn him...something like this:

"Here is Christ...wait, sorry, you can't come to him - your faith isn't strong enough"
"here is Christ...wait, sorry, you can't have him - you don't grieve over your sin enough"
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
"Here is Christ...wait, sorry, you can't come to him - your faith isn't strong enough"
"here is Christ...wait, sorry, you can't have him - you don't grieve over your sin enough"
Izaak, of course you "know" this is wrong. But that doesn't necessarily answer the accusations.

I won't add to all that has been said, but I want to encourage you with my own pathetic lot. I can honestly say that every day, for some reason or another, I end up emulating the publican in Luke 18:13:

"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."

Notice he didn't even look up.

God is merciful to those who call out to him.
 
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