Is Belief The Gospel?
Imagine a buffet. See the towering stacks of plates, the orange heat lamps, the steam rising. The freedom to pick and choose however much (or however little) you want. Now imagine modern Christianity. A choice between the many perceived in-roads to salvation. Pick one or a few based on culture, theology and denomination. Do these individual pieces make up the gospel? Absolutely. Can we choose a few and leave the rest? Absolutely not…
We all believe in something. Even if it’s just our own view of what’s right and wrong. Fair and unfair. C.S. Lewis refers to this as “The Law of Nature.” Maybe you’ve heard the expression: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you believe in something.” It’s not exactly a Christian axiom, but the hard truth is, Christians view and treat belief in the exact same way. “As long as I believe, I’m good.” “Of course I believe in God.” “Of course I believe Jesus died for me.” “Of course I believe in Heaven and Hell.” Belief (to use the continued simile) is like silverware. We can’t slice and dice our gospel into bites we like without it…
The clever treachery behind this whitewashed line of thinking is the notion that belief itself is a unique qualifier for salvation. That it’s merely a pronged or bladed tool by which we get to carefully trim and carve and poke the gospel into digestible little pieces. All religions, however, have a belief set. Believing in God is like believing in gravity. The bible says even the demons believe. This presents a particularly hairy situation, upon learning our own piety is ultimately accomplishing nothing.
Here are some questions to ask ourselves: Does our belief take the shape of anything other than a personal standard of morality? Does our belief in God automatically make us into living, breathing reflections of him? Does our belief in the sacrifice of Jesus carry more weight than just a lofty Sunday school idea? Does our belief stop at what we perceive as the bare minimum for eternal security?
Belief in God—belief in Jesus—leads directly, intentionally and completely toward transformation. What immediately follows is daily communion with him. The sequence of “working out our salvation” (as Paul refers to it) begins the moment we choose to put our faith in Jesus. We are born again, which leads to a thirst for knowing God. We seek him in his word and then begin to love him more. We spend time with him, which leads to a Spirit-to-spirit communion with him. Our mind is then transformed into the mind of Christ, meaning we think differently about sin, altogether. We crave a life that desires to be like Jesus. Love, compassion and the Holy Spirit enable us to put our old destructive self to death. Only then does belief begin to accomplish something in us and in the world. Only then does our belief become something more.
If our belief in God only goes as far as our passive, disengaged acquaintance with him, we are living a deception called Segmented Gospel.