"Don't you believe?"
-- John 14:10
An atheist would answer, "No," for by definition he or she is a person who believes there is no God, or even gods for that matter. They would prove their unbelief by refraining from religious activity such as public worship, prayer, or evangelism, for in their minds there is no God to worship and serve.
An agnostic would answer, "I don't know," for by definition he or she is a person who really does not know if there is a God, or gods, or not. They carry these doubts through life and rarely assuage them by reading the Bible or any other religious books, except perhaps out of occasional curiosity or in a desperate search for inspiration. You seldom see them in church, although they are not normally antagonistic toward God, since everyone should have the right to what they believe, or not believe.
While the numbers of atheists and agnostics are rising in modern culture, most of us are deists, which means we affirm there is a God, or gods. Among the deists are pantheists, who believe God is, and it is everywhere, kind of like the force in "Star Wars." Others are polytheists, believing in many gods, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, or modern Buddhists, Hindus, and SEC football fans. The majority of deists, however, are monotheists, believers in one true God. Monotheists comprise the world's three largest religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
So, do you believe in God? A vast majority would answer "Yes." But, do you believe Jesus Christ is God? To most people in His day, Jesus was a troublemaker, a rebel, a blasphemer of God who had to be executed. Kill Him they did, or so they thought, until Good Friday gave way to Resurrection Sunday. Since then, it has been the Christians who are the lone people to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, God, Savior.
In liberal or progressive Christianity, however, beliefs about Jesus Christ range from those who do not believe He actually existed at all, to those who believe He did, but did not do the things the Bible claims, like walk on water and raise people from the dead. They also flatly reject the substitutionary atonement, for God would not do such a bloody thing to save people who are good anyway, and they deny His literal, bodily resurrection, for such a nonscientific thing is impossible. You might as well be an atheist or an agnostic.
I am not sure I would want to identify with all conservative Christians, either, because this batch includes Bible-believing cults, sects, as well as a whole assortment of fruits, nuts, and Pharisees. It is good to believe the Bible is the word of God, and it is good to believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but superficial, heretical, or hypocritical claims to truth cannot save your soul in the end.
Saving faith in Jesus Christ must be deeper, truer, and more impactful. It must be historical, theological, and practical. It must be total, and it must control your attitudes and actions. This question of faith can only be posed by a more complex, internal, eternal, and external question, and only a true disciple of the Lord can answer yes to this question of faith.
Do you believe in God? I hope so. Do you believe Jesus Christ is God? Surely, you must? But, the key question is, are you saved? In other words, do you believe God has come to save you in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and does this belief absolve your sins and fit you for Heaven, and furthermore does it change your life on earth and cause you to worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ?
It is not enough to believe in a generic "God" or an aloof "Creator" or a friendly "Man Upstairs." You must call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. In other words, you have to acknowledge Jesus as deity, God of very God, Lord of lords. And you must prove your faith by your faithfulness to Christ.
Easter Sunday is a day of new beginnings. So, if you have no faith, are confused about faith, or need to strengthen the faith you already have been given, come and worship Jesus this Resurrection Sunday. Let faith lead you to worship every Sunday, and serve the Lord every day. Your life could be changed, forever. Don't you believe?
Chuck DeVane is pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]