Although I have sought to make my as yet unpublished book Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT) of interest and of relevance to people who are not Christians as well as to those who are, this chapter speaks mainly to those who are (or have been) a part of the Christian faith.
Shifting Away from Jesus?
In recent years it seems that there has been an increasing shift away from the centrality of Jesus Christ in the thinking of some Christians.
It would seem that for Christianity to be considered as primarily about faith in Jesus would be a foregone conclusion, but there are now some Christians who seek to downplay the significance of Jesus for the sake of fostering better relations with people of other faith traditions
Christ and Christianity are largely relativized.
It is a shameful historical fact that Christians have often mistreated those of other religious faiths, and the move toward a position of respect for those who embrace different views is highly commendable.
But to what extent can one downplay the divinity or the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and still be a Christian in any meaningful sense?
Believing in Jesus
As I was working on this chapter, I just happened to read (again) the story of Augustine’s conversion. Upon hearing a child’s voice saying, “Take and read, take and read,” Augustine picked up the Bible and opened it at random to Romans 13:13-14.
Those verses renounce the type of profligate life Augustine had lived for years. But they also, significantly, contain the words, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Augustine went on to become a committed Christian and then a great theologian. Some call him “the father of Western theology.” But his conversion experience was not nearly as so much in what he believed as in whom he believed.
His faith was “putting on” the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not his belief about Jesus but rather his belief (trust) in Jesus that formed the foundation for all he later wrote about belief about Christ.
When I was a teenager, I remember hearing Baptist preachers emphasize, fairly often it seems, the difference between believing in and believing that. The latter, of course, is about what we believe, but the former is about whom we believe.
Believing that has to do with intellectual assent to statements or propositions. Believing in has to do with trust in a person. That was, and is, an important thing to emphasize, and people still need to recognize that difference.
Trusting in Jesus
In many of those church services where believing in was emphasized, “Trust and Obey” was often sung as a congregational hymn. The words of that old hymn were based on a testimony given by a young man in an evangelistic meeting led by the famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody.
It was quite apparent from the young man’s words that he knew little about Christian doctrine, but he finished his testimony by saying, “I’m not quite sure—but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.”
Belief that is merely intellectual assent and often has little relationship to how one actually lives. Belief equated with trust, however, is much different: it means commitment to the one in whom that trust is placed—and when belief is trust, it includes obeying.
For Christians, what they believe about Jesus—and the many other doctrines of the faith—is important. But as human beings, whether people believe/trust in Jesus or in some other savior, teacher, guru, or whomever is of the greatest importance.
Truly, who we believe in is more important than what we believe.
[Here is the link to the entire 24th chapter, which I encourage you to read.]