Are you thoroughly convinced of the historical and spiritual existence of Jesus Christ? For some, that’s the definition of faith and a prerequisite to claiming the title “Christian”. And yet, the scripture makes clear that you can doubt and still be Christian — or believe without doubt, and still be lost.
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder,” James wrote. “But are you willing to recognize … that faith without works is useless?” (NASB)
Ah, but what of works without faith? That depends on the works, and the motive. In the gospel of John, Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” He also said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Do you have a New Testament? Then you have the the commandments of Jesus: to love your neighbor as yourself, to follow Christ whole-heartedly, to share His gospel, to avoid worry, to swear by nothing … all in all, a fairly clear set of directions. You can believe with all your might, to the point of passing a lie-detector test, and yet if you fail to keep His commandments, you’re lost.
Jesus says here that IF you love Him, you will keep His commandments. He also says that IF you keep His commandments, he will disclose Himself to you.
Jesus told us that many “believers” will not make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you…'”
He must have known that we would turn things upside down. Too many of us see John 3:16 as a shortcut: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” If we accept that as true, then we must accept the rest of John’s gospel as well.
Christ said that if we follow His commandments, He will disclose Himself to us. Faith comes through following, if not vice-versa. So if you have trouble believing, I say give up on trying to convince yourself. Focus instead on obedience to His commandments, and belief will follow.
You don’t have to know every detail about Jesus. Maybe you’ve felt His spiritual presence, or maybe you’re interested in His historical existence. Maybe you admire His philosophy and way of life. Any of these can serve as your mustard seed of faith, because they can inspire you to learn and follow the commandments of Jesus.
I invite you to study every word attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. That’s where you will find His commandments. I don’t care if you love the Man, the Spirit, the Book or just the Idea of Christ; follow those commandments and He will disclose Himself to you. Follow those commandments, and Jesus will call it love.
We will not be judged on our level of faith, or our level of doubt. We will not be judged on the possession of spiritual gifts or spiritual power. We will be judged rather on our love for Christ, and He measures that love by our obedience. His commandments are readily available for everyone to read.
His yoke is easy and His burden light, for those commandments are filled with love, compassion, kindness and hope. Learn them, follow them, and you will be blessed — believe it or not!