One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience. George Sand

If you want a religion that makes sense, I would suggest something other than Christianity. If you want a religion that makes life, this is the one. Rich Mullins

So what exactly are the characteristics of a believer? In upcoming weeks, we will go over some tale-tale signs of the person who just believes in God, but doesn’t take it much farther than that. The day that a person comes to believe that Jesus is their Savior is a beautiful, yet dangerous moment. It’s wonderful because it starts life off in a way in which we begin again. The words to portray this experience can range from cleansing to newness to freedom. It’s a unique experience unlike anything that we will ever undergo. Think about it for minute—at one point, you are entirely alienated from the Creator of the universe to now being his child. That is one remarkable transformation!

And it can happen in the blink of an eye, on a deathbed, at a rock concert, in the bathroom while taking a shower, in the front seat while talking to a friend, late one night in front of the TV. At some unique point, we decide to believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Everyone comes into relationship with God in so many different ways. My paternal grandfather was a perfect example of this. For some reason, and I don’t know the whole story, he became a Christian some time in his seventies. To be honest, he drove everyone bonkers because of this magnificent change. He was always talking about God; going to church every Sunday morning and evening and every Wednesday after dinner; writing large checks to different ministries like Billy Graham’s or to the Lutheran Church to which he belonged. My grandfather let you know that he was a Christian. He had his tracts that he would hand out to guests who would visit. He preached fire and brimstone as well as any preacher I’ve heard since (this is not necessarily a good thing). He had this dramatic turnaround in his life that he wanted others to share in as well. His intentions were most likely pure, but I’m not sure about his presentation because in the end, he didn’t sway anyone to his side. In fact, he might have pushed people away.

You see, I always knew my grandfather as a very kind man, sitting on his knee, hearing his fishing stories and eating slices of fresh apple. But my dad and others, knew him when he wasn’t so nice or pleasant to be around. They knew him as a father who could be tough and overly strict. They knew him as a hard man. They knew someone who was far from being a saint. This change confused them, I think because they wondered if the change would be permanent. My grandfather didn’t live relatively long after giving his life to God and so I think this also was where some mistrust came, because those around him never really got a chance to find out if his changed life was was really going to stick or if he was going to revert back to the person they once knew—that guy who wasn’t always so easy to be around.

This is the problem with believers, one just never knows if this is just a phase or something long-lasting in their life. We all have heard stories of those who passionately give their life to God, serve relentlessly in the church, and yet a few years later, they can’t be found. We have all heard stories of those who once were pastors, deacons or serving in some capacity of leadership, and got caught in adultery or some other indiscretion and haven’t been seen since. The reason it is so dangerous to stay just a believer is because one’s relationship with God is based on something very flimsy and that is, it’s simply based on a belief. This may sound funny, but later on, when one makes deeper commitments, one’s connection to God is not simply founded on belief or faith, but also will be based on experience and a personal relationship with God. Jesus wants to be in every nook and cranny of our lives and with that, we can experience him in many directions and dimensions in our lives. Jesus desires to be experienced, and typically, the believer has few events in his life in which God truly seems real and alive in their lives. If you were to ask a believer if God really existed; they at least eighty percent of the time would just shrug their shoulders. Believers don’t know God exists; they hope so. This is exactly the conundrum where Judas found himself. Do you really believe that Judas would sell out the Savior of the world for a mere thirty pieces of silver, and at the same time, truly believe in his heart that Jesus was the actual Messiah? Of course, not. Judas betrayed Jesus because he wasn’t certain and positive that Jesus was telling the truth about himself. This is where the story about the guy who builds his house on sand comes in—Jesus is maintaining that we need to have a deeper relationship with him, something that can withstand doubt or tragedy (Matthew 7:26). The problem is, believers don’t do this. They are building on the beach, right next to the ocean as the waves come closer.

In: Friend to Jesus
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