Probably the most recognized and popular scriptures in America is John 3:16. And it's a wonderful verse, so it's great that people do recognize it! The problem is that America, for the most part, probably doesn't know the rest of the scriptures around it that put it in context with the thought.
“God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.” John 3:16-21
And the end of the chapter goes along with it:
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3:35-36
You see, it's really easy to believe in God. I can say I believe in Him and mean I believe He is in Heaven, even believe He created the world and believe Jesus is His Son. The Greek word is πιστεύω pisteúō, pist-yoo'-o....which means to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ):—believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with. (From blueletterbible.com). It is more than just believe He is there. There's faith, trust, and commitment involved.
Many want Jesus and His salvation, but they don't want the whole package. The whole package includes Jesus' promises with strings attached. "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me," Luke 9:23. And Matthew 7: 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
See how believing includes obeying? You can't have true faith in Him without having both. It isn't possible.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
Reading the very first passage above, it says, "Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil....they don't want their actions to be exposed." When I want my way and do things my way, without regard to God's Will or His Word, then I'm "loving" the dark. When you and I act in ways that aren't in accordance with the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control - Gal. 5:22-23), I am "loving" the dark. When you or I lie, gossip, slander, steal, cheat....any of those things you and I are "loving" the dark. And dark separates us from the light. JESUS is the light. Sin separates us from Him. We still BELIEVE in Him, but our actions say otherwise. Thankfully, God is full of grace and love and He will forgive us when we ask Him. There's a difference in messing up sometimes and deliberately choosing to walk in darkness. Our lights may dim, but they are still shining. We can get back on track and shine brightly like Jesus!
So believe in Him - YES! Absolutely! But believe in Him enough to not only accept Him for who He is, but for what He has done for YOU. And be willing to believe enough to allow the Spirit to change you and mold you into who He knows you can be. Believe in Him with the strings attached. It's worth it.
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