There is a huge difference between declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and believing in Christ, the Son of the Living God and allowing that truth to transform your life. Even Satan believes that Jesus is the Messiah, but Satan most certainly has not allowed that truth to renew his mind and transform his heart.
That’s the difference between religion and the Christian faith. Religion is external, superficial, and powerless. The Christian faith is internal, life-changing and powerful. There are millions of people who have just adopted or inherited a religion which has been built around the historical Jesus of the past and His teaching, but they are yet to actually meet the present, living, reigning, life-changing Jesus here and now.
They may have made some kind of proclamation about Christ at some point in their life, but they are yet to experience true transformation in Christ. Christianity is not about buying a rule book and then deciding you want to follow the rules. That’s not Christianity. That’s life-destroying legalism. That’s religion. We can’t declare that Jesus is Lord and then decide how Jesus will interact in our life. If Jesus is Lord, then Jesus gets to decide what our life will look like under His Lordship and that could be radically different to what we want or expect.
In Matthew 16 we read Peter’s wonderful confession when he declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But Peter didn’t really know what he was saying at the time. Like so many today, Peter spoke the truth but was not living that truth yet. The words which just came from his lips were pure, faultless and God-breathed, but Peter didn’t have a clue what they meant for him personally at that point and he was about to learn a very painful lesson in his very next encounter with Jesus.
Matthew 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
We are talking about something much more than just a Prophet here. We are talking about a Redeemer and unless we understand what that means, then we will be as ignorant as Peter was when he spoke those words which he didn’t understand.
Let me put it this way. If on this very day you decided you wanted to be a disciple of Christ and you wanted to make a commitment to follow Him and live for Him and witness for Him and do everything you could for His glory, what would you do next?
You might buy a new study bible and spend hours reading it, highlighting verses and following everything you read to the letter so that you are sold out for Jesus. I can tell you right now, none of that will have any impact on where you spend eternity or how victorious your life is this side of the grave. It’s all worthless religion and dead works – unless all those things are the fruit of something else – and that ‘something else’ is the transforming work of Christ your Redeemer deep in your spirit.
You see, your problem is not your personal sins or disobedience – it never has been – and that is why your righteous living and obedience will have no impact at all on your relationship with God because your salvation is not built on your confession of who Jesus is; your salvation is not built on your obedience and righteous living.
Your salvation and eternal life in the presence of God was secured for you in the death of Jesus Christ and all of that happened before you were even born – before you even knew what the word ‘sin’ meant.
I have devoted the best part of my life to preaching that truth about Jesus Christ. I have done all I can do plus some to teach people about Jesus – but here’s the hard truth: All my hard work, all my preaching, all my ministry and service means nothing unless it flows from one single truth: Jesus Christ died for sinners. My hope is not in my ability to follow Him. My hope is not in my service or Church attendance. My hope is in Jesus Christ, Who died for sinners. It is really that simple.
Where does your hope lie?