John 3:16 (NASB)
We are all familiar with John 3:16, it is probably the most quoted verse in scripture. It probably is the most misunderstood as well. We are always in danger when we remove one verse and make a doctrine out of it without any consideration of the remaining verses.
In verse 16 it is stated “that whoever believes”. Our English language often lacks the specifics of the meanings of words. The Greek language on the other hand, is very specific as to which particular word is used so that there is no misunderstanding as to the meaning. The English language uses the same word, which can mean multiple things, and we so often miss the context of what the Holy Spirit is speaking. So, exactly what does believe mean? The Greek word is “pisteuo” and means to have faith (in this case, in Jesus), to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ), commit (to trust), put in trust with or commit yourself to one’s charge. The word is actually in a tense called Present Participle which means “continuous or repeated action”.
The Amplified Bible comes the closest to defining believing in the context. It states, “believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on)”. Rebirth is not a mindset. Jesus told Nicodemus in verse 5 of this chapter “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. (NASB) In other words, I cannot just believe in my mind that Jesus died on the cross, there is a change that occurs. Paul describes it as becoming a new creature, the old has died and the new has come. The old sin has died, but also the old “desire” for sin. If we are truly reborn, our desire is for Christ, for His will in our lives. It doesn’t mean it will come easily, but where the desire is, God is able to work in us to give us strength and endurance and to choose Him.
A good description of that really looks like in the life of a believer is John 3:21, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (NASB) Truth is walking uprightly in integrity and virtue conforming to the truth of the gospel. Manifested is declared, making known or visible. Wrought is produced. One who is not born of the Spirit does not walk according to the Word of God, making known His truth in this world and producing visible results in the lives of His children that could have not occurred apart from Him.
Why do I bring this up today? I am greatly concerned for, what I’ll call for lack of a better term, the cheap gospel that is being preached today. There is not a Biblical foundation being laid nor the truth that a transformation in us takes place when we enter into the blood bought covenant of Jesus Christ. We are now to become a “disciple” (one who becomes as his teacher), not just going to church, but are dying daily to our flesh. It is a committed journey. We now “Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) (NASB) The Greek word “good” here is “agathos”, God’s plan, His will in our lives.
Scripture warns us that in the last days there will be many who just want their ears tickled and we have many churches producing that today. I write this with a heavy heart and pray that anyone who may be reading this devotion will allow the Spirit to search his heart to make sure of his calling of the upward call of Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived and do not grow weary in the journey. The Lord clearly tells us in His word that He will never forsake those who are His. He will be with us through the fire, He will save us when the waters seem as if we are drowning, He will be with us in the drought; in other words, He will never leave our side. However, we can wander away from His side when we become weary and take our eyes off of Him. If that is you, please take the opportunity today to come before the Lord and ask for forgiveness, repent and be made whole again by His love.
Abba, You are amazing. Your love overwhelms me and I stand in awe of You. Forgive us, our Father, for not walking in Spirit and Truth in all our ways. The world hates You and their hatred is getting more and more visible for us who follow You. You told us that this would occur. But You also gave us Your instructions as to how to become like You so that we could endure and continue to be a light in this dark world. Help us, Abba, to be Your hands and feet to those who may be deceived by a false doctrine and are not part of Your family. We seek Your discernment and wisdom. Thank You Holy Spirit for always being there to speak life into a situation, help us to be good listeners to hear Your voice and not to have it drowned out by our thoughts. Abba, we give ourselves to You today as a living and holy sacrifice and worship You in Spirit and Truth. Amen!