In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:9-15
When I first encountered the teachings of the Lutheran Church in a significant way – beyond attending worship – I was impressed. Every teaching was grounded in the Bible. When I had questions, I was directed to Bible passages that spoke to the issue I questioned. Baptism? Ephesians 5; Titus 3; 2 Peter 3; Acts 2. The Lord’s Supper? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians 11. Salvation? Ephesians 2:8-9. Sin? Psalm 51; 1 John 1:8-9; Romans 3:23; 6:23.
The result of that process of learning and exploring led to a strong conviction about what is true. This is the foundation of true faith. True faith requires a corpus of teachings to believe in. As a result – and due also to the important truth that we are saved by grace through faith – leads one to an understanding of “believe” as an act of mental ascent. We acknowledge something to be true: we believe that.
Such a faith is not the full expression of the faith revealed in the Bible – especially if we consider Jesus’ words here. Believing the Good News puts us on a new and different path. When we believe we gain a relationship with God, and a responsibility of representing God. God is our Father. We represent him to the world. If we believe the Good News, our sins are forgiven, and we live in light of that forgiveness by honoring God with our bodies and possessions, obeying God’s commandments, and showing his true nature to the world around us.
Years ago I faced some very difficult and challenging accusations to my ministry as a pastor. I was being vilified by certain members of the church I served. I was being judged and criticized by others. It was a difficult time. I recall wanting to ask the people of the church, “Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? Is that forgiveness for you alone?” Of course, there is the issue of my need to repent and acknowledge my sin – which I did. But you get it: if you believe in forgiveness for yourself, it would stand to reason that you would seek to offer it to others.
To believe means to embrace from the heart the truth of God and act and live accordingly. Any failure to do so, cuts short the fullness of the Good News of Jesus, and puts us on a dangerous footing not founded on the fullness of God’s truth. Do you believe? Are you living it out? This is Jesus’ calling to us and all people.