Thursday, December 2, 2010
the heart of belief
...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
This is one of the most encouraging and motivating of all the scriptures for me. This is not because I consider myself any kind of stellar evangelist. I find it to be core for my experience of commitment as a follower of Jesus. It begins at the very core of who I am as a person. I am first and foremost a sinner who needs to confess surrender to the Lord God my Creator and Savior. Without that kind of simple start, all my priorities are out of whack. With that confession, life starts to get into proper perspective.
The scary part of confession is that there is a public element to that to one degree or another. While it is true that I may make that confession in private before God, ultimately, it will show. Others will know by what I say and what I do that I confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Master of my life. And that will put me under scrutiny by those who aren't serious in that matter before God, at least not serious enough to let it reorder their relationships, commitments, priorities, and lifestyle. But confession of a Savior is supposed to be the start of that new life. And it has to be known to some degree to truly be a confession "with the mouth".
The second personal element in this passage is the heart. It is the center of personal belief. I believe that something fundamentally and monumentally important happened with Jesus' death on the cross. This is evidenced by the resurrection. Paul makes it clear that it is the resurrection that is the centerpiece of faith. If I believe God has raised Jesus from the dead, then I accept that as validation of everything He said and did, taught and modeled, including His claim that His death would accomplish an eternal atonement and solution for the sin problem for humanity at an individual level. That is why atheists and skeptics want to attack the resurrection, even more than any other Christian doctrine. It is the blood and marrow of our faith. Remove it and we are just dry, stale, and lifeless.
A final point of observation from this passage: We act in confession and faith, but then God acts upon that. We actively believe and confess, but then we receive salvation. And that is the greater work. We still depend upon God for our salvation even when we take those steps of faith and confession. Paul does not try to settle the tension of that truth. He simply states it as fact. None of us could be saved from death and hell by our own belief alone. But God will not save someone who does not confess and believe either. Both are what is necessary for the gospel to impact us for salvation.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13