MAKE MY LIFE BELIEVABLE?
Jesus made this sobering statement, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praises from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the father. There is one that accuses you, namely Moses, in whom you trust. For if you had believed Moses you would also have believed me, because he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe my words” (Jn. 5:43-47).
Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him as a person, but they began to believe in what He was doing. They told Jesus, “Leave here and go to Judea, the Feast of Tabernacles, that your followers may see the works you are doing; because no one works in secret that wants to be known in public. The world should know these things that you do” (Jn. 7:2-4). Small groups were told to look at Jesus’ works as evidence that the Father had sent Him (Jn. 5:36). That was the reason why a man like Nicodemus had come to Jesus in secret (Jn. 3:2). When Jesus had to face the public He declared, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and understand that the father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn. 10:37-38). Jesus spoke these words when He defended the kingdom as God’s or the Holy Spirit’s doing and not Satan’s. Anything said against the Son of Man was forgivable, but not against God’s work of man’s redemption (Mt. 12:22-37). To deny or reject God’s grace and love is removing oneself from His presence forever, where there is no forgiveness or salvation (Jn. 3:16-21).
Believability is not evidenced until a person puts out his or her products. Jesus warned His followers against raving wolves in sheep’s clothing. Nature teaches us that we cannot harvest grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles. We know trees by their fruits and the same is true of human behavior (Mt. 7:15-20). Turning stones into bread, jumping off a church tower or running the world is not proof that God is doing it because they are Satan’s miracles (Mt. 4:1-10). The devastations in nature by floods, storms, tornadoes and wars, are not characteristics of God, but of Satan’s (Rev. 12). God made everything good (Gen. 1); He continues to shower us with goodness, mercy and forgiveness (Ja. !:17); and He does not want that anything or anyone should perish (II Pe. 3:9). Why then are we so slow to believe and become believable ourselves. Jesus gave us a crucial explanation in “The Parable of the Sower.” It is Satan who takes away God’s seed or word, before it can settle in our hearts (Mk. 4:15), and Satan replaces the truth with lies (Jn. 8:42-47). They are not outright lies, but they are wrapped in doubt and uncertainties. Satan questions God as to, “…what God said or commanded is not quite believable.” He makes us feel that God would not do what God says and Satan is correct. God does not do it, because God left it up to us. We do what we were not supposed to do; namely, to hurt ourselves. To stop hurting ourselves, we must take on Satan and not God. We must learn to resist the tempter and make him flee (Ja. 4:7).
We become believable by what we do and what we say. Both, behavior and speech ought to betray us. We assimilate into similar characteristics from our parents, friends and teachers. We particularly grow fond of those, whom we regard as our generous benefactors. It is rather common to be spoken of, “Like father, like son.” Jesus insisted that He had assimilated into His Father’s likeness. He told Philip, “I have been with you such a long time, Philip, and you still do not know me? He who has seen me, has seen the Father; how can you say, show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak are not my own but it is the Father who lives in me and works through me. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works we are doing” (Jn. 14:9-11). In the same speech, Jesus continued telling His disciples that they too would adopt Jesus’ characteristics and do greater work for God than He did. He and the Father would continue to reveal themselves in Spirit and in truth to their followers (Jn. 14:12-31).
The resemblance between Christ and His followers cannot be hid, even when we cast some doubt on our loyalty to our Savior. Peter was toying with Satan and even denied that he knew Jesus, but Peter could not convince the world that he was not a disciple of Jesus (Lk. 22:31-38; Mt. 26:69-75). It was not just that Peter looked like one of Jesus’ disciple, but his mannerism at the fireplace and at the gateway, was different from the others present that were consenting to condemn Jesus. It was not just his Galilean accent that betrayed him; but also what he said and how he said it, that caused the others question Peter. His denial, more than anything, reminded him that he could go to no one else to find a better friend (Jn. 6:68). Later on when Peter and John stood before the Jewish leaders, the leaders “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” These men were not just behaving like Jesus, but they were doing work similar to his (Ac. 4:13-22). We do not convince people, with public confessions and being adorned with Christian ornaments, but by doing what Jesus did to honor the Father (Jn. 5:23; Mt. 7:21).
We do mature and age at different levels but that should not change the virtues that God or Christ expects of us (I Jn. 2:12-14). The writer to the Hebrews warned against living in infancy. By infants, the writer had in mind people that live on milk, instead on solid food and by milk he meant, they keep on repenting, struggle with believing, worry about death, the resurrection and judgment. They always had to have others lay hands on them and were unable to distinguish right from wrong. Because of their lack of faith, in themselves, they kept on bouncing back and forth between belief and unbelief. In the process, they feared that they have trampled on Christ or on their salvation. The writer did not see much hope for bouncing believers. “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt” (Heb. 6:4-6). In Hebrews 10:26-39, the same writer continued on the same serious issue of the loss of salvation and how we can prevent it. Fickleness or inconsistency is not helpful to a believer or to anyone who watches him or her. If our lamps or lives ran out of oil or virtues, we are left outside and in the dark and so are those who copy us. Let us take a hint from the five foolish virgins (Mt. 25:1-13).
We provide the primary example whether we deserve to be believed in. The proverb, “An apple does not fall far from its tree” is an age-old reference to how we humans represent our ancestry and our faith. I am and ordained Christian clergyman and the word “ordained” stands for representing my Lord, the Christ. It has never allowed me to do things that may be interpreted or perceived as being appropriate. The Apostle Paul had a similar problem when he wrote, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial,” and “I will not be enslaved by anything” (I Cor. 6:12). When Paul said, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me,” it was in conjunction with his very limited income to get by with very little and not some enormous task in the world (Phil. 4:10-13). A young Christian lady had the idea that the Lord would protect her in a nightclub. A man began to impose himself and she tried to caution him and said, “I am a Christian.” He asked, “What are you doing here?” That is the question that hunts me wherever I go and whatever I intend to do. The people of the world are much sharper in their analysis of me, than I am of myself. I walk into a room and the moment someone points out that I am a clergyman and the mood changes drastically. I have seen liquor disappear, behavior and language change. In no time, the room turned into sinners in need of repentance. I have been retired for over twenty years and no longer embarrass sinners because of these words of Jesus, “Do not hide these words of Jesus’ disclosure because the time is ready. ‘Let the evil man do evil, let the dirty remain dirty, let he righteous do right and let the holy be holy’” (Rev. 2210-11). God is the God of the living and no dead from the other world could have changed the rich man’s brother (Mt. 22:32; Lk. 16:31).
Just how believable are we? How can we convince the world that we are genuine followers if Jesus of Nazareth? In New York City, there is a statute of Horace Greeley. The story goes that he stood on that spot an entire day offering to sell twenty dollar gold pieces for one dollar. Thousands passed by. Some, no doubt, mocked the peddler. Who would believe such a ridiculous claim? Fifteen minutes before closing, a shy and timid woman ventured forward to test Greeley’s offer. Reluctantly, she picked up the gold piece, bit it, threw it on the asphalt, tested it, paid a dollar, pocketed the golden double eagle and disappeared. Ten minutes later she was back with two friends and bought eight more gold pieces. For the next two days thousands lined the road waiting in vain for the kind benefactor to reappear. Horace Greeley had demonstrated that man was unwilling to believe even in himself. James, half-brother to Jesus, believed that we could become believable by sharing our bread (Ja. 2:14-22) and by serving orphans and widows (Js. 1:27). Jesus agreed with James, “whatever you did for the least of my people, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40). The Poet Whittier expressed it in these words:
“To do thy will is more than praise,
As words are less than deeds.
The simplest trust can find thy ways,
We miss with chart or creed” (Kn. 430).