By Jason Bowman
The Bible rarely uses the term Christian to describe the original followers of Jesus (Acts 11:26; 26:29; 1 Peter 4:16). It is not a bad term. It means one who is associated with Christ. However, we should not forget that while Jesus walked the earth, the Bible primarily referred to his followers as disciples. This distinction is important. It reminds us that we are more than just “associated” with Jesus. As disciples we actively learn from Jesus in order to become like him. Last week we saw that when Jesus began his ministry, he first called people to repent. This week we focus on the second thing he called them to do: believe (Mark 1:15).
The Greek word (πιστεύω) that is translated believe means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. It signifies more than intellectually agreeing with a set of facts (1). The word means being so convinced of something that it directs how a person lives. Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God had come near. That fact was not meant to be information for people to agree with while continuing to live as if nothing had changed. By calling people to believe in the Kingdom, Jesus was exhorting them to be so convinced of its reality that it would reorient their day to day lives.
It is not uncommon for us to accept things as true, but that truth to have little impact on our day to day lives. That may sound strange, but consider that most people accept the following as true:
Our minds and bodies function better when we get enough sleep
Fast-food is really unhealthy
Being overly busy is emotionally and psychologically harmful
Material wealth will not ultimately make us happy
Prayer is vital to faith
Even though most people would intellectually agree with most of, if not all of, those statements, those truths often do little to impact day to day life. Here is the point: it is possible to accept something as true without that truth governing how a person lives. However, it is not possible to be a disciple of Jesus with only an intellectual acknowledgement of God’s Kingdom. In order to be a disciple, that belief must bring change in our lives.
How do the things I say I believe actually impact the way I live? Think about the following questions:
What do you believe to be important in life and how do your actions show that?
Who is important in your life and how is that reflected in how you live?
What might others learn about your faith in God by watching how you live your life?
(1) Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 816). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.