Is it really possible to choose to believe in Christ?
Even though it is obvious that believing in something is an involuntary response, the Bible urges us to believe in Christ. Yet paradoxically, the Bible also teaches that God gives us the faith to believe in Him. In answering the question, “Can I choose to believe in Christ in order to have eternal life?” this article will discuss the paradox and explain why the Bible warns us to believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life. We are urged to believe and commanded to believe in Christ.
You Must Believe
After presenting Jesus Christ as our God, who has existed for all eternity past, the gospel of John clearly states that if a person believes in Jesus, he or she can become a child of God. That is how we can go to heaven.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name . . . John 1:12 (NASB)
Our choice is to either receive Jesus Christ or reject Him. It is important to note in the Greek text of this verse that the Greek dative phrase “to those who believe” explains “received Him.” Thus receiving Him is identical to believing in Christ.
This reveals that faith is more than believing some facts about Jesus. James 2:19 states that even the demons believe in God and shudder, but they are not going to heaven. Therefore, we must ask what is faith in Christ? What does it mean to believe in Christ? We need to ask, “Have you believed in Christ yet?” or “Do you have faith in Christ yet?” What does it mean to believe in Christ?
The answer is that one who truly believes in Christ is one who repents and submits to Him, too! Anything short is not true faith because even the demons know that Christ is God, walked among us, died on a cross and was resurrected. But the demons are not willing to repent of their evil deeds and submit to Christ.
Repentance accompanies true faith. Repentance drives us to receive Christ. Acts 20:21 connects repentance and faith together.
. . . solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21 (NASB)
Second Corinthians 7:10 teaches us that repentance leads us to salvation. The sorrow this verse refers to is sorrow over our sin. Repentance refers to changing course or turning around. We realize we are sinners going to an eternal death and we beg God for forgiveness and for Him to change us. We repent.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NASB)
One who believes in Christ but is not repentant believes just as the demons do!
Submission to Christ will accompany true faith. It is expressed in the plea to have God change us. We submit our lives to Him. Romans 10:9 says,
. . . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)
In summary, God urges us to receive or believe in Christ.
While it is true that belief is an involuntary response, we must not miss the fact that it is the result of seriously searching and digging to find the truth. No intelligent person blindly believes. It is also true that most people fail to seriously seek God. They do not search. They are too busy with the toys of this life. They may search the web looking for a quick opinion about Jesus and they may get an equally uninformed viewpoint. They too often fail to do the hard work of discovery. In Jeremiah 29:13-14 God promises,
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, . . . Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NASB)
God promises that if someone will seek God, He will let you find Him. Then you will believe in Him. No person will believe in Christ if they do not understand that they are a sinner who is going to hell and truly understands what the Bible teaches about Jesus. The demons believe because they know it is all true.
God understands that no one will believe in Christ without first hearing about Him. That is why He urges Christians to teach others about Jesus.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14-15 (NASB)
In order to help us believe, God has given us the Bible that includes prophecies, historical events and records about the life of Christ. John 20:30-31 says,
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 (NASB)
God expects those who are serious in seeking a relationship with Him to learn about Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Luke 1:1-4; Romans 10:14-15). If you are serious about God and your destiny, you will search until you decide if Christ is God, died for our sins, was resurrected and you understand that you are going to hell. Belief is the result of searching for truth about God and our destiny. Faith is not a quick, uninformed decision. If you seriously search for God, you will pray and ask Him to help you find Him.
Your Faith Is A Gift
We started this article with John 1:12. Now we look at the next verse.
. . . who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13 (NASB)
Now after we were urged to receive Christ, we are told that it is actually God who causes us to believe in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9), causes us to repent (Acts 11:18) and to submit to Him (1 Corinthians 12:3).
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life. Acts 11:18 (NASB)
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3 (NASB)
We must believe and in the process God gives us the gift of faith, repentance and submission. We will then repent and want to submit to Him. These are the evidences of true saving faith.
We believe because God gives us the gift of faith (Acts 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1). Yet, we are urged to believe so that we can go to heaven, even though we do not understand how this works. It is a paradox. Yet, the apostle accepted this truth when he wrote,
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 (NASB)
The reward for receiving Christ is that we become a child of God and enter into His heaven for eternity. Would you like to learn more? If so, read how to become a Christian at “Searching For God.”
Suggested Links:Searching For God
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Must we confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth to be saved?
What does it mean to receive Christ?