Believing in Jesus is easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find it difficult to believe in Jesus. I don’t find it difficult to believe in the Bible. I’ve witnessed too many miracles, too many supernatural things not to believe in God. And I can sit and talk to other believers about God all day long. But what I find the most challenging is talking to people who don’t believe.
Most of it is fear, and it’s irrational.
I’m a shameless people pleaser, after all, though I’m certainly a lot better than I used to be. And it’s my first response to hold conversations with people that won’t upset them. That will maintain our friendship. That won’t make them angry with me. And I get so afraid that people will get angry with me that most of the time I neglect to bring up my faith, even when I have a good opportunity.
Is that the right thing to do?
The verse for today made me think of this.
9 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. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
I don’t know if churches still do this, but they used to have this time after a message called an altar call. Anyone who needed to pray could come to the front and pray at the altar at the front of the church. Anyone who needed to talk to the Pastor could come and talk to the Pastor. Anyone who had decided to accept Christ could walk forward and Pastor would have them pray with a deacon. Usually, everyone would sing all the verses to “Just As I Am” while they were waiting.
On Palm Sunday in 1990, I responded to the altar call at our church in Houston. I was 7 years old. And I might have been young, but I understood the concept that I was a sinner and that I needed someone to save me. But I’m here to tell you as a kid who sought to please everyone, stepping out in front of my parents and my friends and my teachers (they all went to the same church) and exclaiming to them that I wasn’t already saved was hard to do.
As an adult now, I understand how they felt. Happy. Joyful. Excited that I had made a decision. But at the time, I was afraid that letting everyone know that I wasn’t a Christian from an even younger age was really hard for me. It was silly, I know, an example of the unrealistic expectations I’ve always placed on myself.
Part of me misses the altar calls. I understand why we had to stop doing them, though, but I miss them. Because putting action behind what you believe is what Christianity is all about. Don’t misunderstand, of course. Christianity isn’t a works-based faith. It’s more like faith-based works. Because in James, the Bible tells us that faith without good works is dead. You can claim to be a Christian all day long, but if your life and your works don’t back it up, are you really? Becuase you’re not living like you believe.
Believing is easy. Making the decision to believe isn’t hard. It’s telling everyone that’s hard. It’s changing your life that’s hard. But if you decide to believe and you don’t tell anyone and your life doesn’t change, do you really believe?
I think that’s why I liked the altar calls, because they gave people the opportunity to act, to do something, to follow through with the internal decision they had made and tell the whole congregation that they had decided to believe in Jesus.
If someone comes out and asks me if I’m a Christian, I tell them yes. But that’s an easy answer to respond to because everyone calls themself a Christian anymore, and very few people know what it means. And refusing to explain what I believe because I’m afraid is wrong. Now, I do think there are times when we as believers need to back off and let God do the talking. Many times, God will speak through our silence more effectively than He will through our words.
But being afraid of people and what they think is foolish. And refusing to give an account of my faith just because I’m worried about how I will be perceived is damaging, not only to me but to the people around me. I’m still working on this. And I know the verse for today is generally used in leading people to faith in Christ, but I think it’s relevant for the rest of our lives too.
You can believe in Christ all day long, but until you start telling people what you believe, how else will anyone know?