This is one of the things I do from time to time: I attempt to articulate what I believe, to say it out loud for other people to hear, respond to and comment on.
There is no particular reason why you should be interested in what I believe, but it may be helpful for you to hear how I put it into words that make sense, that work for me, and to think about how you would put it into words that work for you, and the people you spend time talking with.
It is easy to say "I believe in Jesus" but what does this mean?
When we say, "I believe in Jesus", many people will hear something quite different: they will hear "I believe facts about Jesus."
We are very good at telling people facts about Jesus. We have lists of facts called creeds. You are probably familiar with a few. The Apostles' Creed is a well known example, and it starts like this.
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
These facts, these doctrines, are all good and helpful, but they don't answer the question. These doctrines describe Jesus, they help us understand Who He is and what He did. But believing in Jesus is not a matter of agreeing to these doctrines, even though it often includes that.
When we say, "I believe in somebody," what we mean depends on the context and on whom we are talking about.
When we are talking to a child, "I believe in you" can mean: I trust you to be reliable, to do the right thing.
When we are talking to a professor with controversial theories, "I believe in you" can mean that I trust your research has uncovered the facts, I trust your analysis has interpreted the facts correctly, and I trust your theories tell us how to use the facts helpfully.
When we are talking to a leader, "I believe in you" can mean: I will follow you; I will obey you; I want to go where you are going; I trust you will deliver on your promises.
Believing in Jesus means committing yourself not to a doctrine, but to a person. That is much harder.
Jesus warns us in various places that following Him will be tough. In John chapter 6, we read that many of Jesus' disciples stopped following Him. He asks the Twelve if they want to leave as well, and Peter responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life."
If you are like Peter here, you do not follow Jesus because, out of all the messiahs and spiritual leaders, He is the best of the bunch. You follow Jesus because He is unique, the only one Who speaks the words of eternal life. There is nowhere else to go. But commitment to Jesus must be more than simply having no alternative.
For me, this sort of commitment has never been better expressed than by Ruth when she refuses to leave Naomi.
But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried."
I think this is a pretty good expression of the commitment we are making when we say to Jesus, "I believe in You."
This Jesus I believe in came to build a Kingdom and a Church, so if He believes in these things, I have to believe in them too.
For a long time, many Christians confused the Kingdom of God with Christendom. We thought the Kingdom of God was about God being in charge up there, and that somehow that this means Church leaders should be in charge down here.
We pray the Lord's Prayer, but we say it wrong.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
What we should be saying is more like this.
Your Kingdom come:
be done on Earth
as it is done in Heaven.
Let us unpack what Jesus is saying, very briefly.
Your Kingdom come: what does this mean? Jesus spells it out for us.
Your will, our Heavenly Father's good, loving, and just desires,
be done on Earth, made real here and now,
as it is done in Heaven.
God's Kingdom is not about God being in charge, it is about God's will being done. We need to be clear about a couple of points here.
Firstly, God is already sovereign. He is already on the Throne. That is not the issue.
Secondly, God's will is not being done on Earth. We are in a mess because our will is being done, because we think we know better than He does.
Believing in Jesus, following Jesus, means submitting to God's will being done in our lives and through us for other people, just as it did for Jesus. It means dying to our own plans and prejudices, so that His purposes and desires can be brought about.
If you are looking for a job, this is it. If you are looking for a purpose in life, this is what you have been called to. To see our heavenly Father's goodness and love and justice made real, not just in our lives, but in the lives of everyone around us - because, if you haven't got it yet, God loves everyone.
The Church, of course, is not a building but a people.
But what people?
For us, the word 'Church' has associations. Yes, it is a group of people, but a group of people behaving in a fairly ordered fashion. Possibly even serene.
In the New Testament, there is nothing serene about the word. A church, an 'ekklesia' is a group of called-out people. Called out of something, and called out for something. It may not be serene, there may be no order evident, but there is a strong sense of purpose.
In New Testament days, there were many groups of called-out people, which is why Jesus did not say "I will build the church," but "I will build my church." His Church is called by Him to do His will.
We are called out by Jesus because it is only as a united group that we will be able to follow Him and see His Kingdom built.
We are not designed to be standalone, self-sufficient. We are all incomplete, we are bits, parts, members of the Body of Christ. A finger a kidney, an eye or a hand can achieve nothing on its own. It is only when I am connected with the Body of Christ and playing my unique role within the Body, that the Body can work to see the Kingdom built and Jesus glorified.
It does not matter if you have a label or a job description, it does not matter if you are officially recognised by some person or group. What mattes is that you are connected, you are where God wants you to be, relating, living, loving; and playing the role He has given you, which is mostly about being the person He created you to be.
I'm not saying that is easy, but I am saying it is possible. It is possible because that is God's will for you, to play a unique part in the building of His Kingdom, transforming the world we live in, through living fully as the person He created you to be as a part of the Body of Christ.
This, for me, is a starting point, in my attempt to understand what it means to believe in Jesus. I'm not saying I have got it all right, but please, over the next week, have a think and ask yourself, what believing in Jesus means for you? How do you put it into words for other people?