We find ourselves in the seventh chapter of John, verses 37 through 44. Prior to our reading, we are told Jesus was in Judea. That fact is important for one reason: while Jesus was extremely popular in Galilea, he was extremely unpopular in Judea. It is safe to say, Jesus was a controversial character in that corner of the world. Our text emphasizes that fact. On the last and greatest day of the Feast of the Tabernacle, a holiday like the American Thanksgiving Day, a time to thank God for the harvest and the goodness in their lives, Jesus spoke in a loud voice to the crowd. He said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Those words were meant to unite the crowd, but the crowd had the opposite reaction to those words. Those words divided the crowd. Some believed Jesus was a prophet. Others believed Jesus was the Messiah. Still others questioned his character. Everyone had their own opinion, and everyone was forced to answer the question, what do you believe about Jesus? It is not just a question isolated to that time and place. It is a question that has been asked since Jesus’s earthly ministry. It is a question that is asked in our time.
In 2015, the Barna Research group asked Americans what they believed about Jesus. While their findings are dated, their findings are revealing. I find them to be very interesting. I do not believe American’s beliefs about Jesus have change that much in eight years. In this blog, I will reveal their findings in the form of five questions. Never forget, it is not important what other people believe about Jesus. It is more important what you believe about Jesus. What do you believe about Jesus? This is question number one.
Do you believe Jesus was a historical character? When I was young, I was taught about Paul Bunyan. He was a giant lumberjack who lived in northern America and Canada. He had superhuman strength and was constantly accompanied by Babe the Blue Ox. He had a younger brother named Cordwood Pete. (How can you not like a guy named Cordwood Pete?) It was a sad day when I discovered Paul Bunyan never lived. He was fictious. He began as an oral tradition by North American logger. Freelance writer William B. Laughhead (1882-1958) popularized the myth. Like Paul Bunyan, some believe Jesus never lived.
The question is, do you believe Jesus was a historical character? According to the Barna Research group, 8% of Americans believe Jesus isn’t a historical character who walked the earth. They believe Jesus is fictious. I am part of the 92% who believe Jesus is a historical character who lived in the past, and I hope you are too. This is question number two.
Do you believe Jesus was God? Christmas is not just a time to send cards, give gifts, listen to holiday music, eat cookies, and spend time with family and friends. It is a time to ponder the incarnation of God in Jesus. In other words, it is a time to remember how God took human flesh and dwelt among us. We say we love our dogs, but would we really trade places with them? So, to speak, that is what God did. Love is the only reason God would leave the perfection of heaven and exist in the imperfect world. At Christmas we remember that Jesus was fully God and fully human. This is the question.
Do you believe Jesus was God? According to the Barna Research group, 44% of all Americans do not believe Jesus was God. He was simply a human being. This is the truth. Fewer Americans don’t believe that Jesus was God all the time. Younger generations struggle with this divine truth. Only 52% of millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996, believe Jesus was God. I am part of the 56% of Americans who believe Jesus was God and I hope you are too. This is question number three?
Do you believe Jesus was sinless? Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin be sin for us, so that in him we may be the righteousness of God.” The sinlessness of Jesus is an important part of the Christian faith. Because Jesus was sinless, he was the perfect sacrifice for our sinful world. He endured the punishment that should have been ours. This is the question.
Do you believe Jesus was sinless? According to the Barna Research group, 24% of Americans strongly agree Jesus sinned like other people. Another 28% of Americans somewhat agree Jesus sinned like other people. I am part of the 31% who strongly agree Jesus was sinless and I hope you are too. This is question number four.
Have you made a commitment to Jesus Christ? Everyone’s testimony is different, and everyone’s testimony is important. Some stories include sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Other stories include church youth group and church camp. Some jump off the high drive into the faith and others wade in slowly. The testimonies really don’t matter but the commitment does. At some point in your life, you must make a commitment to Jesus Christ. I made my commitment forty-eight years ago. This is the question.
Have you made a commitment to Jesus Christ? According to the Barna Research group, 38% of Americans have never made a commitment to Jesus Christ. The group who are most likely to make a commitment to Jesus are older black females who make less than $50,000 annually. I am an older white male who has a good life, but I have made a commitment to Jesus Christ. I hope you have too. Research tells us 62% of all Americans have made a commitment to Jesus. This is question number five.
Do you believe Jesus is your only hope of salvation? According to the Pew Research Group, 73% of all American believe in the existence of heaven. Only 62% believe in the existence of hell. Most believe they are going to heaven. In my time in the ministry, I worried some believed they could save themselves by their good works. That is called works righteousness. That is why I repeated time and time again the divine truth. We are saved by grace and by grace alone. This is the question.
Do you believe Jesus is your only hope of salvation? According to the Barna Research group, only 15% of Americans do not know what will happen to them when they die. However, 63% believe they will go to heaven because they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ. I am in that 63%, and I hope you are too.
John 3:16 has been called the Bible in a nutshell. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son. That whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. The scripture says it clearly. You must believe in Jesus, but what do you believe about Jesus? It is an excellent question to ask yourself.