Do you like to be praised for a job well done? Do you like a compliment? I do. Have you learned the reality that hard work will only get you so for, but having connections and knowing the right people will get you a lot farther? Have you ever stopped to consider the ramifications that this mindset and disposition has on your eternity? Jesus laid it out clearly:
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”
– John 5.44
There were many people who wanted to be around Jesus because of his benefits. John goes so far as to say that people “believed” when they saw the signs that Jesus preformed. But their belief was not an understanding of the cross and salvation, their belief was in the signs. There were others who wanted to associate with Jesus because they thought He was going to rise to power and be the political king over Israel. His brothers tried to encourage Him to go and present Himself to the people to be king – because they were, after all, his brothers:
“Therefore His brothers said to Him, ‘Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”
– John 7.3-5
At first glance this verse makes no sense. Jesus’ brothers were seeing the miracles that Jesus was working and they believed that He had the power to be king, to prove Himself to the world, but yet John says that “not even His brothers were believing in Him”. His brothers were caught up in the signs, in the wonders, in the miracles and power but not in Jesus’ mission and purpose of salvation for the sinners. They did not believe in the cross. They wanted the benefit of knowing Christ.
We also see people who are more obvious in their sinful desires to be associated with Christ.
Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”
– Acts 8.9-24
Here we see that there was a man to whom was attributed belief, but as his heart was revealed we learn that his belief was self-serving. He believed that the Holy Spirit had power, and that the Holy Spirit was the gift of Jesus through salvation, but he only wanted the power for selfish motives, not because he was repenting of His sins. Nicodemus was a priest who believed the signs, but still needed to be born again in order to be saved. And, perhaps the most well known verse on the subject is James 2.19:
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
But Paul and Silas told the jail keeper,
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
– Acts 16.31
So what is saving belief? It is belief that is not self-serving. It is belief that is not to receive glory or power, but humbles itself and repents. It is belief that sees the miracles and signs of Jesus as proof of His deity, but that Jesus’ death and resurrection was His mission. Belief that is focused on signs and wonders, and belief that profits man’s reputation is that which is easily swayed. It is shallow, and it misses the boat.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
– Matt 24.24
If we are looking only at the signs, only at the benefits, we will be led astray. We will be caught up by every new teaching and whim. Many will preform signs and wonders. But only Jesus saves. Is your faith a humble faith? Have you realized your inability to do anything righteous or good, and are clinging to Jesus? Or does Jesus supplement your reputation? Are you using Him to get where you want to go? Does He just look good on your resume? Examine yourself, eternity is at stake.