Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tough Stuff Tuesday: With All Your Heart

The book of Acts is filled with conversion stories. One such story that I'm sure you're familiar with is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In the story (true account, not fable), the eunuch is in a chariot reading from the book of Isaiah, except he doesn't understand what he's reading. He asks Philip if the prophet was talking about himself or about someone else. From that point, Philip starts "preaching Jesus" to the eunuch.

What makes this account so 'famous' is that it is in this setting that eunuch offers what we often call the 'good confession'. He tells Philip, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37b). However, I think in all the years that we've studied this verse, we've overlooked a key phrase. Prior to this great moment, after hearing the gospel proclaimed, the eunuch says to Philip, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" and Philip answers him and says, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." (Acts 8:36-37a)

Recently, when re-reading this account, those four words stuck out to me in a way they never have before. You see, Philip doesn't simply say, in response to being asked if the eunuch can be baptized, "if you believe you may." Instead he says, if you believe with all your heart, you may.

So what does believing with all of your heart look like? Today, I submit to you that it looks like this:

Believing with all your heart means keeping Jesus' commandments. In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me keep My commandments". He goes on to say in verse 21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me."

We know that baptism is the act that puts us into the church (Acts 2:47). Baptism is the point that we come in contact with the blood of Jesus and are thus saved by it (Rom. 6). But, baptism isn't an end-all event. From that point, it is imperative that the now-child of God live faithfully, for it is only then that he/she will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Living faithfully means abiding by the commandments that our Savior (the one whose blood cleanses us) has established.

It is not enough to say, "I want to be saved, can I be baptized?" Instead, when deciding that we want to put on Christ in baptism, we are deciding to dedicate our lives to faithful, obedient service. Had the eunuch half-heartedly believed that Jesus was the Christ, and only wanted to be baptized as a one-time sign that he believed, I fully believe that Philip would have done some more teaching. Why? Because there is so much more to being a Christian, a disciple of the Lord, than the initial act of baptism. It is a commitment to faithfully serving the one you have chosen as Lord of your life.

James said in James 2:18-20, "But someone will say, 'you have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

It is not enough to simply believe in Jesus. Instead, we must believe with all our heart, which will produce a change in our lives. It will demand obedience to not some, but all of the commands that our Lord has given to us--even (and especially) the ones that are hard for us to adhere to.

Being a true disciple, a saved member of the Lord's body, is all about whole-hearted service. The eunuch couldn't have a half-hearted belief and be saved, and we cannot either. To the church at Laodicea, Jesus said, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16). Philip knew that Jesus didn't want half-hearted, lukewarm disciples, and that is why he told the eunuch he could become a Christian if, and only if, he was prepared for whole-hearted service to the Son of God.

So why is this a Tough Stuff Tuesday post? Because mediocre Christianity is on the rise! Part-time, half-hearted Christianity is a growing epidemic, and yet we know there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. James said that you are either a friend of God or you are an enemy (James 4:4). Think about yourself today. Have you been following Jesus with your whole heart? Because that's what it takes. If not, decide to give your entire self over to Jesus, either through baptism (if you are not a Christian) or by rededicating your entire life to One whose body you were baptized into.

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