For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (King James Version)A recent discussion going on got me thinking about some of the words in this verse. Specifically, what does it mean to "believe in him" according to John here? I quoted John Eldredge earlier regarding knowing something in your mind versus knowing something in your heart. I think the same holds true for the word believe here.
On the one hand, we can take the word believe to mean that we make some profession that we agree with the premise stated (God loved the world, Jesus was his only begotten son). Once we say that, we fix it in our brains and get on with our "normal" lives once again. This strikes me as the "Get out of hell free" approach to Christianity. As you may be able to tell, I'm not really in favor of this approach.
On the other hand, we can take the word believe to mean something deeper and more binding. That is, we can take it into our hearts and live out that belief to the best of our abilities. This leads to a heart that wants to lead a life like Christ; a life following God's ways and doing His will.
I'm in favor of the second way of thinking AND I am nowhere near perfect. In trying to live my belief I find that I cannot follow Christ's example on my own. I am a human with all the wired-in problems that a sinful nature brings with it. As such, I need help and a lot of it.
I need to recognize and admit that I am broken and that my plans, schemes, and designs are not going to get the job done. I'm left with one reasonable choice: Believe that God wants me and has plans for me. Once I've bought into that Truth, I can claim what Paul says to the Church at Corinth:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)