What Does “Believe” Mean?
March 6, 2024 Creekwood United Methodist Church

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What Does “Believe” Mean?

(and Leadership Board News)

“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

-John 14:1 NRSV

Believe sign

In the show “Ted Lasso,” Ted starts his first day at AFC Richmond by taping up a noticeable sign that simply reads, “Believe.”  He points at it often, refers to it in speeches, but never actually tells us what to believe.  To the players, this is a completely asinine gesture.  They are looking for tactics and strategy, but all Ted keeps telling them is to “Believe.”

They don’t buy it.  At first.

Slowly but surely, he teaches the angriest player on the team to believe in the goodness of humanity by helping him protect the weakest amongst them.

Slowly but surely, he teaches the most insecure player on the team to believe he is worthy by helping him find genuine community away from his family.

Slowly but surely, he teaches the most narcissistic player on the team to believe he is loved for who he is and not what he does by consistently pointing out the good that comes from selflessness, and how it actually makes him more important than selfishness.

None of these players was transformed by tactics and strategy.  All of them were transformed by “Belief.”

“Believing in Jesus” has long been a Christian tenant – in fact it’s literally what gives us our name “Christian.”  But I’m not sure we mean the same thing Jesus meant when he told his disciples to “Believe in God, believe also in me.”

I worked at a Christian sports camp in southern Missouri after my sophomore year of college.  At the first day of orientation, the camp director very explicitly told us, “The goal of everything you do at this camp is to get people to believe in Jesus.”  A naïve freshman dared to raise his hand and ask, “What do we do after that?”  The director looked almost puzzled and responded, “That’s it…there is nothing else.”

At that same camp, I got to witness the beautiful moment when a young man told the camp he believed in Jesus with a cool story of how he’d felt truly loved since he’d been at the camp.  The same director came on to wrap up the event, and the 8th grader doubled back and asked a similar question, “What do I do now?”  Confidently, the director said to him, “You ain’t got to do nothing more, man, you are saved.”

So, here’s the distinction I’d like to make about what it means to “believe in Jesus.”  On one hand, Ephesians 2:8-9 very clearly tells us that we are “saved by grace through faith,” and John 3:16 very clearly tells us that “all who believe in [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”  Our salvation is very clearly offered to us through Jesus and not anything that we earn or achieve.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do.

On the contrary, when Jesus is asking his disciples to “believe in me” it’s in the context that he will be gone soon and they’ll be left to carry on the mission with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus isn’t just asking for a one-time confession with no strings attached, Jesus is asking for an IMMENSE amount of trust to be put in who he is and what he stands for.

First, Jesus is the Son of God.  One of the few times he flat out says that he is one with God is later in John 14.  Belief in this alters everything that Jesus says, because now he isn’t just a teacher – he is literally the source of all truth and wisdom.

Second, accepting Jesus as our savior is a paradigm shattering understanding that our achievements aren’t the end-all-be-all of our priorities, because they don’t earn us the ultimate reward anyways.  Accepting Jesus’ grace is a humbling attribute that puts us all on equal terms of both mistake-ridden AND loved and valuable.

Third, believing in Jesus cannot be separated from the world he wanted to shape while he was on Earth.  If he is the Son of God and lives out God’s life on Earth, then we ought to question why we aren’t as revolutionarily kind to those we are uncomfortable with and why we are so obsessed with power and looking powerful.

Belief is supposed to transform us.  It is not a merit badge or a magic prayer.  Belief brings salvation because belief reshapes who we are and what we stand for, accepting the free gift of grace from God and trusting that graceful, ideal world Jesus showcases is what we are supposed to be about.

When a freshman asks, “What else?” there are two answers that should have been given:

1)    For salvation?  Nothing, just believe that God loves you that much.


2)    For salvation?  Everything, because Jesus asks for your trust that His vision for this world is better than ours.


David Lessner

Leadership Board News

In February, Joni Clarke announced that she was resigning from the Leadership Board at Creekwood because she is preparing to move away from the community. Joni served fantastically and we hope you will thank her.

In the event of a mid-year opening, we voted as a church in December that the Lay Discipleship Team would nominate and vote on a replacement to finish out the term. That Team met last month and lifted up Andi Robertson, who has graciously accepted. Andi is a high school small group leader on Wednesday nights, is a long-time member, greets on Sundays, and has wonderful faith and knowledge that will help the Leadership Board in both spiritual and tactical ways. Please tell Andi “thank you” when you see her.