John 3:31-36 (ESV)
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
One of the ways in which the world around us does not understand the Christian faith has to do with how belief in Christ could have such a determining impact on one’s eternity. How, the world wonders, could God make the difference in heaven and hell simply be whether or not we believe this or that. Isn’t it OK to believe whatever you want to believe so long as you are sincere?
John the Baptist, speaking in the verses above, understands the significance of believing the testimony of Christ. He makes it plain for us all to grasp. And, he shows just how it is that faith is so central to our eternity. This is because, whatever we choose to believe about Jesus is a statement about how we wish to stand before God.
Christ has come. He has testified to the world that he is God in flesh who came to die for the sins of God’s children. He has had this testimony confirmed by rising from the dead and ascending to heaven. Then that testimony was further clarified by the writings of the holy apostles.
What we do with this testimony of Christ is evidence of what we declare to be true of the character of God. John the Baptist said, “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.” Thus, to refuse to believe the testimony of Christ is to declare that God is false, evil, untrustworthy. To turn from the testimony of Christ to your own beliefs is to look at the God of the universe who has offered you salvation and to say to him, “No thanks, I do not believe that you are honest or good.” To make such a statement against God is just as destructive as Eve choosing to eat the fruit in the garden and declare to God that she preferred to rule her own universe rather than obey him.
John also said to us, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” To refuse to place your trust in Jesus is to say to the Father, “I refuse to love what you love. I refuse to receive that which you say is most important.” This is rebellion against God.
This is how we end up with John the Baptist saying, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” The conclusion is simple. God equates faith in the Son of God with obedience to God. God has called us to believe in the Son of God. If we do so, we receive grace and life from God as we yield to his goodness and mercy. If we reject the Son of God, we have disobeyed God, and we then face God’s wrath for our rebellion against him.
The world would say that one’s belief or disbelief in Jesus is simply a matter of opinion. People would argue that this is little different than preferring jazz to classic rock. But, in reality, what you believe about Jesus is the determining factor as to whether or not you are willing to submit to the God who made you. He has made a way, one way for you to be saved. That way is also a person, and one whom the Father loves above all else. To reject that way is to reject God altogether. To embrace that way is to embrace God and his mercy.