“I believe in God!” Ever hear that? I do. A lot. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with that statement. In fact, there is a lot right with that statement. But the statement – I believe in God – is only good depending on one’s answer to this essential question: in which God do you believe? Is He a kind god? Is He a just god who will punish all evil without compromise? Is he a weak god who is powerless against the terrors of this world? Is he created? Is it the god of Islam or the many gods of Hinduism? That’s cool you believe in god, but that doesn’t say much. Which god do you believe in? Belief in a god makes you a theist or deist of some kind and not an atheist, but it doesn’t make you a Christian and it doesn’t say much of anything about your relationship with god.
However, a lot of people don’t get that. Some folks believe their mere belief that there is a god is more than enough. But this is far from the truth. J.I. Packer explains:
We must be clear here. Today’s idea is that the great divide is between those who say “I believe in God” in some sense and those who cannot say it in any sense. Atheism is seen as an enemy, paganism is not, and it is assumed that the difference between one faith and another is quite secondary. But in the Bible the great divide is between those who believe in the Christian God and those who serve idols – “gods,” that is, whose images, whether metal or mental, do not square with the self-disclosure of the Creator. (Taken from Affirming the Apostles Creed, p. 31-32)
Essentially, many believe the important thing is whether or not you acknowledge that God exists. Many people think of god like a socially inept high schooler yearning for the cool kids to notice that He exists. If you do that – if you acknowledge the existence of the attention hungry guy upstairs – then He will be happy and things will be swell for you. But these people are sorely mistaken.
To know God savingly is to know God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. To believe in God means nothing if your conception of God is not the God of the Bible; the Triune God of the gospel; the God who has created the heavens and the earth by the power of His Word (Gen. 1:1); who formed Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2); who promised salvation to come from the Jews (Gen. 12:1-3); who rescued the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus 14); who thundered His Law from Sinai (Exodus 19-20), who sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to bear the sins of Man for their forgiveness (1 Peter 2:24) and to resurrect from the grave for their life (John 3:16-17; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4); the God who is today calling all men to be saved today through the Church’s proclamation of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). This is the true God. This is the only God who saves. This is the only God there is to believe in. If someone’s “belief in God” misses this God, then it hits nothing.
As Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). If someone believes in a God who is different than the God who is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ, then they, according to Jesus, do not have eternal life. As I said above, “Do you believe in God?” is no where near as important of a question as, “In which God do you believe?” Don’t be mistaken, although atheism most definitely does not please God, neither does paganism. Atheists and pagans both need the same thing: to know the Triune God of the Bible through faith Jesus Christ.