What Do You Mean, 'You Believe?

What Do You Mean, 'You Believe?

In this blog post by Mike Barko, he shares an insightful encounter with Matthew during a Memorial Day celebration. Initially, Matthew claims to have accepted Christ but admits uncertainty about his salvation, rating it at only 80-90%. This prompts Mike to delve deeper into Matthew's beliefs. He uncovers that Matthew places trust in God's present interventions in his life rather than Christ's work 2000 years ago. Their conversation reveals Matthew's confusion and reliance on self-justification. Through a courtroom analogy, Mike helps Matthew realize the futility of relying on his actions to be justified. Matthew ultimately grasps the concept of repentance, understanding he can't save himself and must rely on Jesus. Mike emphasizes that Christ was judged in the believer's place 2000 years ago, providing conclusive proof of salvation, "Paid-in-full." The blog concludes with Matthew acknowledging Jesus as God and expressing complete assurance of his salvation, showcasing the transformative power of understanding Christ's work and identity.


Mike Barko

6/15/20195 min read



More stories from Memorial Day celebration...

Matthew initially told me...

"I've accepted Him and I worship Him."

This sounds good, until we ask him how sure he is that he would go to Heaven...


A person who trusts Christ should be 100% sure. (1 John 5:13)

So, we need to find out what the problem is here. There are many ways to do this. Here, I decided to ask the following:

"What keeps you from being 100% sure?"

'Some days He comes through, and some days He does not.'

Based on his response here, Matthew is trusting in God's work in his life right now, instead of God's work 2000 years ago. We all go through times where God comes through and delivers us, and other times where nothing happens. We don't want to trust in this for our salvation, we want to trust in the work of Christ alone.

So, I asked him...

"Why does God come through for you?"

'Because I believe...'

This is a good answer, but because of the previous red flags, we need more information.

So, I asked...

"What do you mean, 'I believe'?"

'Well, in the hospital a few years ago, God was there for me."

Here is a young man who had a very real experience with God a few years ago in the hospital. God came through for him on that day. Subsequent to that experience, the Lord has come through on other occasions for Matthew. Matthew 'worships' God, and has 'accepted' Him, but is not 100% sure of going Heaven.

Given everything that he told me, it sounded like Matthew had never really heard the gospel and put his trust in the death and resurrection of Christ alone for his salvation.

Matthew wanted to know how he could be 100% sure that he would go to Heaven when he died.

As we always do, I shared the law with Matthew to show him his sin, his need. Matthew saw that he was a liar, thief, murderer, and blasphemer in God's eyes. We talked about the penalty being hell. He understood that because God was just, he deserved to be punished in hell.

So far, so good...

The next red flag came up when I asked him if he would be innocent or guilty based on that record.


"Matthew, which one is it?"

'Innocent because I believe, but guilty because I have sinned.'

We are peeling back the layers, and this young man's heart is being revealed. We are discovering what Matthew is really trusting in.

Matthew is confused. He has heard that if he 'believes' he will be innocent, but the problem is that he has sinned at the same time. How can we reconcile these two apparent incongruencies?

Take the person to the courtroom...

"Matthew, whether you got a speeding ticket, robbed a bank, or murdered someone, how can you be justified?"

His response was typical...

'Don't do those things.'

I had to remind him, that because he had already sinned, he had already done those things.

So, I asked him the question again...

"What can you do to be justified in God's courtroom?"

'Do better.'

As I have shared before, the default setting in the human heart is self-justification. People incessantly keep coming back to something they can do to be justified before God.

The mirror illustration works well here.

"Matthew, did you ever play in the mud as a child? (Yes) When you stood in front of the mirror, what did it tell you? (Dirty) Did you ever take the mirror off the wall and try to clean yourself with the mirror? (No!) What would that look like? (Silly)"

"Matthew, God's law, his ten commandments are a mirror. What do they reveal about you? (Dirty) Matthew, you keep taking the mirror off the wall and trying to clean yourself with the mirror! You are relying on the wrong thing to make you clean!"

This is what so many people, Christian and non-Christian, do. They rely upon what they are doing to be justified/made clean. Relying upon what we do is called law. People inherently rely upon the law for justification/cleansing, instead of relying upon Christ.

It took a while in the courtroom. Matthew kept coming back to something he thought he had to do, or could do, to be justified/made clean in God's courtroom.

Make sure that you let a person squirm around a bit in the courtroom, before you give them the answer. If you give them the answer prematurely, it will not mean as much.

A life preserver means a whole lot more to the person drowning in a raging ocean. They will cling to it. The person standing in a baby pool will initially take the life preserver, but will then set it down because it had no meaning to them.

After squirming enough, Matthew finally admitted there was nothing that he could do to justify himself in God's courtroom.

Beautiful, this is repentance: I give up all efforts to save myself because I can't, and I instead rely upon another.

"Matthew can you save yourself? (No) Are you the Savior? (No) Who is? (Jesus) What did He do for you so you could be saved? (Died for me)"

Matthew, like so many people, knew that Jesus had died for him. However, now that he saw himself in the courtroom unable to save himself, that death had new meaning to him.

The electric chair that had been reserved for Matthew, was instead, sat in by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

Judgment took place 2000 years ago. Christ was judged in Matthew's place. Most people are ignorant of this fact.

People think they will stand before God, and then He will make a decision to either allow them into Heaven, or reject them. No, Christ was eternally judged for the believer 2000 years ago.


Yes, we will be judged for our works, but not for our sins. Christ already took that judgment. Again, so many people in church don't understand this wonderful truth. How can I trust Christ if I still think I am going to be judged for my sins?

If I pay Matthew's $200 speeding ticket for him, can he leave the courtroom? Sure, justice has been satisfied, not by him, but by another.

Praise His Holy Name...

What little white piece of paper can the judge give Matthew as proof that his debt had been paid? (A receipt)

God the Father raised God the Son 2000 years ago to give precious Matthew conclusive proof that his sin debt had been completely paid for, and another had been judged in his place. (Paid-in-full)

Matthew now understood what Jesus had done for him. He now understood that he could be simultaneously a sinner and yet justified at the same time...


"God...justifies the ungodly..." (Rom. 4:5)


Matthew wanted to trust, not in God's present deliverance in his life, but instead, in God's previous deliverance wherein another had already taken his place...Paid in full.

Before prayer, we needed to make sure that Matthew really knew who Jesus was. Like so many in the church, he did not.

Like so many others, Matthew knew that Jesus was the Son of God. But, when I asked him the litmus test question...

"Is Jesus God?"

Matthew replied, "No."

Unfortunately, this essential element of our salvation is not talked much about today. We assume that people understand this truth. They don't.

People tell me things like...

"God...Jesus...The Holy Spirit." (Here, it sounds like the first one is God, but the second and third are not)

"Father, Son, Spirit". (Here, people understand that there are three, but they don't understand that each one is God)

The best, but very simple way of explaining is simply...

"God the Father...God the Son...God the Holy Spirit" (Here it is clear that God exists as three persons, but at the same time, each person is fully God)

Matthew was now ready to trust in both the work and person of Jesus Christ, and we prayed accordingly...


His response was also one for the books...

"He just saved me."

"How sure are you now that you would go to Heaven?"

"1000%!...Infinity!" (Giggles followed)

Soli deo Gloria!