In Russia Vladimir Putin has recently signed a law that formalises constitutional changes endorsed in a vote last year. It will allow Putin to remain as President until he’s 83, but I was more interested in another amendment, the one that emphasises belief in God as a core value.
When I became a Christian, Russia was part of the USSR and how different it was then. The USSR was a communist, atheistic regime where Christians were persecuted and Bibles had to be smuggled into the country. It wasn’t uncommon for Christians to be imprisoned and forced into hard labour in Siberian labour camps. The Nobel prize winning author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, paints a depressing picture of such an existence in his book ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’. It was bleak, and hope was a rare commodity.
Now supposedly, a belief in God is a core value, but what does that mean? Is Russia now a Christian country? In my opinion, no, for two reasons. Firstly, there is no such thing as a Christian country, just Christian people whose lifestyle and values may impact upon their nation. Secondly, a belief in God does not make someone a Christian.
James, a writer of one of the letters in the New Testament wrote, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.” (1) That’s true. On more than one occasion demons, or evil spirits, tangled with Jesus and were in no doubt about who he was. Take this for example, when an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (2)
Satan also believed in God. How could he not? His aim, and the reason for his fall, was to make himself like God. “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (3) This aim of his was what led him to tempt Jesus after he had spent 40 days in a wilderness without food. It was why he fought a losing battle against Jesus when he was crucified.
Men believed in God, and now Russia has made it a constitutional necessity. Quite early in history men rebelled against God, knowing full well who he was. These are the men who built the famous Tower of Babel to pride themselves on their achievements while turning their back on God. When Jesus was on earth he told a story emphasising this point. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’” (4)
I hope you can now see that if someone says they believe in God, that in no way makes them a Christian. The word ‘Christian’ itself should point to an appreciation that Christ, or Jesus, has something to do with it. A Christian is someone who believes in God as the only perfect being who is beyond understanding. A Christian believes that man has rebelled against God, thereby making him a sinner and in need of help and forgiveness if he is to avoid eternal separation from God. A Christian also knows that he needs a Saviour, being unable to secure his own salvation from sin.
The Saviour man needs is Jesus, the Son of God, who came from heaven to earth so that he could die for us. Sin is so bad it must be dealt with by punishment, and Jesus voluntarily took the punishment upon himself. By believing in him we have our sins forgiven and we are saved. However, this belief is not academic. You can’t say you believe in Jesus like you say you believe in God and it has no impact on what you do. Belief in Jesus is meant to change you. You are born again and made into a new person designed to live a life pleasing to God, a life that can bring you satisfaction and fulfilment. Whatever you believe now you need to have a life changing belief in Jesus. Please come to him, say you’re sorry for your sins, take him as your Saviour and live for him.
- James 2:19
- Mark 1:24
- Isaiah 14:14
- Luke 19:12-14