What does faith in Jesus mean? Is it a belief in certain historical facts about Jesus, His virgin birth, his death, burial, and physical resurrection. Is it the conviction that Jesus will change God’s opinion of me and consequently His plan for my eternal destination? Does an acceptance of the historical validity of the story of Jesus as presented in the Bible sufficient to transform me and to correct my sinfulness? Such would be the case under the general understanding of faith in Jesus.
However, this traditional acceptance of the historical Jesus is decidedly not the faith which can and will transform mankind. Salvation cannot result from belief in historical facts. It cannot be achieved through ritualism. It cannot come from the practice of piety. Salvation can only come about through embracing the ethics of Jesus, by living the life of unconditional love. I conclude this because of what Jesus is taught in His most famous lesson, that of the Sermon on the Mount. At that moment, Jesus extolled meekness, humility, peacemaking, self sacrifice, and unbounded love, calling mankind to a state of perfection like unto that of the Father. Based on the ethical exhortation of this lesson, one can hardly justify the church’s traditional call for condemnation of the sins of others, for piously demanding that others accept its doctrinal pronouncements, and for segregating itself from the very people Jesus came to save, namely sinful men. The ethics of Jesus as conveyed in this most famous sermon are renowned even to atheists and skeptics, yet the church largely ignores them, focusing instead on the very elements above which have never and will never transform men into other than pious, self righteous, angry, and anxious religionists.
In my past I heard preachers speak of a head knowledge of Jesus and a heart knowledge of Him. The implication was that the one was insufficient for salvation, the latter being the required type of knowledge. I now believe that the former is the knowledge that the church promotes and the latter is the type that focuses on the change of mind and attitude which are embodied in the ethics of Jesus and not on history lessons, essential church articles of faith, or acts of obedience to any law remotely resembling the legalism of Moses. That law was never more than the precursor to the grace and truth of Christ. John 1:17 and Galatians 3: 21, 24.