When I was a boy of 14, I was distressed. I knew I had sinned and could not find peace with God. I did not lack information; I grew up in a home and a church that taught the truth about Jesus Christ. But I struggled with making the connection between what I knew and how I felt. When I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me, I had no assurance that He either heard or cared. At times I thought that maybe I could not receive assurance of God’s forgiveness because God’s mercy had passed me by. Salvation was for others, but somehow it just did not work for me.
Then, God be praised, a member of my family explained that assurance of God’s forgiveness and acceptance had to be received by faith. If I understood faith, eventually my emotions would fall in line with the promises I was shown in the New Testament. I got on my knees and prayed something like this: “Lord, today I take Your promise of eternal life for myself; whether or not I feel differently, today I receive Jesus as having died for me.” That one act of faith changed everything. Now I knew that Jesus had met all of God’s requirements on my behalf. Ever since that day, I’ve had the assurance that I belong to God forever.
Saving faith is not an emotion but a transfer of trust to Christ. If you ask the average person whether he will get to heaven, he will say something like, “I hope so, because I’m a pretty good person.” Those who give such answers are trusting in themselves, their goodness, their inherent tendency to make right choices. But we’ve already learned (see preceding articles) that all such faith is misplaced, because we all fall short of God’s standard of holiness. What God requires is that we admit our helplessness and transfer our trust to Christ alone for our salvation. Here is a promise: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13, NIV).
This transfer of trust to Christ is required for us to be “born of God” and made members of God’s family. Here, quite simply, are the elements of a saving faith that connects us with God:
- It is a faith that affirms that Jesus died in our place on the cross; He bore the penalty that we deserved. Faith means that I recline on Christ’s promise that He will receive all who come to Him for forgiveness and acceptance.
- It is a faith that acknowledges that Jesus is Lord, and as such, He is the only One qualified to bring us to our heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV). Saving faith realizes not only that Jesus saves but also that no other guru, prophet or teacher can do so. As Lord, Jesus stands apart from all other religious teachers and leaders. When we receive Him, we are in effect submitting ourselves to His singular lordship.
- It is a faith that is personal. I cannot stress too strongly that you are not a Christian because your parents were Christians or because you were reared in a church. Nor are you a Christian because you admire or even love Jesus. Your faith must be your personal conviction.
A friend of mine was brought up in a religious home. He thought he was a Christian because a Christian family reared him. He thought that if he were faithful to his church, his church would take care of his relationship with God for him. He was skeptical about those who claimed that they had a personal relationship with God. But when he finally understood that his relationship with God could not be taken for granted and that he needed to be personally introduced to Jesus, his life was changed by the power of God.
Will you receive Christ right now?
Let’s review the essentials that can lead you to a personal relationship with God:
- Admit your need. You must realize that you cannot save yourself. Sin has separated us from God, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to rectify the problem. Seeing our helplessness and admitting our guilt is the first step in receiving God’s Gift.
- Turn away from your self-confidence and pride. Turn toward Christ. If you try to have faith both in Jesus and in your good works and religious rituals, you insult Him. Either we understand that God must do everything for us, or we are still clinging to the false notion that we play a part in our salvation. The New Testament teaches that we do not come to Christ to try our best, but to trust. When we see that Jesus paid it all for us and that we are too sinful to add any merit to the Cross, we finally understand what grace means.
- Accept as a fact that Jesus died on the cross for you. In short, you must accept Him as your personal Sin-Bearer. This is a trust of the heart, not just the nodding approval of the mind.
Saving faith results in assurance that God has accepted us because of Christ. If you are persuaded that Jesus, by His death and resurrection, did all that ever will be necessary for us to stand in God’s holy presence–if you believe that God receives us on His behalf–you will be saved and know it. Assurance rises not out of ourselves but from the settled conviction that Jesus paid our debts and met God’s requirements for us.
I read a parable about a man who, while walking along a mountain ledge, found himself plunging down the edge of a cliff. In desperation he reached out and grabbed the limb of a tree jutting out of the rock. He grasped it and hung between life and death. Below he saw the jagged rocks that awaited his fall. Suddenly an angel appeared and said, “Do you believe I can save you?”
The man saw the strong arms of the angel and said, “Yes, I believe that you are able to save me.”
The angel asked, “Do you believe that I will save you?”
The man saw the smile on the angel’s face and said, “Yes, I believe that you will save me!”
“Then,” said the angel, “if you believe that I can and will save you, let go!”
That “letting go” is faith. Jesus wants us to stop clinging to our good intentions, baptism, church attendance and excuses. He invites us to rest our intellectual, spiritual and emotional weight on Him alone. Then we will be free from the nagging question of whether we have done enough to please God. When we transfer our trust to Christ, we are pleasing to God because Christ is pleasing to God; we are saved because of His merit–not ours.
Your faith may be weak and unsteady. But if your faith is in Christ alone, God will respond to your need. If God has given you the desire to turn from your sins and accept Jesus, I urge you to do so right now. This opportunity might never be yours again.