The Essential Foundation
By David Crank
In this magazine we deal with many different issues and aspects of family life. Yet all of these assume a certain foundation. That foundation is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Those who have not experienced the new life in Christ and have not accepted the Bible as the guide for every area of their lives, are without this essential foundation.
Do you have this essential foundation? It is a saving faith in Christ Jesus - it is truly becoming a Christian. Many people think of themselves as Christians because they believe in God and are certainly not Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, etc., and sometimes attend a Christian church. Yet there is much more to being a Christian in the Biblical sense than this. We must look to the Bible to truly understand what constitutes "being a Christian.
Many different terms and phrases are used for "becoming a Christian. These include "being saved", "becoming a believer", "having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ", "being born again", "trusting in Christ", "asking Jesus into your heart", etc. These all refer to different aspects of the same thing.
Questions & Answers Concerning Becoming a Christian
Q. - Is Heaven a Reward for Living a Good Life?
A. - No. The Apostle Paul repeatedly corrects the error of those believing that salvation can be earned in any way by good deeds. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace, given to those who believe. It is in no wise earned by good works performed nor by evil deeds abstained from. Good works do play a critical role in the lives of those who have already been saved. God intends us to afterwards serve Him through good works (Eph 2:10). See the following verses:
Ephesians 2:8-10 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Titus 3:5-7 "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
Q. - Why Do We Need to be Saved?
A: - The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners, deserving of God's wrath. We are all guilty of selfishness, envy, unkind words and actions, numerous attitudes, motivations and thoughts that are displeasing to God. Many of us are guilty of far worse offences than these. God created us to live for Him, to please Him in all respects, to be holy as He is holy. We fall far short of God's standard and face God's righteous judgment for our sins. Yet in His love and mercy, He has provided a way for us to be saved from the penalty for our sins and to be restored to a right relationship to Him.
Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,"
John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
Romans 5:9-10 "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
Q. - Are There Not Many Ways to God?
A: - No, there is but one true way to God - the way He has provided through Jesus Christ. Jesus and the apostles were very clear in teaching that God has but one plan for the salvation of men, and it is through His Son Jesus.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Acts 4:10-12 "let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead -- by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Q. - What Must We Do to be Saved?
A: - We must believe in Jesus. In numerous passages in the New Testament, faith in Christ is given as the sole condition for salvation. Following are but a few of the words of Jesus and the apostles on this issue:
John 3:15 "so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life."
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
John 11:25-26 "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'"
John 20:30-31 "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."
Acts 16:30-32 "and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.' And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house."
1 Peter 1:8-9 "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."
1 John 5:11-13 "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
Q. - What Does It Mean to "Believe" In Jesus?
A. - The word translated as "believe", means to be persuaded of, convinced of. Convinced of what? There is must be a factual content to faith - certain things that must be accepted as true. Without knowing something about Jesus, there is little to put your trust in. Though the Bible teaches many things about Jesus, the apostles frequently presented a few basic facts when preaching the message of salvation. These include:
1) Jesus is Lord and Christ, the Son of God.
2) Jesus was crucified and died for our sins.
3) Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. (Acts 2:24,32; 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
4) Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those who put their faith in Him
Yet there is more to faith in Jesus than just factual content. To truly believe involves more that just saying you believe certain statements to be facts. James, the brother of Jesus and writer of the book of James, points out the fallacy of purely intellectual "belief".
James 2:17-19 "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."
True faith should be evidenced by good works. If your life remains unchanged and you continue living for yourself in sin as before, have you truly believed? The demons (fallen angels in rebellion against God) know and believe the true facts about God and Jesus. Yet they could certainly not be counted as Christians, as they continue to live in rebellion against God. They are not saved from the consequences of their sin. Living as if God does not exist or has no claims upon your life, raises serious questions about whether you truly believe.
Examining the "believe" and "faith" verses in context, belief in Jesus implies both a strong conviction of the truth of Jesus' claims, as well as a personal decision of the will - a decision to truly rely on the truth of this message, and to accept this salvation for yourself. We must not only hear and understand the gospel - we must truly act upon it.
On what basis do we decide to believe and rely on this message? It is on the basis of the testimony of others whom we conclude to be reliable. We have the testimony and eyewitness accounts of the apostles and others who were with Jesus, as presented in the New Testament. We have the testimony of Christians today and throughout the intervening centuries, telling how they found Christ for themselves and proved His words to be true. On the basis of these testimonies, we should believe the message preached and truly make Jesus our Savior. "It is not enough for us to know that Jesus is God, or that He is the Savior, we need to make Him our Savior."
An Illustration of Salvation Used by Jesus
John 3:14-18 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus about being born again, compares His salvation message to Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The story to which Jesus alludes is as follows:
Numbers 21:6-9 "The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived."
The Jews had sinned by complaining and speaking against both God and Moses, and were being punished by God by serpents, causing many to die. When the people were humbled and turned to Moses confessing their sin and seeking God's mercy, a way of salvation was provided. Whoever merely looked upon the serpent up on the standard would be healed from the serpent bite. There was no work of penance to be done. There was no great task to be accomplished. Salvation was offered in a way so simple that even small children and the mentally handicapped could partake of it. In the same way, Jesus now offers a means of salvation to us all that is equally simple - so easy, yet for some, so hard. He also was lifted up on a standard, that of a cross. The simple act of truly believing in Him and the way of salvation He offered, is sufficient for salvation.
Test Yourself and See
2 Corinthians 13:5 "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test?"
The instrument of salvation may vary greatly from person to person. One may pray a simple prayer and be saved. Another may walk a church aisle in response to an altar call and be saved. Another may be saved through the instrumentation of a church confirmation class or while simply reading the Bible in private. There are many ways one can reach the point of putting their faith in Jesus. Yet the instrumentation does not guarantee the result. There are many people who repeat a sinners prayer or walk an aisle or complete a confirmation class, who are never truly saved. They went through the motions, but did not truly put their trust in Jesus and make Him THEIR Savior.
What about you? Is your salvation real? What really happened on the inside? Are you still to some extent depending on living a good life to earn you heaven? Are you saying you believe without understanding what it means to believe? Do you see the implications for your life of believing Jesus' claims for Himself and His teachings?
A true faith in Christ and His message of salvation should have a significant impact on your life. Do you see evidence of Christ's presence within you? If you truly believe, it should result in a desire to live to please the Lord, a desire to serve Him with good works, a desire to obey Him. The proper response to the gospel and the salvation so freely given, is to truly make Jesus the lord of your life - to live to serve Him.
The Christian Life
Salvation is the critical first step - it is your birth into God's family - but life does not stop with birth. Do not remain as a "babe in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1), living like an unbeliever. God intends that we mature and grow. We must learn His word (the Bible) so that we can live to please Him. We need to talk to God in prayer and seek His direction for our lives. We are commanded to be baptized and to regularly gather with other Christians for instruction and encouragement. A great deal of our thinking needs to be changed. Many of our habits and much of character may also need God's transforming power.
As God reveals the sin in your life, you must confess and repent of it - by God's power, turning away from all known sin. There will be much in your life that needs to be cleansed and the process of cleansing never ends during this life. We should day by day seek to live for Him who died for us. There are good works that God has appointed for us to do. There are many others who need to find the Savior, for which we may be used as an instrument of God.
(All Scripture quotes in the above article are from the New American Standard Bible)
Volume 3 Issue 3: May / June 2002, © Unless The Lord ... Magazine