Misunderstandings certainly do abound concerning what it means to be a Christian. Some people believe simply being born into a Christian family makes you a Christian. Others think that being a Christian means having to rigorously follow a set of prescribed ethical rules or laws. Many would consider themselves Christian simply because they believe God exists. The truth is, none of these things make you a Christian. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say on the matter, beginning with the problem at hand.
Most human beings like to sort things into nice, neat categories to help us understand the world around us. For example we often divide people into two groups – those who are ‘good’ and those who are ‘bad’. Of course, the standards by which we judge good versus bad conveniently place us in the ‘good’ category. We are good(ish), but the guy who intentionally cut us off in traffic – he is bad.
While we might define good on a sliding scale, God measures things according to a very different standard – perfection (Matt 5:48). When the standard for ‘good’ is perfection there is no chance anyone will ever be judged as ‘good’ (Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10). The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This means God calls every person who has ever lived a sinner, and the Bible tells us that any sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Compounding our predicament is the fact that God is a perfectly just judge, and the mandatory sentence for sin happens to be death (Romans 6:23). No matter how we might identify ourselves, in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and our sin is worthy of judgment. This is a BIG problem.
You might think it reasonable, as many do, that you could fix this problem and make things right just by doing more good things. Here is the logic: “If I do more good things than I do bad ones, the balance on the scales of justice will fall in my favour, and God will receive me.” However, if perfection is, in fact, the standard, you will never measure up – no matter how many good deeds you do. The Bible puts this argument to rest by informing us that even the very best of our good deeds are tainted, just like dirty filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). This would leave us in the most desperate and hopeless of situations if it wasn’t for some wonderfully good news. God loves us!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Those are the words found in the most Googled Bible verse of all time – John 3:16. God loves us, and has demonstrated His love toward us by sending His Son to die and pay the penalty for our sins. He received our punishment, and He died on our behalf. He didn’t do this because we deserved or earned it – far from it (Titus 3:5). Instead, while we were still sinners deserving of judgment, He freely sent His Son to willingly die for us (Rom 5:6-10, Ephesians 2:8-9). This is love on the grandest of scales, and is the solution to our sin problem.
If God freely satisfied justice and took upon Himself our punishment, what is there left for us to do? Mark 1:15 says it best, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Our response to His free gift is to believe in what God has done, and to repent of our sins. Believe that we are sinners, and that Jesus freely absorbed all our sin and punishment. Repent, which is to turn away from our sin and turn to God. Repentance and faith go hand in hand.
So how do we take the first steps of repentance and faith? First you need to know it is God who gives you faith to believe, and it isn’t something you need to manufacture (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 12:3). However, faith is made evident by our words and our actions. Romans 10:9-10 says, “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. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” We can take our first steps of repentance and faith by praying to God. Once we start the journey God is always faithful to carry us through to the end (Philippians 1:6). Here is a sample prayer you could pray:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner deserving of punishment. However, I believe You died on the cross and paid the punishment for my sin. I also believe You rose from the grave to make me a new creation and have prepared for me a place in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”
Am I Ready?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to know if you are ready to take the first steps of repentance and faith:
1) Do I understand and believe that I have sinned and that my sin makes me worthy of God’s judgment?
2) Do I understand and believe that Jesus took the full punishment for my sin upon Himself by dying in my place?
3) Do I understand and believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and is Lord of all?
4) Am I ready to surrender control of my life to Jesus, and confess He is Lord and Savior of my life?
If the answer to these four questions is ‘yes’, you are truly ready to respond to God’s invitation to repent and believe.