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The question as to how a person is forgiven of sin and made a child of God is extremely important. It is obvious that in our day, many people are searching to answer that question. People are more “spiritual” than ever before. Some would have us believe that all “paths” are of equal value as long as the heart of the person is sincere. Imagine the terrible tragedy of multitudes of people one day standing before the holy, righteous God who created them only to discover that they were sincerely wrong and that their sins have never been forgiven and the eternal consequences cannot be reversed. That is why we must begin with the right foundation upon which to build our understanding of how a person is saved (rescued) from the eternal consequences of sin and how we can have the life here, and in eternity, that God intended for us.
The Bible is the right foundation for building this understanding of how we can know God and have a right relationship with Him. The Bible states that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus Himself said that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). God has inspired His Word and has preserved it so that we can know His wonderful plan of salvation. Philosophies and theories will continue to come and go, but God’s inspired truth will continue to stand the test of time and will be the standard by which we will be held accountable. Again the Bible states, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1John 5:13). Therefore, as we seek to answer the issue concerning this critical question of how we receive eternal life and salvation, we will turn to the Bible, God’s holy Word for the answer.
God’s wonderful plan of salvation begins with Him. He loved us so much that He provided the answer to our sin problem even before He created the earth. John 3:16 is a rather famous verse from the Bible that says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He offers us eternal life as a free gift. The Bible says, “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Eternal life means, of course, that God will receive us into His heaven when we die (John 14:3), but it also means He provides a life of meaning and purpose right now. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). All this is motivated by His incredible love for us. We do not earn or deserve His love, but He has demonstrated it toward us anyway, by giving us a way to have our sins forgiven and opening the way for us to know and love Him. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Someone has said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Although God loves us all very deeply, we all have a problem with sin and our sin separates us from God. Most everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and repeated in Deuteronomy chapter five. These commandments reveal God’s holy standards, but they also expose our sinfulness. All of us have put other things before God, we have dishonored our parents, we have been untruthful, we have committed adultery in our hearts, and we have coveted something that does not rightfully belong to us. That only represents five of the Ten Commandments! Obviously, we have a problem with sin. The Bible states what we all know to be true, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In addition to that, we are helpless to save ourselves from our sinful condition. The Bible says that salvation is “not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), so we are all in the same, terrible spiritual “boat” that is quickly sinking down.
God is perfect and holy. He has no sin in Him whatsoever. In fact His righteous nature requires that He punish sin. He is a just judge and His holy nature requires that He issue judgment that is consistent with His own perfect, righteous standards. We would be utterly hopeless if God had not loved us and provided a perfect way to satisfy His righteous justice while extending His gracious love and mercy to us. God provided the way of our salvation by sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on our behalf. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by giving His own life on the cross on our behalf. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Some may ask, “How can the death of Christ be any different than the death of any other good man?” The difference is that Jesus was God in human flesh. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1 and 14). It also says of Jesus, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…. Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You” (Hebrews 1:8-9). Because Jesus was sinless God, in human flesh, His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sin. The Bible bears out this truth in several passages. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” First Peter 3:18 says it like this, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” Romans 4:25 tells us that Jesus “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
The bad news is that all of us have sinned and our sin eternally separates us from God. The good news is that the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead has provided us the opportunity to receive Him as our Savior and our Friend; and, as a result of receiving Him, we have eternal life and the promise of an eternal home in heaven. The Bible is a Book about how God offers us the way to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin and it states, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:11-12).
Simply knowing about Jesus Christ and all He has done has absolutely no affect upon our lives or our eternal destiny. The only way Jesus can have any affect on our lives is for us to respond to His generous offer by making the personal decision to accept Him as Lord of our lives. The Bible communicates three ways we can each make this critical decision.
Receiving Christ as Lord Involves Repentance. Repentance carries the idea of changing our mind about sin and as a result, changing our behavior. The Bible says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). We need our sins blotted out and personal repentance of sin opens the way for God to give us His forgiveness. Repentance is more that feeling sorry about what we have done. The Bible explains that we “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” Acts 26:20. In other words, if true repentance has taken place, it will be evident in the way we live.
Receiving Christ as Lord Involves Faith. Faith is simply trusting in the person of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross to save you. Faith, believes that His death, burial and resurrection is sufficient to save you from your sin. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Faith is not merely accepting the facts about Jesus. Even the devil believes the facts about Christ (James 2:19), but faith accepts the facts about Christ to the level of complete personal trust in Him. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Receiving Christ as Lord Involves Personal Surrender. All of us are born with an independent, self-centered nature. We want to run our own lives our own way. In other words, we want to be lord of our own lives. But the Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10). We must confess Jesus as Lord of our lives, and that is much more than just “lip service” to God. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). When we make a personal surrender of our lives to Christ, we are coming “under new management,” and we acknowledge that Christ is in control of our lives.
The real question is this, “Are you willing to turn from your sin and place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?” God has done everything possible to save you, but He will not force His way into your life. Just as a man waits for the woman he loves to say “yes” to his marriage proposal, God waits for you to reach out in faith to receive the gift of eternal life that He is offering to you. The Bible says the Lord “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). If you would like to trust Jesus Christ to save you and forgive you right now, simply tell Him your heart’s desire and ask Him. The Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Take Him at His word and call on him in prayer to save you right now, and He will!
If you are unsure as to what to say, you can use this prayer as a guide—but remember, this prayer must represent a sincere desire to repent and believe on Jesus as your Lord and Savior:
Dear God, I know that Jesus is Your Son, and that He died on the cross for my sin and was raised from the dead. I know I have sinned and need to be forgiven. I now turn from my sins and receive Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. I now trust You to forgive all my sin and to make me the person I need to become. Thank you for saving me. I ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
If you have prayed this prayer today or one similar to it, we want to congratulate you on making the most important decision of your life. Believing that God is true to His Word and that He has saved you just now, we’d like to encourage you to stop right now and thank Him for saving you. Then we want to encourage you to think of someone, or perhaps several people, who would be excited to hear about your decision today. Give these people a call or visit and tell them what you have done. If you live nearby, we’d love to have you come to one of our services at First Baptist and share with us your decision to receive Christ. You may also e-mail us now and let us know of your decision. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill our decision card.
Now that you have received Christ as your Lord and you are a child of God, there are six things we’d like to share that will help you as you begin your new life as a follower of Christ. They are great “first steps” as you begin this new spiritual journey.
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