WE DONʼT HAVE TO CLEAN UP FIRST
No matter how we feel, God will accept us just the way we are. We don’t have to clean up our lives to meet him. If we had to change our ways as a prerequisite to meeting him, then salvation would involve our own good works. But the Bible says clearly that salvation is a free gift and that good works has nothing to do with it.
A vivid example is the criminal who was crucified at the same time as Jesus. Hanging on an adjacent cross, he acknowledged that Jesus was God and asked for eternal life. Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’ There was no way the condemned criminal could rectify his life by himself. He simply came to Jesus as a needy sinner, but that was enough for him to receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.
BIOLOGICALLY, NO ONE IS BORN A CHRISTIAN
No matter what we've been told or how we feel about it – a person may be born into a Christian culture, a Christian family and/or the Christian religion – but no one is ever born a ‘Christian.’
A person becomes a Christian, in God’s definition, by personal decision, never by biological birth (see Topic 66).
No one can chose the circumstances of his birth or upbringing, but everyone who has heard about God’s offer of new life must choose whether or not to accept the offer.
When a person accepts it, he becomes a Christian. As long as he rejects (or ignores) the offer, he’s not a Christian, even though he may espouse Christian principles, exhibit Christian virtues and become a baptized member of a Christian church.
TRUE REPENTANCE LEADS TO SAVING FAITH
Finally, now matter how we are feeling, the Good News is always the same; God graciously saves repentant sinners who come to him in faith. This is only good news for those who perceive themselves as sinners. The teaching of Jesus is clear that those who will not acknowledge and repent of their sin are beyond the reach of salvation. All are sinners, but not all are willing to admit their need to be saved.
God receives sinners. On the other hand, he refuses the self-righteous. Not that there are any truly righteous people anyway. People who think they are good enough – who do not understand the seriousness of sin – cannot respond to the God’s gracious gift of salvation. They cannot be saved, for the Gospel is a call to sinners to repent, be forgiven and confess that Jesus is Lord.
We do not make Christ Lord. He is Lord! Those who will not receive him as Lord are guilty of rejecting him. ‘Faith’ that rejects his sovereign authority is really unbelief and cannot be considered ‘Saving Faith’.
Hereʼs a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
Indecision about Christ is a decision against him
John 14:6, Acts 4:12
Jesus Christ is the only way
John 3:16, John 3:36, John 6:40
“Whoever believes” are key words for eternal life
Jesusʼ conversation with thief on the cross, a gift of grace not a reward for good works
Not saved by good things we do
Genesis 5:21-24, Hebrews 11:5-6
Enoch pleased God and in heaven even though he didnʼt know about Jesus
Righteousness ʻcreditedʼ to Abraham even though he didnʼt know about Jesus
John 3:35, I Corinthians 15:27-28
God has now placed everything in Jesusʼ hands
For help, see Topic 29.