I am amazed at the grace of Jesus Christ and His awesome love for me. How could He love such a one as me? When I was growing up I believed what my father told me about God, that He didn’t exist. I believed what my father said, that religion was a crutch. Did I believe him because he was such a wonderful father? No I believed him because I was such a wicked sinner, even at a tender age.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5
1 Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones? Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men? 2 No, in heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth. 3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:1-3
It is by God’s grace that I am saved.
Can we be saved apart from the gracious work of God in our hearts? Can we be saved by adhering to certain doctrines? Can we be saved when someone “leads” us to Christ or by having an emotional experience during a church service? What exactly does it mean to be saved?
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says, the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34
There is a transaction that has taken place here between the sinner and the living God. It is initiated by God and results in the wicked impenitent being reconciled to the Holy God and being converted from one doomed to destruction to a recipient of the life of God through faith in Jesus Christ. This life of God is not a merely academic acknowledgement of the key doctrines of the Bible, but is the result of meeting the living God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:29-32
18 “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:18-21
Again we see that God is vitally and intimately involved in the salvation of those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ. He raised up Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted Him to His right hand to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to all who believe. Refreshing comes from the presence of the Lord and we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus Christ.
There are those who have a testimony of belief in the truth without receiving the life of the Savior. There are those who continue for a while, but then fall away. They may be the product of others who are zealous for numbers, but not zealous for bringing the lost to genuine faith and trust in the living Savior so that they may be saved.
1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ 5 “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all who they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 “So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14
Without a testimony of experience with the living God, our protests of faith and belief are empty, false, void; deserving punishment for presuming and pretending that which isn’t true.
1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:1-3
I met Jesus Christ many years ago when I called out to God the Father through Him. Jesus Christ met me and made a covenant with me exchanging His life for my life. This once wicked atheist met the living God and so was transformed from an unbeliever to a believer, from being dead in my trespasses and sins to being alive through faith in Him, from being a captive in Satan’s kingdom of darkness to being translated into the kingdom of light of God’s Beloved Son. So began my new life of faith in the Savior Jesus Christ, and the walk of trust and obedience that He calls us to. Early into this new life of faith, I had to make a decision to either follow the ideas and opinions of people or trust in God’s Word the Bible. I was brought to apply the obedience of the faith and trusted that God’s Word is true. God brought me to the point where I prayed to Him and said, “Lord I am going to trust You and Your Word.” After that prayer I had a greater understanding of the Bible when I read it. Since, false teaching and error in the church is endemic, during my walk with Jesus Christ, God my Father, has twice called me to stand up for His truth by reassuring me He is with me Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Both times I had no idea what was coming, but I was able, by God’s grace, to stand for the truth and expose and refute error. I saw good fruit from my commitment to Him. I saw people turned away from dangerous teachers and error and instead encouraged to trust the truth of the Bible that God has preserved for His children. It is the Bible that we must turn to for God’s truth, because it is His testimony of His covenant with His people through the ages by means of faith in Jesus Christ. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that we are saved through belief in the gospel.
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, 4 and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,.. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Through belief in the gospel we know the Savior Jesus Christ. This is an experiential knowledge, as recorded in the Bible. We receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, and God who is alive, works in our hearts and minds.
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:1-3
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
God answers my prayers, He gives me peace and the ability to praise Him in difficult situations. His assurance of salvation protects my mind and heart from the attacks of the enemy and my own sinful nature. God has used His Word in my life more than once to convict me of sin and bring about genuine repentance. The book of Romans was used by God in a powerful way to convict me of my sin and show me that salvation is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ. By His grace, when I was questioning the lack of power in my life, I never questioned Him, I knew the problem was with me. When my faith has been assailed by unbelief, I have cried out to Him for faith and been bolstered in my trust in Him. By God’s merciful provision, I have not allowed anything to be more important to me than the love of my Savior and my love for Him, and His grace keeps me true to Him.
Even though my “church” experience hasn’t really been as positive as I would like because there is so much compromise and apostasy proliferating among the leadership and the attenders, I still trust God and His provision for me. Also, if it wasn’t for the prophecy that God has provided in the Bible, warning that this would be the case, I would be very confused and discouraged. All I can say is that God has been very merciful to me, and has graciously covered me with His love. His children know His loving presence, kindness and goodness poured out upon them abundantly through our glorious Savior Jesus Christ. We can have confidence in our experiences with Him while we await glory, because He has given us the testimony of Himself in His Word, the Bible, confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit.
1 To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: 3 Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. 8 Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith-the salvation of you souls. 10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 1 Peter 1:1-10.