There seems to be a universal assumption that in order to get into God’s “good graces,” you must work your way into such a coveted position. If God is going to grant you His favor, you must first prove you are worthy, right?
Multitudes of “religious” people around the world are following this script. By “religious,” I mean doing religious things in an effort to appease the supreme being of your religion.
Christianity is not about being religious. Instead, it involves a relationship with God entered into not by works, but through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). And yes, I know. This is counterintuitive to everything man naturally assumes about God and religion.
After all, no one should expect to be accepted by God through faith alone, right? Wrong.
When Jesus left Heaven and came to earth to die for the sins of the world, He “unlocked the gate” to Heaven (1 John 2:2). The Redeemer paid the price for people to enter Paradise and live with God forever. You see, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the gate to Heaven would remain locked to man. Our sin locked us out. Sin separates us from God, and prevents us from entering into God’s presence (Isaiah 59:2). God is perfect in holiness, righteousness and truth. God cannot merely allow sinful man into His presence. It doesn’t work that way. We need to become clean in God’s sight in order to be accepted by God.
Whether you agree with this assessment or not, God has clearly revealed these facts in the Bible. Thankfully, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our place and pay for our sins on the cross (John 3:16).
Our religious efforts and “righteousness” are nothing more than "filthy rags” before God (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, you and I need Christ’s righteousness to cover our sins. We need what the Apostle Paul referred to as “a righteousness from God” (Romans 3:21). “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22).
"But wait a minute!" Does this mean that God doesn’t care how I live, as long as I believe in Jesus? No, that is not at all what the Bible teaches. God is deeply concerned with how followers of Christ conduct themselves. Believing in Jesus is never a license to sin. In fact, it is just the opposite. “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Those who deliberately choose to live for sin rather than for the Savior are revealing that they are not yet followers of Christ. A person must first receive the free gift of salvation (John 1:12; Romans 6:23). Spiritual conversion changes people from the inside out (2 Cor. 5:17). It doesn’t mean believers then live perfect lives, but it does mean that God “sees believers as perfect” in His sight (2 Cor. 5:21). And those who have been converted sincerely seek to live for their Savior! (Romans 8:9).
It is on the front end of a person’s relationship with God that one is saved, forgiven, justified, born again, and redeemed. You must first enter God’s family through faith in Christ before you can begin to please God as a follower of Christ. We don’t follow first — we first believe; we first receive the gift of salvation, and then we begin to follow. If we try to do it the other way around, we remain unsaved and lost in our sin.
Are you willing to surrender your natural assumption about what it takes to be accepted by God? Are you willing to humble yourself at the foot of the cross as you repent of your sin and receive Christ as your Savior? You could do so today.
As Oswald Chambers wrote, “The reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much.” It is very challenging to be a follower of Christ, but it is quite easy to be saved. Without Christ's perfect sacrifice for our sins, we would have no way of approaching God, and no way of being forgiven.
If you would like to turn away from your sin and place your faith in Christ today, simply do so in your heart and mind right now as the Holy Spirit enables you to believe the Gospel (John 3:6; 1 Cor. 12:3). Communicate directly with God as you profess faith in Jesus. Here are some words that may help:
"Lord, I believe you are my Savior from sin. I believe that you, Jesus, left Heaven and came to earth to die for my sins. I receive you by faith, and I trust you to completely wash away my sins. Empower me Lord by filling me with the Holy Spirit. Strengthen my faith every day, and guide my steps going forward. I desire to do your will in every area of my life. I no longer want to live for sin. As I make this profession of faith today, I look forward to spending eternity with you, my Lord and Savior. Thank you Jesus for salvation today, tomorrow, and forever.”
If you have believed the good news today and professed faith in Christ, welcome to the family of God. I encourage you to read the Gospel of John this week and be sure to connect with a Christ-centered church in your area as soon as possible. If you need help finding such a church, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless you my friend and thank you for taking the time today to consider the good news of the Gospel.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.