I keep hearing complaints that people can’t be saved by saying a prayer; by inviting God to come and live inside them and guide them… So, what is the deal with this? Either we believe what scripture says to us or we make up our own rules as we go along. Many organizations reach out to people and teach them about Jesus and what he did for us. We do not teach the people that they need to be sanctified before they become saved. We do not teach people that they have to understand all of God’s word or be 100% obedient to all of God’s laws before they are really saved. We teach people to come to God as they are, and he will clean them up. The Word says:
Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:13 ￼ For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
According to the Word, we must believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord. If we do this sincerely, we are justified by God and justification is a completed work of God. It is instantaneous, as opposed to sanctification, which is an ongoing process of growth by which we become more Christlike. Sanctification occurs after justification. We are drawn by God’s Spirit to the place where we believe and confess, or we would not do it! No one can come to God on their own – by their own works. If God does not draw them, they will not turn and see Jesus. Is it possible some are only searching for fire insurance and want to continue to live their lives without changing and hold onto their sin? Yes, of course it is. But, that is between them and God. God will not be mocked. This whole notion of preaching the Gospel to people is God’s idea!
Salvation is easy for us because Jesus paid the price in full! It is not cheap, or free; but God did make it very simple so we would not miss it! Ok, what about repentance then? The thief on the cross beside Jesus merely asked the Lord to remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom, and Jesus told him “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”
Luke 23:42-43 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Where was the repentance of this thief? I think we get mixed up. Many misunderstand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions. Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.
Finally, what does it mean to be born again? To be saved? All sinners are spiritually “dead”; when they receive spiritual life through their faith in Christ, the Bible likens it to a rebirth. Only those who are born again have their sins forgiven and have a relationship with God. At the moment of salvation our Spirit is given life from heaven above.
How does that come to be? Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When one is saved, he/she has been born again, spiritually renewed, and is now a child of God by right of new birth. Trusting in Jesus Christ, the One who paid the penalty of sin when He died on the cross, is the means to be “born again.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In summary, we become saved when we believe in our heart that Jesus is the son of God, who came as a man, lived a sinless and faultless life, was tortured and crucified in our place to pay for our sins, and was buried and raised back to life three days later. When we believe this and confess this with our mouths – we are saved – and born again – from heaven above! Just exactly the way we are told in Romans 10!
God is so very, very good to us and He sent Jesus so that none should perish. So that none would have to perish. He made it easy, but each person still has to be drawn by the Holy Spirit, and each one has to accept or receive Jesus as Lord, and Savior. There is no other way. We cannot earn our way and we cannot fake our way to heaven. Salvation gives us justification which leads us to repentance from sin and sanctification which is a process that will last the rest of our lives as we work to become more like Jesus. We shouldn’t get these reversed or mixed up.
All of this begins with a prayer from a sincere heart. That can occur online, at a booth or at a county fair, at an intersection on the highway or in the aisle at Walmart. God’s Spirit is moving and drawing people to Himself! Praise God! Even though we get to participate in the greatest event of many people’s lives, we cannot save anyone! It is all through God’s love and His Spirit drawing and wooing his children home. I have participated in hundreds of salvations and they are always unique and special for the person in front of me. I have seen the Holy spirit descend on many, and I have held hands with many as they prayed and wept and then on others – nothing significant occurred. Yet, God seems to say “don’t worry or fret over that – that’s my part. You did your part, now turn them over to me.”
Father, we adore you! We thank you for salvation! We thank you for Jesus who is our salvation! We thank you that we get to participate in the rescue of our lost brothers and sisters and that we can help them see the truth. We thank you for your Word which is so direct and easy to understand. We thank you and praise you Father! May many, many more people see the Lord Jesus and receive him as Lord, Master and Savior. Help us Father to be bold in preaching the Gospel and help us Father not to criticize or take offense to our brothers and sisters who do not believe the way we do. And, Father, please help us never stop helping sinners receive Jesus! We pray in Jesus’ mighty name! Amen!