Finding the Assurance of Salvation
Anyone who has been married understands that preparing to propose to a potential spouse can be a scary task. When someone invites another to marry and be a partner for life, it is something that must be done personally. No one else can do it on your behalf. A friend or family member cannot be sent to relay the message. It would be a sad attempt if someone sent their mom or dad to give the proposal in their place. A letter wouldn’t suffice. Neither would a text message, a tweet on Twitter, or a Facebook post be enough. The invitation to spend the rest of their lives together is too important to send a surrogate or a messenger, because in matters of a love relationship, an invitation must be given and received personally.
In Jesus Christ, God Himself came to personally profess His love for us and extend an invitation be in relationship with Him because in matters of love and relationships, one must go himself or herself. Nothing else would do. The mission was too important to send someone else to carry out. The prophets weren’t enough to send in His place. The priests or teachers were not enough. Apostles wouldn’t suffice either. A messenger couldn’t do it for Him, nor could an angel. Sending His Word, His power, or His voice was not enough to woo His people back to His side. In Jesus Christ, God gave something more. In Jesus Christ, God Himself came to personally declare His love for us, pay the ransom for our sin, and reconcile us to Himself. In Jesus Christ, God Himself came personally to invite you into a relationship with Him.
Early Christians understood this concept. They understood the message of Jesus Christ was that God Himself came to usher in a new Kingdom… the Kingdom of God. They understood the invitation of the Gospel. They didn’t have all the answers… and quite frankly, they didn’t need to. They understood the invitation to take part in advancing God’s Kingdom on earth. This calling was so compelling that they were willing to completely lose themselves in the cause.
They understood that answering the invitation to follow Jesus meant allowing Him to invade and completely transform life as they knew it. Being a disciple meant being called, taught, commanded and enabled to spread His message all over the world. This is the Gospel.
Whether you are a believer or not, the term Gospel might be unfamiliar or vague to you. It is important to understand the Gospel is less about what we are to do for God. The Gospel is not good advice about how to live. It is not a set of judgmental rules, guidelines, and political statements we expect other people to honor. The Gospel is simply the announcement of what God has done for us and an invitation to live in accordance to that announcement.
The message of Jesus is not only about receiving a truth so that we have our ticket go to Heaven when we die. While that is a part of Jesus’ message, it is not the entire message. Understanding the Gospel is also about recognizing God makes His power and presence available to anyone who wants Him… Right here… Right now… In this life… on this side of eternity. This is the Gospel.
The term Gospel in Greek was not originally used as a religious term. Gospel literally meant “good news,” but not just any good news. When a Greek king would conquer an enemy in battle, it would be “good news” that needed to be shared with the people. Since the king couldn’t announce his victory on his official Facebook or Twitter accounts, he would send “gospel carriers” around Greece to announce the “good news” of his victory. The “gospel carriers” would travel to surrounding provinces and assure people victory was complete and the king was in complete control. When the Gospel was shared and the announcement made, people were expected to receive it, believe it, and live accordingly. They would hear the “good news” and be transformed by it.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great announcement that Jesus Christ is Lord, He has won the battle for your salvation and mine, and He is still in control. It is the announcement that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is victorious over sin, death, and the enemy, and an invitation for us to respond in faith, by living our lives accordingly. Since Jesus has overcome sin and death, we are now invited to respond to the message and live in freedom. The Gospel is not about a one-time decision or a spark of inspiration after attending a prayer meeting. It is built on making consistent life-transforming choices in response to the good news.
The message of the Gospel is the announcement that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is victorious. This news was so earth shaking that God Himself came and pursued YOU! He extended the invitation. He didn’t wait for followers to apply. He didn’t wait for people to find Him. He didn’t search out only the most pious, religious, righteous, or the best looking.
Jesus Christ Himself took the initiative to be the gospel carrier that invites you to come…
So who receives the invitation from Jesus? Everyone.
Since Jesus gave the invitation, the Gospel is available to all. You are invited. You meet the qualifications to be a follower of Jesus. You’ve made it through the approval process.
Those with a sexual past? Everyone.
Those with a history of drug addictions? Everyone.
Present drug addictions? Everyone.
Those who have too much religious pride? Everyone.
Those who carry too much shame? Everyone.
with same sex attractions? Everyone.
Those who are gossips? Everyone.
Those who are wayward children? Everyone.
People who like heavy metal? Everyone.
People who like country music? Well… just kidding. Everyone.
Those who are too young? Everyone.
Those who are too old? Everyone.
The heart of the Jesus’ message has three parts that we will explore in this chapter.
1 – Discovering who we are… It’s important for us to know that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We are all of plagued with a disease far more deadly and fatal than leprosy. This fatal problem is called sin.
2 – Who God is… Despite our sin nature, we need to know that God loves us. In Jesus Christ, God Himself stepped up to be our Savior.
3 – How we are reconciled to Him… We can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and be empowered both in this life and the next. Will you answer God’s invitation to allow Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? He is a gentleman and He will not force Himself upon you. You get to respond to His great invitation.
1 – Discovering who we are…
God created us in His own image to be like Him with a free will, freedom of choice, and to have an abundant life. He did not make us as robots to automatically love and obey Him. The problem is that we have chosen to disobey God and go our own way. We still make this choice today. It is called sin. Sin is what prevents us from personally knowing God.
The Bible describes sin in many ways. Most simply, sin is our failure to measure up to God’s holiness and His righteous standards. We sin by things we do, choices we make, attitudes we show, and thoughts we entertain. We also sin when we fail to do right things. The Bible acknowledges our experience – “there is none righteous, not even one.” No matter how good we try to be, none of us does right things all the time. We are all sinners that fall short of God’s glory. The Bible identifies that we have a sin nature.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
—Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
Some people might say, “I try to live a good life. I am kind and considerate toward others and I follow the 10 commandments.” The truth is no one can be made right with God based on how good they are. If you have ever lied, stolen anything, hated someone in your heart, harbored jealousy toward another, or lusted after someone who wasn’t your spouse, you have failed in keeping the 10 commandments. You have sinned. You have fallen short of the glory of God. If you have sinned, you are a sinner in need of a Savior. When God created the law, it was intended to protect us. However, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s law. Romans 3:23 confirms this.
… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
—Romans 3:23 NIV
As a result of our sin, we have a spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled with success, money, relationships, material belongings, or religious traditions. Often when people recognize this gap caused by sin, they feel distant from God. They think if they have more finances, grow intellectually, physically, or come to church, they can fill the gap. Although they may have good intentions, the gap between God and man cannot filled by man’s efforts. Here is what the Bible says about the gap.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 6:23 NIV
There is nothing we can do or own that will reconnect us to God and to Heaven. We are in need of a Savior to bridge the gap between ourselves and the Father.
Now it’s time for some good news. God has given us a solution. He has provided the way to reconcile our relationship with Him and make us into a new creation.
2 – Who God is…
Some people think that they will be punished or rewarded according to how good they are. Others find it hard to understand that God could love them even when other people don’t seem to. The good news is that God is a loving God. Not only did He create you, but He also loves you more than you could imagine – and there is nothing you can do to stop Him from loving you. Man was created to have fellowship with God, but because of his sin, that fellowship is broken. Anything less than perfect obedience to God’s commands makes us sinners.
Since God is holy, righteous, and just, He could not allow man’s sin and rebellion to go unpunished. At the same time, because God is both loving and compassionate, He did not want all of mankind to be eternally separated from Him in Hell. Because He is good, God orchestrated a divine solution to the problem of our sin. That solution is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect sinless life on earth. He became the sacrifice and paid the penalty for our sin when He voluntarily went to the cross. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, He took our punishment upon Himself. He exchanged His righteousness for our sin. He took the curse of our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness and blessing instead. Jesus Christ died on the cross so we could be reconciled to God and have forgiveness of our sin. Because Jesus was God, He was the only One who could do this.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
God recognized that you and I are plagued with a deadly disease called sin. Rather than leaving us to fend for ourselves, Jesus Christ became the solution. Despite your sin and mine, through Jesus Christ, God Himself came to walk with you and give you victory both in this life and the next. God understood our problem of sin and knew that there was nothing we could do about it. Because He loves us, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to bridge the gap between man and God.
3 – How you are reconciled to Him…
Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ paid in full the price for your sin and mine when He gave His life on a cross at Calvary just outside Jerusalem. When God resurrected Jesus from the dead, He provided a way for you and me to have a personal relationship with God. When we recognize how our sin grieves the heart of God and how desperately we are in need of a Savior, we are ready to receive God’s invitation to salvation.
Christianity is not a matter of accepting certain ideas, devotion to work, a political cause, or a doctrine. It is not enough to know good truths. It is not a set of beliefs or behavior patterns that we subscribe to. Christianity at its core is an attitude of trust and devotion to the person of Jesus Christ and as a result, repenting (or turning away from) our sins and growing in an attitude of trust and devotion to Him. Placing our trust in the One who loved us and gave Himself in our place requires a hope-filled belief in Jesus even though we don’t see Him face to face.
Christianity is the only religion in the world that assures us Heaven as a result of what God has done for us, not because of what we do for God. Salvation is a gift from God, not a reward for our works. Jesus Christ recognized our need. He made the effort. He paid the price. When we understand the selfless love of Jesus, we cannot help but to be changed. Jesus motivates us from His acceptance, not toward His acceptance.
In John 8, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him, Jesus spoke to her revealing God’s great love, acceptance, and mercy. Here’s the key verse.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The order of this passage is the most significant part of it. Notice Jesus gives the promise and assurance first and the command second. “Then neither do I condemn you,” (the promise of assurance) precedes “go and leave your life of sin” (the command). We have a tendency to live that passage in reverse. We think that if we obey the commands, we can earn the assurance. We have a natural tendency to live as if Jesus first commands, “Go and leave your life of sin” and as a result, if we manage to sin no more (which, by the way, none of us will succeed at), then God will accept us. The Gospel, or the good news, is that God has already accepted you because Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin on the cross. When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, He accepts us first, and we are changed when we understand that we are accepted by Him.
The mercy of God does not motivate us to be accepted by God. God’s mercy motivates us to change because we are accepted by God. In Jesus Christ, God does not condemn us, and as a result of that, we should sin no more.
God invites you to encounter Jesus Christ today and to be changed. Stop theorizing about who Jesus is and start personalizing who He is. Many people remain at the place of only theorizing who Jesus was. They think Jesus Christ might have been a prophet or a good teacher. Maybe He was a great moral authority or a religious leader. It is easy to theorize about who Jesus was, but in the end, the real difference happens when we personalize who Jesus is. Have you surrendered your life to Him? Is He your Lord and Savior?
We are saved by God’s grace, when we recognize our need for a Savior, surrender our hearts and lives to Him, and turn away from our sin… in that order. This is called repentance. In Jesus Christ, we are made right with God and given new life. All that remains is your response. You decide if you will allow Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord or if you will reject Him. You decide if you will receive the kindness, love, forgiveness, power, and strength found in Jesus Christ, or you will reject His sacrifice.
God’s Great Invitation
Now that you have discovered who you are, who God is, and how to be reconciled to Him, it is time to respond to God’s great invitation. You are invited to stop trusting in yourself, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and to know God personally. You are invited to be saved from your sin. Salvation is the result of God’s grace. It is based on what He did on the cross when He took your place and mine. We deserve judgment, but in Jesus Christ we find mercy. We deserve Hell, but in Jesus Christ we find eternal life in Heaven. It has nothing to do with what we can do for Him. You cannot save yourself or earn God’s favor or approval through your own good works.
There are some things in life that only God can do, and some things that only you can do. Only God can remove your old sin nature and give you the gift of eternal life. Only God can wash away your sin and make you brand new. Only you can make the decision to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Your parents cannot make that decision for you. Neither can your spouse, friends, or pastor. Only you can make the personal response to surrender your heart and life to Jesus.
If you already consider yourself a Christian, but have strayed from Jesus Christ, this is the time to return to Him. Again, this is both a decision and commitment that only you can make. While it is simple to pray and confess that Jesus is Lord, it is not easy. Think for a moment about what the term Lord means. Sometimes we might think Lord is just another name for God. That’s not true. The term Lord actually refers to one who is a master, owner, or someone in a position of power and authority. Do you believe Jesus is your master? Does He have authority in your life? Can you say that He is your owner… that your life belongs to Him? Does Jesus have the position of power and influence in your life? The invitation to place your trust in Jesus Christ by faith is open to all. If you haven’t done so already, receive God’s great invitation.
Before we end this chapter, take some time in prayer. Talk to God. Ask Him to work in your heart and prepare you for what is ahead. As you pray, be honest about your doubts, hesitations, and fears. Ask Jesus Christ to give you strength to proceed and move forward with Him no matter the cost. Place your faith in Jesus Christ. Surrender control of your life to Jesus. Call on Him to be Lord.
The good news of the Gospel is that you are invited to be reconciled to God and to know Him personally. Have you responded to God’s great invitation? Have you believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, will you make the decision to receive Jesus Christ right now? He has never responded “no” or not now” when an honest and sincere heart has cried out for help. Here is how you can receive Christ:
you have sinned and commit to turning away from your sin.
Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin and that He rose from the
grave to give you a new life.
Jesus Christ as your Savior and surrender to Him as Lord of your life.
Through prayer, receive Jesus Christ into your life as Lord and Savior. Pray a prayer like this one. The words of the prayer are not as important as your heart and sincerity behind it.
"Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, thank You that You came to give Your life in my place. I confess I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe that You died for my sins. I turn away from my sins. I confess You as my Savior and surrender my heart and life to You as my Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
If you prayed to receive Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, the Bible says...
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Whether you have prayed to surrender your life to Jesus Christ for the first time or if you have re-committed your life to Him, you have made the right decision. God wants to change not only your eternal destiny, but also to change your today. This is the beginning of a new life in Jesus Christ. When you respond to God’s great invitation to receive Jesus Christ into your life, you are born into God's family. You may be wondering, “What comes next?” We’ll explore that in the upcoming chapters.
A Deeper Reflection
Have you confessed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life?
This is an excerpt from Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime. Get the book or ebook here and begin your journey of spiritual growth.