Do You Really Want to Be a Christian?
Or, Warnings to Inquiring Sinners and New Converts
"What must I do to be saved?"
by Tom Stewart
onfidence in Jesus as the ground and foundation of our Salvation and life is all-important to being a Christian. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1Corinthians 3:11). In fact, whenever you are truly willing to obey Christ, you are a Christian. "He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). Everyone who becomes a Christian, does so with their own unique circumstances; but, all must come by Jesus, Who is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Though Jesus does not want any to "perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9), He tells us plainly, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). By allowing the Spirit of God to direct you from His Scriptures, you have the surest way to be certain that you have entered through that Narrow Gate and have become the few that are truly Christian. "And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
When Christ answered the Rich Young Ruler's question, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have Eternal Life?" (Matthew 19:16), He responded, "If thou wilt enter into Life, keep the Commandments" (19:17), demonstrating that:
Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ
ften, when Anxious Sinners are directed by Christians on the vital question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), the reply is properly given, "Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (16:31). Faith in Christ to save us, is always correct, because faith is the only work and obedience of which we are capable; and, faith alone is acceptable in response to the Grace of God. "8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is properly exercised by man, since it is trusting Jesus, i.e., "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith" (Hebrews 12:2). [Please read "Faith is Looking to Jesus" ---New Window, for a Scriptural perspective on believing.] But, faith is a work that we must perform to be saved, i.e., "Will you trust Jesus to save you?" "28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent" (John 6:28-29). Faith is likewise our obedience to God, for the Apostle Paul called it the "obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). And, we are reminded that "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6), which makes faith in Christ always a right answer to give to any who are concerned about the Salvation of their soul. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). [See "The Heart of the Gospel" ---New Window, by A. T. Pierson ---New Window, for a soul-winning exposition of John 3:16.]
Again, the "work of faith" (1Thessalonians 1:3; 2Thessalonians 1:11) is the only acceptable thing that we can do to please God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We must be careful that we do not stop short of True Faith with the intellect-only-faith of devils. "19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20). Unless our faith "worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6), we do not have True Faith. Though the "obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) is easy, i.e., "unto Thee shall all flesh come" (Psalm 65:2), yet sadly, in an unconverted state, we have not done what we know we ought. "19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do... 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:19, 24). But, God has ordained for us victory, that we should be trusting in Him to work in us "to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). It should overjoy us to find that Christ not only died to save us from our sins, i.e., the "Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10); but, He came, suffered, died, resurrected, and ascended back into Heaven, in order that He might give us of His Spirit, i.e., "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7). And, to ensure our obedience is the grand New Testament reason for Christ giving us His Spirit to dwell within us-- in addition to making us happy. "And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27). [See our editorial, "Is It Possible to Guarantee Our Obedience?" ---New Window, to explore how God can do exactly that!]
Repent and Turn From Your Sins
t is fruitless to contend that faith lays too much responsibility upon man, since the concept of granting forgiveness for sins, while upholding the sanctity of God's Broken Law, necessitates that either God will punish the Law Breaker or He will grant forgiveness to a Penitent Sinner, who repents and believes the Gospel. "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). God's Royal Law is the Law of Love. "If ye fulfil the Royal Law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8). And, it is a fact that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) in breaking that Law. God demands not only that we obey His Law, but He holds Himself accountable to that same Law, since the King is never above the Law. "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the First and Great Commandment. 39 And the Second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39). The penalty of breaking that Law is Eternal Death. "For the wages of sin is Death; but the Gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our LORD" (Romans 6:23). Our opportunity for repentance is and must be limited, i.e., "While it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation... Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (Hebrews 3:15; James 4:14); or, we would be able to repent whenever we chose, even in the next life. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the Judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Neither can we repent, solely because we decided to repent; but, we can repent, only if God has granted us the privilege of repentance. "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the Truth" (2Timothy 2:25). How can we tell if God has granted us that privilege of repentance? If you obey His command to repent, i.e., "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), then you have been granted a New Heart by God. "A New Heart also will I give you, and a New Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).
To the hypocritical and malicious Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist proclaimed, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:7-8), when they deceptively attempted to simulate conversion by submission to the baptism of John. It is far too easy to deceive ourselves and others that we have repented, when there has been no true change of heart. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to Salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2Corinthians 7:10). True Repentance means that we:
Unless we make a thorough cleansing of our past,
sinful actions, we will be continually wondering why we are plagued with seemingly
inescapable, sinful choices that we will make in the future-- with little effort.
"Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap
in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till He come
and rain righteousness upon you" (Hosea 10:12). Read Chapter
to Promote a Revival" ---New Window,
of Charles G. Finney's classic "Revival Lectures" to see a lengthy discussion
of the different sins of commission and omission that are committed by even those
that name the Name of Christ, much less by those who are only presently anxious about
coming to Christ. If we desire to be among those that give our LORD a manifold return
on His investment in us, then we must cooperate in giving Him a ready heart, with
the ground broken up from its past, sinful habits, to receive the influence of the
Spirit working through the Good Word of God.
"8 And other fell on Good Ground, and did yield fruit that
sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some
an hundred... 20 And these are they
which are sown on Good Ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth
fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred" (Mark 4:8,20). May our Worthy LORD receive a bountiful return from each of us,
for He is worthy. "Worthy is the Lamb
that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour,
and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5:12).
Satisfy Yourself With the Mercy of God
ercy is that attribute of Divine Love that seeks the repentance and pardon of Sinners (whenever it can wisely be done) in withholding justly deserved punishment for our sins. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). God, "Who worketh all things after the counsel of His Own Will" (Ephesians 1:11), is sovereign and must be a law unto Himself, such that, in His Omniscience, the Divine Reason must impose Law on the Divine Will. "For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Romans 9:15). Charles G. Finney wrote in his Systematic Theology ---New Window that the "sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." "For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the Truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD" (Psalm 117:2). But, be it forever remembered that the Immutable God can never act arbitrarily or unreasonably without being infinitely wicked. "He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself" (2Timothy 2:13). The certainty that the Mighty Jehovah holds Himself forever accountable to His Law of Love, is our certainty that His mercy can save us. "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy" (Psalm 147:11). God magnifies Himself in the pardoning of Sinners. "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Satisfying ourselves with the mercy of God means that we submit with reverential love to the authority of God over us; or, as Charles G. Finney wrote, "Whatever point is taken hold of between God and the sinner, when the sinner YIELDS that, he is converted" (excerpted from "Revival Lectures.") "His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation" (Luke 1:50).
Perhaps one of the best pictures of the reception of mercy in the New Testament, is that of the Penitent Publican. "9 And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:9-14). The greatest indication that the publican was a recipient of the Mercy of God, was that he humbled his heart before God, acknowledging his guilt before God. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1Timothy 1:15). A further indication that we have received the Mercy of God, is that we extend mercy to others. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).
Likewise, one of the best pictures of how the unmerciful do not truly receive the Mercy of God, is that of the hypocritical case of the Unforgiving Servant. "23 Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall My Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:23-35). Our merciful treatment of our fellow man indicates that we have truly received the Mercy of God. "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (James 2:13). When we show our sinning neighbour merciful compassion, it is because we desire to see their repentance. "And of some have compassion, making a difference" (Jude 22). But still, God cannot (and we cannot) forgive the impenitent unless they repent. "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).
Receive the Grace of God
race involves the unmerited favour of God in granting us the gift of Salvation. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). Unlike mercy, where repentance is a condition of the exercise of mercy, the Great Grace of God flows unhindered upon the evil and the good, the just and the unjust, the undeserving and the ill-deserving. "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God's Grace is a vast ocean that seeks to everlastingly benefit all that an Almighty God can reach. "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). The world complains, "If there is a God, why does He allow all this suffering?" Suffering is graciously allowed by God to reform the ungodly and further sanctify the Godly, seeking to shower man with His goodness. "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4). Characterizing God as indifferent to the world's suffering, forgets that "it is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not" (Lamentations 3:22), and that His Grace is responsible for all the good that we presently possess. "Every Good Gift and every Perfect Gift is from Above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
To the thoughtful observer, who views all the misery and suffering rapidly increasing in the world:
God's goodness and grace, flows from Him whose essence is Love. "God is love" (1John 4:16). His Matchless Grace is unheralded by the world; but, all have reaped its benefits, whether or not they have known the Source from whence it has sprung. It should be noted that:
What must we do to receive the grace of God? Do what a hungry baby bird does when its mother appears above with a worm. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10). C. H. Spurgeon tells a story that illustrates the freeness of God's grace.
"I HEARD A STORY; I think it came from the North Country: A minister called upon a poor woman, intending to give her help; for he knew that she was very poor. With his money in his hand, he knocked at the door; but she did not answer. He concluded she was not at home, and went his way. A little after he met her at the church, and told her that he had remembered her need: 'I called at your house, and knocked several times, and I suppose you were not at home, for I had no answer.' 'At what hour did you call, sir?' 'It was about noon.' 'Oh, dear,' she said, 'I heard you, sir, and I am so sorry I did not answer; but I thought it was the man calling for the rent.' Many a poor woman knows what this meant. Now, it is my desire to be heard, and therefore I want to say that I am not calling for the rent; indeed, it is not the object of this book to ask anything of you, but to tell you that salvation is all of grace, which means, free, gratis, for nothing" (from Spurgeon's "All of Grace", which is an earnest word with those who are seeking Salvation by the LORD Jesus Christ.)
"Who hath saved us, and called us with an
holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2Timothy 1:9).
Give Your Heart to Christ
hether the Spirit of God stresses that you must "repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17), "believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), or "obey God" (Acts 5:29), any attempt to be a Christian that does not include a Right Heart, leaves you "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:23). Some may debate about the appropriate directions to give to one seeking the way of Salvation, but any direction that includes the necessity of a Right Heart, is always right. "My son, give Me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe My ways" (Proverbs 23:26). Since it is the Spirit of God that customizes the most appropriate directions to each Anxious Sinner, a Right Heart for one may sound different from a Right Heart for another, but a Right Heart will always come by way of Jesus. "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a New Heart and a New Spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31). If we listen carefully to the LORD Jesus Christ in the Gospels, instruct His hearers in the Way of Life, we may see the variety of directions that may be correctly given to the Philippian jailer's anxious question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), and that many of His directions may as properly be given to New Converts.
Since holiness is separating yourself from sinful practices unto the LORD, then any who would separate himself from the world to Christ, is a Christian. "But as He which hath called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (1Peter 1:15). Certainly, you can see the hypocrisy of anyone claiming to call himself a Christian, while abiding in a sinful walk. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him" (1John 3:6). Neither the Holy Spirit nor the writers of Scripture could envision any man entering into Heaven without Practical Holiness. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the LORD" (Hebrews 12:14). Also, since it is impossible to be both sinful and holy at the same time, either you will end your sojourn in holiness or "ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). The secret of abiding in holiness is trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it in us. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). [See our article, "Must We Then Sin?" ---New Window, for a Scriptural development of understanding that refutes the common notion that even the Saints are still only sinners.]
he result of your obedience to any of the directions, e.g., believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, repent and turn from your sins, satisfy yourself with the mercy of God, receive the grace of God, and give your heart to Christ, of your question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), is the Salvation of your soul. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2Corinthians 5:17). But, the True Knowledge that you have actually been converted to Christ does not exist in human records, or even in your mental recollection of the event, but from the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God to your heart. "3 And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments. 4 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the Love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. 6 He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1John 2:3-6). As you can see, the Holy Spirit cuts off His testimony that we know Him, when we walk in known sin. In fact, the Spirit inspired words of Scripture will testify that we have never known Him. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him" (3:6). [See our article, "That Ye May Know That Ye Have Eternal Life, Or, The Biblical Doctrine of the Assurance of Salvation, Or, Only Those Who Abide in Christ May Know That They Have Eternal Life" ---New Window.] Thus, the True Christian Walk is a careful walk; but, the Promises of God ensure that it is a certain and joyful walk. "Who are kept by the Power of God through faith unto Salvation ready to be revealed in the Last Time" (1Peter 1:5). A Promise from God is the certainty that something will be done-- and, is dependent only upon our believing it-- with the wonderful effect of sanctifying us. "Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great and Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4). [See our article, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window, to see how God uses His promises upon us to great advantage.]
In summary, for those who truly want to be a Christian, a Willing Heart is a Right Heart and will always manifest itself in obedience to Christ, when given the opportunity. "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (John 14:15). It is better to be advised of the difficulty of the path of becoming a Christian, before embarking upon it, rather than arriving at the Judgment Seat of Christ with a False Hope, only to be given the fearful Words, "I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23). A False Hope will only harden you and cause your Final Judgment to be more severe. "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of Righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the Holy Commandment delivered unto them" (2Peter 2:21). But, you need not fear that God in His Infinite Wisdom did not already make ample provision to secure to Himself every honest hearted soul, who has despaired of his own righteousness and flung himself at the Almighty Mercy of the Living God. "27 My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: 28 And I give unto them Eternal Life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. 29 My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. 30 I and My Father are One" (John 10:27-30).
If the Spirit of Christ has worked the Miracle of the New Birth in you, then "continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43) through faith, love, and obedience. Live "by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). "Let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6) in prayer about all things. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, for He is your Mentor and Advocate to "cause you to walk in [His] Statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). Perhaps, one of the finest series of sermons to establish your understanding of the New Life is the series of lectures by Charles G. Finney in the Oberlin Evangelist (1839) ---New Window. And "The New Life: Words of God for Young Disciples of Christ" ---New Window by Andrew Murray ---New Window, is a fine series of Scriptural instructions on specific matters of interest for every Believer.
May we meet Christ and one another in Heaven "with exceeding joy" (Jude 24)!
"Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my Salvation: my God will hear me" (Micah 7:7).
A Willing Mind Indispensable to a Right Understanding of Truth ---New Window
by Charles G. Finney
I. That God's promises, with their conditions, are a revelation of the great principles of His government.
II. What is implied in a willingness to do the will of God.
III. That this state of mind is indispensable to a right understanding of the truth of God.
IV. That this state of mind will certainly result in a right knowledge of the truth, unless you tempt God by neglecting the means of knowledge.
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