Thus far we have sought to establish two critically important truths: man’s overwhelming need with respect to sin and judgment; and God’s ample provision for that need through Jesus Christ. What obviously follows is the question of how man benefits from that provision. Left to himself he will surely perish. Yet even an ample provision does a man no good unless he comes into personal possession of it.
Remember the words of Paul in Romans 1:16 in which he tells us that the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Need and provision, then, are brought together in “everyone who believes.”
Lest it be a distraction to the discussion of our subject, I believe it would be in order to comment on the last part of Paul’s statement, the part where he said, “first for the Jew.” Why did Paul add that? Does this mean that God favors Jews above Gentiles when it comes to salvation?
We have already pointed out that with respect to the need of salvation there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, All are helpless sinners, whether Pharisees who boast in the law of Moses, or Gentile heathen who have never even heard of Moses. In fact, Paul explicitly said, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:12-13.
Why, then, did Paul say, “first for the Jew”? It is obvious from the scriptures that, prior to Christ, God did indeed favor the nation of Israel, Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob, over the other nations of the world. In spite of the terrible record of apostasy and unbelief that characterized Israel as a whole there was always a faithful remnant of believers, preserved by God, within the nation. As the Lord told Elijah in his day, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel — all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18.
It was to and through this remnant that God revealed Himself and foretold of the Savior to come. Generations of them lived and died believing in and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s wonderful promises. Hebrews 11:39-40. 1 Peter 1:10-12. Simeon and Anna were examples of these true Israelites who looked for the Savior. Luke 2:25-38.
In the parable of the great feast, recorded for us in Luke 14:16-23, the first call to the feast was to those who had already been invited. Note the timing. The invitation came first, then the preparation of the feast, then the call to “Come, for everything is now ready.” It was only after this call was refused that the command was given to “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” Luke 14:21.
Whom do you think Jesus meant by this parable? The feast itself is a wonderful picture of the gospel, the provision of God made ready through Christ. For centuries the prophets had given out the invitation of God to the coming feast. This invitation had been to Israel and so it was fitting that when the time finally came, the fulfillment of the prophetic message should be announced to the Jews first. After all, some of them were like Simeon and Anna. How strange it would have been for the Lord to have gone straight to the heathen nations without first telling them and others like them!
Even though Paul’s ministry was primarily to the Gentiles, it nonetheless reflected the order indicated in the parable. Everywhere he went where there was a synagogue Paul first went there to announce the fulfillment of the words of their prophets. Only when he had done this did he preach to the Gentiles. That is what “first to the Jew” meant. “First” had to do with the order in which the gospel began to be proclaimed. Beyond that, it is for “everyone who believes.”
I have often heard recounted an incident from the life of the famous evangelist, D.L. Moody. He had occasion one day to travel by train. During his journey he was seated next to a zealous practitioner of a particular religion. For some two hours the man talked, pressing his religious views upon Moody, who patiently listened. At the conclusion of the journey, as they stepped onto the station platform, Moody turned to the man and said simply, “There are only two letters difference between your religion and mine: yours is spelled ‘d-o’; mine is spelled ‘d-o-n-e.’”
What a wonderfully simple way to express the difference between “religion” and the gospel. I should hasten to define the way I use the word “religion,” since it differs from the way many in history have used it. To me, “religion” is any system of beliefs and practices by which man tries to save himself. The gospel reveals what God has done—”d-o-n-e”—for man. “Religion” is, then, man’s substitute for God’s true salvation.
Every religion in the earth has its own idea as to what man’s need is. Leaving aside the question as to whether that need is correctly identified or not, virtually all religions give man something he must DO in order to meet that need. It may be the offering of sacrifices or the performance of other acts of religious ritual and devotion. It may be the pursuit of special knowledge or the exercise of various kinds of self-discipline or adherence to certain creeds and codes of conduct. But regardless of the details, the hallmark of religion is “d-o.” It is basically up to the followers of the particular religion to save themselves, or to qualify for some sort of salvation through their own efforts.
But if man could save himself there would be no need of the gospel. Religion in all of its forms violates the very reason that Jesus went to the cross: that man is a helpless sinner. If man is truly helpless in the face of sin and judgment then there is nothing he can do—and all of his religious efforts are in vain.
Religion, no matter how sincere, denies both of the truths that we have thus far established. It does not see man’s need the same way God sees it. In the view of religion, man may be misguided, but basically good, or a victim of ignorance, anything but a hopeless, helpless sinner against a holy God. As a result religion relies on a man’s own ability to “DO” in order to save himself.
To Paul, all of the “doing” necessary for our full and complete salvation has already been done, once for all, by Jesus Christ. John 19:30. Colossians 2:9-10. Hebrews 10:10, 14. There are many things a Christian ought to do. However, not one of these things is done “to be saved.” Titus 3:5. Romans 4:5. Ephesians 2:10.
Salvation, therefore, is not for those who “do,” but for those who “believe.” That is the key word. The meaning of the word “believe,” as Paul understood it, is what I hope, as the Lord enables, to make clear. What is “faith”? What does it mean to “believe”? Before considering what faith is, let’s first consider some of the things it is not.
Saving faith, first of all, is much more than mere intellectual assent. No one has ever been saved by simply embracing certain religious doctrines. It is true that God does not bypass our minds and there are truths of which we must be convinced but it is with the heart that man must believe if he is to be saved. Romans 10:9-10.
James warned those who thought of faith as simply a belief of the mind that such faith cannot save. He says, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17. Faith without resulting deeds is no better than the faith of demons, who believe in God—and shudder. James 2:19. And that is all that some people have — “demon faith”! It is a “faith” that makes no real difference in their lives. This kind of “faith” that James evidently encountered and wrote about is not at all what Paul meant by faith. To both James and Paul, works were the evidence of genuine faith.
Imagine yourself trapped in a place where destruction is certain. Then imagine that there is but one escape, a narrow bridge over a deep chasm. Intellectually, you could acknowledge the facts of your case but if that is as far as it went you would surely perish. Merely believing in the destruction to come and professing your belief in the bridge as a reliable way of escape is useless. You must take action, committing yourself to that bridge and leaving the place of destruction behind.
What an empty sham such faith is! It offers fine words and noble ideas yet withholds trust. It is self condescendingly seeking to accommodate God without surrender. It professes faith in God yet that profession makes no difference in the life. It is no better than that of the man who perishes while professing faith in a bridge he will not cross. Religious pride and self deception are the hallmarks of such “faith.” Trust is placed, not in a God Who saves unworthy sinners, but in self and religious profession.
Another thing that faith is not is a religious feeling, emotion, or experience. Many people equate faith with a certain kind of feeling. This is why in many places religious services amount to little more than spiritual “pep rallies” designed to get the people excited. However, religious enthusiasm is not faith and has never saved anyone. Yet that is all many people have and their spiritual life consists of striving to seek out, work up, and maintain that special feeling that gives them a temporary sense of confidence towards God, however false that confidence may be.
Even where true faith is present it seldom corresponds to our emotional state. In fact, the greatest expressions of faith happen when the emotions are most contrary. It wasn’t emotion that carried Abraham through 25 long years between God’s promise and the birth of Isaac.
Faith is not a human ability at all—not saving faith. None of us are born with it. So many struggle, looking down inside themselves, trying to find or “work up” faith—whatever that is. You will never find it there. Faith is, in fact, a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8. You will never have faith unless God gives it to you. To imagine otherwise is to violate the truth of man’s helpless sinful state before God.
When many people speak of faith, what they mean is their religion with its various beliefs and practices. Their “faith” consists of what they believe and do and your faith, what you believe and do. One “faith” is as good as another—they think. How well that fits into a world that has rejected absolute truth!
Of course, some people do set “their” faith above others but that is not what we are talking about. There is a faith that was once entrusted to the saints. Jude 3. That faith is as different from what most people call faith as life is from death. I can just hear some reader thinking, “Oh, so you think you are the only ones, that your church, with its particular teachings and ways of doing things, has exclusive possession of the one true faith and everyone else is wrong.” Not at all. I certainly believe there are many doctrines that are true and that matter but that is not the faith once delivered to the saints.
Consider what was lost in the beginning. God created a perfect world with no sin, no suffering, and no death. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given complete freedom to fellowship with God and to enjoy His beautiful creation—with one exception. There was one tree whose fruit they were forbidden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17.
Along came Satan, expressing himself through the serpent. He approached Eve when she was alone. That fact by itself reveals a calculated attack on God’s order. Why, if his wisdom was true and honorable, did he not first approach Adam?
Satan first raised the issue of God’s command not to eat of that particular tree. When Eve stated what God had commanded Satan launched his attack. He first declared God’s warning that disobedience would lead to death to be a lie. Then, after attacking God’s truthfulness he attacked His character, His very motive for giving the command.
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5. Eve foolishly considered what Satan said, found both his lie and the fruit itself appealing, ate it, and gave some to her husband who also ate.
The disobedience of Eve and then Adam was no small thing. By believing Satan they were at the same time calling God an evil, selfish liar who could not be trusted. God became their enemy, His every command suspect. By their deed they declared that their highest welfare lay down the path of independence and rebellion. In their minds God had known what was best for them and had refused to tell them, lying to them instead.
All disobedience against God is really saying the same thing! We are saying that our wisdom is wiser than His, our motives are purer. Our interests are better served by self-will. Either He is evil and desires to use us for His own selfish purposes or else He really just doesn’t understand what is best for us. Think about it!
Thus did the awful power of sin enter into their very hearts, corrupting them as well as the heart of every member of Adam’s race. It is this heart-level enmity between man and God that must be overcome in true salvation.
Consider Abraham, the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11). God gave Abram, as he was known at the time, an amazing promise that not only would he produce an heir from his own body but that his descendants would be like the stars of heaven, more than Abram could count. Genesis 15:6 says simply, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
It doesn’t say, “Abram believed the promise,” but, “Abram believed the LORD.” There is a huge difference. It is one thing to believe a particular promise or statement someone makes. It is quite another to believe the person who makes that promise. Faith in the person results in believing whatever that person says because the person is judged to be truthful and reliable.
Much that is called faith is really just an issue by issue thing. The person involved is never really trusted. Rather, as each issue arises we consider it, evaluate it and decide if we are going to believe or disbelieve. We retain control. Our faith and trust is really in self and every issue is judged by its effect on self, its reasonableness to our natural minds, and so on. The Israelites in the wilderness were like that. They followed Moses out there but fell, one by one, because they never really believed or trusted the God Who had sent him. Hebrews 3:7-19.
Real faith is of a different sort. It transfers confidence from self to God. He is judged to be 100% truthful and trustworthy. We no longer judge what He says issue by issue. If He says it then it is true and reliable and we fully trust in it regardless of anything else that may seem to be contrary.
Faith enabled Abraham to wait those long 25 years for the son of promise, even when the answer became a biological impossibility. Did he waver? Certainly, and Ishmael was the result, but in the end faith prevailed and Isaac, the miracle child of the promise was born. As Hebrews 11:11 says, “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” That’s it! Not just faith in the promise but in the faithfulness of the One making the promise. Notice that Abraham was “enabled.” The power involved was God’s alone.
Think about it: Adam and Eve walked and talked with God and lived in paradise. They had every reason to trust Him, but turned away. Abraham faced mountains of obstacles for years yet persevered in faith until the promise came.
The greatest test of faith came later when God told Him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Anything short of full unquestioning confidence in God would have resulted in failure. But Abraham passed the test, fully confident that whatever God told him to do was right and that all would be right in the end. After all, even if he killed his son, God could easily raise him from the dead! Hebrews 11:19. The test lasted until Abraham was standing over his bound son with the knife raised to kill him when God stopped him and provided a substitute sacrifice.
It’s hard to imagine a greater test. This was the very son of promise—his son, flesh of his flesh! Kill him? It didn’t make sense. Every natural consideration screamed out, “No way!” But God had spoken—a God he knew and loved and trusted. That was enough.
As a result God said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:16-18. This promise is directly connected with the hope of the gospel. Galatians 3:6-9.
It was such faith that enabled Noah to withstand the ridicule of wicked men for 120 years as he preached, warned, and built an ocean-liner sized boat on dry land in anticipation of the coming flood of destruction. This, despite the fact that it had never rained before!
I recently illustrated for our people at the Bible Tabernacle the magnitude of Noah’s task. The Bible Tabernacle is 60 feet by 100 feet. The ark that Noah built was approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high with 3 levels. That means that the ark was higher and wider than the church and four and a half times as long! No wonder God gave him 120 years to build it!
It was faith that enabled Joshua to lead a nation against the city of Jericho following one of the most unusual battle plans of all times. As they marched and shouted in faith God brought the walls down. Faith enabled Gideon to send all but 300 out of 32,000 volunteers home when he faced the Midianite army. Faith enabled Jehoshaphat to send the choir out ahead of the soldiers to face an army of overwhelming size. In each case the God Whose word they unquestioningly believed gave great victories.
Faith enabled a young man named David armed with only a sling and 5 stones to run towards a fully-armed giant whose taunts had terrified a whole army.
In Luke 18:15-17, people were bringing their little children to Jesus to touch them. The disciples rebuked them but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
What we have been describing is childlike faith. A child simply believes because Daddy says so. If Daddy says, “Let’s get in the car and drive to such-and-such a place the child does not have to understand how a car works. He doesn’t worry about the price of gas, whether Daddy knows how to get there, whether he has checked the oil lately, and so forth. That’s Daddy’s responsibility. As far as the child is concerned, arriving at the destination is a certainty the moment Daddy says they are going.
Now the child will probably ask, “Are we there yet?” every five minutes! But notice that he doesn’t ask, “Are you sure that’s where we are going?” or, “Are you sure we will get there?” If the destination is Grandma’s house the child doesn’t worry about whether they will make it or not but rather spends his time in joyful anticipation of seeing Grandma. Why? He knows and implicitly trusts Daddy.
The difference can easily be illustrated by the incident where Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side.” Mark 4:35. Jesus was so certain of the destination that He went to sleep in the stern of the boat. When the storm came up the disciples forgot all about Jesus’ words concerning “the other side” and woke Jesus up in a panic.
When He awoke He didn’t say, “Oh, my God! I thought we were going to the other side but it looks like we are going to drown!” He first spoke to the winds and waves and said, “Quiet! Be still,” and then simply said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:39-40. The “faith” of the disciples was more in the storm than it was in the implied promise in Jesus’ words before they set out. Jesus had a perfect confidence in His Father and the certainty of His plan.
To natural men God is an enemy Who cannot be trusted. To a man with saving faith God becomes a Father Who cannot lie. Therefore the gospel, its facts, its promises are fully embraced and relied upon. Why? He is faithful that promised!
For a man to be moved from stubborn unbelief to such childlike trust is nothing short of a divine miracle. It is a complete reversal of everything his life is about. It is not a little fine-tuning, or even an overhaul: it is a new engine.
No mere words, clever human persuasion, emotional appeal, or anything else that relies upon human ability can accomplish this. Only God, dealing directly with the heart of a man, can bring such a change about. Of course He employs the anointed proclamation of the gospel in the process but the real work is an inward one wrought by God.
Many people “try” to believe God, to embrace the hope of the gospel apart from that work of God but it doesn’t work. They are told that all they must do is to pray a little prayer and “receive” Jesus. Then they are told that they are saved so they begin to “try” to be Christians. They may struggle and doubt and wonder about the power the gospel is supposed to have. Then they look around, see others just like them and shrug their shoulders, figuring, “That’s just how it is.” Or they give up.
Jeremiah 4:3 says, “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.” This is a natural picture of what must happen in the heart. The gospel, with its hope of eternal life, is like seed. The heart is like soil. Sin has left the heart hard and rocky and choked with thorns and briars. For the gospel seed to spring up and flourish God must do a lot of weeding and plowing.
In Matthew 13:1-23 Jesus gave us both a parable about the preaching of the kingdom and its explanation. The seed is the message. It falls on several different types of soil. Some falls where the soil is trampled down and hard. The birds (Satan and his demons) steal the word before it has a chance to germinate. Another type of soil is rocky with very little earth. The seed springs up quickly but doesn’t last because there is no real root. Another type is choked with thorns and briars, representing the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches. They choke out the word and no crop is produced. Only in the good ground is a crop produced.
The parallel between Jesus’ parable and Jeremiah 4:3 is obvious. There is no greater Gardener than the Lord and He knows what it takes to produce the fruit He is looking for. And He is patient because He knows that there is both a preparation and a process involved. Before the gospel seed can prosper the soil must be prepared. Let’s take a look at a number of aspects of the divine work of preparing a human heart and see what a prepared heart is like.
Fundamental to that preparation work is a thorough conviction of sin. Every natural instinct will cry out against and oppose the light that exposes the awful darkness of a human heart. Self will desperately seek to protect itself from the truth with every form of anger and denial.
And it is not enough merely to convince the mind of the fact of human depravity. The very heart itself must be confronted and brought to a thorough conviction of its corruption and of the justice of God’s wrath against sin—not only against sin as a general principle, but also against the individual sinner. Every mouth must be stopped—nothing else to be said in defense of the heart.
A man who has been brought this far has come a long way, but not nearly far enough. Remember that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Romans 2:4. Repentance is the goal as it must precede and accompany saving faith. Repentance is faith in action in response to conviction. It would make no sense for God to grant faith to a man who has no intention of giving up his sins.
The work of God in conviction must, as we have said, confront a man’s very heart. Yet that conviction must result in more than mere acknowledgment or grudging admission. Many will admit that they are sinners—and deeply resent your bringing it up. They have no desire or intention of giving up their way and turning from sin. God will never grant saving faith to such a man. He is still an unrepentant rebel despite the conviction he may temporarily feel. And even when he feels it he runs from the light and not to it.
Another way men fall short at this point occurs when their motivation is simply fear of judgment and hell. Fear of judgment may well be a part of bringing a man to true repentance but the kind of man I’m describing acts purely out of self-interest. In his heart of hearts he would really prefer to continue in sin but the prospect of judgment motivates him to make some kind of religious effort. This is not salvation—not even close.
The conviction of God’s Spirit in the heart is designed to bring about far more than a grudging admission or a fear-driven religious effort. It is designed to produce a godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Godly sorrow is not being sorry you were caught. It is not being sorry the divine spotlight is exposing your sin and making you feel bad. It is not self-pity or sorrow that you can’t have your sins and heaven too. It is not focused on self at all. Rather it is a heart sorrow concerning sin itself. That sorrow produces a deep shame, a sense of guilt, a self-loathing, a humble contrition. It is focused upon God and how wicked and contemptible we are in the face of His unsurpassed holiness and goodness. It is a total change of viewpoint. Instead of measuring ourselves against other men we see ourselves in a measure as God sees us—and we are heartbroken.
Consider Job’s response to God’s revelation of Himself: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6. And we have Isaiah’s exclamation at the vision of God’s holiness: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’” Isaiah 6:5. Each of these men was among the most godly men of their respective generations. But when God reveals Himself, it is a different story.
One effect of such revelation is that it destroys all self-righteousness. The sinner is made to know with shocking clarity that if He is to find favor with God it will be because God chooses to act in mercy and grace towards him, and not because there is anything in him that deserves such favor. Pride, the wicked and deceptive product of sin, must be utterly destroyed. There will be no boasting on the day of judgment. The redeemed will fall on their faces amazed at God’s goodness and mercy.
Part of the effect of God’s work of conviction is the knowledge that only God can fix what is wrong. Salvation cannot even begin as long as we are striving to “save ourselves.” That is why the scripture says, “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:10. Human pride must utterly fall before the grace of God through which we become “God’s workmanship.” Ephesians 2:10. He is the divine Potter and we but the clay. Isaiah 64:8. We are no longer our own but rather bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
Of course, the purpose of conviction is not to leave us wallowing in the mire of hopeless self-pity. It is designed to produce in the heart a genuine willingness to turn from sin, a deep heartcry for deliverance from both sin and self. It is one thing to see what we are; it is another to cry out to be changed. That is what God is looking for and He alone has the power to bring that change about.
There is a kind of desperate boldness that pleases God, that catches His ear and grabs His attention. I think of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 who sought healing from Jesus. When he heard that Jesus was passing by he cried out. When others tried to shut him up he only cried out louder. He was totally focused on one thing and would allow nothing to stand in his way. He didn’t care what anyone else did or what they thought of him. He did the one thing he could do: cry out to the One Who could help him until Jesus stopped and said, “Call Him.” Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied simply, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus told him to go, that his faith had healed him.
And so we see that faith is both belief and specific action. The man knew his need. He fully believed that Jesus could help him. That belief caused him to cry out from the depths of his soul—undeterred by the criticisms and discouragements he received from others—until he obtained what he sought. And a record of his faith has been preserved for us in holy scripture as an encouragement to us in our great need.
A man who only casually seeks God cannot expect to be heard. Do you want to be saved or not? Just how important is your soul? A sinner ought to cry out to God as if God must answer or he will die—because that is exactly the case: if God does not answer you will die. That is what is at stake.
The gospel presents a radical choice between two worlds. It is the kingdom of God OR the world, God OR the devil, heaven OR hell. There is absolutely no middle ground, no way to have one without turning your back on the other. To have Christ is to reject the world and to fall down before Him, not just as Savior, but also as Lord.
Conviction destroys trust in self in order that trust may be returned to our Creator where it rightfully belongs. All of our strength and ability can only produce corruption and so we learn that henceforth our hope lies in His limitless strength and utter faithfulness. The ground of our hearts is plowed up and weeded and God reveals concerning His Son that, “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25. We are divinely enabled to believe in Him. It is God’s loving gift to those who humble themselves when He deals with their hearts.
Our Heavenly Father paid a price to save us that we will never fully comprehend. No one was more dear, more precious to God than His Son. And yet, to open heaven’s door to us, wicked, vile, rebels that we are, He poured out all the wrath, the anger, the hatred, the fury of His holy nature against that very beloved Son. Why? Not because there was any sin in Him but because He stood in our place and bore our sins. God held nothing back that was needful and that is why Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
This great salvation is, in one sense, given to us. We cannot earn it nor do we deserve it. Yet in another sense it costs us everything, our sins, our very life. In Matthew 13:44-45, Jesus gave us the parable of a merchant seeking fine pearls. He discovered one of great value, sold everything he had, and bought it. That is the value of this heavenly kingdom. It is worth everything. When we are enabled by God’s grace to catch even a glimpse of that kingdom this world loses its beauty, its allure. Nothing is more important than serving God and being part of the world to come. As missionary martyr Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Salvation is by faith: “for...everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16. Faith is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-10. So how does God give that precious gift to those whose hearts have been prepared? Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Faith comes, not by looking inside and “trying,” but rather by looking to God, hearing the glorious words of hope and promise that He Who cannot lie sows like a seed in a plowed heart. He makes Himself known to us by His Word, impregnated by His very life, ministered through those He has called and sent as messengers. In that life is the very power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
There is so very much more that could be said of the gospel—and yet it is in its essence so simple that even a child can grasp it. What about you? Have you entered into salvation? Have you discovered the “pearl of great value” and “sold everything” to possess it? Which world are you living for?
If what I have written has disturbed you or left you in doubt what should you do? If there is in you any inclination, any desire towards God I would counsel you to seek Him with all your heart. Cry out to Him to reveal Himself to you, to help you. Don’t give up. Will He hear you? Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Remember, this is God’s word and is given to encourage any who would seek Him. And if there is such a desire in your heart, God put it there. You would never desire Him on your own. He put it there seeking a response from you.
It is not my job to tell you that you are saved. That is God’s job. It is between you and Him. Romans 8:16. He will meet with you through His Word if your heart is willing. When He has revealed to you the reality of what it means that you are a lost sinner, and also that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, there will come a time when you must act upon the Word He has revealed to you. You must step out in faith and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord, committing your soul into His keeping for time and eternity. Remember the words of Paul: “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.
When that time comes do not hesitate or draw back. Hebrews 10:38 says, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Now is when God says, “Now.” It is when He deals with the heart, pressing the claims of the gospel upon it. To say “No” at such a time is to risk everything.
To say, “Not now” is just as risky. To say “Not now” is to say, “I’d rather live in my sins awhile longer. I’m not through enjoying them yet. I would really rather go on in sin but my conscience is bothering me and I need to say something to make it stop.” To say, “Not now” is to say, “Let me first go and scourge your Son some more, pound in a few more nails, spit on Him, mock Him some more.” How do you know that “later” will come? How do you know He will ever deal with you again? If He does not then you are lost.
You say, “He wouldn’t do that. “ Oh yes, He would. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him....” John 12:35-36 says, “...Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”
If you have experienced what I have been talking about then there is something on the inside that rejoices in the truth. If not, then I pray that you will be one of those who walks “while you have the light.” A great darkness is falling over planet earth. God’s last call is sounding forth and time is running out.
The following scriptures are great promises of God for those who believe. Many of them have become merely trite religious sayings having no real power. But remember that the gospel, “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” If these scriptures have not become that for you then I pray that you will seek God until they are. Their truth and power cannot be conveyed through mere human communication. God must reveal them—and Himself—to the heart.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18.
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” Romans 3:21-25.
“What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:3-5.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” Romans 5:6-9.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7.
“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. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10.
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:1-4.
“But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the deep?”‘ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:6-13.
“We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:9-13.
I would like to conclude with the words of a great old hymn by William R. Newell, “At Calvary.” I’m afraid that it is often sung without people paying too much attention to the real meaning of the words. I pray that you will consider the words now in the light of what I have shared about the gospel. Have you experienced what the hymn writer was writing about?
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
Now I’ve given to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary!
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!