In my recent series of columns, I have been dealing with the subject of true Christianity.
I stated in one column that there are a high percentage of people in our churches and in our world who are Christian in name only. That is, they claim to be Christian but they do not have a living relationship with Christ. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you how you can enter such a relationship. I call it the ABC's of saving faith.
A: You have to admit your need. The Bible tells us that the reason we need Christ in the first place is because we are drowning in sin. The Bible says, "Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious ideal" (Romans 3:23, The Living Bible).
We don't like to hear that. Most of us think of ourselves as basically good people (though the Bible paints an entirely different picture -- See Romans 3:10-18), and we get offended if anyone suggests anything else.
The same Bible that says we are sinners by nature and by choice, tells us that the natural outcome of our rebellious behavior is death, physically and spiritually. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23, The Living Bible).
This brings us to the B in our equation: "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Believing in Jesus means I put my total trust in Him. One songwriter put it this way, "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling."
The purpose of the cross is to repair the irreparable. Only in Christianity do we see God dealing with people in justice, mercy and grace. In all other faiths, if God shows mercy, He does so at the expense of justice; but in Christianity, God shows mercy through justice.
Jesus paid the penalty of our sin and purchased for us a rightful place in heaven through His death, burial and resurrection. Because of Christ's sacrifice, God had rightly and justly forgiven me. I don't earn it, I can't earn it. It is a free gift that He gives to all who will by faith trust in the finished work of His son upon the cross.
C: I confess that. Confession means I agree with God. The Bible says, "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" (Romans 10:9 10, NIV84).
Confession leads to repentance. Repentance is a change of direction that results from a change of mind and heart. We don't earn forgiveness by repentance, but accepting God's forgiveness shows itself through repentance.
Think of it this way. We all know what it is to be wronged. If I wrong someone, and that person comes to me and says (even before I ask), "John, I forgive you," my "sorry" does not become a way of earning that person's forgiveness. Rather, my "sorry" shows my change of heart on the matter as a result of his or her forgiveness. If I say "sorry," and then do the same thing over again, you have the right to question my genuineness. Same is true with God.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit www.gatewaycommunity.org.