"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...." (John 3:16) God has acted graciously and mercifully on behalf of sinners! Wonderful blessings are available because of what Jesus has done. But--what must I do to appropriate and claim these benefits? The focus for this lesson will he: "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" It's the most important question you will ever ask. No other question is so far reaching as this one. It means the difference between eternal life and death.Believe in Christ fully...
"Faith" Examined in this Lesson
"Faith," as used in many New Testament passages, is the broad, general, all-inclusive word that summarizes the total and complete human response to the grace of God. For example, Paul writes in Romans 1:1 7, "For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith. '" Clearly, in this verse, "faith" symbolizes the total response to God's love and grace on the part of the sinner. Yet, assumed and included in that faith response are many other specific qualities and attributes such as belief, trust, obedience, and dependency.
Perhaps it would be helpful to examine an incident recorded in the New Testament to illustrate how the word "faith" is used in a broad and generic sense. In Acts 16:25-34, a sinful man asked the crucial question, "What must I do to be saved?" The question itself reflected the man's ignorance, humility, and need. Christian teachers on the scene responded to him initially with a rather broad command "to believe in the Lord Jesus," after which they proceeded to teach him the specifics of what it means to believe and trust in Jesus. This man was untaught and did not know what faith in Jesus meant or required. As the Scripture asks, "How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10:14)
Since the jailer did not know Jesus, the Christian teachers proceeded to explain the specifics of saving faith. After telling him to "believe in the Lord Jesus," the next verse says, "Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house." The teachers commanded "faith," but then immediately proceeded to give careful instruction that would enable the jailer and his household to understand the specifics of "faith."
Understanding the meaning of "faith" is so important. In the last lesson of "The Seeker" Series, we examined grace in some detail. In this lesson, the objective will be to explore faith with the same intensity. We must avoid the danger of defining faith in a way that does not match the biblical description and definition.
Even the Demons "Believe!"
Faith is much more than a superficial belief in some truth or existing reality. If faith were nothing more than mental assent, then even the demons would be saved. One New Testament writer says, "You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" (James 2:19-20) The demons are so sure of God's power and presence that they... shudder. Many people would be hard-pressed to match the demons' fear of God.
The primary point of this passage is that "saving faith" will always reveal itself in visible "deeds" which reflect an attitude of love, trust, dependency, and obedience toward God--deeds of gratitude for what God has done rather than deeds of human achievement or merit. The demons who serve in the kingdom of Satan "believe" there is "one God," yet they do not love, trust, depend upon, or obey God. Make a sharp distinction between "shallow believism" and "deep faith" in God.
What is the Biblical Meaning of "Faith?"
"Faith." What is it? In Hebrews 11, the Bible says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Faith, then, is being sure and certain about things that we cannot visibly see or scientifically prove. On the right side of this page consider a description of "perfect and complete" faith which should always be our goal.
Faith is being sure and certain about unseen realities solely on the basis of what God says in His Word. No matter what may be the external conditions, circumstances, or appearances, the person of faith will trust in God's promises, rely upon God's Word, and obey God's commands without doubting or wavering, no matter what the cost or sacrifice.
People of Faith Demonstrate the Meaning of Faith!
Hebrews 11 is viewed as the biblical "Hall Of Faith." In this great chapter are the names of numerous people who truly lived by faith. More than twenty times in this chapter, the writer uses the phrase, "By faith..." Note a few examples:
Verse 5 - By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God's command... (Faith brings understanding!)
Verse 7 - By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. (Faith prompts obedience to God!)
Verse 8 - By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though be did not know where he was going. (Faith leads us to God even when we cannot see what is ahead!)
Verse 11 - 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. (Faith enables us to believe "the impossible! ")
Verse 17 - By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. (Faith gives us courage to make sacrifices!)
Verse 25 - By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. (Faith overcomes fear!)
Verse 27 - By faith, Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because be saw Him who is invisible. (Faith gives us strength to persevere!)
Verse 29 - By faith, the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Faith teaches us to trust God's promises in the face of threats!)
Verse 30 - By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. (Faith prompts us to obey God even when we do not fully understand His will!) God has always smiled on faith. Even today, God is looking to find faith in our lives. A careful examination of the New Testament records will show that "saving faith" in our age will prompt us to:
Trust in Christ dependently...
Rely on Christ exclusively...
Obey Christ cheerfully...
Identifying the Specifics of "Saving Faith!"
In today's religious world, there are numerous voices attempting to define and describe faith. Shall we listen to human testimony, or will we allow the Bible to shape our understanding? Consider the following "faith-steps" that must be made in our journey to God.
1. Faith means that I accept Jesus as Immanuel--"God with us!"
Hear Jesus! "If you do not believe that I am the One I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)These are words that cannot be misunderstood.
2. Faith means that I accept the fact that... "Jesus died for my sins!"
Hear the Scriptures. "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. accepted the fact that Jesus is Immanuel--God with us.
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)
The Cross of Jesus must become a personal reality. I must know, without a doubt, that Jesus died for me and paid my debt of sin. (Galatians 2:20) His death for "my sin" must be accepted at the emotional level as well as the intellectual level.
3. Faith means that I must turn from a self-centered way of life to a God-centered way of thinking and living!
Recall that sin is an "I-centered" way of thinking and living. Yet, faith drastically changes this tendency. Study the illustrations. What happens when one moves from "sin" to "faith?" Based on the illustrations, what gets smaller? What becomes significant in the life of faith?
This move from the "Big-I" way of thinking to a "small-i" mentality is what the Bible calls "repentance." Think about that--repentance changes the "Big-I" of sin to the "small-i" of faith. It is a move away from "self-centeredness" toward a life of "God-centeredness." For most individuals, this transition is the most difficult part of the conversion process! "Self-rule" is hard to give up.
The Scriptures are very clear on this matter of repentance. "In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31) In Luke 13:3, Jesus said, "Repent or perish!"
4. Faith must speak out in confessing Jesus as the Son of God!
Secret discipleship is not acceptable. Hear Jesus! "Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33) Faith must speak out.
5. Faith must prompt the sinner to "call upon the name of the Lord!"
Strengthened by one's belief in Jesus as God, touched by the fact that He freely died for sinners, and convicted by one's own selfish and sinful ways, the next move seems so obvious and natural. With a spirit of humility and need, the sinner "CALLS UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD" for salvation. It is the image of an individual "calling out" for help! Paul writes, "For everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)
How does a sinner call upon the Lord? The words of Jesus may lead us to rethink our answer. He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) Look again. Whom does Jesus say will not enter the Kingdom? Whom does He say will enter the Kingdom? It is essential that the "will of the Father be done" as we call upon Him.
The same inspired man, Paul, who said, "For everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved," tells us how he called. Giving the details of his own conversion experience, Paul explains that a Christian teacher named Ananias approached him with this question and admonition, "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, CALLING ON HIS NAME." (Acts 22:16)
Based on this passage, what did Paul do to "call on the Name of the Lord?" It was in his baptism that Paul "called out to Jesus" for salvation. Baptism is a response of faith in which we renounce our ability to save ourselves, and rely solely upon Him. As with Paul, when sinful humans "call upon Jesus" in baptism, God washes their sins away through the power of the blood of Jesus. Baptism is the very opposite of a work of human merit. It is a declaration of faith and trust in the Savior.
In Acts 2, the events of a Jewish feast day called "Pentecost" are recorded. On this special day, the Gospel was declared openly to sinners for the first time. Peter was one of the teachers. Note his words to sinners in Acts 2:21: "And everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." Peter made it clear that "calling on the Name of the Lord" is an essential to salvation!
Later in the same lesson, Peter explained how one "calls on the Name of the Lord." He said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
Many other New Testament passages teach the beauty and essentially of baptism. [The Greek word for "baptism" is "baptizo" and means "to immerse, to dip, or to plunge under."] For further study on baptism, read Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 3:1-8, 22-23; Acts 8:26-40; 10:23-48; 16:25-34; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12; Titus 3:3-7 and 1 Peter 3:21-22.
6. After conversion, the person of faith desires to please the Lord!
Two verses say it so well. In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul describes the Christian's way of life. "We live by faith, not by sight." "Faith," you see, is to be the Christian's way of life. Two verses later, he writes, "So we make it our goal to please Him." While striving to please Him and walk in His ways, the reality is that, even as Christians, we continue to struggle with temptation and sin. Someone has said, "Christians are people who are falling in the right direction." Total perfection will only be experienced when we live in the heavenly realm, Thankfully, God relates to us on the basis of our overall direction in life and continually "lavishes His grace on us." (Ephesians 1:7-8) He keeps us saved as we "walk in the light." (1 John 1:7)
Taking an Inventory of Faith ...
God looks for and wants to find "saving faith" in the life of every person. Where are you in this process? Have you exercised your faith as the Bible teaches? Work through the faith-related statements on the right in an effort to actually determine where you stand in relationship to "saving faith!"
In trusting faith... I have...
accepted the fact that Jesus died for my sins.
made the decision to turn from "self-centeredness" to "God-centeredness."
openly confessed Jesus as the Son of God.
called upon the Name of the Lord by being baptized (immersed) in water.
made it my goal in life to please my Lord.
In the next lesson of "The Seeker" series, we will study what the Scriptures teach about the church. Is there any connection that should be made between being "in Jesus" and being "in the church?"
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