To be saved we must receive Christ. This is another way of saying we must place our faith in Christ. And that is just a way to say we must believe in Him. But how do we do this?
Introduction: Faith has feelings, but faith in Christ is built first of all on a solid factual foundation. The One we receive as Savior and Lord is the Son of God. He is the only Savior, the only Mediator between a holy God opposed to us for our sin, and us sinners God sent Him to save. It is God Who sent Him! Therefore to reject Him is to reject God. To trust in any other way of reconciliation is to reject God's way. There is no other way. To turn away from Christ means we will incur the judgment of God for rejecting the remedy His love has provided.
So the first great issue is to discover the facts: God has actually promised a Savior and has already sent Him. Jesus Christ has done His work on earth and left. A message of reconciliation is now before us to accept or reject. Notice please that no one can believe in Christ without first believing about Christ and what He did.
This message is in writing in the Bible conveyed to us by those who were eyewitnesses of His resurrection, and then by those who learned of Christ from them over the last twenty centuries.
The second great issue is to learn and then accept what our great Lord promises. His work is done. On the cross He said, "It is finished!" What was finished? What does it all mean?
He died for our sins. He paid for His people and calls on all everywhere to come to Him and receive the benefits of His sacrifice. Not all will come, we well know. But His gospel is still one of forgiveness to all who will come. The package is huge. It also includes a decree of total forgiveness, and declaration that we are righteous because of Christ's obedience. To this add a new life energized by the Holy Spirit, acceptance as children of God, a heritage with Christ we can never lose, a place among His people as brothers and sisters, fellowship with Him now and eternal reward later. For all this He tells us to come to Him and receive it all by accepting His Son. For all who do, it is free. What secures all this is the ministry of Christ on earth. The means of our acquiring all this, is simply receiving Christ!
One good way to understand faith is to see how the Bible pictures it. John 1:12 says we are to receive Him. John 6 says we are to come, vs. 35, believe vs. 35, and look to Him, vs. 40. It even describes our response to Christ as eating and drinking, vss. 51-56 and again as feeding on Christ in vss. 57,58. You can be saved if you come and eat, drink, and feed on Christ as the One you look to to save you. Faith here is described as active. But all the active trust is directed to one object, Christ alone. It is He Who saves us. It is He who died, He Who rose, He Who provides for us, and He Who has stood in for us before God on the cross. So it is to Christ we are to come, to Christ we are to look, and on Him we are to feed. This is not strange language today. Lots of people feed on Elvis and many eat, drink and sleep soccer.
We sinners need to picture Christ as One who has come to be both substitute and representative. Picture Christ as telling us to sit still while He goes to God for us. On the cross He faced our danger and judgment, paid our debt, satisfied God concerning all our sin, achieved reconciliation with all the cost carried by Him. He then comes back and tells us it is all cared for. We need only come to Him, look to Him, receive from Him and trust in Him for acceptance by God. That is the kind of do-all Savior we have. So when we know this to be gospel truth, we know that we are to believe all He says, receive the gift He brings, and depend on Him to do what He promised. Or we can embellish this, as the Bible does, and say He is our food and drink. By this we mean we derive all we need for our life from Him. He is our food, our sustenance, and the support of our life. We need Him to "make it", and we need nothing in addition to Him to be a child of God and have a home in heaven.
The things of Christ are so rich, it takes the whole Bible to spread out all the wonders of our salvation. So if we feast on Him – still using this eating metaphor Jesus liked to employ – these good things will be ours. The gospel will create this confidence in us. This is not a matter of a glimpse of Christ. The richness of the Christian life begins with looking to Him and continues with our concentrating on Him, still looking, at first in shame and guilt, hoping for deliverance, then in wonder and joy. We are saved by the look of faith to Christ, and we continue to live by faith in the same Christ we were made to look to in the first place. Thus the Bible enriches our understanding of faith by such words as eating, looking, coming and receiving. These are metaphors God has chosen to help us understand.
If you are saved, when asked how you are saved, your confession will gravitate to the One Who is the object of your faith, Christ. If you respond by reference to yourself, that is a dreadful indicator that your faith might well be in yourself and not the real Savior. That would mean you still need to come to Christ to be saved.
Notice John 6:45: "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." We know "coming" is a way to express "believing". But why does anyone come? We never do this on our own. John 6:44 teaches we cannot come or believe on our own. God must draw us to Christ. But how does He do that? He teaches us. He makes us listen to Him, so we learn from Him, with the result that we come to the Lord Jesus. This is just another way of saying that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, (Romans 10:17).
So the way to receive Christ is to listen to God. The way to do that is to pay attention to all He says in His Word. That Word is the Bible. The Bible will hold up to us a standard of righteousness we cannot ever meet. It will show us our sin. It will show us the justice of God and his holy hatred of all our sin. And it will show us Christ who came to redeem sinners and save us. The Bible will fortify our sense of helplessness so we will despair of all hope in ourselves. This is wonderful preparation to receive the Lord Jesus. The Father will show Christ's perfection, how He withstood sin though tempted by the devil for 40 days. The Bible will show His kindness to sinners who have no goodness to pretend of. It will show how He sets free from Satan's power. It will spend a number of pages to review over and over how He went to the cross. Then the Father Who boasts of His Son will hold Him out to you as the One you should trust. He makes it plain: To receive the Son is to be received by the Father. It makes it equally plain that to reject the Son He loves will mean you will suffer under His wrath forever in hell. A positive meeting with Christ Who is Life is a life giving experience. We get this exposure by listening to the Father.
So how do we believe? We listen to God. Imagine having God as our teacher. If we learn from Him, we will have God as our Father and Jesus as our Lord. God is a good teacher. If we choose not to hear, He might just let us go our own way and we will have no one to blame but ourselves. We need to pay attention to God Who has spoken in the Bible.
In Isaiah, God pictures His good news like a hawker in a market selling his goods. (Remember this paper is written first for an Arab audience.) Picture the vendor in the Middle East holding up his goods, "Look, fresh oranges; have a slice!" "Here, we have good grapes and figs and olive oil. Come, the price is good." "You will not get a better deal if you go to other stalls. Buy now before they are all gone!!"
Now hear the Great God from heaven speak in Isaiah 55. Picture the loud voice above the din and a man gesticulating with both hands in the air. It is the Father speaking; He says:
Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. vss. 1,2
Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. vs. 3
Again God calls to come and the gift is life just as in John 6. He says, "Hear Me". So faith comes as a result of hearing the Word. But what does God talk about? He speaks of His Son:
Note how close that is to John 6:40 where seeing and believing are joined. Notice that the subject now is Christ. This is what evangelism is; attention is drawn to Christ. That is how God does it in Isaiah 55. In John 6:44, He draws people to Christ. He teaches of Christ. Though we cannot raise the dead and draw anyone to Christ, we need not fuss, because it is God Who does that, and none given to Christ will ever be lost. So evangelism for us is simply to do what God does – we point our neighbor to Christ, and we say, "Here is your God!" (Isaiah 40:9) God is no longer speaking in this verse like a hawker in the market. Now He speaks of a promise to David. King David would have a Son to sit on His throne. Jesus was born in Bethlehem the village of David to enforce in our dull minds that He is the Son of David and will rule over His people. This He does by destroying our enemies setting us free from them. He defeated Satan at the cross, (1 John 3:8). There He took our transgressions and left the law that once condemned us, nailed to the cross, (Colossians 2:13-15). There is no indictment against those who come to Him, no condemnation, no eternal punishment. We shall not perish, all because the Son of David has come.
Why all this redeeming benefit? Because Christ was sent to be a covenant for His people. We are a pack of covenant breakers. We need a covenant keeper. So Jesus Christ, Who is God with His Father and the Holy Spirit – He too was the great Lawgiver on Mount Sinai, Who came here to be born under that law. He came to be for us the Mediator accused of our sins. He took our guilt and endured our punishment. In other words He stepped into our shoes, taking the place of the lawbreaker and all that that involved. While here He obeyed, as every covenanting man must do. His is the only obedience in the history of the world that God has reviewed and approved. When we come to Him, all these covenant mercies are given to us, and we are forgiven because of His death and are declared righteous because of His obedience. Let me review that again:
Christ was the original Law Giver, who as man became law keeper for us lawbreakers, and went to the cross with our sins imputed to Him, making Him, in our place, to be the lawbreaker He was not in His own conduct, so that we might no longer be viewed by God as the lawbreakers we were in ours, but rather that we might be seen in Christ as the perfect law keepers we are not in ourselves, – all in a new covenant relationship to God.
In that paragraph, I have spoken strictly from the standpoint of justification. However, once we have been declared righteous in Christ, God immediately begins a ministry of the Spirit in us producing law keeping and resistance to sin. This is the everlasting gospel, the everlasting covenant all tied up in Jesus Christ our Lord. God keeps His covenants and we break them so Christ was sent over to our side of the covenant to keep it for us.
Furthermore, God sent Him as a witness to speak the words of God to us, Isaiah 55: 4. He is the commander as well, another way to point to His kingly role as Lord, vs. 4. His commander role is military. Christ conquers nations who learn from God not to flee from Him in fear. They have been taught to come to Him for life.
The Father shows Him as One mighty to save, One raised from death, gathering His church together, saving each individual God has given Christ, with none lost, and all of them to be raised up at the last day. The Jesus who died with His blood dried and caked on His naked body, died in humiliation. All that is over. He now lives by God's power, 2 Corinthians 13:4, and through His weak people by the foolishness of preaching, He exerts His strength to deliver from the deceit of Satan and bring to everlasting life.
So how do you receive Christ? Listen when God talks. The real God will point you to Christ, to Christ's works, not yours, to His obedience not yours, to His cross and His suffering for sinners, not our penance nor our measly attempts at self-improvement. In our Lord you will see the attraction of a commander who will conquer you as you pay attention to the Father. Christ will take over your life so you will be able to live free and you will be one of His grateful prisoners ever after, never wanting to be relieved of His joyful service.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man His thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God for he will freely pardon. Isaiah 55:6,7
The Lord is vigorous in telling us how to respond to Him. He persuades and appeals and commands us to come. He points to our need. He points to His supply in Christ. And now He tells us to be diligent. We do not slip into the kingdom of Christ in a lazy or sleepy manner. We are to seek with minds alert.
We are to turn from sin. Believing in Christ is the door into a very different life, one where Christ is Lord. Coming to Him is a turning of repentance. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 they "turned to God from idols". When we receive Christ, it has this kind of "to and from" in it – from our sins, to our Savior. We come confessing that we are sinners. We can come no other way. But He calls us from our sins, so our coming is repentance. We cannot come to Christ to have Him and keep our sins as well. Real faith turns from sin.
But there is another element in this. We are to call. We receive Christ when we pray. We call out to Him, calling Him Lord, a very new way for a sinner to address God. We say, "Lord", which is statement of conviction by us that He is God and the Risen Savior from the dead, as well as a confession of a new allegiance we have for Him. We also make a declaration before the world because we confess Him with our mouths. This is what it means to call on the Name of the Lord that we may be saved. And need I remind you, we are proclaiming Jesus as our Lord, no matter what we may have thought of Him before.
If you will 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
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," (Romans 10:13). So we seek Him and confess Who Christ is. The resurrection makes it plain; He is Lord of all, Acts 10:36. Approaching God without a Mediator is the way to be burned to a crisp when our sin encounters His holiness. But our Savior has done something to turn the wrath of God away from us when He took it on Himself. So we are invited to come not for death but life. We do so without climbing any ladders; we do not have to go anywhere. We simply bow and speak to Him as Lord, confessing Him as our Lord, and calling upon Him to save us. God cannot lie and has promised in those four words, "you will be saved". You cannot trust in Him and then be turned away by Him, John 6:37. You cannot trust in Christ and be made a fool for doing so, for God says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:11
He does not ask you to recite a formula of specific wording; He tells you to call. He does not tell you to grovel, He tells you to come, and when you do, you will be at a feast of good things. You will be clothed for a banquet. He does not ask you to work for acceptance, Christ has done that already; you simply come in repentance and are pardoned freely without other conditions. He does not ask you to atone, for only Christ is the Savior and He has atoned on the cross. He does not want your money, your resolutions, your tears, your efforts, your pains or calluses on your knees in long vigils of fasting and prayer. He simply wants you to have Christ. You do not purchase the gift purchased by Christ. You may receive it or reject it, but you cannot buy it. You cannot make your own way to God, there is only one way, and it is Christ. We need only come; a welcome awaits us. We need only call, and He will hear. We need only receive for He is giving and will not hold back.
|The Christian Faith:||*Grace (of God)||*Faith||Thanksgiving to God|
|Non Christian View:||Merit of Man||*Works||*Boasting (of Self)|
* The words in the table marked with an asterisk are all specifically stated in Ephesians 2:8-10.
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel. (Q. 86 Westminster Shorter Catechism)
A. True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation. (Q. 21 The Heidelberg Catechism)