The process of coming to Jesus is not a complicated one. Jesus says everyone/anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. I’ve had the incredible joy of seeing people of all backgrounds lay their lives down and come to Jesus. But neither is it easy. Jesus also says that many will say to Him on the day of Judgement, “Lord, Lord I did this about this and this in your name!” And He will respond, “I never knew you.” Can we talk simply today and what it means to know Jesus and gain eternal life?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding this topic so I want to be very clear. We’ve lived in the middle of a very ‘churched’ culture for decades now and that is beginning to fade. But for years, thousands of people thought being a member of a church made them a Christian. I can’t tell you how many I’ve talked to over the years who came to Christ at a later age and shared their confusion over thinking they were saved as a child by joining the Church. In that same vein, praying a pre-printed or a ‘repeat after me’ prayer doesn’t save anyone either. The Bible is very clear. Only a cognizant decision to place faith in Jesus saves a person, and this isn’t something that happens on a whim.
For years I’ve told people of seeking children, “Any step toward Jesus is a good step.” That means exactly what it says. Every prayer prayed, every question asked, every commitment made…all of these are good steps. But just because someone says “Help me, Jesus!” does not make them a Christian. Jesus says those given to Him by the Father will know His voice, they will share His desires and obey Him. They will not enter into habitual, repeated sin without responding to conviction. They will not do things contrary to His heart and will. You cannot walk with Jesus and continue to hate your brother. We don’t get the freedom to redefine what it means to be a Christ follower. So what does it mean?
As simply as it gets, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” (John 17.3) Being saved means having an ongoing relationship with Jesus that moves in His direction. That is not the same as saying “Jesus and I are best friends” while you are high, refusing to be a part of His Body or cussing a blue streak. It is not the same as ‘praying all of the time’ (a phrase I hear often on the street) while living a life that is completely contrary to the Word of God.
We hear Jesus invite people often to repent and believe. These two ideas go hand in hand with faith. Repent simply means to turn around. It recognizes (by faith) the way it is walking is wrong and wants something different. It sees in Jesus THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life. It chooses to leave the mess it is in and move toward Jesus. Belief simply means to choose one way over another. “I believe it is good to eat healthily, so I will stop eating Twinkies and eat apples instead.” But it is more than that. John presents it as trust. To believe is trusting Jesus to actually do what He says He will do.
Just what does Jesus say He will do? Jesus presents Himself as the Son of God who has the ability to take away the sin of the world. He says that He willingly offers Himself on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, to satisfy the punishment God demands for a world who rejects Him. He says that He has power over life, death, health, demons and an extremely chaotic world. Either Jesus is crazy or He is really who says He is. I lean toward the latter because His life demonstrates all of His claims are true and the fact that He rose from the dead demonstrates the ultimate power He has to redeem us, too.
Just understanding and/or agreeing with these statements does not mean you are a Christ follower. Accepting these statements as true doesn’t either. Choosing to read your Bible, pray and attend Church regularly doesn’t cut the mustard all by themselves. Knowing Jesus and Jesus knowing you is a good starting place. Believing in Him to the point that you are consistently obeying His commands is a move in the right direction. Choosing to repent of the trash our hearts accumulate and asking Jesus to fill you with His Spirit is the way we want to walk.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect (the state of being Jesus promises us in Heaven), but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3.12—14) Let’s go and do likewise.