As a young child in the church, I observed people professing their faith in Jesus Christ. This prompted me to ask questions. I memorized John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life–but I didn’t fully understand it. As I inquired about this, I was told that God’s truths require a personal profession of faith. My parents explained that “personal” means that each individual makes his or her own decision to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. After talking with my pastor, making sure I understood, I made this very personal decision at age nine. What a glorious day that was–the beginning of a sweet lifelong relationship with my Lord.
In our world today, if you ask someone, “If you were at heaven’s gate and were asked, why should I let you in?” there would be a variety of answers–such as “I go to church” or “I am a good person”– but the Bible, God’s Word, says the only way to get into heaven is to believe in Christ Jesus, God’s one and only Son. Sadly, many churches today do not address the fact that each person must make this decision, and that it is very personal. No one can do it for you, and you cannot do enough to earn it on your own merits. It is as Paul states in Ephesians 2: 8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast (NIV).
It is important to understand the meaning of grace. Grace assures us that God’s gift of salvation is freely given–solely due to the unmerited favor and love of God. This is good news! But if it is personal, what do you and I do then to receive it? First we must understand that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. Then we accept God’s one and only provision—Christ!—and take our stand by faith in that wonderful provision. In Romans 10:9-10, Paul explains 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. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. The “personal” part is the acceptance of God’s gift by faith in Jesus, who died for all your sins, believing with your heart, confessing your belief with your mouth, and receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. This can be anytime, anyplace, wherever you are.
Listen to how Max Lucado describes it:
Salvation, from beginning to end, is a work of our Father. God does not stand on a mountain and tell us to climb it and find him. He comes down into our dark valley and finds us. He does not offer to pay all the debt minus a dollar if we’ll pay the dollar. He pays every penny. He doesn’t offer to complete the work if we will start it. He does all the work, from beginning to end. He does not bargain with us, telling us to clean up our lives so he can help. He washes our sins without our help (Unshakable Hope, p.101).
Therefore, the answer to the question at heaven’s gate will be all about our belief in what Christ did, not about anything we did. The promise is this: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
In summary, the key steps are these: we receive salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. There is nothing else included, such as good works, going to church, or following a set of rules. As you and I confess our sins and believe through faith, trusting in Christ’s death and payment for our sins, each of us becomes a new creation, free to follow Him. Pray and ask God to forgive you and He will put the Holy Spirit into your heart and life to work through you. When you give up self-effort and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, you can conquer sin in your life. He will take away your sins and put His righteousness in you. Let Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 wash over you: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And, he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Let me share one more helpful quote with you—this one from David Jeremiah:
God is infinite in His qualities and eternal, changeless, powerful, good, omniscient, sovereign, omnipresent, and so much more. But don’t forget His love. Believe it and receive it, and claim His promise of everlasting life. And remember God loves you! He always will (The God You May Not Know, p. 235).
Dear Heavenly Father, I praise your Holy Name and thank you for sending Christ Jesus my savior here to earth to demonstrate your love and to make a way for us to be reconciled to you. I pray today if anyone reading this has not made it personal, receiving Christ as his or her Savior, that they would do it right now. Help them see and confess that they are sinners and to believe in their hearts that Christ died, paying the price for all their sins, after which He rose victorious from the grave. I pray all this in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.
If you just prayed to receive Christ, read Paul’s prayer for all new Christians:
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God (Ephesians3:14-19 MSG).