For the next few days we will be discussing the basics of the Christian life. If you are a new believer these truths will be foundational, and if you have been a Christian for a few years they will serve as a refresher course.
One thing I found to be really important in the weeks and months right after trusting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior was the assurance of my salvation. After the initial joy and excitement of coming to know Him had leveled off and I was faced with the day-by-day experience of living life, I made a disappointing discovery: I still sinned. My old friends would come around and invite me out, and I am sorry to admit that I gave in to my cravings for the joint and the bottle a few times. I was going with a girl who was not a Christian, and there were some obvious problems there until we finally broke things off. When my mom nagged me or my brothers teased me I would still get angry and say rude things to them. Once I called my older brother Tom out into the yard for a fight after an argument.
Satan had a heyday with me. I remember feeling so guilty sometimes, and it seemed like there was a little demon on my shoulder whispering into my ear: And you think you are really forgiven and that if you die you will go to heaven? Come on! If you were really saved and loved Jesus would you be doing all this bad stuff? You’re no Christian! If you are a new believer–or even an old one–you may be able to identify with my story.
Here’s the deal: our flesh wants to think in terms of salvation as something you earn or deserve. But Scripture tells us in several ways that this cannot be. First there is the direct statement of Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. God’s word tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and further that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Notice in that last verse that there is a contrast between wages and a gift. Common sense tells you that a wage is something you earn and deserve based on your own efforts. If you worked for a week and your boss handed you your paycheck and said, “Here, this is a gift!” you might be puzzled and even a bit pissed–you earned the wages, and they are not a free gift. On the other hand, you just received gifts at Christmas. Someone else plodded through the hordes of shoppers at the mall, selected your present, wrapped it and put it under the tree. All you did was receive it. Because we are sinners by nature from birth as descendants of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12), all we can earn by our own efforts is a wage of spiritual death. If we are ever to receive eternal life from God it must come to us in the form of a free gift with no strings attached.
The reason God is able to offer us eternal life as a free gift is that His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid the wage of sin and death in our place. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Before Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross and breathed His last breath, He said: It is finished (John 19:30). At that instant the debt of every win you would ever commit was paid in full. Three days later Jesus was raised bodily from the dead and He is alive at this moment seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).
As unbelievers we were spiritually dead, which means we possessed no ability to respond to God on our own apart from his grace. We had to be made alive, or born again so that we could understand and believe the good news about Jesus Christ. He had to open our hearts and draw us to Himself. Check out these verses:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44).
Once made alive you were able to meet the one condition of salvation–faith alone in Christ alone.
And so, my dear brother or sister in Christ, God did not save you because of any goodness or righteousness you possessed in yourself or because you somehow wised up and decided to turn your life over to Him. God was looking at you and seeking you out behind the scenes long before you ever thought about Him–literally from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:1-14). Had God left you to your own devices you would still be walking in darkness. But God loved you with an eternal love, and He reached down and pulled you out of the pit you had dug for yourself and from which you could never be freed apart from His power.
So today rest assured in His power to keep you. Let your trust in Him be the basis of your assurance. For Jesus has promised that no one will be able to pluck you from His Father’s hand (John 10:27-29). Nothing in all creation can separate you from His eternal love (Romans 8:38-39).
Finally, trust His presence in you. Is it your desire to trust Jesus and what He did for you? Do you feel a hunger and thirst for righteousness? These godly desires would not be there if God had not made you alive and implanted them in you. True, the sinful flesh is still residing in you, and it wants to rebel against God. But now there is another more powerful force, the born-again you that is indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit. And that part of you will win out ultimately, even though you should stumble sometimes. Take courage in those godly desires He has given you, for as Paul assures us: Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).