We are all out of step with God. In Bible language, we are sinners, guilty before God and separated from him. Life in Christ is, first and foremost, God taking loving action to remedy a dire situation.
A Christian is a person who trusts God’s action in Jesus Christ to cleanse us of our sins and restore us to right relation with God and others.
As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,
… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 10:9–13.
For a more detailed explanation, here is an excerpt from the Anglican Catechism:
The key facts of this divine remedy, which the Bible calls the Gospel (meaning “good news”), are these: God the Father sent his eternal Son into this world to reconcile us sinners to him, and to preserve and prepare us for his glory in the life to come. Born of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, the Son, whose human name is Jesus, lived a perfect life, died a criminal’s death as a sacrifice for our sins, and rose from the grave to rule as Christ (meaning “the Anointed”) on his Father’s behalf in the Kingdom of God. Now reigning in heaven, he continues to draw sinners to himself through communication of the Gospel here on earth.
He enables us by the Holy Spirit to turn whole-heartedly from our sinful and self-centered ways (repentance) and to entrust ourselves to him to live in union and communion with him (faith). In spiritual terms, self-centeredness is the way of death, and fellowship with Christ is the way of life. Holy Baptism, the rite of entry into the Church’s fellowship, marks this transition from death to life in Christ.
The Apostle Peter said, as he proclaimed the Gospel on Pentecost morning: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).
God the Father calls us to himself through God the Son. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, we experience the unconditional and transforming love of God.
God the Son calls us to believe in him. After Jesus was raised from the dead, one of his followers named Thomas said that he would only believe if he could see Jesus and touch his wounds. Jesus later appeared, held out his hands, and told Thomas to put his finger in the wounds. Thomas then exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). We may understand a great deal about Jesus, as Thomas did before this encounter, but that is not the same as personally believing in Jesus as our Lord and God. We can attend church services and do many good things without knowing the risen Jesus. Knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord means personally believing in him, surrendering our lives to him, and living as his joyful followers.
God the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and hearts to believe in Jesus, and gives us spiritual birth and life as we do. Our loving Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). As we place our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and wonderfully provides us with power and gifts for life and ministry as Jesus’ disciples. To live faithfully as Christians we must rely upon the equipping and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are near to us at all times and will hear us whenever we pray with sincerity, truly meaning what we say. God calls us to repentance and faith in Christ, and a way to enter into life in Christ is to say a prayer like this – preferably in the presence of a mature Christian:
Prayer of Repentance and Faith
Lord Jesus Christ, I confess my faults, shortcomings, sins, and rebellious acts, and ask you to forgive me. I embrace you, Lord Jesus, as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for your atoning death on the cross in obedience to your Father’s will to put away my sins. I enthrone you, Lord Jesus, to be in charge of every part of my life, and I ask you to indwell and empower me with your Holy Spirit, so that I may live as your faithful follower from now on. Amen.
Inquirers who are on the road to faith, but know they are not yet ready to pray these words with full sincerity, may still be able to pray honestly along the following lines:
O God, my Creator, who sent your Son as the Way, the Truth and the Life to save me and all the world, I believe in your reality. Help my unbelief.
I long to understand all that it means to be loved, known, and forgiven by you, and to be made whole: at peace with you, others, myself, and your creation. I know I have sinned against you, others, myself, and the creation of which I am part.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Open my eyes to all that you are, and draw me closer to you, I pray. Amen.
God will always answer honest prayer, made with patience, persistence, and humility.
Header image by Marc Brüneke (used by permission via Creative Commons).