Updated: May 2, 2021
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
The young man was trembling as he answered me. "I believe," he said. "Isn't it enough to believe?"
Is it? Is it enough to simply believe in Jesus?
The young man was from a Muslim country in North Africa and had been a part of our ministry for awhile. We had just finished a "seekers" Bible study exploring the idea of Jesus as a "ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). We ended with a clear discussion of the plan of salvation. Afterwards, this young man went and sat by himself, clearly deep in thought. The Holy Spirit was working in his heart.
I sat down with him to discuss the lesson. Much to my surprised delight, he told me he believed! I asked the simple question, "If you believe, what should be your response?" He responded "I believe...isn't it enough to believe?"
The basic message of the cross is that humanity is fallen, and that each one of us is separated from God by our sin. What's more, that sin has a cost. We are told that "the wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23). God loves us so much however, that He chose to make a way for us, and Jesus (God incarnate) sacrificed Himself, satisfying the sin debt and making a way for us to be reconciled to God.
Moreover this reconciliation to God and salvation from the debt of sin is offered to all of us freely. It is a free gift of the grace of God, and this grace is accessed only by faith, not by works or anything that we can do (or not do). Here is where there is often confusion, however.
True faith is substantive. You can see it, experience it, and see evidence of it. True faith in Jesus, and in the sacrifice He made for us, causes us to repent, to regret our sin and desire to turn away from it. Repentance is at the core of the gospel (see Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30).
True faith is substantive. You can see it, experience it, and see evidence of it.
To get back to the young man and his question, we had a brief discussion about repentance and the true meaning of belief (faith). I'm pleased to report that he gave his heart to the Lord right there in my backyard!
This young man is born again, gaining access to the free gift of grace through his faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing that he did, no amount of works has anything to do with that. But his faith is substantive...I can see evidence of it. First, through tears and trembling as he gave his heart to the Lord. Since then, I can see his desire to grow closer to the Lord. His genuine interest in Bible study. It is a true faith that is demonstrated through action.
It is the Holy Spirit who works in us, giving us the desire to please God, and enabling us to turn away from sin in our life (Phil 2:13), and "sanctification" is a life-long process (Hebrews 10:14), but "faith alone" that does not result in a repentant heart and a desire to turn away from our sin and shame is no faith at all...it is dead (James 2:26).
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