Read: Mark 1
“The time promised by God has come at last!” Jesus announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15)
Most surveys today reveal a high percentage — consistently within the 80-90% range — of Americans who believe in God, claim Christianity as their faith, think that the Bible is God’s Word, and are sure they will go to heaven when they die. Yet even the causal observer of both the Bible and American society can plainly see the huge disconnect between true Christianity and current culture.
So what explains this critical disconnect? I think it is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be saved. Many people assume that if you were born in America, or if you were raised in a church-going family, even a “CEO” family—a “Christmas and Easter Only” home—that you are automatically Christian. Others assume if you simply claim Christianity as your faith, then you are Christian.
Both assumptions are fatally flawed. In fact, any assumption that doesn’t recognize the salvation equation Jesus provided is flawed. There is one way, and only one way, to salvation: Repent and believe the gospel!
Both repentance and belief are two essential sides to the same salvation coin. Salvation begins with repentance. To repent does not simply mean to feel sorrowful for your wrong, remorseful that you got caught or fearful that you will be punished. Biblical repentance means to recognize that you have offended a holy God, experience Godly sorrow over both your sinfulness and offensiveness before God (II Corinthians 7:10) , confess the sinfulness to God (I John 1:9), and—this is a critical part—make a 180-degree turn in the path you are on so that both your current behavior and the overall pattern of your life are now moving in a direction that purposefully and joyfully honors God (Matthew 3:8).
Biblical belief is more than just intellectual acknowledgement of a truth. It is placing faith in the truth of the gospel. And like repentance, this kind of faith/belief requires an alignment of head, heart, and hands—or intellect, passion, and behavior (see Matthew 22:37-39)—so that the entirety of one’s life becomes God-focused, God-directed, and God-dependent. True belief means to so align one’s life that there is no sensible explanation for it without the existence of the God who has called that life into loving, intimate relationship with himself.
Using those definitions of Biblical repentance and belief as a spiritual plumb-line, I have a strong suspicion that the spiritual foundation on which so many Americans are erecting their house of faith would not meet the Divine Inspector’s building code.
Be that as it may, the most important thing at this moment is that Jesus has called you to eternal life. And here is the question of questions: Have you followed his equation—repent and believed in his gospel?
“Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.” ~Martin Luther
What If God Took Over?
Offer this prayer: “Jesus, I turn my life over to you. Cleanse me from every sin and forgive my fundamental sinfulness. I invite you to live in my heart as Lord and Savior. I believe in your gospel. I place saving faith in you, trusting that you have saved me by your grace. Thank you for granting me the gift of eternal life.”