“What if I don’t believe?”

If a person doesn’t believe, is that it – no belief equals no salvation? It appears that way in Romans 10:9, which says, “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.” Does that mean if a person doesn’t confess and doesn’t believe, he won’t be saved? And if it does mean that – and belief really is that important – then how, pray tell, do we come up with the necessary belief in the first place?

Paul’s answer is simple: “faith comes from hearing the message,” verse 17. Ah, so faith, or belief, isn’t something WE have to we come up with, it’s something that’s stirred IN us by hearing “the word of Christ” (same verse). That’s how belief is triggered. The message does it.

What message, though? In context, it’s that “righteousness comes from God,” verse 3. All that we need for our salvation is God’s doing. Through Jesus Christ HE’s taken care of our salvation every step of the way (verses 11 and 13). And when we hear that message – properly and accurately explained (verses 14-15), belief is not far behind.

And the reason belief is not far behind is because God put it in us to believe, verse 8 – “The word is near you; it is IN your mouth and IN your heart.” It’s not difficult for us, therefore, to accept and believe that God has everything worked out for us. It’s what, deep down, we hoped and suspected about God – that he loves us, he forgives us, he’s merciful toward us, and he never gives up on us. So when we hear in the gospel message that God REALLY IS totally forgiving and merciful toward us, as we see in the sacrifice of his Son, we instinctively latch on to it as true.

Paul knew by experience how this worked. “By setting forth the truth plainly,” he writes in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” Paul knew that if he preached the right gospel it would ring true in a person’s conscience, at which point belief would be awakened and brought to life.

Belief, therefore, is not something we have to come up with to be saved. It is something God put in us, ready to burst forth in our mouths and hearts on hearing the right gospel. If, therefore, a person doesn’t believe, the first question to ask is: “Has he, or she, heard the right gospel yet?’- because hearing the right gospel is what triggers belief.

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Is sin an essential part of our journey?

Yes, sin is part of our journey. We can’t avoid it. And God made sure of it by creating the 10 commandments. They were “added so that trespass might increase,” Romans  5:20.  Check ourselves against any of the 10 commandments – especially the expanded version of them in Matthew chapters 5 to 7 – and it soon becomes clear how much we sin. Not only can we see our obvious “sinful passions” (Romans 7:5), but our hidden sins too (verses 7-8).

“BUT,” verse 20, “where sin increased, GRACE increased all the more.” So the reason God created the law to reveal our sin as part of our journey was to show us how great his grace is by comparison. His grace is enough to cover every sin. And why do we need to know that? “SO THAT,” verse 21, “just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Through the law we see how much we sin so that then we can see how much our eternal life depends on God’s grace. Without his grace we’d never make it. But to get to that stage in our journey we need the law to show us, first of all, how horribly vulnerable we are to the influence of sin. It “entered the world” with ease, verse 12, “and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” No human being can resist the power of sin. But God has us covered – by grace.

An understanding of both sin and grace, therefore, is an essential part of our journey, summarized in verse 17, “For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned (on all of us) through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

First we learn that sin is powerful. But next we learn that grace is even greater, because with sin comes death but with grace comes Jesus Christ. And with Jesus Christ comes verse 19: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Jesus Christ obeyed God for us. It’s through his obedience, not ours, that we are “made righteous.” But how would we ever come to accept that or believe it unless sin was part of our journey first. Sin reveals how helpless we are, but it also reveals the wonder of God’s grace, because in our journey to eternity it’s grace – and grace alone – that gets us there.

Am I really a Christian? (Part 4)

God’s not only given us immunity to sin’s power through Christ’s death, he’s also given us immunity to sin’s influence through Christ’s life, so that it’s possible for us to overcome sin. 

This is the journey God put us on when he summoned us to Christ’s throne. It’s the greatest journey we can possibly take because a world without sin would be a beautiful world. So God provides the means for overcoming sin. It’s a journey we all take with Christ. The journey begins with Christ taking our old sin-riddled body with him to the cross, where it’s killed off and buried. Having done that, Jesus gives us a new body, and it’s in that new body that we take our first step. 

It’s a beautiful body, because like Christ’s beautiful, new resurrected body, it “lives to God,” Romans 6:10. That’s something our old body could never do. It lived to sin. But this new body doesn’t live to sin. It never does. It only lives to God. That’s the power of this new body we’ve got, now that we’re plugged in directly to Christ’s new body (verse 11). 

From this point on, our new body never wants to obey sin’s evil desires (verse 12), because our new body is totally plugged into Christ’s. Why, then, do we sin? Well, the whole point of Romans 6:12 is that we don’t have to sin. When we realize what God’s purpose is and what he’s equipped us with to fulfill his purpose perfectly, hopefully at some point on our journey with Christ it dawns on us what we’ve been given. We’ve been given immunity from sin’s influence. Christ is immune to sin’s influence – so, therefore, are we.

That’s why Paul can say, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body,” because it doesn’t have to reign over us anymore, not since Christ plugged us directly into his resurrected body. What goes on in his body now goes on in ours. And it’s quite an experience for us because instead of always giving in to sin, we find ourselves wanting to give ourselves to God (verse 13) and be useful tools in his hands, not in sin’s. Yes, we still sin, but as Paul then mentions, we’re not under law we’re under grace, so we can continue on our journey enjoying the power of this new body of ours without sin ever taking over again. 

And in this we know we must be Christian. We have an amazing new desire in us that never existed before, that gives us the chance to become “instruments of righteousness” instead.