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Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with ABC
When you sing, you begin with Do, Re, Mi…¹
And when you talk Christianity, you begin with…
The gospel. It’s the foundation of the Christian faith. The thing all genuinely regenerated believers have in common. And it’s the ABC’s of our Basic Training series.
Without a right understanding of the gospel, none of the subsequent articles in this series will make much sense to you. In fact, you’ll find yourself standing in opposition to biblical teaching because the Bible says that only those who are born again and empowered by the Holy Spirit can embrace the things of God in their hearts:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
But far more important than your reaction to this series of articles,
If you don’t have a clear understanding of,
and response to, the gospel, you aren’t saved,
and you’ll spend eternity in Hell.
I know that sounds blunt, but that’s just the meat and potatoes of it, ladies. In the same way you can’t get a molecule of water unless you add exactly one atom of oxygen to exactly two atoms of hydrogen, believing whatever you feel like believing doesn’t produce a Christian. You have to “follow the recipe,” so to speak, to the letter. And that recipe is in the Bible. Let’s take a look at it.
♦ You are a sinner (you have transgressed God by breaking His law).
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— Romans 5:12
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Romans 3:10
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23
♦ The penalty for your sin is an eternity in Hell.
For the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23a
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:8
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15
♦ You can’t escape Hell by being a good person, having a good heart, or any other effort on your part.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6a
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5
♦ Salvation (being in good standing with God) is a result of God’s mercy and grace, not something you can earn. It is a gift.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
♦ The gift God offers you is that, on the cross, Christ took the punishment you deserve for your sin. He will take away your sin and give you His perfect standing before God in exchange.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, 1 Peter 3:18a
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25a
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
♦ The way you receive that gift and have Christ’s righteousness “credited to your account” is to repent from (have the heart desire to turn away from and ask God’s forgiveness for) your sin and trust that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin.
[Jesus said] “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts 3:19
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13
because, 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. Romans 10:9
That’s it. That’s the gospel. Turn from your sin and trying to earn favor with God by your so-called good behavior and throw yourself on the mercy of God, trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross to forgive your sin and make you righteous in God’s eyes.
That’s what salvation – or becoming a Christian – is. Adding anything to the gospel or taking anything away from it is not salvation or biblical Christianity. It is a false gospel. Believing a false gospel will not forgive your sin, make you right with God, or take you to Heaven when you die. Unfortunately, many people believe a false gospel and there are many people who claim to be Christians, pastors, and Bible teachers who teach a false gospel.
What are some of those false gospels?
If you’re basically a good person, or your good deeds outweigh the bad, you’re OK with God, and you’ll go to Heaven when you die.
If you’ve been baptized at any point in your life and for any reason, you’re saved.
If you go to church regularly, you’re a Christian.
If you participate in communion or the Lord’s Supper, you’re a Christian.
The reason we come to Jesus is to have a better, more comfortable, or more successful life.
The reason we come to Jesus is to get healed from a medical condition, because He will make us wealthy, or because He will do cool supernatural signs and wonders in our lives.
Simply saying you’re a Christian, or believing that you are a Christian, makes you one.
If you were born in America and you’re not Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or some other religion, you’re a Christian.
If you believe in God, you’re a Christian.
If you give mental assent to the facts about Jesus (without repenting and trusting Him), you’re saved.
If, at some point in your life you repeated the words of a “sinner’s prayer,” “accepted Jesus,” or “asked Jesus into your heart,” (even if you didn’t know what you were doing, and without true repentance and faith) you’ve been born again.
You can become a Christian without repenting from your sin.
You can believe in a “Jesus” of your own making, rather the one described in Scripture, and still be a Christian.
Are you a Christian? Have you ever felt the weight of your guilt before God and asked Him to cleanse you and make you right with Him? Do you believe and embrace that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection satisfied God’s wrath against you for your sin?
The Bible says we should examine ourselves to discover whether or not we are truly in the faith. Take some quiet, undistracted time alone with God today and search your heart. What do you really believe? Is it the true gospel of Scripture, or something else? (If you need some help, this might be a useful tool.) Don’t put it off, it’s too important.
If you find that you’re not in Christ, talk to Him. Confess your sin and your need for Him to save you. Ask His forgiveness and declare your trust in Him.
Don’t wonder and guess any more about where you stand with God. Know.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
¹Do-Re-Mi. Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music, 1959.