The larger the impact of a life’s decision, the more certainty we want. With things like what college you attend, what career path you head into, or who you choose to spend the rest of your life with - you want certainty in your decision. There is a clear front runner of all things that you’d want to be 100% certain of: where you go when your heart stops beating. Quick fact: you’re dead much longer than you are alive, so we’re talking about massive importance! Some may quickly say - “well, I know there is a God and this God loves me, I do my best to live for this God, and try to go to church as much as I can, and I’m a better person than most — so surely, Heaven will be my final destination…” If that is indeed where you are at in your faith journey, Jesus said something in Matthew 7:21-23 that may shake things up:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
People at the pearly gates, specifically said they did all these things for Jesus (not any other gods), and Jesus turned them away saying “I never knew you.” What’s that all about?! This may raise tensions and eyebrows, and get us thinking, “well, shoot, how can I be certain?” Finding certainty in salvation is what this series “In or Out?” is all about. How can find certainty in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and be confident that we will spend the rest of eternity with Him?
To answer this question over the course of the next three weeks, we must start with how the Bible defines how to find salvation in the first place. How does God’s Word say we have a relationship with Him and continue that relationship into Heaven? Essentially, what does it mean to be a Christian? If your answer is along the lines of God created me, loves me, I love Him, and try my best to live for Him and be as good of a person as I can be — these are essential things, but is sorely incomplete, and wouldn’t really differentiate you from many of the world religions.
According to the first few chapters of God’s Word, He created us to be in loving relationship with Him, offering us the gift of free will (if we didn’t have the choice to not love, genuine love couldn’t be a reality). God offered everything that humanity could ever need and blessed them, but commanded to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (enter: free will… Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve messed up and disobeyed God by eating from the tree - that’s called sin and it’s something we all do. We are all a bunch of Adams and Eves, as it wouldn’t take much reflection to notice sin in our own lives (Romans 3:23). The consequence of sin results in death - it messes up our relationship with God, and because He is perfectly holy, we are separated from Him. Death leads to an eternal separation from Him (Romans 6:23). Sin is a serious problem we all have and it needed a solution!
In the Old Testament, you read about weird animal sacrifices — because the payment for this criminal act of sin is death (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)— so the death of an animal would in a way temporarily restore relationship with God in an act of repentance, but it was never good enough. We needed a perfect sacrifice to cover all sins for all time, with the power and perfection of God, but also humanity to take on the death we deserve. Jesus is this sacrifice that humanity needed. God sent His Son Jesus (fully God to become fully man as well) to this world to live a perfect life we couldn’t live, die the death we deserve, and rise back to life - demonstrating His power to forgive (John 3:16, Romans 5:1, 5:8). Trusting and accepting the death and resurrection of Jesus as the forgiveness of your sins restores your relationship with God, once and for all. Once you make that decision to trust and follow Jesus, your life is completely changed and you are promised salvation. That is what it means to be a Christian: sin is a problem that separates you from God, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the solution to that problem, and trusting in Him saves your soul and restores your relationship with God.
So, now that we’ve quickly clarified what God’s Word says it means to be saved, here’s our question again: How can we find absolute certainty that you’re going to Heaven when you die? For this week, I think Paul gives some certainty of salvation in Romans 10:9-12, when he says:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That’s it! There is no catch, we’re not missing anything - Paul says that all we need to do is say that Jesus is Lord of our lives and believe that to be true in our hearts and we are saved. There’s not amount of being good that could ever save us, we are made right (justified) by putting full trust in Jesus. I would like to elaborate, a tad, on what it means to both say and believe with a quick sports analogy. If you are in the sports world, you know the difference between a die hard fan of a team and a “fake-me-out” type of fan. The die hard, true fan is one who knows the stats, watches the games, keeps track of wins and losses and injuries, and team drama. The fake fan says they’re a fan, and may even wear the hat because it makes them look cool, but knows absolutely nothing about the team - all talk, no walk. Paul says if you both say and believe, you are saved. You don’t just say you’re a fan of Jesus for the label, you don’t say you’re a fan and not live it out, you don’t just say you’re a fan and you don’t know the stats, the team, etc… What you believe about Jesus means so much to you, you profess it! You live it out, people know you’re a diehard, and that you truly care. And what we’ll see in the next couple of weeks — yes, Paul says we are justified by faith alone — this faith will result in changing your whole life and how you live (stay tuned for life changes in the next couple blogs).
If you say and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life — meaning you recognize your sins separate you from God, you repent of your sins because you know it’s wrong, and you look to the cross of Jesus as the death you deserve and His resurrection as the forgiveness of your sins, and you surrender your life to Him — if you say and believe that, Paul says you can have certainty that you truly are saved!