When the true gospel comes to us, what is supposed to happen in our life? Upon hearing the true gospel and as we give our response, what should follow? Two words: Radical change. A change that is not only superficial, but a fundamental change. By nature, change is always a difficult process, but this becomes one of the marks of a healthy church. Ezekiel 36:26 talks about a heart of stone that is replaced by a heart of flesh. Ephesians 2 tells us about a man who was dead in the trespasses and sin but made alive. There is nothing more radical than this kind of change. A healthy church, we hope, will have most of its congregation bearing marks of this radical conversion, that has experienced true belief and true repentance.
Before a conversion, we are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). “Fall short of the glory of God” is best explained in Romans 1:21-23 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”. This is the essence of sin, and this is extremely serious. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are under God’s wrath, deserve eternal punishment, and cannot save ourselves.
The only way for us to be saved is only through the grace of God who intervened through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:4-6 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. However, while the door has been opened for everyone, not everyone accepts it. Only those who believe, have faith, and repent from their sins will be saved. Acts 11:18 and Acts 14:27 best described this conversion in two important aspects – firstly, repentance needs to occur, turning away from the sinful life, and secondly have faith, believe, and depend on God. But what does it mean to have faith and believe in Christ? Agreement and knowledge alone are not enough to prove this.
1. By His grace alone
Matthew 19:21-22 tells us about the parable of The Rich Young Man. “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.””. Another example in Matthew 19:23-26 tells us how it is impossible for a man to enter the kingdom of God: “And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”. We will never have the right response to the gospel of Christ, it is only by His grace alone that the Holy Spirit works mysteriously in us, giving us a new heart, that we are able to respond, and then we are able to repent from our sin and believe in Him.
2. A Radical Change
Matthew 13:44 tells us about the parable of the Hidden Treasure: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”. People of this world live for worldly matters without considering whether they are sinners worthy of eternal punishment, not until God intervenes and makes them realise that the biggest problem facing humanity is when they have sinned against God. What does it mean by “believing in Christ”? A true conversion will result in a radical change, realising that God is the most precious thing and everything in our life. People have many sources of joy in their life, but no one that hasn’t been born again will say that their joy is when they find God. If you are not born again, you will not say your happiness is in God, that your desire is to be with God more than anything else in this world. Even if you lose everything in this world, that doesn’t matter.
“Believing in Christ” is not the same as knowing or agreeing that Jesus existed and died on the cross. What drives our life every day? As we still live in this world, we face many worldly challenges and have worldly desires in many aspects of our life, and while these are normal, if we look deep into our heart, do we want God more than anything else? True conversion also doesn’t mean that we are perfect, as we are still sinners living in this world, but as a new creature we know that He is the priority in our life and will always repent from our sin and come back to Him.