“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)
Sometimes I am challenged in my faith, whether it is something I put on myself or subliminal messages from the Christian pop culture I don’t know, but it is to “do more” and “be more”. I hear in these words a works based salvation and that I have to be “good enough” in order to be saved. I believe this is why so many in the church are disillusioned and feel condemned from the start. They wonder if their salvation is true or a lie. I think more people wrestle with this than we realize. We definitely would not say we believe in saving ourselves, but what do our actions say? Are we on every committee that is offered at church, constantly there whenever the doors are open, and a superhero in our community services or projects? I am not saying any of these things are bad, but the motive behind it is the issue. Do we do these things in order to establish our own righteousness, for the praise of man, or do we really serve others because of our love for Jesus?
I’ve struggled with this lately, questioning my love for Jesus. My flesh doubts, but the Spirit within me defends my fragile heart. I know I love Him however imperfect it may be. I wish I could love Him perfectly as He does me, but that will not happen until I am safely in the Savior’s arms in Heaven. All things are perfected in Heaven. This is a promise I hold on to and long for.
I think in those moments where we doubt our faith or wrestle with confusion about the means of salvation, we miss the simplicity of the Gospel. Just look to Scripture for answers. Romans 10:9-11 says, “that 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’.” The rest of Romans 10 is worth reading (actually all of Romans), because the remainder of the chapter talks about how a saint carries out their faith – by telling others about Jesus. If we love someone or something we cannot wait to share it with others. So it is with our love for Jesus, “for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NIV).
The change that has taken place in us through faith will now come out of us in our words, thoughts, and actions. “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22 NIV). Salvation involves God placing a burning desire within our hearts to know Him. He has chosen you and loved you before you even knew Him (1 John 4:19; John 15:16). We respond with a repentant heart, recognizing our sin and deadness apart from Christ (Ephesians 2:1). We confess with our mouths (1 John 1:9). We trust that what God says is true and that He has never lied to us (John 17:17). True believers pursue holiness and desire to love Christ more today than they did yesterday. His children love His Word and want to walk in obedience (Psalm 119:97-104). The saints will persevere to the very end and finish well (Hebrews 12:1-2).
So faith and works work together, but our deeds do not precede faith thereby saving us. Jesus did the saving work for us on the cross. He is the only One who has ever lived a perfect life, so only He could be the perfect sacrifice. Jesus did this, for us, His Beloved. Christians are identified by how they live. This is what makes our faith come alive, “for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33 NIV). We walk with Jesus everyday, obeying His commands not out of mere duty, but because we love Him (1 John 2:3-6).
The entire Bible points to Christ and His redemptive work. Scripture is one great love letter to God’s chosen people and meant to glorify His Name. God’s love for us is perfect. He set His love upon us, an imperfect Church, to call His own. I cannot yet love Him the way He lavishes His love on me, but I can still be confident that I am His:
“And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us […] This is how you recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, […] You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 3:24; 4:2,4).
I wish I could write all of 1 John on here to make my point, but hopefully it is clear. When God’s love is manifested in the heart of a believer we are able to love Him above all things and love others more than ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). We cannot work hard enough or ever be good enough to cleanse us from all of our unrighteousness apart from Christ. The Bible says “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3 NIV). The good news is that believers can have true rest over the doubt of their salvation with these words from Romans 11:5-6: “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” However, if you read this and realize you do not know Jesus as your Savior, can I encourage you to come to Him today? Do not put it off. Feel free to leave a comment so I can pray for you and encourage you.
This is part of a prayer taken from The Valley of Vision called ‘The Spirit’s Work’:
“Take of the things of Christ and show them
to my soul;
Through thee may I daily learn more of his love,
grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds,
the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;
May I there see my sins as
the nails that transfixed him,
the cords that bound him,
the thorns that tore him,
the sword that pierced him.
Help me to find in his death the reality
and immensity of his love.
Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth
in his, ‘It is finished’.
Grace upon grace,