The only way to heaven is belief in Jesus and repentance

Published 8:39 am Friday, September 3, 2010

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Dennis Seiler, Faith Baptist Church

The advertisement said, “We make money the old fashioned way … we earn it.” Throughout the centuries many people have adopted the same approach to religion and attempt to earn a proper standing with God and, therefore, an eternal home in heaven.

This works-based understanding is a message that is attractive to many. To some it seems to fit with the very fabric of society. For many people, anything worth having they have worked very hard for. There is a foundational conviction that anything that is free is of little or no value.

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There are, however, several great problems with the attitude that says, “Pull yourself up by your spiritual boot straps. Improve yourself. Earn a good standing.”

The first difficulty encountered in such thinking is that a salvation based on merit requires perfection. In James 2:10 we read, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The point made is that obedience cannot be selective. It is not sufficient to score well on this test of works; one must ace the test. God’s holy standard is absolute perfection, and Romans 3:23 informs the reader that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The consistent testimony of Scripture is that salvation is not by good deeds. The following are but a sampling. Romans 3:20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Galatians 2:16 “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Ephesians 2:9 “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

If salvation is not on the basis of human merit, how then can one get to heaven? What is God’s true means of salvation? The Apostle Paul summarized his evangelistic ministry in Acts 20:21, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The reader will notice that the message of the Apostle was a serious message. The word translated, “testifying,” speaks of a solemn witness, of strongly telling, or of an earnest appeal. It was also the consistent message of the early church. God’s means of salvation has always been by grace through faith.

This message was, and is, the gospel message, the message of salvation. Paul uses the phrase, “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The limitations of this article do not permit a detailed commentary at this point, but several key truths must be pointed out. It is needful to understand that true repentance involves a change of mind or of heart, and that true change of mind results in a change of direction and conduct. Anthony Hoekema offers the following insight, “It involves much more than sorrow for sin (though this is included), more also than just an intellectual change. It involves a change in the entire person, and in his or her outlook on life. You could say that it means a change of thinking, feeling and willing.” This excerpt is from “Saved By Grace.”

It must also be observed that saving faith is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. The object of saving faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. “The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance. …Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith.” An excerpt from “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” by John Murray.

The question for the reader is very simply, “What have you done in response to the gospel?” Are you trusting in your works which, according to the Bible, can never save you, or are you trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?

Remember, God has commanded repentance, and those who refuse to repent and believe will be judged by Jesus Christ, the one whom they have rejected!