Jesus said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11)
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the basis for promised blessing to his people. As the resurrected shepherd, the Lord leads his people to lie down in lush green pastures. The Bible is full of promises granting a richness of life to those willing to trust the Lord. Listen to the invitation of Jesus, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
"To him (Jesus, the Messiah) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." (Romans 10:4)
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." (John 12:46)
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15)
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come, And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)
God promises rich blessing upon all who choose to live in dependence upon him. Similarly, God warns of spiritual failure and disaster for anyone attempting to live in their own strength (Matthew 7:21-27). This leads us to ask a couple questions. What is faith? How do we exercise faith to receive God's promised blessings?
"And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ." (Luke 4:41)
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19)
Demons are fallen angels who chose to follow Satan in his rebellion against God. They "believe" (understand and agree) that Jesus is the Son of God, but they are not saved by that knowledge.
Biblical faith is more than knowing about God; it is the willingness to entrust ourselves to a loving and faithful God by responding in obedience to his Word. This is supported by the Biblical use of the terms translated as trust and believe/faith.
Trust בָּטַח (bāṭaḥ) has the idea of feeling confident, secure, or safe in dependence upon the strength and resources of (usually) someone else (2 Kings 18:21). This idea is seen in Peter’s encouragement to the believer of, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) In salvation we are to cast our soul upon the Son of God by resting our claim to heaven on Christ’s righteousness, secure in Christ’s sacrifice, confident in Christ’s finished work, and safe in Christ’s acceptance before the Father.
Believe/Faith אָמַן (˒āman) This Old Testament word has at its base the idea of firmness or certainty which is also reflected in the New Testament definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1). Derivatives are translated as faithful, dependable, truth, sure, certain, and verily or amen. The certainty of faith comes not from the person exercising it but from the strength and dependability of faith's object.
Illustration: We can believe a number of historical facts about George Washington, the first president of the United States. We can admire him for what he accomplished in the history of our country but we should not have any belief "in" him to do something today because he is dead.
With Jesus Christ however, it is different. While we can believe a number of historical facts "about" him, the Bible also invites us to believe "in" him to fulfill every one of his promises. We can do so because Jesus is the resurrected Son of God. Our prayers are not directed to a statue of Christ. His body is not in a grave. He rose from the dead and later ascended up into heaven where even now he is seated next to the Father making intercession for us. The Bible's invitation to place our faith in Jesus is based on his demonstrated faithfulness as the Son of God and Savior of the world. The Bible's invitation to believe is not a call to become religious but to enjoy an ongoing relationship with the living God.
“And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” (Luke 17:6) The mustard plant is a large plant which has a very small seed. The Lord's intent was not to teach our need of having small mustard-seed-size faith. His point is that faith is not a matter of size. Even small faith can accomplish big things. The discussion under "Measure of Faith" is not designed to teach us how to measure the size of our faith but to help us determine whether we have any faith at all.
The word "repent" is sometimes used in connection with salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:18; Hebrews 6:1). The Greek word translated as repentance is μετανοια (mĕtanŏia). It literally means "change of mind". When a person experiences repentance it means he has changed his view concerning a particular matter. He doesn't think the same way about it anymore. This change of mindset impacts our emotions and attitudes. It also impacts our actions. Repentance (change of mind) accompanies a change of spiritual direction for either good or bad (1 Kings 8:47-50; Jeremiah 8:5-6; 18:5-10). God holds out the promise of great blessing whenever a person or nation turns back to the Lord: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Just before his death, Jesus told his disciples that after his departure he would send the Holy Spirit who would "reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of Judgment." (John 16:7-11) In other words, the Holy Spirit's mission toward the world is to bring men and women to repentance (a change of mind) in regards to sin, righteousness, and judgment so that they might begin exercising faith toward Christ.
What temptation do you face which is so intoxicating to your soul that you fall into the same sin-trap again and again? In Mark 10:17-22 we meet a young man who claimed to have kept the Ten Commandments from his youth, but who was secretly ensnared by the sin of covetousness. He asked Christ how to acquire eternal life. When Jesus asked him to give up his wealth that he might become a disciple, the young man's love of money proved stronger than his love for the Lord. He turned back to follow the lure of gold.
What is your favorite sin? Covetousness may not be your sin of choice. The temptation which trips you up may be the lust of an immoral relationship. Your downfall may be a mouth filled with blasphemy. Your sin may be any number of things; but is the sin you treasure worth risking eternity? Listen to Jesus' words of warning: “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” (Matthew 18:7-9)
Jesus is not teaching self mutilation, though his language is incredibly graphic to make his point: sin is so repugnant in the sight of God and its judgment so horrific that sin and temptation should be cut off from our life at all costs. The person who claims faith in Jesus Christ but remains in a life of ongoing sin is a liar (1 John 1:5-7). It is not that he has little faith. He has no faith. If we experience real repentance (a change of mind concerning sin), then we won't be treasuring our sin but turning from it.
Before coming to Christ, Paul's boast before men and his hope of accepted righteousness before God rested on such things as the ability to trace his family lineage, his circumcision, his attempted adherence to the law, and his sincere passion in religious service. Other people may pin their hopes for heaven on baptism, church membership, good works, taking a religious pilgrimage, being healed, or participation in some other religious ceremony or practice (Philippians 3:4-6).
Once Paul trusted Christ, he came to understand through revelation there was no other ground for righteousness apart from Christ. The only currency accepted at the bank of Heaven to pay for sin is the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:12, 22). Everything else people pin their hopes on as an entitlement to gain access into heaven will be discarded (Philippians 3:7-11). Paul writes, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2:21) We could insert anything else in place of the word "law" in that verse and the meaning would remain the same. If righteousness (right standing before God and entrance into heaven) could be achieved by anything mankind could accomplish then Christ died for nothing.
Our faith in Christ must stand alone as our only claim to enter Heaven's gates. If we are depending on anything else but (or anything in addition to) the shed blood of Christ, we demonstrate our lack of faith in the only thing God says will matter in the end (John 3:36; 1 John 5:11-12).
The person who is uncomfortable standing on "faith in Christ alone" as grounds for entrance into heaven is saying to the Father that His love in sending the Son and the Son's love in shedding His blood is insufficient for accomplishing the task of redemption. The person who is uncomfortable in trusting Christ alone is not uncomfortable because he only has a little faith. He has no faith. If we experience real repentance (a change of mind concerning righteousness), then we will cling to Jesus, the "Lord Our Righteousness", as the Savior he truly is (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.” (Acts 24:24-26)
There is no record in either Scripture or history that Felix ever had a "convenient season" to trust Christ for salvation. Though he spoke with Paul many times and the text tells us when Paul spoke of judgment Felix "trembled," yet he still put off making a decision of faith. He was willing to risk eternal judgment for temporal advantage.
There is certainly a time for careful consideration of all the circumstances and facts surrounding the sacrificial ministry of Jesus Christ. However, once a person is convinced by the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is exactly who he claimed to be, then the time for waiting is past. Once a person is confronted with the truth and then procrastinates, it is not a matter of that person having little faith. He has no faith. If we experience real repentance (a change of mind concerning judgment), there is a sudden urgency to settle accounts with God. We don't quibble over a personal timetable trying to find room at some later date for a discussion about God and eternity. Tomorrow seems too long to wait! Our soul cries out for an immediate audience with God; "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!" (2 Corinthians 6:2)