Lesson Goal: Help the disciple understand the nature of saving faith and determine whether or not he has placed his hope in what Jesus Christ has done for him and is not trusting in his own righteousness or sincerity to save him.
Instructor’s Notes: When a person is convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit, God shines a spotlight on the sinfulness of their hearts. The purpose of this is to show the person that they are under the wrath of God and that they can do nothing to save themselves. The conviction of the Holy Spirit brings them to see that their righteousness is unacceptable to God (Isaiah 64:6).
When the person is convinced of their own helplessness the Holy Spirit will begin to open their spiritual eyes to the truth contained in the Gospel message. He begins to reveal to them that though they have no righteousness of their own, God has sent Jesus Christ to live a perfect life in their place and suffer the cursed death that they deserve. God brings the person to despair in themselves so they can place their trust in Another.
There are two ways a person resists trusting in Christ. Some people refuse to acknowledge that they are worthy of judgment and unable to save themselves. They imagine that by changing their bad habits and living a better life they can make themselves acceptable to God. A person that will not confess their helplessness does not trust in Christ. Other people will readily acknowledge that they are helpless but will go to the other extreme and refuse to trust that Christ is sufficient to wash away their sins. They imagine that their sins are greater than Christ’s sacrifice. Both kinds of people make the same mistake; instead of looking to Christ they continue to focus on themselves. The first focuses on their ability to save themself by good works and motives, the second focuses so much on their sinfulness that they refuse to trust in Christ’s righteousness. We must discern whether the disciple is in despair because of their sinfulness, trusting in their own righteousness or trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone for their salvation.
Saving faith is not perfect faith, but it is genuine faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Though a person with genuine faith might have doubts, there should be a measure of genuine assurance in the heart of one who is truly trusting in Christ. A heart in complete despair is not a heart that is trusting in Christ.
Saving faith is a determination to trust in the willingness and ability of Christ to save us in spite of the sinful weakness we see in ourselves. Genuine faith often cries out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” It is our duty to help the new disciple understand the difference between weak faith and no faith at all. Genuine faith might not fill a believer with constant and uninterrupted certainty about their salvation, but neither does it leave a true believer without any joyful assurance at all. A person who is trusting in Christ has confidence that Christ is willing and able to save them from the judgment to come, even if that confidence is sometimes gives way to doubt and fear.
We must also help the new disciple understand the difference between intellectual faith and saving faith. The Bible says that we must trust the Lord with all of our heart and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Many people believe the teaching of the Bible in an intellectual way, but not in a saving way. Those people who grow up in Christian families cannot remember a time when they did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but that does not mean they have personally seen their lost condition and placed their trust in the work of Christ on their behalf.
We must help the new disciple discern whether they have truly trusted in Christ for salvation or are merely believing the teachings of the Christian faith. It is often only a subtle difference, but the difference will have eternal consequences. One way to tell the difference is by seeing whether or not the disciple has ever come under the conviction of the Spirit and seen their lost condition. If they believe that they have always been saved, that is usually a clear sign that they still only have an intellectual and religious faith, not the saving faith which comes from the heart. If they are not aware of a time in the past when they were lost, that is good evidence that they are still lost today.
Read: Acts 2:38, Acts 16:30-31
Teaching: We cannot come into fellowship with God if we remain in rebellion to Him, this is why we must repent. But after we have repented we also must trust in Christ. Through repentance we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and through faith we are accepted by God because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Repentance cannot wash away our sins, only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf can cleanse us from our sin and make us acceptable to God.
Trusting in Jesus Christ is more than just believing that He is the Savior of the world; we must trust that His sacrificial death on our behalf makes us acceptable before God. When we savingly trust in Christ we will understand that we cannot earn forgiveness and that only what Jesus has done for us is sufficient to reconcile us to God. Our hope for forgiveness, transformation and eternal life must be placed only in Jesus Christ, not in our own righteousness, good intentions or good works.
Discussion: Is there anything you can do that will cleanse you from your sins? Do you believe you have placed your trust in Christ alone for salvation? Why do you believe so? If you died right now would you go to heaven or hell? Why do you believe so? Was there a time you did not truly trust in Christ? Why do you believe that Christ is willing and able to save you?