Conversion + Regeneration = Reconciliation
We have been looking at conversion and regeneration in the last several posts. These two things together result in reconciliation between individuals and God. Conversion is the turning of the heart back to God through repentance towards God, faith in Christ and identification with Him in baptism. Regeneration is the work of God by which we are accepted by God and indwelt by His Holy Spirit.
God Doesn’t Make Deals
Reconciliation is just the beginning of a renewed relationship. It is not the entire relationship. The goal is a Father/child relationship between the repentant sinner and God, reconciliation is the first step in this relationship, but not the entire relationship itself. In our day many have come to assume that the main goal of evangelism is to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ so that they can be justified. Once a person has received justification there is a sense of relief for the evangelist; the goal has been accomplished, the person is now going to heaven. This is a great error.
People who hold to this erroneous view believe salvation is a once for all transaction between God and the sinner. They claim that if the repentant sinner accepts the idea that Jesus died for their sins, then they will be made right in God’s eyes forever. In their view, since God gave Jesus as a sacrifice for sins and the sinner has accepted the gift, the deal is therefore struck, the sinner is now on his way to heaven, he merely needs to wait until he dies to enjoy heaven.
A Gate & A Way
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
– Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
– Luke 9:62 NKJV
Because of this error many will not inherit eternal life. They imagine that they have met all the conditions for eternal life because they have repented of their rebellion against God, trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized into Him. But this is not so. By obeying the three commands of conversion they have only met the conditions for reconciliation with God. They have been forgiven of their former sins and been qualified to receive the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:9, Acts 2:38). They have gone through the narrow gate. But the narrow gate leads to a narrow way, and they are required to follow that narrow way to the very end in order to inherit eternal life. But many, wilfully ignorant of this, turn back to their rebellion with a false sense of hope.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
– John 15:5-6 NKJV
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
– 1 John 1:2-3 NKJV
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
– Luke 9:23 NKJV
Salvation is not found in believing particular concepts about Jesus’ sacrificial death, but in clinging to Him. He is the risen Savior Who has authority to forgive our sins and save us from God’s wrath. Christianity is not a decision we make at one point in our lives, but it is a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We walk with Jesus. We follow Him. This is Christianity.
Eternal life is not something we receive through a transaction, but through a relationship. Eternal life is not something God gives us outside of Jesus. He gives us eternal life in Jesus Christ. Those that cling to Christ, those that abide in Him, have eternal life. But when they separate themselves from Christ, they also separate themselves from eternal life.
Let me use this analogy. When I was young my dad would give me $10 and drop me off at the mall with my friends to hang out. My dad would drive home, but me and my friends would walk around the mall entertaining ourselves. When we became hungry we would use the money our parents gave us to get some food in the food court. This is how many view the gift of eternal life. They imagine that when they believed in Jesus they received eternal life like I received that $10 from my dad. Though I was miles away from him, I could spend it how I willed.
But Jesus used a different analogy in the parable of the prodigal son. In that parable, the son received an inheritance from the father and then separated himself from the father. Apart from the father the money was quickly spent, and there was no way to replace it. The source of the money was far away, and the son was left starving alone in a foreign land. But when he came to his senses he returned to his father who had everything the son needed for life and blessing. The son’s “salvation” was with his father. And our salvation is with Jesus Christ, He is the source of eternal life! There is no way we can experience eternal life apart from Him! We must abide in Jesus Christ!
Abiding in Christ consists of three things: trusting Jesus, loving Jesus and obeying Jesus. Let’s consider what each of those mean.
A Relationship Built on Trust
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
– John 14:1 NKJV
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
– Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
– 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
– Colossians 1:21-23 NKJV
14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
– Hebrews 3:14 NKJV
Those that trust in Christ have eternal life, in and through Him. But the Bible tells us that we must continue to believe in Him in order to ultimately experience that eternal life at the resurrection of our bodies on the Day of Judgement. Faith is not a one time condition for reconciliation, it is an ever-present condition for eternal life. Until we see Jesus face to face on that Day, we are required to continue to trust in Jesus as Lord, Savior and Judge.
Saving faith is not only believing in God’s existence. We are called to believe God, not just believe in Him. We are called to trust Him, His character, His power and His word. From Hebrews 11:6 we learn that saving faith includes believing in God, but it goes further than believing in God’s existence. We are also called to believe Him. That is, we trust that He is alive and active, both to reward those who diligently seek Him and judge those who do not. This is saving faith, not believing only in a spiritual fact, but trusting in, and responding to, a living Person. Saving faith lives as though God will keep all of His promises and fulfill all of His warnings.
Jesus told us not only to trust in God, but also place our trust in Him. We are called to trust in Christ in the same way that we trust in God. We must believe that Jesus Christ is risen to the right hand of God and has all authority over heaven and earth. We must believe that He has been given authority to judge and to save. And we must earnestly seek to honor Him as Lord, knowing that He is the Savior of those that abide in Him and the Judge of those that live lawless lives of rebellion against His Father.
As mentioned above, many people imagine the object of our faith is Jesus’ atoning death. This is not the case. We are not saved by believing Jesus died for our sins. The object of our faith is Jesus Christ Himself! He is our salvation! He is risen to the right hand of God and has authority to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). Faith is not a transactional word, but a relational word. We must cling to Him, rely on Him, believe Him, trust Him.
To trust Him means to believe in the reliability of His character and His ability to do what He says. This means that we must live according to His word, believing that He will fulfill His promises and His warnings. This is the first principle of the Christian life: trust Jesus always, in all things and at all times, until the very end of our days. We walk by faith, not by sight. We trust in Jesus, not what this world tells us is good and true, but what Jesus tells us is good and true. Continued trust in Jesus Christ is one of the conditions of experiencing eternal life on the Day of Christ’s return.
A Loving Relationship
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
– Matthew 10:37 NKJV
27 “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
– John 16:27 NKJV
24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
– Ephesians 6:24 NKJV
8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
– 2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV
But the Christian life is more than just taking Jesus at His word. We do not merely believe that His character is good enough, and His power great enough, to do what He says He will do. But when we trust Him as Lord, Savior and Judge, we see Him as He is. And our hearts are drawn out after Him in love.
Interestingly, the first thing we learn about Jesus by the Holy Spirit is that He is holy and hates sin. We learn that He does not only hate sin in general, but He hates our sin specifically. And we also learn by the grace of God’s Spirit that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through Him. This produces the terror of the Lord in our hearts. We learn not only that Jesus will judge our sin, but we recognize that He is right to do so. We cry with the psalmist, “You are just when you speak and justified when You judge!” (Ps. 51:4) This all leads to the godly sorrow that leads to repentance.
And from our repentance, by God’s grace, we look up to Jesus and we learn even more amazing things. We see the One seated on the Throne of Judgment reaching out His nail scarred hand in our direction. We, by faith, see the Lion of Judah Who roars in anger at sin, as the Lamb of God that gave His life for our salvation. We acknowledge that though it is unlikely, a person might possibly die for a godly friend, but we are shocked to learn that Jesus, while we were still ungodly rebels against Him and His Father, gave HIs life for us. Simply put, we believe Jesus is the Savior. And by believing in His love, our hearts are melted and a love for Him rises in our hearts. We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
A love for Jesus is produced in our hearts when we first look upon our Savior with repentant hearts. But it must not stop there. We are called to love Jesus more than we love everything and everyone in this world, even our own lives. We are called to grow in love for Him and allow this love to overflow to everyone around us, even our enemies.
As we meditate daily on His word and fellowship with His Spirit, we grow in love for Him. In His word we see His character, and a desire to please someone so good grows in our heart. We also read His wonderful promises for His people in general and for us in particular, and once again our heart reaches out for Him to be our all in all. But as we walk with His Spirit, fellowshiping day by day in constant prayer, we also see His acts of kind providence in our lives. We, who have seen the blackness of our sin, see the righteous and holy Judge daily pour blessings upon our heads and we are overwhelmed by His grace, mercy and generosity. By trusting fellowship with Christ in His word and by His Spirit we grow in love for our precious Lord. We do not merely trust His character, we love Him and desire to please Him with all of our hearts. We abide in Jesus by trusting and loving Him.
An Obedient Relationship
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
– 1 John 2:3-4 NKJV
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
– John 15:10 NKJV
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
– John 14:21 NKJV
14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
– John 15:14 NKJV
48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 “And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
– John 12:48-50 NKJV
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
– John 6:68 NKJV
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
– Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV
9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
– Hebrews 5:9 NKJV
In our day it is common for people to say, “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.” There is much truth in this statement, but many who use this phrase do not define the Christian’s “relationship” with Christ the same way Christ does. Many modern Christians mean that having a relationship with Jesus is not about religious “rules” but loving and knowing Jesus as our friend. The big problem is that God’s word has given us a clear description of those that know, love and are friends with Jesus. And all of these descriptions include obedience to Jesus’ commands. Jesus defines our relationship with Him. And one of the key aspects of that relationship is our submission to His lordship in our lives. Obedience is required to walk with Jesus.
This obedience to Jesus is produced from saving faith. We believe He gave us the words of the Father that lead to eternal life (John 6:68 & 12:50). We believe that what He promises He will do, so we fulfill the conditions He gives us. And since we know that we will be judged according to the words of Christ, in godly fear, we flee from sin and pursue righteousness and godliness. Faith leads to obedience. We are called to live according to the words of Jesus Christ because we trust in Jesus Christ.
Our love for Jesus also leads to obedience. We do not merely trust Him as faithful, but we love Him dearly and desire to do those things that please Him. Those who love Christ are not just motivated by obtaining blessings and avoiding curses. They adore Christ and find their greatest delight in pleasing Him and their greatest sorrow in grieving His heart. They are not merely chasing a carrot and fleeing from a stick, they are seeking to please their beloved Master and striving to avoid displeasing Him. Obedience is not optional in the Christian life.
Abide Until The End
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
– Romans 8:23-25 NKJV
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
– 2 Peter 1:8-11 NKJV
Faith in Christ causes us to seek Him, knowing that He is risen to the highest place and rewards those who seek Him with forgiveness and eternal life, as well as damning those who continue in stubborn rebellion. But as we, with eyes of faith, gaze upon Him in the Scriptures and also in the gracious acts of kindness He abundantly pours into our lives, our hearts love Him more and more. We do not only trust that He is good, honest and able, but we love Him for it. This trusting love leads to diligent and willing obedience. We desire the blessings He promises, and fear His righteous threats, but also we rejoice in pleasing Him and hate the thought of displeasing Him. Faith, along with love which arises out of a sincere faith, leads to a life of loving and trusting obedience. This is what it means to walk with Jesus, to fellowship with Him and to abide in Him.
Repentance, faith and baptism are the initial conditions for reconciliation with God. But receiving reconciliation is not the end goal, but the starting point for a lifetime (whether short or long) of following Jesus down the narrow road. He is not only the Gate, but He is also the Way. We presently have eternal life because we abide in Jesus Christ. There will come a Day when Christ will come to Judge the living and the dead. At that point we must be found in Him, walking in obedience from a sincere love that comes from a genuine faith. If we are found in Him at His coming, we will receive the eternal inheritance as God’s children, everlasting life in the kingdom of God.