If you feel compelled to place your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, there can only be one explanation: the Lord is giving you a new heart. Here’s why I say that.

Romans 3:23 tell us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Not one person has ever not sinned, except for Jesus, and not one person is capable of not sinning. From the day of our birth, we are sinners, and Romans 6:23 establishes the consequence:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Even as we live and breathe physically, we are spiritually dead in our sin. Our iniquities separate us from God, and our sins have hidden His face from us (Isaiah 59:2).

The Bible uses three words to talk about our separation from God: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalms 32:1-2, emphasis mine). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for all three. When I understood the comprehensiveness of my condition before God without Christ, it gave me a deeper appreciation of the completeness of what He did on the cross.

Iniquity is the English word for ‘avon, a Hebrew word for perversity, depravity, or a condition of guilt. [1] It is the state of our heart and/or the moral corruption into which we are born. The Bible calls this our flesh. Encarta’s definition of perversity perfectly captures the essence of flesh: “stubborn unreasonableness, especially willfully persisting in actions that seem contrary to good sense or your own best interests.”[2] The root of ‘avon is ‘avah, which appropriately encompasses the idea of something being twisted, crooked, amiss or distorted, or doing perversely. [3] This describes the state of being all of us are born into rather than a choice that we consciously make.

Transgression is the English word for pesha’, the Hebrew word that describes our rebellion and guilt as we recognize it, as God addresses it, and as He forgives. [4] It is the expression of our intrinsically corrupt condition as rebelliousness. Its root is the Hebrew word pasha’, which means to rebel, transgress, or revolt. [5] As a result of our corrupt condition from birth, we naturally revolt against God until He transforms our hearts and turns us to Christ. Only then are we able to recognize our guilt, receive forgiveness, and address wrong attitudes and behaviors.

The word sin has many roots, but in Psalm 32:1 above, the Hebrew word is chatta’ath from the root chata’, [6] which refers to the condition and guilt of sin. It is the way we miss the mark and go wrong from the path of what’s right and what is our duty. These are actions by which we incur guilt.

What all three of these terms tell us is this: we’re born separated from God with a heart that’s “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Here’s the deal, and the thing that the Lord has illuminated to me in recent years. I used to think we get to choose Jesus. But Jesus clearly states in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The One Way of Salvation

Even before God’s Son came to earth in the form of a man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to the virgin Mary, God promised in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Without first receiving a new heart and spirit, there’s no way for us to choose Jesus. A dead person with a wicked heart isn’t going to choose Jesus. The Father has to first choose us.

Ephesians 2:1-6 explains:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

God demonstrated His love for us, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Grace in the original Greek is charis, which is mostly referred to as the good will, loving-kindness, and favor of God as demonstrated in His unearned and undeserved free gift of salvation. [7] And that is absolutely right!

But there’s another meaning I discovered when writing my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, that forever changed my understanding of the significance of God’s grace in my salvation and daily life, and it’s this:

The merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues (same footnote as above).

He has to influence our soul and turn us to Christ. And when He does, we’ll know He has, and we can respond in faith.

If you know the Lord in His merciful kindness is exerting His holy influence upon your soul and is turning you to Christ, Romans 10:9-10 instructs you on what to do now:

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:13 affirms, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’”

There is no other way to be forgiven of our sin and eternally reconciled with God: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

God does the saving. We do the believing and confessing.

Are you ready to respond?

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Accept the gift. Respond in faith. Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved. Your words don’t save you; they are simply the evidence and confession of the new heart and spirit God has already given you by His grace and His gift of faith:

…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:5-11).

If that is you, welcome to the family of God!

What now?

First, know this: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Whatever God wants and needs to do in you, He will be faithful to do it, but there are some things He asks us to do in cooperation with Him:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

Working out our salvation is the process by which we learn to respect, be in awe of, and obey God as we learn to live and love others God’s way. We need to obey His truth and instructions as He has given them to us in the Bible, and we need to gather together with other believers to receive instruction and encouragement. As Hebrews 10:24-25 establishes, we need each other in order to follow Jesus and do what the Lord asks us to do in His word:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

(The Day is the Day of Judgment when every human will stand before God Almighty, either justified by the blood of Jesus, having believed on His name for salvation and therefore having been pardoned of the penalty you rightly deserve, or condemned to eternity in Hell.)

The Bible is our instruction book. It is the way we get to know our heavenly Father and what He desires of us as His ambassador here on earth. Read it. Study it. Do what it says, knowing the same God who has saved you will also, by His divine power, give to you all you all things “that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).

Trust Him. He will show you the way, and He will equip you to follow Him.

MY PRAYER FOR US: Lord, thank You that in our crooked, fallen state You don’t expect us to save ourselves. Thank You for Your grace that saves us! We surrender to Your sanctifying work in our lives and to the work of the Holy Spirit as He empowers us to do what You tell us to do in Your word, not as a means for salvation, but in response to Your love and as evidence of Your salvation.

END NOTES

[1] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H5771 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5771&t=NKJV>.

[2] Encarta Dictionary. Microsoft Word, 2007. Print.

[3] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H5753 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5753&t=NKJV>.

[4] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H6588 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6588&t=NKJV>.

[5] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H6586 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6586&t=NKJV>.

[6] “Hebrew Lexicon :: H2398 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2398&t=NKJV>.

[7] “Greek Lexicon :: G5485 (NKJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 4 May, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5485&t=NKJV>.