A danger for many Christians is they worry they do not believe in Christ intensely enough. They worry that their faith is not strong enough.
The Bible, though, does not speak of the quantity of our faith. Faith is a resting, a trusting in Christ, a belief that Christ died upon the cross in the place of the repentant sinner. Christ took upon himself the wrath of God and counted the believing sinner righteous. The apostle Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). We do not have faith in our faith; we have faith in Christ.
Unfortunately, this is not the greatest problem facing the church today. A far greater problem is the great number who take salvation for granted. They are certain that God will accept them after death because they’ve responded to a call to be saved or perhaps decided to join the church or to reform their living. When questioned about their coming to Christ, they may respond with something like this: “I recognized that I was a sinner and destined for hell, so I asked Jesus to come into my heart.”
I hope they are simply stating poorly what took place. Being right with God is not merely a desire to circumvent hell, and “asking Jesus into one’s heart” is a most unfortunate, not to mention “unbiblical,” phrase. Where is repentance? Where is faith? Where is the cross? Where is the atoning death of Christ in this understanding?
I fear that multitudes who have responded to an invitation to receive Christ and have subsequently joined a church are living in self-deception. They’ve not repented of their sin. They’ve not believed upon the crucified Christ as their only hope of being right with God. Their lives are much like their unchurched neighbors. They pay their bills, mow their lawns, vote on election day, and obey the laws. They know nothing, however, of forgiveness and justification because they really do not know Christ. They simply want to avoid hell.
Nothing is new, of course. In his Alarm to Unconverted Sinners, seventeenth-century English minister Joseph Alleine wrote:
All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert; he loves not only the wages, but the work of Christ; not only the benefits, but the burden of Christ; he is willing not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke; he takes up the command of Christ, yea, the cross of Christ.
The unsound closeth by halves with Christ: he is all for the salvation of Christ, but he is not for sanctification; he is for the privileges, but appropriates not the person of Christ; he divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation. Whoso loveth life, let him beware here; it is an undoing mistake, of which you have been often warned, and yet none is more common.
Jesus is a sweet name, but men “love not the Lord Jesus in sincerity.” They will not have him as God offers, “to be a Prince and a Saviour.” They divide what God has joined, the king and the priest; yea, they will not accept the salvation of Christ as he intends it; they divide it here.
Every man’s vote is for salvation from suffering; but they desire not to be saved from sinning; they would have their lives saved, but withal would have their lusts. Yea, many divide here again; they would be content to have some of their sins destroyed, but they cannot leave the lap of Delilah, or divorce the beloved Herodias; they cannot be cruel to the right eye or right hand; the Lord must pardon them in this thing. O be carefully scrupulous here; your soul depends upon it.
The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes him for all intents and purposes, without exceptions, without limitations, without reserve. He is willing to have Christ upon any terms; he is willing to have the dominion of Christ, as well as deliverance by Christ; he saith, with Paul, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Any thing, Lord. He sends the blank to Christ, to set down his own conditions.