The Bible says that all things are possible if you can believe. Repentance means a turning towards God. The second thing which is like a twin with repentance for receiving God’s forgiveness and salvation is faith.
The Bible speaks a lot about faith. Jesus Christ, when He came to earth, encouraged people to have faith in God. In fact, that was one of the primary themes of His entire ministry – have faith in God. We cannot receive God’s forgiveness if we don’t believe. We don’t have to do work in order to earn forgiveness. Forgiveness is far too expensive for us to be able to earn it with works or money or any amount of pilgrimages or any such thing. God gives us forgiveness freely. Why freely? – Because it is so valuable, so expensive, that we can never pay for it with any number of good works. Faith is not such a complicated thing. It just means reaching out our hand and receiving what God is offering us. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, ‘we are saved by grace through faith.’ These are two important worlds that we find coming in the New Testament and they have very simple meanings.
Grace, we can say, is God’s hand reaching out to give us His help, His blessings, His forgiveness and strength for every task we can ever face in life. What is faith? Faith is our hand reaching up to take that help and those blessings from God’s hands. Now, if I were to give you a Bible, and if you have to receive it, you need to stretch out your hand and take it. That is faith; when God in grace offers me something, I reach out my hand to take it. I told you in an earlier study that God will not force anything down our throats. He will not force us to accept something which we don’t want to receive, because He has given us freedom of choice. He doesn’t want mindless robots that just do what He has programmed them to do. He wants us to make a choice. When I choose to believe, I have made a choice. I say, ‘Lord, I believe that Christ died for my sins and rose up from the dead and I receive Him as my Lord.’
The Bible says much about the power there is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other name on earth through which we can get salvation, through which we can get forgiveness. And you can receive that if you just stretch out your hand. In other words, if you say to the Lord, ‘Lord Jesus, I am sinner. I want to turn away from my sins. I believe you died for me, and I receive you right now in my life.’ That is a simple prayer. It will take you less than a minute to pray, and if you pray it in sincerity, you can be a child of God in a moment. This is not a magic formula. You see, God is not looking for particular words. Just like a father, when he listens to his child, he is not seeing whether the child repeats a particular formula or says things in correct language. He is not even bothered about the child’s grammar. He listens to the child’s words as an expression of the longings of that child’s heart. In the same way, when you speak to God, God listens to your heart more than to your words.
Jesus has said these words in John 6:37, ‘‘The one who comes to me, I will never reject.’’ It doesn’t matter who you are. Christ did not die only for Christians. He died for the sins of the whole world. The Bible puts all human beings in one category – sinners. Whatever our religion may be, we are all sinners. There is no difference between the one and the other. We are all born with the same nature. We are all born far away from God. And the Bible offers forgiveness to everyone equally, saying Christ died for all of your sins. So faith is the means by which we stretch out our hands and take all that God has promised for us in Christ. There is a verse in the Bible which says, ‘God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Eph. 1:3).
Now why is it that some Christians tend to grow spiritually more than others? The reason is faith. We can say that God’s blessings are like a banquet feast that is being laid out on the table. But if you go for a buffet lunch or dinner in a restaurant, all the food is laid out there. Nobody is going to put it on your plate. You have to go to the table and take whatever you like. So, if you take a little, that is your choice. Somebody else fills up his plate with everything from the table, with every dish. You could have done the same, but you didn’t do it. This is how it is with many Christians. They don’t take everything that God offers them. And that is why they remain poor.
Faith means, to see the things that God has given us and to take them. Think of this promise which we just read from Ephesians 1:3 that, in Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. That means, every single thing that we need for our spirit, beginning with forgiveness. Remember forgiveness of sins is only the beginning. All that we have been saying in our past studies is only to lay a foundation for a wonderful superstructure that we are going to build on in the studies to come. It is the foundation, the clearing of our past evil record, the removal of our guilt, the paying of our debt, the settling of old accounts. And it begins with repentance and faith – a turning to God; setting matters right in relation to the things that we have done wrong in the past and receiving God’s forgiveness freely; reaching out our hand and saying, ‘Lord, You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. I want to receive it.’
See, this the principle that we find throughout Scripture. We read in the Gospels that once two blind men came to Jesus and asked Jesus to heal their blind eyes (Matthew 9). They knew that Jesus had the power to open their blind eyes, and so they came and asked Him to do it for them. Now Jesus was willing to do it for them. They were also longing to receive it. But Jesus still asked them one more question: do you believe that I am able to do this for you. See, this is the principle in all of God’s dealings with us, that He asks us a question. You ask Him for something; you ask Him for forgiveness, let us say – that is the first thing we ask for. And the Lord says, ‘do you believe I will forgive you?’ If you respond, ‘well, Lord, I am not so sure,’ you are not going to get it. It is like these blind men we read of in Matthew 9:27-29. We read that they came, they asked for their eyes to be opened, and Jesus said, ‘do you believe that I am able to do this for you?’
Now just supposing that one of them responded saying, ‘well, I am not so sure Lord, whether you will do it,’ do you know what would have happened? He would have gone away with his eyes still blind. They would have remained unchanged. See the situation there? He wanted his eyes to be opened, Jesus wanted to open his eyes, but he still didn’t get it. What was missing? Faith, that is all. So sometimes, you may come to God with a great desire for something. God may also have a great desire to give it to you. But if you say, ‘well, if I have a desire and God has a desire, then I get it.’ No, you don’t, because there is one more question there to answer: do you believe God will do it for you? That is the question we read in Matthew 9:28. But they did not say, ‘we are not sure’. They said, ‘Yes Lord’ – that was a bold confession – ‘yes Lord, we believe, you are able to do this.’ Then what did Jesus do? He touched their eyes, and He said: be it done to you according to your faith.’ Now notice that carefully? Not according to your desire, not even according to my desire, but according to your faith.
Now pay attention to this, my friend. If you could receive everything you desired you would have gotten a lot of things by now from God. And if you could receive everything God desired, again, you would have gotten many things from God by now. Why haven’t you then? God desires to give it you, you desire to receive it, and you still haven’t got it. What is the reason? Because when God says, ‘do you believe, I will give to you,’ you say, I am not so sure?’ Then the Lord says, ‘be it done for you not according to your desire, but according to your faith.’ That is what made the difference. You see the rain’s falling outside, and you take a little cup outside to fill. Another person takes a bucket and yet another person takes a big drum. Who is going to get the maximum water when they come back inside the house- the one who went out with the big drum? You can’t say that God gave him more, that God was partial to him. No, you went out with a little cup, so that is all you got. Another person went out with a drum, he got much more. It is like that, faith is like that.
God’s blessings are there for everyone. He has blessed us with every single spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, but all of you are not going to get the same amount. That depends on your faith. You know, faith honours God. That is what you say when you say, ‘I believe’; ‘Lord, I believe you are trustworthy.’ That is why it is so important. It means, ‘Lord, I believe, what You have said is true.’ You believe that what God has said in His Word is true.
Now, I want you to pray right now. Will you close your eyes and say these words: ‘Lord Jesus, I believe you died for me. Right now you are going to forgive my sins.’ And if there is any other need in your life, say that right now, and say, ‘Lord, I believe you will give me even that. I believe. Amen.’
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.