Considering the chaos we see in the world around us, it’s understandable that many people see a need to “get right with God.” But what exactly does that mean?
Many think that all God expects or requires is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
But is it biblical that belief in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is all that’s required to be saved? Clearly not! As Jesus’ own half-brother wrote in James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (emphasis added throughout). They likewise know that Jesus is the Messiah (see Mark 1:24).
Yes, the demons believe—but clearly they are not saved!
So what does God expect of us? What does it mean to “get right” with Him? What does it look like in a person’s life? Let’s notice Jesus Christ’s own statements that give us the answer!
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Merely acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Master—calling Him “Lord, Lord”—is not sufficient. To inherit salvation in God’s Kingdom, we must do God’s will, as Jesus clearly stated.
Getting right with God and receiving His gift of eternal life involve much more than just belief. Our conviction that Jesus is our Savior who died for us must be more than just a comforting feeling or intellectual idea. It means actively doing God’s will in our lives, which starts with surrendering our lives to Him, studying His Word and praying regularly so we can understand how He wants and expects us to live.
Matthew 19:16 records how a wealthy young man asked Jesus a crucial question: “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Christ’s reply might shock those who think Jesus came to do away with the law or that He taught that obedience to God’s law is unnecessary. Jesus responded, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17).
Jesus didn’t tell the young man that all he needed to do was believe. Jesus told him he must obey the commandments of God. How plain! And then, to clarify which commandments He meant, Jesus listed as examples several of the Ten Commandments plus another summary commandment God had given through Moses. Jesus then told the young man to reorder his priorities in life to become a committed follower of Christ (verses 18-22).
In Mark 16:16, Jesus revealed another condition we must meet to receive God’s gift of eternal life: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Baptism—being fully immersed in water—is a symbolic act representing the death and burial of the person we formerly were, with our rising from the water signifying a resurrection to begin a new life committed to serving God and striving to avoid sin (Romans 6:1-23).
Scripture shows that baptism is to be followed by the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ, through which we receive God’s Holy Spirit and truly become His (Acts 8:17; Romans 8:9). Unless we surrender our lives to God through baptism and the laying on of hands to receive His Spirit as shown in Scripture, we fail to meet this requirement for receiving His gift of salvation.
To those who ignore these and other clear biblical instructions—and there are more—Jesus replies, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?’”(Luke 6:46).
So returning to the question at the beginning, is your way of life “good enough” for God? In these passages you have seen the beginnings of His answer. And as Jesus states in Luke 14:33, “No one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me. (New Living Translation 1996).
Read the articles in this issue to learn more about what God expects from your life!