For as long as I can remember I have believed in the existence of Jesus. Because of that belief, I considered myself a Christian. As an adult I spent many years going to church regularly and was very involved volunteering in the church and school. Because of my desire to volunteer, I considered myself a Christian. Little did I know that these two things did not make me a Christian.
Although I had a desire to volunteer, I neglected to examine the motivation for my volunteering. I thought the outward act of volunteering is all that mattered, not why I volunteered. I noticed in our church that it was always the same core small group of people who volunteered at all the events. Because of that, every time a call to volunteer was announced I felt this intense pressure inside myself that I had to volunteer. I now know that I volunteered for myself, not for Jesus.
Volunteering made me feel happy and good. That feeling did not last because I was depending on what I could do to bring myself happiness instead of looking to Jesus and what He has already done. Because of what I now know, my outward actions did not bring me happiness. They brought me pleasure. Everything we depend on for happiness instead of depending on Jesus, whether it is ourselves, material things, or people, will only bring us pleasure. Pleasure is a temporary state, happiness is a permanent fulfillment that only comes from Jesus.
Even though I believed in the existence of Jesus for years, it was when I was 47 that I truly became a Christian. This is when I learned the difference between believing in the existence of Jesus and knowing Jesus. I am a witness to confess that only believing in the existence of Jesus did not change my life. After all, even the devil believes in the existence of Jesus. James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” Mark 3:11 “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” The demons of the devil acknowledge who Jesus is, but that does not mean they are saved.
Even though I believed in the existence of Jesus I continued to live my life in the way I wanted. The way I wanted to live was very self centered, selfish and self-righteous. I lived for myself and based all of my thoughts and decisions upon what I declared was right and wrong in my own eyes. I was my own authority. I was my own God, which also means that I wanted to be God. This is the same desire of Satan.
Isaiah 14:13-14 “You said in your heart, “….above the stars of God I will set my throne on high…I will make myself like the Most High.” Satan desires to be like God. Notice that God says that Satan’s desire was in his heart. God looked inward to the desires in Satan’s mind. The thoughts in our mind is what motivates us and God knows them. God knows why we do the things we do. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
When I came to life in Jesus in 2014, I was referred to as receiving the effectual call from God. There are two different calls that God sends out. There is a call that goes out to everyone, but not everyone will repent and respond. This is called the external call of the Gospel. The other call is referred to as the inner call of the Holy Spirit or the effectual call. The internal call of the Holy Spirit gives new birth. It is life changing. After my true conversion I was filled with the desire to know Jesus. The only way to know Jesus is to study God’s word in the Bible.
By truly repenting, asking Jesus for forgiveness and asking Jesus into my heart, I am now alive in Christ. Before my conversion I was considered physically and spiritually dead in my sin. Adam fell into sin when he ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. His fall affected all of humanity. We are now all fallen in sin and born into sin upon our birth. Because God is Perfect, Holy, Righteous and Just, there has to be a penalty for Adam’s fall into sin. The penalty for this sin is death. All of humanity has been sentenced to physical and spiritual death.
The good news is that all is not lost! God has a plan to save us from the penalty of physical and eternal death! In the Old Testament God chooses His people, for no other reason, except that He loves them. He allows them to pay for their sins with a substitute. That substitute is an unblemished animal. The issue with using an animal for a substitute is that they have to keep sacrificing animals for their sins. It is not a one time permanent solution. The animal sacrifice of the Old Testament points to the one who will come, once and for all, to pay the price for our sin.
The only permanent one time sacrifice is an infinite, perfect, sinless being. Because we are finite humans fallen in sin it is not possible for one of us to pay the infinite penalty for our sin to permanently satisfy our Just and Holy God. It is not possible for us to perfectly follow the law of God, perfectly pass the test of temptation and willingly sacrifice ourself to pay the infinite penalty required by God. Sin against an infinite God must be paid infinitely. We, as humans, must either pay the penalty for an infinite amount of time, or an infinite being (Jesus), must pay the penalty once and for all for all of mankind.
Because of God’s love for us, He lovingly sends Jesus to earth. Because of Jesus’ love for us, He willingly agrees and comes down off His throne in Heaven to save us. Jesus is God. Jesus is born to Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. God is the Father of Jesus, but also One with Him and the Holy Spirit. They are three persons in One. Jesus is both fully human and fully God. Because Jesus is God, He is infinite and sinless. He is perfect, which qualifies Him as a sinless sacrifice to pay for our sins.
Jesus is then sent out to the desert and is tempted by Satan. Adam was tempted by Satan once and failed. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert three times and did not fall into sin. Adam was in a beautiful garden filled with food and anything that he ever needed. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days without food. Adam had Eve. Jesus was alone. Jesus passed the temptation to sin and did it through harsher circumstances than Adam.
Jesus was born under the Jewish Law of God that was given by God to Moses in the Old Testament. He fulfilled the scriptures of the Old Testament by living under the Law of God perfectly. It is impossible for us to live perfectly under God’s law because not only does God judge our outward actions, he judges our inward thoughts. God considers one negative thought as breaking all of His Laws. We break one, we break them all. It takes a sinless, infinite person to be able to live God’s Law perfectly. God knew that, so because He loves us so much, He came down Himself to pay our penalty and save us, so we would not be sentenced to Hell for eternity.
Jesus then willingly goes to the cross and dies for our sins. He is our perfect, sinless substitutionary sacrifice. His death paid the penalty for our sins. The wrath of God, for our sin, is poured upon Jesus. He, being sinless, took on our sins and became our sin to pay the penalty for us so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. This is why Jesus is call the Lamb of God. Lambs were frequently used as a sacrifice in the Old Testament.
Jesus is buried and then three days later God raises Him from the dead! Jesus beat death! By God raising Jesus, the man, from the dead, He is showing us that we will be raised from the dead one day too. For now, when we become a true believer in Jesus, we will be given spiritual life, so when our physical bodies pass, our souls will join Jesus in Heaven. Jesus tells us in the Bible that He will return to earth one day and when He does, He will come to cast judgment on the unbelievers and the bodies of believers will be joined together with our souls and we will live with Jesus for eternity.
What Jesus did for us is called the Gospel. The Gospel is good news! It is good news because this tells us what Jesus accomplished for us. Hearing this good news is cause for repentance. To repent is to change our ways; to turn away from our old ways. This is the mark of a true Christian. We now have the Spiritual life of Christ in our hearts. We are alive in Christ. We are considered born again because we have a new spiritual birth. This new life changes the desires of our hearts and causes us to now hate the sins that we once loved. We begin to desire the things of God and hate our old desires. As we continue to spiritually grow in wisdom and grace we begin to sin less. Over our lifetime we become more and more like Jesus. This is called the sanctification process.
The desires and motivations of our hearts change as the Holy Spirit works good in our hearts. We willingly begin a self examination of ourselves because we now desire to be more like Christ. We desire for people to see Christ in us. We now love Jesus and want to personally know Him by studying scripture. We now apply God’s word to our lives. We now have a new motivation in our hearts. We do not do good things only because we think that is what Christians are supposed to do, think this is what we have to do to earn our way to Heaven, are worried about what everyone thinks of us, or because we think it will bring us happiness. We do good things because we now love Jesus and are so thankful for what He has done for us. Our good works are now in response to what Jesus has done for us.
As you can see, there is a clear difference in believing in the existence of Jesus and personally knowing Jesus as our Savior. I pray that the story of the Gospel has touched your heart in such a way that you are now longing to personally know Jesus by asking Jesus into your heart and studying scripture. Jesus is in all scripture throughout the Bible. If you attend a church where the Gospel is not being preached, or you are not being continually pointed to Jesus, I pray God will bring you to the church that He knows you need.
Do you consider yourself to be a Christian, but are not experiencing this life changing transformation of your life that I have described? Do you desire to experience this life changing transformation? If so, I encourage you to pray to Jesus, confess your sin, express your desire to repent and ask Jesus into your heart. Jesus is knocking on your door. Will you answer His call?