The Sinner’s Response
By Mallory Bierig
Each week, in the month of April, we’ve focused on the truths of the Gospel message. If you missed any of the articles, I encourage you to click on the links below and read them.
Here are the three elements of the Gospel that have been unpacked in previous weeks:
- Glorious God. God is holy and just. He created the world and everything in it, and He rules over everything. He deserves our devotion and praise, and His plan for us is that we would not devote our praise to anything other than Him.
- Fallen Man. We are born with deceitful hearts that seek to praise and devote ourselves to things that are not God. Mankind sinned against God in the garden, and sin has dwelled in the hearts of men and women since that day. We are born sinners, and we choose sin.
- Redeeming Christ. God, in His all-knowing kindness, had the way of reconciliation prepared from the beginning of time: His name is Jesus. He was there in the beginning. Jesus came as the God-man and lived a perfect life, died a gruesome death that included taking on our deserved wrath, and conquered death.
The above statements encapsulate the truth of the Gospel proclaimed in the Bible. The word Gospel translates to Good News, and oh what good, good news it is! A good and perfect God took on flesh, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the grave so that sinful man could be saved. We are utterly helpless to change ourselves, but now, through Christ, we can be reconciled to God, live with Him for eternity, and live in light of this great hope. Oh, what good news indeed!
However, there is one more necessary element to the Gospel: our response. When we hear or read the Gospel message, what are we to do? You may think the Gospel does sound like Good News—great news even—but how do we actually become reconciled to God?
The Gospel Prompts Us to Respond
There are essentially three responses to the Gospel. Whether you know it well, reject it outright, or feel generally indifferent to its claims, each time we hear the Gospel, we are faced with the truth about ourselves and God, and we respond. It is important to understand that there is always a response to the truth about Jesus by both the unbeliever and believer. The Gospel never leaves anyone unaffected—ever. So, as you read the rest of this article, ask yourself: today, which of the following will be my response to the Gospel?
Repent and Believe
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘ The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
In Mark, we read that Jesus began His earthly ministry by calling sinners to repent and believe. Essentially, repenting and believing is forsaking any other means of becoming right with God—our success, looks, good works, church membership, hobbies, personality—and trusting in Jesus alone to save us. When we do this, our sins are forgiven, and we stand covered by Christ’s righteousness before a holy God. This is the moment of our salvation. When we believe in the message of Christ and repent, we become Christians. We are given a new heart that desires the things of God and a new spirit that draws us near to God.
Now, believing the Gospel is not like believing in Santa Claus or hoping for good things to happen to you. Greg Gilbert describes believing, which he refers to as faith, beautifully in his book, What Is the Gospel? (a book I highly recommend):
“Faith is not believing in something you can’t prove, as so many people define it. It is, biblically speaking, reliance. A rock-solid, truth- grounded, promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from sin.”
We rely on Jesus to save us and He does. We believe and repent. Both are necessary for salvation. They are causal, where one produces the other, but they are also distinct. Belief is the reliance on Christ to save you; repentance is turning from the things you’ve previously relied on and turning to Christ. Initially, repentance is a decision that you are indeed a sinner and do not want your sin any longer. Believing and this initial turning from sin are what Scripture teaches us is necessary for our salvation.
What does it look like when someone believes and repents?
It is important to note that repentance is also what causes the outward evidence that you have believed! Matthew 5:20 tells us, “you will recognize them by their fruits.” Once we are saved, our lives begin to change. This certainly does not happen overnight, and never to the point of perfection, but our lives will line up with a call to holy living, so we may bring glory to God in heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes the repentant believer as a “new creation.”
We see a person whose life begins to look different than it did before, as their attitudes, what they do with their time, and how they view themselves begins to change. Every aspect about who they are will begin to line up with Scripture. Again, they will not become sinless, but they will come to despise sin in their hearts and trust God to help wage war on it. A new believer will be marked by a love for God and His Word, while he or she will develop a new distaste for the things of this world and sin.
Romans 10:9-10 tells us that to repent and believe, “you confess with your mouth (in prayer to God) that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” If you have never responded in this way to the Gospel, we are praying you would today.
Remain and Rejoice
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” 1 Peter 1:3
The second response I want to touch on quickly is that of the redeemed sinner. This characterizes the status of women and men who have repented and believe, and they now live in light of the Gospel—seeking to glorify God and share the Gospel because they have been changed by it. A Christian continues to respond to the Gospel each time he or she encounters it.
We do not just need the Gospel for our salvation from sin and death. I didn’t pray to the Lord to save me and then move on from salvation to try to be a good person. This is a very common false belief and a false understanding of the Gospel. A sinner who has truly been saved needs the truth of the Gospel message to continue in faithfulness and to fight the temptations of the world, flesh, and Satan. No matter how hard I try to pray, read my Bible, exhibit patience, or think of others more highly than myself, I will fail. However, remembering the truth of the Gospel and continually trusting in Jesus to save me from my sin gives me the power to do these things.
As a believer, if you are confused about how to continually cling to the Gospel, I encourage you to read the book, Living the Cross Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney. He writes of our need for the Gospel as follows:
“For not only does this good news come first chronologically in our Christian experience, but it stays foremost in critical importance for creating and sustaining our joy and our fruitfulness—a fact we too often overlook.”
A Christian needs to hear, read, sing, and study the Gospel continually. I don’t need a sermon on 3 steps to a better marriage. I need one that tells me what the Gospel says about my marriage! Applying the Gospel to my marriage is what grows me and produces a healthy marriage. This is true for EVERY vein of the Christian life. We never move past our need for the truths of the Gospel. The redeemed sinner’s life is marked by worship and devotion to the one true God, and each time the believer encounters the Gospel, she is pressed on to fight the good fight.
Reject and Deny
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18
This is by far the most heart-breaking response to the Gospel. Those who do not believe in the truths of Scripture stand condemned and face an eternity separated from God (Isaiah 59:2). Someone who consistently chooses to turn from the truth and conviction of the Gospel is playing a very dangerous and eternal game. My plea to you today is to heed the call of Mark 1: “repent and believe.” I challenge you to study the truths of God’s Word and see what God might do in your heart.
The Gospel offers enduring peace and assurance you will not find in this world. Without the Gospel, you may be able to find temporary peace and assurance in this world, but you will face eternal destruction. Scripture tells us that Jesus will return one day to judge the world for sins committed, and He will return unexpectedly (1 Thess. 5:2). Those who have responded in repentance and belief will be saved. Those who have not will be condemned. Please take time to reflect on your own soul.
Ladies, I hope this series has caused you to know God better and rejoice in the truth of His Scripture. If you are a believer, my prayer is that it has stoked the flames of your love for the God who saved you. If you are not a believer, I am praying you would respond in repentance and belief. He will be faithful to save you. If you have any questions about becoming a Christian, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God…we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11
*We also have the Gospel explained here, if you would like to explore it further.