Here we have a marvelously simple and straightforward explanation of what it means to become a Christian: you must call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For belief in Jesus is not a work, it is a recognition of need.
There is an interesting story in the book of Numbers that Jesus uses to illustrate the simplicity of saving faith. It is a story of the ungrateful, complaining, and quarrelsome Israel, just brought out from their slavery in Egypt, just saved from the sword of Pharaoh, and just released from their chains of torment.
But they were not happy with their gracious and loving God who had so recently walked them through the Red Sea on dry ground. Their new life didn't suit their suddenly high standards. Apparently, freedom was not all that they had hoped it would be. Yes, God miraculously provided food for them from heaven - food meant to perfectly sustain them on their journey to the promised land, but it was not good enough. They would have preferred the food they ate as slaves. Or so they complained.
And so the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people in order to discipline them and people began to die from the bites.
Realizing their sin and its consequences, they begged Moses to intercede for them. "Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us," they cried! And so God, in his mercy, provided salvation for them through a bronze serpent. Moses was to attach this ornament to a tall stick, and everyone who looked upon it would be healed from their bites. They would not die.
All that they had to do was look, for salvation had already been provided for them.
And so Jesus said:
Indeed, just as a simple, desperate glance at the bronze serpent would bring salvation to any Israelite who looked upon it, so too does a simple desperate plea to Jesus bring salvation to any sinner who repents today.
For he has already provided the gift of salvation, we must only reach out and accept it.
Christians, then, are not those who have gotten their act together or who are particularly pious to begin with. No, they are simply those who have seen their desperate state - who have recognized that their sins will bring them nothing but God's righteous condemnation - and have turned to Jesus for salvation.
Christians are simply those who have called upon the name of the Lord.
This truth gives my soul two strong admonitions this morning:
- There is no room for pride in my Christian life. I cannot look at where I am today and feel any sense of personal accomplishment, for the work has been all his. It is he who made atonement for my sins, it is he who called me, and it is he who put his Spirt within my very soul that I might walk in a manner worthy of the salvation given to me. Yes, it has been him from beginning to end. All that I did was look up from my horrid snake bites in the direction of my Healer. Jesus did all of the saving.
- There is absolutely no one who is beyond Jesus' saving grace. If the admonition is simply to "call" and "look" how then could I ever believe that a person is too far gone or too hard-hearted to receive salvation? Jesus said "whoever" believes in him would receive eternal life, not those who are good enough or soft enough. Therefore, I must never limit God's grace or lose heart in the work of evangelism, for salvation is a free gift, and those who wish to be saved must only call upon the Savior to receive it. I cannot allow myself to create imaginary hurdles before those who are lost when God has created a simple and easy means of salvation. "Look!" "Call!" he says. Salvation is just a glance or a word away.
Dear Heavenly Father, how gracious you are. How marvelous is this gift of salvation! How could you make it so easy for me to repent, when I had rebelled so grievously against you. How could you show me such love, when all I ever showed you was hatred? It is evidence of your perfect and holy nature. It reminds me that you are love and causes me to worship you with all that I am. May the knowledge of your grace humble me, keep me from prideful boasting, and propel me toward faithful evangelism. May I be ready to tell anyone and everyone of the glorious salvation that can be theirs with a mere word.
In the Savior's name I pray, Amen.