Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
I have no idea when this passage was first brought to my attention as a young child, but it was certainly early. It is of course pivotal to the whole matter of salvation. Jesus did all the “heavy lifting” on the cross, but we aren’t saved until we respond to what He has done for us. This is a point where a lot of people hang up. They say that since Jesus died for all mankind, and thus all sin is atoned for, then everyone is saved, somehow. However, that removes the element of man’s free will, which violates the whole purpose of creation. God didn’t want either pets or robots, He wanted children. We have no real power except the power to choose. If we will exercise that to choose God, then He does all the rest. That’s why Jesus’ message was, “Repent and believe.” (Mark 1:15) Repentance involves recognizing your own sin, acknowledging it, and turning from it. If anything calls for the exercise of your will, that’s it! Believing again involves a choice. Faith is a gift from God, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we have to choose to accept it, letting go of rationalizations and willful doubt. Paul doesn’t use the word, repent, here, but his equivalent phrase is equally powerful. We have very little grasp of what it meant back then to proclaim Jesus as your Lord. The major legal excuse for killing Christians in the Roman Empire was their refusal to say, “Caesar is Lord.” People testified to the Lordship of Christ at the risk of their lives, and many gave their lives for that testimony. If Jesus is your Lord, then everything contrary to Him is recognized as sin and is discarded. What better definition of repentance! Believing that God raised Jesus from the dead is believing that His death was sufficient to atone for your sin and give you eternal life. That is salvation indeed.
Monday I had the privilege of baptizing someone. Because he lives in a group home for the handicapped and isn’t free to leave at will, I was not able to immerse him as he and I both desired, but with a wet finger I drew a cross on his forehead in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and I welcomed him into the family of God. He does not have a sophisticated faith and would be lost in a theology class, but he knows that Jesus died for him and he has committed himself to Jesus in response. He is saved, for all time and eternity. I deal with others who consider themselves far more sophisticated, but they use their “sophistication” as an excuse not to commit themselves to Jesus as Lord. How tragic! I am neither to condemn them nor give up on them, but continue speaking the truth in love to them, leaving their response as a matter between them and God. I have learned the hard way that I can save no one, but God sometimes uses me as His agent in saving people. I am to rejoice at the honor and privilege, but never think that makes me special. I am to rejoice in the salvation He has given me and make that salvation freely available to all I encounter, so that as many as will may choose to accept it.
Father, You know how my heart breaks for people who stubbornly refuse to accept Your salvation, but I know that Your heart breaks even more. Help me not take people’s rejection personally, but rather keep myself available as Your agent to them, whatever that means, so that as many as will may indeed be saved, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!