“To every preacher of righteousness as well as to Noah, wisdom gives the command, ‘A window shalt thou make in the ark.’”
by Jeff Musgrave
This article originally appeared in FrontLine Jul/Aug 2007.
This is part 2, part 1 appears here.
From Part 1:
This edition of Windows features illustrations to make soulwinning clear and compelling. Close relationships are made by taking time to get to know each other. Here are four simple characteristics about God that will allow you to meet Him for yourself.
God Is Holy and Cannot Tolerate Our Sin
God Is Just and Cannot Overlook Our Sin
God Is Loving and Has Reached Out to Us
God Is Gracious and Gives Us Salvation as a Gift
The word “grace” has been explained this way: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
God’s Gift—Grace is God’s giving to us what we could never earn. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). It is not that God gives us part and we earn part. We don’t have the ability to earn holiness or meet His just standard.
God’s Offer—So, if He does all of the giving what do we do? Receive! “But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Man’s Decision—And how do we receive? Believe! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Since this most important issue of life depends on one simple word—believe—it is imperative to define it accurately. Some may say it means “to understand a fact and agree with it.” The following story shows the deficiency of that definition. In 1859 the famous acrobat Charles Blondine stretched a tightrope 190 feet above the mighty Niagara Falls. Crowds gathered daily to watch him navigate the thousand-foot span. He walked across in a large burlap bag. He carried his manager across on his back. He even fitted a special wheelbarrow for the rope and pushed it across. Once he put a cook stove in the wheelbarrow and stopped in the middle of the rope to cook and eat an omelet. The story is told that once he approached the cheering crowd and asked who believed he could take a man across in the wheelbarrow. The crowd went wild. Everyone wanted to see that. They began to chant, “I believe, I believe!” Blondine pointed to a man waving his hand and chanting, “I believe!” He said, “You, sir, get in the wheelbarrow.” The man bolted and ran the other direction. What was wrong? The man “believed” that Blondine could put a man, some other man, into the wheelbarrow, but he wasn’t willing to trust Blondine to take him across. Likewise, this third element of saving faith is often neglected. You must choose to depend on or trust in Jesus.
A Complete Definition of Saving Faith
God is holy and just and cannot tolerate or overlook my sin.
God is loving and has given His life in exchange for mine.
God is gracious and wants to give me eternal life.
I am a sinner and need a savior.
I am willing to depend on Jesus to take my sins and death, and I want to receive His righteousness and eternal life.
Another word that is used in the Bible to describe this decision is the word “repent.” “Except ye repent, ye shall all . . . perish” (Luke 13:5). The word “repent” means to change your mind.
Maybe you’ve been thinking that your sin isn’t that bad, or maybe you’ve thought that you could do enough good to counteract your sin. You’re going to have to change your mind about that. You have to make a choice. Will you continue to trust yourself and your way of thinking, or will you transfer your trust to Jesus?
Imagine two chairs side by side. The one on the left represents yourself and your own efforts to get to Heaven, and the one on the right represents the finished work of Christ. If you’re sitting in the chair representing self, what must you do to transfer your dependence to the chair representing Christ? You have to get out of one chair and sit in the other. In order to transfer your dependence to God’s grace for salvation, you have to stop depending on what you can do. It is a decision. Just like someone would have to get in Blondine’s wheelbarrow to demonstrate real dependence on his ability to take him across, you have to decide to trust Jesus alone.
What if a person decides to sit in both chairs? Is he really trusting in either chair? No! When a person tries to trust in Jesus and in his own efforts, he is really showing that he doubts that Jesus is enough. Saving faith is choosing to trust Christ’s payment and nothing else. It’s a transaction, an exchange. You trust Christ’s work on the cross, and He gives to you forgiveness of sins (our earned record), His perfect righteousness (His earned record), and eternal life.
There is a point of no return on the Niagara River where the current from the falls is too powerful for a boat to navigate safely. If a boat goes past that point, it is bound to be pulled by the current over the roaring falls. Imagine a man in a rowboat absent-mindedly crossing that line. Realizing what he has done, he tries to turn back to safety, but it is too late. No matter how hard he rows, he is still being pulled inch-by-inch closer to impending doom. Suppose someone on the shore sees his plight and expertly throws a rope across his lap. Now he has a choice to make. Will he continue his own self-efforts only to eventually plunge to sure destruction, or will he drop the oars of self-effort and trust in the safety of the rope? What would you do?
Jeff Musgrave formerly pastored Highlands Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado and now directs The Exchange evangelism ministry.