Morning Devotional

The Unbeliever’s Responsibility To Repent And Believe

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

[Romans 10:9]

What does an unbeliever have to do to be saved? First, he has to repent. That is in the mind. But that is not enough. The second thing the unbeliever must do to be saved is believe.

Repentance is in the mind, but belief is in the heart. Paul said in Romans 10:9-11, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” And verse 13 says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

What is it that we have to believe in our hearts? We believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. That was one of the earliest confessions of the Christian Church. Why is that so significant? That word “Lord” is the Greek translation of the Old Testament sacred name for God, “Yahweh.” It is used 6,000 times in the Bible. When you say Jesus is Lord, you are saying Jesus is Yahweh. You are saying you recognize that Jesus was God Himself and that when He died, He did not die for His sins; He died for our sins. When you say Jesus is Lord, you are saying that you believe Jesus is alive, that He was raised from the dead, and that His resurrection proves that God declared our sin debt paid in full. All of that is in that phrase “Jesus is Lord.” It is the earliest confession of the Church.

This is the same kind of cry that came from the lips of Peter. Remember when Peter was drowning in the sea? What did he do? Did he say, “I believe in 10 reasons that Jesus is the Son of God, and I believe that He came and died, and I believe that He will rise again on the third day…”? If he had done all of that, he would have sunk. Peter only had a few seconds. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). That is the cry that leads to salvation. It is a cry based on the death of Christ, but it is a desperation that comes from the heart, not just a mental assent to who Jesus is. It is a crying out, “Lord, save me!” That is the cry that leads to salvation.

The Bible says to be saved we have to believe that Jesus is Lord. And we do it not with our heads; we believe in our hearts. This is not just an intellectual assent to facts; it is a crying out in desperation. The Bible says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). It does not say, “The elect who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It does not say, “The predestined who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Unbeliever’s Responsibility In Salvation

For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.

[Romans 10:2]

What is the unbeliever’s responsibility in salvation? In Romans 9:30 through chapter 10, Paul said that the unbeliever’s responsibility in salvation is to believe. He said in Romans 10:1, referring to Israel, “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Paul poured out his heart for Israel’s conversion. Note that any understanding you think you have about predestination that leaves you apathetic about those who do not know Christ reveals that you do not understand predestination. The Apostle Paul understood and taught predestination, but he also prayed for and worked for the conversion of his brethren who were not saved.

How many people are you praying for right now to be saved? Do you pray for them regularly? Don’t just shrug and say, “Well, God is going to save whomever He wants to save.” God does elect people to salvation, but He elects us to pray for the lost as well.

While we can pray for unbelievers, Paul said it is the responsibility of the unbeliever to believe the gospel. That is the focus of 10:1-13. To describe exactly how an unbeliever exercises faith, Paul used three words that describe what an unbeliever has to do to be saved. You say, “I thought salvation is a gift.” Yes, it is a gift. But there is something you have to do to receive a gift, isn’t there? You have to open your hands. It is the same way with an unbeliever. There are some things an unbeliever has to do to receive the gift, and Paul talked about that beginning in 10:1.

One thing an unbeliever has to do to be saved is to repent. What does it mean to repent? Many people think it means to turn away from your sin. In other words, if you are unsaved and you want to become a Christian, then you have to turn away from your sin; you have to clean up your life in order to make God accept you. That is a lie. You cannot clean up your life enough to merit God’s salvation. An unbeliever cannot turn away from his sin before he has the power of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible. Now, once you become a Christian, you better turn away from your sin. In fact, if you do not turn away from sin after you are a Christian, then there is no reason to think you are saved at all, the Bible says. But before you are saved, you cannot turn away from sin. So what does it mean to repent? The Greek word for “repent” means “to change the mind.” Repentance has nothing to do with the heart; it has everything to do with the mind. It means to change your mind. It means to believe something differently than what you had believed.

In Romans 10:2, Paul said about his fellow Israelites, “I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” Have you ever heard people say, “It does not matter what you believe just as long as you are sincere about your beliefs”? No. It makes a great deal of difference what you believe. Salvation does not begin in the heart; it begins in the head. It begins with a change of mind.

Does God Predestine People To Hell?

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

[Romans 9:19]

In Romans 9, Paul answered commonly asked questions about election. One of the questions people have about election is this: “Does God predestine people for Hell?” Does the Bible teach what is called “double predestination”–that some are predestined to go to Heaven, and others are predestined for Hell?

Paul answered that question in verse 19: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” Paul was saying, “How can the lost be held accountable for their actions if God has chosen them to be lost?” For God to predestine somebody to go to Hell and then tell them to accept Christ as their Savior–that is like cutting off a man’s arms and then telling him to pass the ketchup. You are asking him to do the impossible.

Does God predestine some people to Hell? Let’s get something straight. Do not ever use the argument: “God cannot do that because that would not be fair.” If God is the Creator of the universe, then He can do whatever He wants to do. God alone decides what is fair and what is just. In fact, that is what Paul said in Romans 9:20-23 to those of us who would question the ways of God. He used the illustration of a potter who was making a clay pot. He said to imagine a potter forming the clay with his hands, and in the middle of the process the pot looks up and says, “I do not like what you are doing. I do not like my shape. I do not like where you put the spout, and I do not like where you are putting the top. I want to be different.” What pot has the right to question the potter? Paul said the same thing to us: “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (9:20). God can do whatever He chooses to do. The question is not, “Can God predestine people to Hell?” Sure He can if He wants to. The real question is, “Does God predestine people to Hell?” This is where I depart from the extremes of Calvinism. I do not believe God predestines certain people to Hell.

Let me share with you two reasons I do not believe in double predestination. First, double predestination is unnecessary for God. God does not have to do anything actively for people to go to Hell because we are all headed to Hell anyway because of the sin of Adam that has infected us and that we replicate every hour of every day–our rebellion against God. We are already lost. All of us are headed for Hell without any help from God.

Second, double predestination is uncharacteristic of God. Scripture is clear: the heart of God is to save as many people as possible. In 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul said, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That is the desire of God.

Morning Devotional

God Will Accomplish His Plan For Your Life

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you.

[Deuteronomy 7:7-8]

God’s elective purpose for you means God will accomplish His plan for your life. Isn’t that an encouraging truth?

You might ask about predestination, “What about the Jewish people? Didn’t God predestine the Jews as well?” The answer is yes. In Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Moses explained, “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you.” That is why He chose Israel. God looked down, and of all the nations He could have chosen, He chose Israel. Why? For one reason: He chose to love them. That is why He predestined Israel.

If God predestined Israel, then does that mean all of Israel is going to be saved? No. In fact, when Paul wrote the book of Romans, the majority of Jewish people had rejected Christ. So if God predestined Israel, then why isn’t all Israel going to be saved? Has the promise of God failed? Paul answered that in Romans 9-11. He said that God has not failed in His promises because nowhere and at no time has God promised to save all Israel. Did you know that? There is no promise that every physical descendant of Abraham will be in Heaven one day. Paul said not all those who claim to be Israelites are true Israelites. It is not being a physical descendant of Abraham that matters; it is being a spiritual descendant of Abraham, related to Abraham by faith. In John 8:39-44, Jesus said to the Pharisees, in essence, “You think you are okay because you are Abraham’s physical descendants and God is your father. No, your father is the devil.” Only those who are spiritually related to Abraham by faith are the true Israel. Paul said the same thing in Romans 2, 9, 10, and 11. Nowhere in the Bible is there a promise that all ethnic Israel is going to be saved. The promise was to believing Israel.

You say, “What about Romans 11:26, where Paul said, ‘All Israel will be saved’?” He was not talking about all ethnic Israel. Paul was saying that God will fulfill His promise to all of the true Israel–that is, those who have been elected by God to salvation.

As we look at the controversial subject of election, I want to remind you that to try to separate the truth of God’s sovereignty in election from the equal truth of man’s responsibility to accept the gospel and share the gospel with others is neither logical nor biblical. The Bible teaches both. The Bible teaches God’s election in salvation; it also teaches our responsibility in choosing to be saved and sharing the gospel with others. The same Apostle Paul who believed in predestination and election also wept over the lostness of Israel and gave his life to sharing the gospel with as many people as possible, and we have that same command as well.

The Mystery Of Election

Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

[Romans 8:29]

Somebody has said, “Try to explain predestination, and you may lose your mind. Try to explain it away, and you may lose your soul.”

The fact of predestination–that God has chosen some for salvation–is clearly taught in Scripture, yet some Christians have a violent reaction to that truth. They say, “How can you say such a thing? Didn’t our forefathers tell us God gave everybody an equal shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What is wrong with God? Hasn’t He read the Constitution?” Other people say, “You cannot teach predestination because that discourages evangelism. After all, if God has already decided who is going to be saved, then why should we share the gospel with anybody?” Still other people say, “Election cannot be true because that violates free will. Aren’t we free to do whatever we want to do?” It is true that we do have choices. But isn’t it interesting that the most important things about your life you had nothing to do with? Where you were born, the time period you were born in, the country you were born in, your physical makeup–did you have any choice about those things? People react to the idea of God choosing people to salvation, yet the most common response among Christians to the doctrine of election is the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. Let’s just not mention this subject, and maybe it will go away.

You cannot study the Bible without running into the theme of predestination. We see it in Ephesians 1, and we also see it in Romans 9. This week, we will look at what I call the mystery of election and see what the Bible says and what it does not say about this subject.

We have come in our study to the fourth major division in the book of Romans. The letter to the Romans is about the righteousness of God. Paul said that a right standing with God is available to everyone who trusts in Christ as Savior. Beginning in chapter 1, Paul talked about the problem of righteousness. The problem of righteousness is that none of us is in a right standing with God. But good news is the second major theme of Romans, found in Romans 3:21 through chapter 5–the provision by God for righteousness. God offers to give us His righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ, when we trust in Him as our Savior. Then we come to the third major theme, found in Romans 6-8–the power of righteousness. When you wrap yourself in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, there is a special power that comes in your life to say no to sin and yes to God.

The great climax to Romans 8 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (8:28-29). There is that word “predestined.” In other words, God marked out the boundaries of your life. He made every determination about the course of your life.

Morning Devotional

Who Can Separate Us From The Love Of God?

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

[Romans 8:35]

Paul asked a final, climactic question in Romans 8:35: If God has loved us, who can separate us from His love? “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Paul was saying: Before you think you can ever be separated from the love of God, let’s go through a list of everything that might separate you from the love of God. Shall tribulation? That word “tribulation” refers to pressure from the outside. He was talking about financial pressure or pressure from a bad health diagnosis. He was talking about the pressure of a strained family relationship or the pressure you feel at a job. Is any of that going to separate you from God’s love? No.

Will distress separate you from God’s love? The word “distress” in Greek refers to being constricted or confined. Have you ever felt stuck in a situation before? Maybe you are in a difficult job or a difficult marriage. If you are a student, maybe you feel like you are stuck in school and it will never end. If you are a mother with young children, maybe you wonder if these days of diapers and bottles will ever end because you feel stuck. The Bible says no matter how confined and pressed you feel, that does not separate you from the love of God.

Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword separate you from God’s love? Paul was talking about the persecution that would soon be coming to the Christians in Rome. He said in verse 36, “We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Soon the Roman Christians would be slaughtered. We see that happening right now as Christians are being slaughtered every day because of their faith in Jesus Christ. We are all going to be like that at some point–sheep ready to be slaughtered.

Then in verse 37, Paul said, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” In other words, we will experience the victory in all of these things. How? Paul said, we “conquer through Him.” Paul was not saying that as human beings we have all we need to conquer any and every circumstance–that is the essence of the lie of humanism. The truth is, God is the One who controls our destiny. And when we are in a right relationship with God, through Him we are able to conquer any adversity that comes against us.

Paul closed this remarkable chapter with his own personal testimony: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).

If God Gave Us His Son, Will He Not Give Us Everything Else?

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

~ Romans 8:32 ~

In Romans 8:32, Paul asked this question: If God gave us His Son, then will He not give us everything else He promised us? You may say, “I believe God is sovereign, and I believe God is good. But when I lose my mate, or when I am diagnosed with cancer, or when I lose my retirement savings, how do I know God’s goodness and love are going to be extended to me?” Paul said in verse 32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” If God has given us His Son, then why wouldn’t He give us everything else as well?

When Paul’s audience heard the phrase “He who did not spare His own Son,” that word “spare” would have struck a note of familiarity with them. The Greek word “spare” is the same word used in Genesis 22 in the Old Testament story of Abraham offering his son Isaac. You remember the story. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son. The Bible says Abraham did not spare his son. Of course, God intervened at the last moment. But that was a picture of what Jesus Christ would do one day on that same mountain range of Moriah when He would send His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world. Paul was saying, “If God was willing to do that for us, then why wouldn’t He do anything and everything else for us?” Somebody once asked theologian Karl Barth what the most important word in the Bible is. He did not hesitate in answering. It was not “love” or “forgiveness.” Karl Barth said the most important word is “for.” That is the Greek word “huper,” meaning “in place of.” It is the word used here: God delivered His Son “over for [in place of] us all.” That is the gospel.

A few years ago, I watched a miniseries about the life of Jesus. The Jesus figure in the show was meeting with His disciples and trying to explain His reason for His coming death. He said, “The reason I came to die is so that I might die for the goodness that is in every human heart.” That is not what the Scripture says. Jesus did not come to die for our goodness. God did not look down on humanity and say, “Those human beings are such wonderful people. I want to show them how good they are by sending My Son to die for them.” No, He did not come to die for our goodness. He came to die for our badness–for the sickness and evil in our hearts. That is what makes God’s gift that much more unbelievable. God did not give His best when we were His friends. The Bible says that while we were His enemies, He sent Christ to die for us.

If while you were His enemy, God sent you His best and most costly gift, now that you are His child, don’t you think He will give you everything else? If God gave you His greatest gift while you were His enemy, now that you are God’s child, what is He going to withhold from you?