Building a house is very similar to one's experience as either a Christian believer or an unsaved nonbeliever. That is why Jesus drew a comparison between the two (Luke 6:47-49). If you start out with a good foundation that is level and built on solid ground, you can confidently add on walls and flooring and a roof and every other component that makes up a house, and be certain that, because the foundation is sound, the house will be sound. But if you lay a poor foundation that is uneven and shaky, the rest of the house will follow and all the components that are built on that poor foundation will be compromised. To have a soundly constructed house, you must have a good foundation; to have a rock-solid Christian faith, you must build it on foundational truth. This is the truth the jailer asks about in Acts 16: "The jailer...brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' [Paul and Silas] replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...'" (Acts 16:29-31). Elsewhere, Jesus calls people to "repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), and in Acts 20:21, Paul writes to all people, "that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus in order to be saved." This is the gospel message distilled, and it holds as true for you as it did for the jailer at his conversion. If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins, and turn to God in repentance of your sins, then you will be saved.
This does not mean that after this occurs, you will never sin again, or even that you will not commit the same sin repeatedly. It means that your heart has been changed toward sin so that you can now see it for what it is, and that you now hate it instead of loving it as you formerly did (John 3:19). Paul wrestles with this very issue, identifying this struggle as every Christian's lifelong battle against sin in Romans 7:13-25. He says:
For I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate...I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out...I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Fortunately, for Paul and for you and for me, that question has a definitively glorious answer: "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and that once someone is saved, they are saved for good, for always, for eternity. God does not save someone and then allow that individual to slip out of His grasp (John 6:39, John 10:28-29). Furthermore, the Bible is clear that "nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39), including our own weaknesses, failings, and personal shortcomings.
Although believers no longer have to fear eternal condemnation for their sins (Romans 8:1), this does not relieve us from personal accountability for our actions or from experiencing the consequences of them. Very often, when Christians sin they find they have no peace, not because God doesn't love them anymore, but because He does. God tells believers that when we sin, He disciplines us because He loves us as sons and daughters (Deuteronomy 8:5, Proverbs 3:12, 1 Corinthians 11:32, Hebrews 12:6). Revelation 3:19 says that the fact that God disciplines His children should lead Christian believers to sincere repentance: "Those whom I [God] love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent."
Biblical repentance is not about making empty vows to God, or bargaining with Him, or giving Him your permission to send you to hell if you don't hold up your end of the deal — it's both simpler and more difficult than that. Simply put, Biblical repentance is turning from sin and instead, turning to God. People think that repenting means you stop doing a certain sin, but that is only half true. You stop doing what is bad, but you also start
doing what is good. In other words, you replace doing wrong with doing right. To remember this, I always think of Ephesians 4:28, which starts out, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer" (that's stopping the sin) but then it goes on: "but rather, let him work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." Do you see? True repentance for the thief means not only that he must not steal anymore, but also that he must develop a proactive work ethic that involves producing something he can share with those in need. In place of taking for himself, he is now making and giving to others. Instead of selfish greed, selfless generosity. That is what true Biblical repentance is — not just a cessation of activity but a 180 degree turn-around.
This kind of true repentance is only possible if you are truly saved because it is a gift from God, and God enables it, and God empowers it. If you are unsaved, you will find all your good intentions to do what's right ending in failure time and time again. Your house will be structurally unsound and collapsing all around you for the simple reason that your foundation is unsound. If this is the case, you will have been trying to do what is right on your own power. This is impossible. You are trying to do what God commands without God's help (John 15:5), you are trying to please God without putting your faith and trust in Him (Romans 8:8, Hebrews 11:6), and you are expecting His blessings, promises, peace, and assurance without having first taken His yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus said, "I am the
Truth, and the
Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." You cannot be saved by your own strength, self-effort, or best intentions; these will certainly fail you. You can only be saved by coming to Jesus and laying it all at His feet, asking for His forgiveness, grace, and guidance, and submitting to His authority and lordship over your life.
Jesus knows you intimately, and this same Jesus who made you (Psalm 139:13, Isaiah 46:4), is the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18), and He has also made certain promises that apply to you. He already knows what you've done (Psalm 69:5) and He is in the business of forgiving sin (Micah 7:18, Psalm 78:38, 1 John 1:7-9). He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and He heals broken hearts (Psalm 147:3). He wants you to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and He wants you to come to Him (John 6:44, Luke 18:16). Through Jesus' sacrificial death on the Cross, God's forgiveness, love, and peace can belong to you. The Bible says when we come to Him in true faith and repentance "He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more." The burden of sin can be heavy and too hard for us to bear, but we have a loving and capable Savior who offers to take it from us — all of it — if we sincerely commit our way to Him. Jesus invites us, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
" (Matthew 11:29-30).