If we wish to know how to respond to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we need to look at stories where Christians taught non-Christians how to respond to Jesus. We should not expect letters written to Christians and which address concerns of the church to communicate what a non-Christian needs to know in order to become a disciple.
What do we need to understand?
In the very first presentation of the gospel to the Jewish people, Peter taught the crowd that God had attested to Jesus by the miracles he had performed. Furthermore, God had planned for Jesus to die. However, God also raised him to life confirming him as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:22-36).
Later, Peter would unlock the door for Gentiles to enter into the kingdom when he presented the gospel to Cornelius’ family. After proclaiming Jesus is Lord of all, Peter described how God had anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power.
Peter proceeded to explain that Jesus went around helping those oppressed by the devil. Although people killed Jesus, God raised him up from the dead and caused him to be seen by many people who could identify him.
Combining Peter’s closing thoughts regarding what people need to know together with what Paul taught in Athens, we learn that God commands everyone to align their lives toward living for God (repent) because God has appointed a coming day of judgment with Jesus as a judge over the living and the dead. However, those who trust in Christ can be forgiven of their sins (Acts 10:36-43; 17:30-31).
How do we need to respond?
John underscored our need to receive Jesus in order to be granted the right to become God’s people. In John 1:12 he summarized this positive response toward Jesus as our need to “believe in his name.” John claimed his reason for writing about Jesus and his miracles was, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Within his Gospel account, John unpacked more details about this faith response causing people to become God’s people. He related how Jesus during his ministry had taught that in order for people to become God’s children and thus enter into the kingdom of God, they must be born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). However, what does this mean?
In scriptural narratives where people favorably respond to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we discover that sometimes their response is condensed as: “became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7) or “turning to the Lord” (Acts 9:35). At other times their reliance upon Christ is summarized as “believe in the Lord” or “believe” (Acts 9:42; 10:43; 4:4; 17:34).
In fact, when speaking with those who knew nothing about the Lord, such as the Philippian jailer, Peter found it helpful to encapsulate the necessary faith response as, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30). Then Peter would proceed to explain the good news about Jesus and relate in more detail about relying upon Christ. Sometimes people would respond favorably, such as the jailer: “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. … he was baptized at once, he and all his family. … And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:32,33,34).
Thus, as we dig deeper into those narratives where the stories of conversion offer us more than summary statements, we learn people rely upon Jesus by believing in him and being baptized (Acts 16:14-15; 18:8). Baptism is a faith response.
If we are ready to commit to changing our lives toward living for God (repent) and we believe Christ died for us and rose again, we are instructed to call upon the Lord to save us by being baptized so that our sins can be forgiven (Acts 2:37-38; 22:16). This is how people respond to the good news Jesus brings (Acts 8:12, 35-38; 10:48).
If we believe the story about Jesus Christ is true, we are warned to save ourselves by obediently relying upon Jesus (Acts 2:40; 10:42-43).
The danger of ignoring Jesus
Two true ideas when considered together reveal just how dangerous it is to ignore Jesus. First, there is a day when all of us will be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). The evidence of the resurrection points to the reliability that a day of judgment is coming (Acts 17:31).
Second, since this judgment will be fair in handing out what we deserve, we have a huge problem because all of us have sinned thus deserving condemnation (Romans 2:5-6,16; 3:23; 6:23). Thus, if we ignore our one source of salvation, we will suffer God’s judgment (John 14:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). Just as we respect what is dangerous, Jesus said we should fear God (Luke 12:5).
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