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What do I have to do to be right with God?

If you're asking this question, you have already taken the first step toward being right with God. James 4:8–10 says, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you" (CSB). It is challenging to admit that you need God to be right. Not many people are willing to do it (Matt 7:13). However, humble submission to the will of God is the only way to be right with Him.

Believe in Jesus

Humble submission to the Almighty God of heaven must be through belief in Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. Romans 3:21–24 says, "But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Jesus makes us right, and He shows us how to live right. He is the way that God chose to have a relationship with mankind. At the same time, Jesus' life on this earth is God's righteousness on display. So, it only makes sense that if we want to be right with God, then we should turn our faith toward Jesus and His teachings.

Believing in Jesus means that we trust in Him and learn from Him. One time, even John the Baptist, a prophet during the time of Jesus, expressed some uncertainty. Jesus sent a message back to him saying, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me” (Matt 11:4–5). In the same setting, Jesus would go on to say, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28–30). If we want to be right with God, then we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Even when life gets difficult, we look to Him for comfort and guidance. He was the great physician on this earth, and even now, He is the great physician for our souls.

Believing in Jesus requires that we believe in His resurrection from the dead. After early reports began to circulate that Jesus had risen from the dead, many of His closest followers refused to believe. Then when He finally appeared to many of them at once, He rebuked them for their hard hearts and lack of belief (Mark 16:14). To one of His disciples He said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). Our belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is fundamental to our faith because He has promised to raise us from the dead when He comes back again. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” On the final day of this earth, Jesus will return and raise from the dead those who faithfully believed in Him (1 Thess 4:16). All of these believers will go on to live with Him in the paradise of God forever (Rev 2:7). Believing in the resurrection of Jesus translates into real hope and encouragement for Christians in this life and eternity after.

However, we must realize that belief in Jesus is more than just an understanding and acknowledgement of these facts. In John 8, Jesus was speaking to those who had believed in Him (8:31). However, when Jesus implicated those same believers of being slaves to sin, they quickly changed their attitude and began disputing with Him (8:33ff). When Jesus made Himself out to be God in the flesh, they picked up stones to kill Him (8:59). This exchange shows us that it is possible to have a shallow belief in Jesus without commitment. Some people want to accept the good things from Jesus, but they do not want to humbly accept His direction for their lives. Jesus does not accept followers willing to remain in sin. We must obey Him as our master. We must be willing to lay down our lives for Him (Mark 8:32–34). We must even be willing to openly confess faith in Him to others and publicly praise His name when we are faced with ridicule from others (Matthew 10:28–33; John 12:42). The kind of belief that God requires from us is no less than life-long faithfulness to Jesus and His teachings. Being right with God involves a deep-rooted faith that permeates all our thoughts and actions, and it overflows in outward expression. Christian belief is reflected by a new lifestyle.

Change Your Mind (Repentance)

Being right with God does not mean that we are going to always be perfect. But it does mean that we're going to try. Without this dedication to living according to God's expectations, we cannot be righteous. Acts 17:30–31 says, “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” The word "repent" means to "change your mind." It is kind of like the word metamorphosis. Except where a caterpillar changes its form in the cocoon to become a beautiful butterfly, the new Christian commits to burying his old life deep in a grave, transforming his mind, and coming out to walk with a new life dedicated to God (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). The transformed mind even leads to good actions and decisions that can be noticed by others. Through our repentance, with God’s help, our lives will begin to reflect Jesus.

Cleanse Your Soul (Baptism)

Finally, we must realize that no matter how faithful we are to Jesus and His moral teachings in our lives, and no matter how much we may have changed our lives for Him, if God has not cleansed our souls, then we are still guilty before Him. Any one sin makes us condemnable before God. Therefore, we need our sins wiped away. Baptism, or being immersed in water, is a necessary part of having our sins washed away. 1 Peter 3:21 says, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” In the Bible, baptism occurs when a person is immersed by another Christian into water. It is at this point that the new believer has their sins perpetually forgiven by Jesus and now has fellowship with God in righteousness. Acts 2:38–39 says, "Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’” Once we have believed, repented, publicly confessed and have been baptized, we need to stay committed to Jesus and His teachings. We may not always be perfect, but we should strive to be like Jesus. As long as we remain faithful, we can have the promise of being right before God!


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