After Jesus had finished telling the parables of the kingdom in Matthew thirteen, He asked the disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” (Matthew 13.51). They answered, “Yes.” I find that answer amusing, since the parables of the kingdom have always been one of the most puzzling sections of the Word of God to most readers. Hardly anyone today would dare to say that he or she understands all these things. But the disciples thought they did. “Yes,” they said, as if the matter were not at all difficult.
Of course, their yes did not actually mean that they understood all that Jesus was teaching, only that they believed all they did understand and were prepared to act on it. That is not bad. In fact, that is what is required of all who hear the Gospel message.
Being a Christian is more than identifying yourself with a particular religion or affirming a certain value system. Being a Christian means you have embraced what the Bible says about God, mankind, and salvation.
“The Christian Gospel,” according to Tim Keller, “is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility & deep confidence at the same time.”
Holiness is the newness of the human heart that no longer finds sin and self more desirable than God and Goodness. Holiness is the condition of heart in which God is our greatest happiness. Being a Christian is about a life of walking in obedience to Christ. Sanctification is precisely6 the divine work by which we are weaned off pleasures of the world onto the pleasures of God.
Consider the following truths found in the Bible: First, God Is Sovereign Creator. Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him. The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1.3; Colossians 1.16). Therefore, He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103.19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.
Secondly, God Is Holy. God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6.3); therefore, He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1.13). God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1.16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
A third consideration found in the Bible states that mankind Is Sinful. According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (I Kings 8.46). That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own (Romans 3.10-12).
As a result of man’s sinfulness, there is a Penalty. As a matter of fact, sin demands a penalty. God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death (Ezekiel 18.4). That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior cannot solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences.
We must know fourthly that Jesus Is Lord and Savior. Romans 10.9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior who paid the penalty and died for sinners (I Peter 3.18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, and Christ’s perfect life satisfied the demands of God’s holiness (II Corinthians 5.21), thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3.26).
So, what is the Character of Saving Faith. True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin (Luke 13.3, 5; I Thessalonians 1.9) and pursue Christ (Matthew 11.28-30; John 17.3) and obedience to Him (I John 2.3). It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2.19), but they don’t love and obey Him. True saving faith always responds in obedience – transferring trust (Ephesians 2.10). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2.8-10).
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “They said to Him, ‘yes’. “Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13.51-52).
It is in that sense that I ask the same question of you now: Do you understand these things? No doubt there is much you do not understand, just as there is much I do not understand. But do you believe what you do understand, and are you prepared to act on your understanding and come to Jesus? Admit that you are a sinner, in rebellion against God, deserving his judgment. Believe that in spite of those facts God sent His Son to be your Savior. Then commit yourself to Jesus Christ, promising to follow Him as your Master, Lord, and Savior. The man who found the treasure and the merchant who discovered the pearl acted quickly. Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13.17). They that come to Him must believe that He is, and is a rewarder of those that seek Him.