“I am going to ask you to give your heart and life to Jesus Christ right now.” How many people, for how many years, in how many countries around the world, heard Billy Graham say these words during his decades of Crusade ministry? At his invitation, and the prodding of the Holy Spirit, scores of people would leave their seats and go down to the front of the arena and give their hearts and lives to Jesus.
There are various ways to describe what happened during those moments and at any time someone accepts Christ. While salvation is accomplished only through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible uses words like faith, repentance, gift, believe, confess, call and receive to describe this transformation. All of these words answer Jesus’ call to Nicodemus in John 3:7: “You must be born again.”
Consider the word believe, which we see in John 3:16. Interestingly, it comes from the Latin root word cred, from which we would get our understanding of “giving credence to someone or something said.” Basically, it means the person who receives something said or given accepts it without cause for question. When Jesus invites us to believe in Him, He invites us to simply trust who He is and what He has done for us. So, it follows that the word faith or trust is the active ingredient of our belief in Christ. Salvation comes when the sinner recognizes his sin, confesses it to God and turns away from it, and puts his trust in Jesus as Savior.
The Holy Spirit exclusively does the work of conviction (John 16:8) and thus draws us toward placing our faith and trust in Jesus. This is why, when writing to the Roman believers, Paul said “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Furthermore, the words faith and trust are inextricably intertwined into the whole meaning and application of salvation. Salvation is God’s gift to sinful man, made possible only because of Jesus, received by faith and trust, and granted through God’s sovereign grace in the past, at the present, and for the future.
Salvation past affirms Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in Jerusalem, which was the fulfillment of the eternal fact of God’s foreknowledge in that, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Salvation present is the very avenue by which all sinners acknowledge their sin to Jesus (confession), turn from their sin (repentance), and believe (trust) that God raised Jesus from the dead. Salvation future is God’s guarantee of being able to live out the Christian life, despite being trapped in human flesh. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In addition to our earthly salvation being guaranteed by God’s gift of grace, our eternal salvation is also guaranteed because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is why Paul was able to say, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
The bottom line is that “God loves you and you and you,” as Mr. Graham often said in his Crusades. He just said what is correct according to the Word of God. He himself believed God. He confessed his sin. He placed his faith and trust, without reservation, in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. God saved him. And now he is with Jesus forever. And so shall all be who have trusted in Jesus’ Name and received salvation. ©2022 Don Wilton
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Don Wilton served for 30 years as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and for 17 years as president of The Encouraging Word television ministry. For many years, he served as Billy Graham’s pastor.
Photo: Russ Busby/©1967 BGEA