How does a person get right with God?

A lot of people think that there are many different answers to that question.  Many think that as long as you act in a way that’s consistent with your particular system of beliefs, then God will accept you.

Other people think that all it takes to become right with God is to be a good person.  Try to live a decent life, make sure not to harm anyone, and do the occasional good deed.  There are still others who think it’s impossible to know whether you’re right with God.

Who Makes the Call?

Ideas about this topic are like spectators at a baseball game.  Everyone may have their own opinion on whether a pitch is a ball or a strike, but there’s only one opinion in that stadium that matters.  That’s the opinion of the umpire.  He alone gets to make the call.

It works the same way with God.  People may have different ideas about how to get right with Him, but if our ideas don’t match what He says, then our ideas are wrong.  We don’t set the terms—He does.

What Is God’s Response?

Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what God has to say about the subject.  He has stated in very clear terms how a person can establish and develop a relationship with Him–how a person can know with certainty that they’re on their way to heaven.  God’s answer is found in the pages of the Bible.

The Bible is God Word.  It’s His revelation to humanity of who He is, what He’s like, and how He relates to us.  And the Bible is pretty straightforward about the realities of our situation.  It tells us some pretty disturbing things about ourselves and about our ability to please God.  But it can help us if we’ll be willing to listen and respond in the appropriate way.

Who Is God?

If we’re going to be right with God, we first need to understand who He is.  Scripture tells us that He is the Creator.  Genesis chapter 1 explains that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  He also “created man in His own image.”  Because He created us we are accountable to Him.  We have a responsibility to please Him.

Scripture also tells us that God is Holy.  In fact, it tells us that “There is no one holy like the Lord.”  That means He is pristine in His purity.  He is completely separate from all that is impure or sinful.  He is absolutely perfect in all His ways.

We’ve Got a Problem

Now, that’s bad news for us because if God is holy, that means He can’t have anything to do with those who aren’t.  And Scripture states in unmistakable terms that we are not holy.  In fact, God’s Word regularly refers to us as sinners.

But what is “sin?”  If you study the original languages in which the Scriptures were written, you find out that sin literally means “missing the mark.”  In fact, the word was used to describe an archer who failed to hit his target.  And when we do things, or say things, or even think things that are inconsistent with God’s character, we miss the mark God’s perfection, of His holiness.  In short, we sin.

And the Scriptures tell us that everyone at some point has sinned.

Romans 3:23
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

All have sinned.  What’s more is that our sin separates us from the Lord.

Isaiah 59:2
Your sins have separated you from your God.  Your sins have hidden his face from you.”

It Gets Worse

Scripture paints a pretty grim picture of our ability to become right with God.  And unfortunately, the picture gets darker before it gets brighter because this separation from God has consequences.

Romans 6:23
The wages of sin is death.

God can’t just pretend that our sin doesn’t exist.  He can’t just ignore it.  When we sin, we violate His standards, and if He were to ignore that, He wouldn’t be a very just God.  There is a penalty for our sins, and that penalty must be paid.

God’s Answer

Here’s where the good news comes in.  God gives us a choice.  We can either pay for our sins personally by spending eternity separated from Him in a very real place called Hell, or we can accept God’s offer to pay the penalty for us.

And you say, “What?  Why would God do that?  How could God do that?”

Scripture tells us that at the right time, God sent His Son Jesus–who had existed before creation of the universe–to take on human flesh, to be born in the likeness of men, to live a perfect, sinless life, and to die in our place.

1 Peter 3:18
[Christ] died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.

Jesus endured the punishment that we deserve.  He paid for our sins by His death.  That’s what makes reconciliation with God possible.

2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

But when Jesus died, He didn’t remain in the grave.  He was raised to life just as the Scriptures had promised.  1 Corinthians 15 tells us that after His resurrection, He appeared to his disciples and to more than five-hundred of His followers.

His resurrection is proof that God accepted His sacrifice.  By His resurrection, we know that we too can have eternal life.  But we must be willing to accept what He has done for us.

Only those who personally place their faith in Jesus, trusting Him to forgive them of their sins, can benefit from what He has done.

John 3:16
God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It’s Not Up to You

There’s one more thing you need to understand about all this.  God’s offer of forgiveness is a gift.  It’s not something we deserve.  It’s not something we can earn.  We can never do enough good to somehow prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

Ephesians 2:8-9
By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no man may boast.

Jesus’ payment for sins was complete.  And nothing we do can either add to or detract from the sufficiency of His sacrifice.  All we can do is respond in faith.

Responding in Faith

So, what does a person have to do to place their faith in Jesus?  The answer is really very simple:  just tell Him.

Just tell Jesus that you know that your sins have separated you from God, that you know you have violated God’s standards, and that you agree with what the Scriptures say, that you deserve to be separated from God.

Then, tell Him you believe that He is able to forgive you of your sins because of the payment He has already made through His death.  Ask Him to be your Savior and Lord and to grant you eternal life.

If you do that, the Scriptures tell us you can be assured that God will answer your prayer.  Romans 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  That’s God’s promise.

Get It Settled

If you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to be your Savior, I want to challenge you:  don’t let another day go by without doing that.  Don’t spend another day separated from God.

He may be doing a work in your heart right now, but you need to know that He’s not obligated to continue working to the same degree tomorrow that He is today.  I encourage you to place faith in Him before this day is over.

If you have questions about any of this, talk to a pastor or someone you know to be a follower of Jesus.  Don’t let anything stand in the way of your making the most important decision of your life.  God has provided a way for us to become right with Him.  All we need to do is believe.

Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.