It amazes me when I try to understand how God saves us. From our viewpoint, we find Jesus and ask him to be our Savior. But I've discovered that, really, Jesus finds us. When we read or hear testimonies of others we often get a summary and the climax of their story. That's also true in the New Testament accounts; God is always consistent.
The dramatic account of Saul's conversion in Acts 9:3-6 provides a picture of how God saves us. We don't know all the details, but I believe that God was drawing this Pharisee to himself before and during his rebellion against him. His work is unseen, but powerful. Every Christian Saul brought by force to Jerusalem may have been a witness to him, even though he rejected it. But we know that Saul witnessed Stephen's death by stoning, and saw Stephen glorify God by forgiving his enemies before he died.
Saul later both saw and heard the risen, glorified Son of God on the Damascus road while blinded by a light from heaven.1 He had to have seen a vision of Jesus in his mind as he lay on the ground, his eyes shut.2 Jesus's words convicted and astonished him. He found that instead of serving God he had been persecuting him. Then Saul turned to Jesus immediately. He asked the Lord what he wanted him to do.
Jesus shared with us about how people become believers. In John 5:24, he said that they first hear the Word of God, and then they believe on God who sent him.3 They will never be condemned. Like a butterfly escaping it's tight cocoon, these have passed from death to new life, eternal life that can only come from God.
His sheep hear his voice. They trust the voice of their Shepherd and follow him.4 When we hear his voice, it means we understand the truth when we hear it; the truth of our need and of Jesus. God knows his sheep. He uses his Word to work in our our hearts and draw us to faith. I don't understand how God does this, but I do know that his Word is powerful and it inspires faith. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17). Then we are saved as we come to Jesus as Savior.
Jesus said that “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” (John 6:37). God, the Father of all, gives to Jesus all who will come to him. The apostle Paul echoed this truth and expanded it in Ephesians 1:5. All of us who belong to Jesus were given to him by the Father,5 and were predestined to become his adopted children. Here's a glimpse of God's view. We are a gift to him and deeply loved. He will never reject his children.
Children of the Father are also those who see the Son and believe on him. They will have eternal life and Jesus will raise him from the dead 6. To really see Jesus, we need to be open to believing the spiritual truths about him, the truth God has revealed. Then we have faith and believe on him. We gain everlasting life. In Isaiah 45:22 God says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Eternal life begins with salvation when we become spiritually alive. We are able to know God and grow in a relationship with him. And Jesus promised once more to raise us on the last day, a comforting promise that life will overcome death.
I found an interesting Old Testament account about looking to God and finding life. In Numbers 21:8,9, God had sent “fiery” snakes to the people of Israel to judge them for their unbelief. After many had died, the people admitted they had sinned. Then God told Moses to make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole. Those who had been bitten who looked to the serpent would live. We have all been saved from death, eternal death. Jesus predicted his own death for us when he referred to this event. Evil and sin, represented by the serpent, would be nailed to the cross with him. He said, “and if I, even I, am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself,” (John 3:14).
Jesus told us that no one comes to the Father unless God draws him.7 Without this, none of us could come to him. We don't seek God.8 What really happens is that God seeks us. It's the beautiful mystery of God's grace; he lovingly works in us, making us long to come to him. He repeated his assurance that he will resurrect his children. He will take care of us until the end and take us to heaven. Jesus' repetition helps to impress the truth on our minds, and it's a soothing reminder of just how much God loves us.
I know that God drew me to himself. There wasn't much Christian influence in my life. And since I didn't attend church while growing up, God brought the truth to me through radio. I was lonely, unable to find what I needed until I discovered Christian radio programs. Bible truth was in the hymns I heard, and they drew me. And on one radio program I heard the gospel; I soon repented and believed in Jesus, and knew his peace.
Some people don't need to repent to find God's peace in salvation, because they already know they need someone to help them. They just don't know who. People like the Philippian jailer,9 whom Paul and Silas witnessed to, only needed to be taught about Jesus. God knows what we need, and provides the truth in a way we can understand. When we repent we turn from our sins to God and want to live for him. Paul repented instantly when he saw our risen Lord. He later called himself the least of the apostles because he had persecuted the church.10 This shows that he had mourned his sins. He had changed. Jesus had humbled him and saved him by his grace.
God tells us that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8). We can't boast of anything we've done to become his child. When God saves us, even our faith is a gift!
Jesus did it all. I'm in awe of his grace. How lovingly Jesus shared the truth with us so we can trust him!