Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Starting Your Own Relationship with Jesus

(Updated 3/12/20, to simplify it, add new stuff, and make it cleaner-looking.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.)

John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God so loved the world.  He didn’t just love the world; He so loved the world.  He so loved the world that He (Jesus) would die in our place before He would miss out on an eternal relationship with us.  He knew that we would disappoint Him and hurt Him and fail Him, but He still so wanted a relationship with us that He made a way.  He knew that there would be many, many people that would reject His gift of love and salvation, but an eternity spent with those who would choose Him was worth the price of dying on the cross.  That is some amazing love!

Let me ask you something: If you were to die today or if Jesus came back today, would you be ready?  Seriously.  This life as we know it isn't going to go on forever.  And we are not invincible.  People die every day, in every kind of way.  Are you ready to face eternity, whatever comes the moment after you take your last breath?  Have you figured out who Jesus is and why He matters so much?

Because this will be what matters most the moment after you die.  Actually, it's what matters most in this lifetime, too, because it greatly affects what happens the moment after you die.

[Okay, before we go on, let me give you the short version of this post ...

Ultimately, there are only two choices: God's Team and Not God's Team (not official names, just a good word-picture).  We are all on one team or the other; there is no other option or middle ground.  And we are all born on Not God's Team, separated from Him because of sin.  And if we do not make a conscious, deliberate decision to join God's Team - by repenting of our sins, accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, allowing His sacrificial death for all sins to pay the price for our own sins - we remain on and will eventually die on Not God's Team, separated from God forever.

We are born separated from God because of sin … and we will die separated from Him if we do not repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, accepting Him as our personal Lord and Savior.  By accepting His death in our place, we no longer owe the penalty for our sins, because we accept the payment He made on our behalf.  But if we reject His payment, then we are essentially choosing to pay the penalty ourselves, which is eternal death, eternal separation from God.  Hell!

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)

“… But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:5)

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out …” (Acts 3:19)

“That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9,13)

God is doing all He can to call us to Him, to warn us of hell, to reach down and pull us off of Not God's Team.  And His gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life is free and readily available to anyone who wants it. 

But the choice is ultimately ours ... to accept Him or reject Him.  To grab His hand or slap it away.  To let Jesus’s death pay the penalty for our sin or to pay it ourselves.  And we will get what we want in the end: An eternal life with Him or an eternal life without Him.  Heaven or hell.  It's our choice.

If you don't want to read this long post but already know you want to join God's Team - embracing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, accepting His death in your place, reaching out and grabbing God’s free gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life – then tell God this in prayer.  Use your own words, or something like this:

"God, I believe in You.  I confess that I am a sinner.  I believe that Jesus died for my sins so that I could be forgiven and have eternal life in heaven.  And I accept Your forgiveness right now.  Thank You for sending Jesus to die for me.  Thank You for Your forgiveness and Your free gift of eternal life.  I choose Jesus as my Lord and Savior right now and ask You to help me grow in faith and to live the rest of my days for You.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen" 

Say it out loud!  In prayer!  It doesn’t have to be fancy or long.  It just has to be real.  And welcome to the Family!]

Okay, now onto the long version ...

Let’s start with a question: What’s the difference between having a “relationship with Jesus” and “religion”? 

I believe that confusing these two things has prevented a lot of people from having the kind of relationship with Him that we were really meant to have.

So let me clearly say this: A relationship with Jesus is not the same thing as “religion.” 

Religion is when God has your mind, but a saving relationship with Jesus is when God has your heart. 

Religion is “Man’s efforts to get to God,” following all sorts of rules or traditions to try to score enough points with God, to be “good enough” that we earn our way into heaven.  But these are our attempts to get to God.  And they won’t work. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast Ephesians 2:8-9 (emphasis added).  Salvation, which is the “gift” in this verse (see this post), is God’s gift to us, and it can’t be earned with our good works.  Trying to earn salvation, to work our way to God, is “religion.”   

Biblical Christianity, however, is all about “God’s efforts to get to man.”  He made salvation possible by sending Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins.  He calls each of us to believe in Him.  He shows us enough of Himself in creation that we can all know He is real.  He has done all He can to show us the truth and draw us to Him.  A relationship with Him is only possible because He reaches out to us.  Because He made a way for us to get into heaven that isn’t left up to chance or our own efforts.  He has provided a sure way, instead of leaving us to wring our hands and wonder if we’ve been “good enough.” 

And all we have to do is believe.

“Good Enough” and “The Red Button”
You know, I have to ask:  What kind of God would allow something as important as the eternal home of our souls to be determined by a vague definition of “good enough”?  What kind of God would leave us to anxiously wonder if we made it into heaven or not, not knowing until we die?  I can’t think of a crueler cosmic joke.  That would not be a good, loving, trustworthy God.  And yet, for some reason, humans seem to want that.  We would rather try to work our way to heaven than to simply accept God’s sure, easy way.  Why is that?

I wonder if it has to do with two things: our desire to be our own “master,” and our need to be in control, to feel like we are doing something to get what we want. 

We don’t want to be accountable to God or to live for Someone Else.  We want to live for ourselves, to live the way we want, and yet still feel like we can get into heaven.  So “being good enough” sounds good enough to us.  Because then as long as we live as decent people and make sure the good outweighs the bad, we should be able to get into heaven without having to make Jesus our Lord.  Right?

And we like the idea of working our way to heaven with our good behavior because we feel like we are doing something, having some control over the results.  We don’t like to leave things up to other people, even God.  We think, It can’t be as simple as just making a decision and saying a prayer, can it?  It’s got to be more involved than that, right?  We’ve got to earn our way, don’t we? 

It would be like someone telling us that all we have to do is push a red button and then we will get eternal peace.  And we go, “That’s it?  Just push this red button and then we’ll have eternal peace?  That’s too easy!?!  It doesn’t seem right.  We have to do something to get eternal peace.  We have to work at it.  Not just push a button.”  And so we never do push the button because we just don’t believe it works that way.

Well, God did provide a red button, so to speak.  We cannot work our way to heaven or earn our way to heaven.  But if we will trust Him and just push the button, we can be sure that our eternal resting place will be with Him in heaven.  Because it’s not about being “good enough”; it’s about accepting what He’s already done for us and the gifts He’s made available to us.  It’s that simple!

All of history has been about God’s attempt to reach out to us.  And it will ultimately end with us getting what we want: an eternity with Him or an eternity without Him.

Adam and Eve and the Fall of Mankind
In the beginning, God created us because He wanted a close, genuine relationship with us.  And Adam and Eve had this with Him in the Garden of Eden.  And it could have remained that way if they had obeyed God’s one, simple command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God knew that if they did eat from it, they would introduce severe, heartbreaking consequences.  He wanted to spare them the knowledge of evil.  He wanted to spare them the consequences that come with evil.  And He wanted to be close to them.  And so that is why He clearly warned them not to do it.  But they did it anyway.

They chose to disobey, and they ate from the forbidden tree.  Now before this, they were unaware of evil.  They only knew good.  But by their sin, they became aware of evil and let it loose in the world.  And as a consequence, they introduced pain, disorder, and death into the human race.

[But why did God even allow the temptation in the first place, you may ask?  Because if people weren’t able to choose to disobey and reject God, then they wouldn’t be able to choose to obey and accept God.  And God doesn’t want robots who are forced to love Him.  He wants people who want to be with Him.  And in order for people to voluntarily love Him, He had to allow people to reject Him, to hate Him.  Isn’t that what we all want when it comes to love - to know that someone loves us because they want to, not because they have to?]

Death is part of the consequence of and punishment for mankind’s rebellion.  But it is also an act of mercy, in a way.  Because if mankind were allowed to eat from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, to gain eternal life after introducing evil into the world, we would forever be under the influence of and in the presence of evil, never again able to get back a perfect relationship with God or to enjoy life without evil’s influence.  And therefore, we would never really rest from pain.  But through our physical death, we have a chance to leave this sin-filled life behind us and to enter again into the kind of eternity that we were meant to have.  If we choose an eternity with God.

And that’s the most important truth we could share:  We choose where we spend eternity!  And we only have this lifetime to make that choice.  And as I said earlier, there are only two options: God’s Team and Not God’s Team.  (Not official names.)

Because of the fall, we are all born on Not God’s Team.  And we will stay there unless and until we deliberately choose to join God’s Team.  We cannot accidentally end up on God’s Team.  Nor do we end up there by default; it has to be a deliberate, conscious choice.  And we cannot earn our way onto God’s Team.  There is no mysterious “good enough” scoreboard in heaven, where we get in as long as the good outweighs the bad. 

When we stand before God, it will be “I chose Jesus as my Lord and Savior” or “I didn’t.”  It’s clear-cut and sure.  It’s that simple!

Of course, we can deliberately choose to stay on Not God’s Team if we want to, by refusing God and His offer of salvation.  And there are plenty of people who consciously reject Him and serve their own gods: nature, false gods, themselves, etc.  And that is their choice.

But I fear that far more people will end up in hell not by choice, but “accidentally.”  Because they ignored the truth about God and decided to not make a decision about Him.  And they thought that it would still be okay, that they would up in heaven by default because they didn’t deliberately reject God.  These are the people who say, “I hope I’ve been good enough to get into heaven” or “Sure, I’m spiritual; I believe in a God out there somewhere.”  But they ignore what the Bible says about the only way to salvation. 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed…. For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”  (Romans 2:5-8, emphasis is added)

Not making a choice about God is still not choosing God’s Team.  Not accepting the truth is still rejecting the truth.  And that automatically keeps us on Not God’s Team, the team we start out on and will die on if we don’t accept God’s way of getting off that team: repenting of our sins and believing in Him.

I think of life as a raging river headed towards deadly waterfalls (hell, eternal separation from God).  And we’re all floating down this river while we are alive on earth, headed to destruction, with no ability to get out of it on our own.  But all along the way, God reaches down His hand to try to pull us out.  He pleads with us to grab His hand.  He sends warnings about what’s up ahead.  He doesn’t want us to die in the waterfall. 

But … He won’t force us to heed the warnings or grab His hand.  He’s decided to give us the right to accept Him or reject Him.  He does all He can to save us, but He leaves the final choice up to us.  And if we refuse His hand and ignore His warnings, then we stay in the river and inevitably go over the waterfall and die.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:15) 

The choice is ours: Grab His hand or stay in the deadly river!

”But how could a loving God send people to hell?”
This question stops one of my brothers from believing in Him.  Because “How could God do that!?!”

But the truth is this: God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell.  He doesn’t threaten us with hell, as in “If you’re not good enough, you’re going to hell.”  As if we’re all on a big bus headed to heaven, but if we’re not “good enough” then He will kick us off and put us on the bus to hell.

No!  We’re all on a big bus to hell, and God is trying to get us all off that bus and onto the bus to heaven. 

God doesn’t threaten us with hell; He warns us of hell, as in “The bus you’re on is headed to hell!  Please, get off that bus and get on the bus to heaven, accepting the way of salvation I made possible for you.”

He wants all people to come to Him.  He waits patiently over the course of history for as many people as possible to come to Him, pursuing them for years and years.  And He doesn’t give up on us, because He wants us with Him in eternity.  He is far more concerned with where we’re going than where we’ve been, which is why He is so ready and willing to forgive (Forgiven by Crowder), no matter what we’ve done in our past.  If we will just come to Him as we are (Come As You Are by Crowder).

He doesn’t “send” us to hell ... but He does reluctantly allow us reject Him, which consequently leads to us staying on the path to hell.  (And as a matter of fact, according to Matthew 25:41, hell was created for Satan and the angels who rebelled against God.  It was not made for humans.  It's we humans who choose to follow Satan there by rejecting God and His free gift of salvation.)

“Where God’s Justice and Love Meet”
When Adam and Eve disobeyed, they introduced sin into mankind and the world.  And because God is holy, He cannot tolerate sin.  Because He is just, there had to be a penalty for disobedience.  He couldn’t just ignore it or excuse it.  There had to be a penalty.  We would expect any judge worth his position to demand justice and the payment of the penalty for crimes committed.  What would we think of a judge who turned a blind eye to someone who stole or murdered?  That wouldn’t be right, and the judges wouldn’t be trustworthy.  (And could you imagine the horrible condition society would be in if judges never punished anyone for the crimes they committed!)  There has to be a penalty that fits the crime.  This is what justice is.

Well, the penalty for mankind’s sin was separation from God and, at death, eternal separation.  Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden and separated from God’s presence.  And this “separation” is passed down to all of us because sin is in the human race.  We are all born on that path of separation, the path to hell.  And if we die while still on it, we will remain eternally separated from God.

But here’s the thing, none of our attempts to get off that path on our own will work.

That’s the bad news. 

But this is the good news: God made a way.  We can choose to get off that path of separation and into an eternal relationship with God (heaven) because of what He has already done for us.  Yes, God is holy and just (and so there has to be a penalty for sin), but God is also love.  And in His love, He couldn’t bear to have us separated from Him.  He so desires a relationship with us that He made a way for us to spend eternity with Him … by paying the penalty Himself (Secret Ambition by Michael W. Smith).

The payment required was death (a physical as well as “spiritual death,” an eternal life apart from Him).  And so Jesus (God the Son, who took on human flesh) came down here and died a physical death He didn’t deserve so that He could pay the price for our sins, so that we could trade in eternal death for eternal life.  This enormous act of love (Oh, What Love by City Harmonic) met the requirements of justice.  The price has been paid!  We don’t have to pay it on our own, unless we choose to by rejecting the payment Jesus made on our behalf.

The greatest question Jesus asks: “Who do you say I am?” 
And this is another crucial difference between religion/false religion and Christianity: Jesus Christ.  What we decide about Jesus Christ determines if we have religion/false religion or Biblical Christianity.

When it comes to religion (or a generalized spirituality), God can be anything to anyone.  He can be found in the trees, in Mother Nature, in unity, in music, etc.  He can be Buddha, the universe, a cow, or even ourselves.  He can be whatever the person wants Him to be.  And we can get to God in any number of ways: meditation, drugs, good works, giving money, being sincere in whatever faith we have, sex, etc. 

And that is what makes it “religion” or “false religion.”

“Religion” doesn’t have to acknowledge Jesus as God, Lord, and Savior.  “Religion” doesn’t have to claim that Jesus is the only way.  “Religion” doesn’t have to believe that we cannot work our way to heaven, no matter how good we are.  “Religion” can be whatever tickles our fancy or makes us feel good about ourselves, life, the universe, and the end.  What a mess!

I know people want to believe that all religions are right and that everyone goes to heaven as long as they were sincere in their faith. 

But the truth is that not all religions can be right, not when they all teach different things about who God is and how we get to heaven and what heaven is.

If each religion has a different map . . . written by different people . . . with different directions . . . to different places, they cannot all be essentially the same thing.  They can all be wrong, but they cannot all be right!  This “all religions are the same thing” idea is a very sweet-sounding, “love everybody,” naïve way to convince oneself that you don’t have to make a decision about it.  That no matter what you believe, it’ll all be okay.

But – like it or not - it does matter what you believe.  Tremendously!  Eternally!

“Religion” will not save.  It is only Jesus who saves.  And He doesn’t save just because He was “a good person, a good teacher.”  He saves because He is God.  Whatever you do, do not say that He was a “good, wise person” unless you also claim that He is God.  Because if He isn’t God, then He was either a liar (deliberately deceiving people into following Him and believing He was God) or He was a lunatic (mistakenly believing He himself was God). 

When deciding who Jesus was, you only have three options: liar, lunatic, or Lord.

(And don't think that Christianity is a "blind faith" where you have to suspend all reason and commonsense.  It's actually a very reasonable, fact-based faith, backed up by history and science.)

In Christianity, Jesus is God, and it is by His sacrificial death – and only by His sacrificial death - that we are saved.  Because Jesus wasn’t just another man.  He is part of the trilogy that makes up the one God of the Bible.  Jesus is God in the flesh, the Holy Spirit is God in spirit form, and then there is God the Father.  But they all-together make up God, the one and only God.  (It’s a mystery, I know, but this is the way it is.)

And because of Jesus’ death - because God paid the penalty that His justice demanded - we now have the option of going to heaven.  We can accept His payment on our behalf so that we can once again have a relationship with Him.  Or we can choose to pay the penalty ourselves by ignoring Jesus, by rejecting Him and His sacrificial death, thereby remaining on that path of separation that leads to hell.

But if we want spiritual life, the only option God has given is to allow Jesus’ death to pay the price for our sins.  And all it takes on our parts is a decision to believe that Jesus alone made the way for us.  It is choosing to make Him Lord and Savior of our lives (Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle). 

This is the “red button” that will bring us eternal peace. 

He has closed 99% of the gap between us and Him.  He has done 99% of the work to make salvation possible.  And all we have to do is turn toward Him, open our heart to Him, and believe (We Believe by Newsboys).  It's that simple and sure.

Romans 10:9 tells us what’s required to restore our relationship with God.  “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

And I have to say, that’s a wonderful opportunity!  Letting Jesus’ death do all the work of getting us into heaven.  And all we have to do is choose it, like accepting a gift.  How merciful!  It is so much easier than we make it out to be with our “good enough” scoreboard and our efforts to earn heaven.  (As a Christian, “being good and living right” isn’t something we do to get into heaven.  But it is how we will want to live after we accept Jesus, living out our thankfulness, our love, and our desire to honor Him.)

This life is not all there is.  And this life isn’t really about this life at all.  Our time on earth is our deciding ground.  It is the time for God to build His eternal kingdom, His eternal Family.  But the choice is ours.  We can reject Him.  We can ignore Him.  Or we can choose Him!  We can choose to believe (Manifesto by City Harmonic) that the Bible is true and that Jesus is who He says He is.  We can choose eternal life, because of what He has already done for us!

Not ready yet? 
Maybe you are not ready yet to accept Jesus as Lord.  Maybe you don’t really believe yet.  But maybe you want to believe, or you want to want to believe.  These are good, important steps.  He will meet you wherever you are at.  If you sincerely reach out to Him and open the door to Him - even a little bit - the truth will begin to be revealed to you.  And the more you seek, the more you find.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13)

But it has to be a sincere, genuine attempt to find Him.  If you are only pretending to look for Him, hoping you will find nothing, then you will get what you are looking for: Nothing! 

But if you really want to believe (or want to want to believe), then the best thing you can do is tell Him this.  Simply say out loud something like, “God, I don’t know if I really believe in You.  But I want to know if You are really there.  Please, show me if You are real.”  Pray this sincerely and often, and then keep your eyes open.  And when the desire to give up comes, push past it and pray this prayer again.  And then see what happens!  Keep your eyes open and you will begin to find Him.

“But I still have doubts!  How can I be a Christian?” you might be asking.  (Welcome to the club!)  The way I see it is that we can choose to believe in God and Jesus ... even with doubts.  In fact, the only way that we can believe in God and Jesus is while we still have doubts.  Because whether we admit it or not, we all have doubts and unanswered questions all the time, about different things.  (We are just more unaware of them when life is going well.)

This is why we have to step out in faith.  God says that faith is absolutely necessary.  If we wait until we have no doubts, we will never believe.  But we can choose, as an act of our wills, to accept that He is telling us the Truth in the Bible, even if we don’t totally understand everything yet. 

Faith isn’t saying, “Wow, I have all the answers about everything related to You and I am totally convinced!”  (Although that would be wonderful, of course.) 

Faith is saying, “God, I don’t understand everything.  But I will choose to take You at Your Word, even though I have doubts and questions.  Open my eyes and help me believe.”

(This section - about faith being a gift - was removed on 3/11/20, to get rid of the "Calvinist" sound it had, which I wrote before I studied up on Calvinism and its heresies.  For why I believe that "salvation, through faith, by grace" is the gift, and not just faith itself, see this post.)

God wants us to choose Him.  He wants us to accept Him.  And I believe He will help us find Him, if we want to find Him.  If we want to believe.  If our hearts are turned toward Him and we are looking for Him.  He isn't trying to hide from us.  He actually wants to be found! 

And so even if you have doubts, remember what the doubting, fearful father in Mark 9:24 cried out honestly, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  (I think this is one of the greatest, most vulnerable, most real prayers in the Bible.)

Our part is not to climb our way to heaven; it’s simply to reach up and grab the hand He’s reaching down to us, to accept His gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, turning our face toward Him and saying, “Okay, I choose You.  I want to believe.  Help me!  Give me faith!”  If we will just open the door to Him - honestly telling Him where we are in our level of faith and doubt, and asking Him to help - He will grow our faith, our understanding, and our belief in Him.

And as we walk with Him, we will learn to trust Him more and to believe in Him more.  And we will come to know that doubts and questions are a part of life and the Christian journey.  And when they come up, the best thing we can do is not feel bad about ourselves or doubt our faith, but to take those doubts to God in prayer and ask for His help.

Remember, our feelings follow our thoughts.  Our thoughts follow where our mind goes.  And our mind goes wherever we decide to let it go.  If you will choose to put your faith in (to set your mind on) the Bible and in God even though you don’t “feel it,” your feelings will eventually get in line.  And as you walk with God and dig deeper into His Word and watch Him work in your life, your faith in Him will be strengthened.  But it first takes a decision to believe, without waiting until all your doubts are gone.  Because that will never happen.

People who don’t want to find God won’t.  People who don’t want to believe in Him will not find “proof” of Him.  But people who do want to believe in Him will find Him, if they have the eyes to see and ears to hear, because He will help them.

God is doing all He can to reach out to us - through nature, through His Word, through Jesus coming here in the flesh, through knocking on the door of our hearts, through implanting within us a deep sense that Someone is out there.  But He leaves how we respond up to us.

People often say things like "If God's real, why doesn't He prove that He's real?" 

Well, He did ... it's called Creation.

"Oh, that's just evolution.  It's nature," they respond.  "If He's really real, why doesn't He send us a clear message, in black and white?" 

He did ... it's called the Bible.

"No, that was just written by men.  It's an interesting old book.  Nothing more.  But if He was really, really real, why doesn't He come down here and show Himself to us physically?  Then we'll believe!" 

He did ... and His name is Jesus.  And they still don't believe.

No one will be able to say, “But I didn’t know God was real.”  Because God says that we will not have any excuses when we stand before Him and He asks, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?”

Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

He will hold us all accountable for the choice we make (or don’t make).  And in the end, He will give us what we asked for.  If we ask Him to pay the penalty for our sins, He will do it.  (He already has!)  But if we ask to be left alone, He will allow it.  He won’t like it and it will grieve Him; but He allows it because He has given us the freedom to choose.

[Now, to put some people at ease, I do believe the Bible teaches that there is an age of accountability, an age when we are old enough to choose or reject Jesus’ sacrifice.  If a child dies before this age, they are under His grace and mercy and automatically end up with God in heaven for eternity ... because they never made it to the age where they became accountable for their choice.  But after that age (I have no idea what age that is, and it’s probably more like a “condition” than an actual number age), we are held accountable for the choice we make or don’t make.  But if you lost a baby or child, I believe that you can rest assured that they are already safe in His loving care and will be there to meet you when you get to heaven.  And this would also apply to mentally-handicapped people who never acquire the ability to make a conscious, deliberate decision about Jesus.  God does not hold people accountable for choices they are unable to make.  That would go against both His love and His justice.  See "Do Babies Go To Heaven If They Die?" and "Bible Verses that Support an Age of Accountability?"]

Making the Decision
If you want to express your belief in God, your decision to choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior, accepting His payment for your sin so that you don’t have to pay it yourself with eternal separation, it doesn’t take any real effort on your part.  It was all done by God already.  His forgiveness and grace are already available to all of us for the taking.  And all we have to do is accept them for the free gifts they are.  All it takes is a genuine desire to turn to God, opening up our hearts and hands in prayer, grabbing ahold of that amazing grace and forgiveness (Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew).

There is no magic formula for the prayer, but as I already said, if you “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.   For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved... ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  (Romans 10:9-10, 13)

If this is something that you want to do, here is a prayer that you can pray.  (Or use your own words, maybe something as simple as "God, I believe You.  I confess my sins to You right now.  And I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.")  It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be real.

Dear God,

I admit that I am a sinner and that I have been living life apart from You.  But I don’t want to do that anymore.  I want to spend eternity with You.  And so today, I am turning to You.  I am choosing to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I believe that He came here and died for my sins, and that He rose from the dead, proving that He is God.  I ask for forgiveness for my sins, and I choose today to make Him Lord of my life.  I open up my heart to You and ask You to fill it with Your Holy Spirit, so that I can live the rest of my life for You.  Thank You for Your sacrifice for me, and thank You that because of it, I can spend eternity with You.  In Jesus’s name, I pray.  Amen

If you chose to pray this, tell someone about it.  Telling others is an outward testimony about what has gone on in your heart and it helps to cement your decision to turn to God.  And so does getting baptized.  So tell someone, get baptized, and get a Bible and start reading.  And find a good, Bible-believing church so that you can grow alongside other believers.  (But don’t rely on them to tell you how to understand the Bible.  There are far too many wayward churches nowadays preaching lies and half-truths.  Learn God’s Word for yourself, deeply and thoroughly.)  And welcome to the Family!

[And if you are not a believer and didn't pray this prayer, what are you waiting for?  Are you so sure that God isn't real (God's Not Dead by Newsboys)?  That Jesus isn't coming back like He said (People, Get Ready  by Crystal Lewis)?  Are you sure enough to bet your eternal soul on it?  Don't wait too long.  Someday it will be too late (I Wish We'd All Been Ready).]