“With the heart one believes unto righteousness.” Ro 10:10 NKJV
To be “saved” you must put your trust in Christ, and nothing else. You say, “But what if I clean up my act?” No, there are people who live better by accident than you do on purpose. Our distinction as Christians is that we have placed our trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and nothing else. Paul lays it clearly on the line: “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” (vv. 9-10 NKJV). Salvation is the result of what you believe in your heart about the finished work of Christ, and what you confess with your lips. Those two elements, believing and confessing, bring you into a state of “righteousness” in the eyes of God.
Have you ever gone to a grocery store with a coupon cut out from a newspaper? You want a bag of flour or sugar, but you’ve no money. Yet they give it to you. Why? Because with the coupon, they give you credit as though you had the money. Getting the idea? You have no righteousness to bring before God in exchange for salvation, but He has set up a coupon system called redemption and said, “Once you place your trust in Christ, I will view you as righteous from that moment on.” The word “righteous” simply means “to be in right standing with God.” What a way to live! What a well of joy! What a source of confidence!
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