Gospel Meditations: Francis Schaeffer, Believing
In his lasting work, The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer the Gospel hope of believing on Jesus Christ, and in particular how it is that a person may come to Jesus once and for all. In the following excerpt, albeit lengthy, Schaeffer provides his own thoughts on believing in Jesus and illustrates the Gospel hope by recounting John Bunyan's Christian pilgrim.
What does it mean to believe on, to cast oneself on, Christ? I would suggest there are four crucial aspects. More detail could be considered, but these are crucial. They are not slogans to be repeated by rote and they do not have to be said in these words, but the individual must have come to a positive conclusion and affirmation concerning them, if he is to believe in the biblical sense.
1. Do you believe that God exists and that He is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God - remembering that we are not talk of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there? 2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God - remembering that we are not talking about guilt-feelings, but true moral guilt? 3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time, in history, on the cross? And that when He died His substitutionary work of bearing God's punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete? 4. On the basis of God's promises in His written word, the Bible, do you cast yourself on Jesus Christ as your personal Savior - not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do?
But note with care that God’s promise, “He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life,” rests upon: God’s being there; Christ being the Second Person of the Trinity whose death therefore has infinite value; my not coming presumptuously in thinking I can save myself, but casting myself on the finished work of Christ and the written promises of God. My faith is simply the empty hands by which I accept God’s free gift.
John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress has Hopeful say it this way: “He [Faithful] bid me go to him and see. Then I said it was presumption. He said, no, for I was invited to come. Then he gave me a book of Jesus’ inditing, to encourage me the more freely to come; and he said concerning that book, that every jot and tittle thereof stood firmer than heaven and earth. Then I asked him further how I must make my supplication to him; and he said, Go and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all year long to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. I told him that I knew not what to say when I came; and he bid me say to this effect; God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon a poor sinner as I am–and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul through thy Son Jesus Christ.”
Bunyan says that Hopeful did not understand at once, but soon he did and said: “From all which, I gathered that I must look for righteousness in his person and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood; that what he did in obedience to his Father’s law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful.”
This is what “believing on the Lord Jesus” means. If a man has believed in this way, he has God’s promise that he is a Christian. *Francis Schaeffer, “Applying the Gospel,” The God Who is There from Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy, pg 147-148 (Crossway 1990)