In order to get “right” with God, we must first understand what is “wrong”—sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).
The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us salvation. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging your sin. Next comes a humble confession of your sin to God (Isaiah 57:15) and a determination to forsake the sin. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).
This repentance must be accompanied by faith—specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be your Savior. “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” (Romans 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith, such as John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.
Being right with God is a matter of your response to what God has done on your behalf. He sent the Savior, He provided the sacrifice to take away your sin (John 1:29), and He offers you a promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).
The parable of the prodigal son is a beautiful illustration of repentance and forgiveness (Luke 15:11–32). The younger son wasted his father’s gift in shameful sin (verse 13). When he acknowledged his wrongdoing, he decided to return home (verse 18). He assumed he would no longer be considered a son (verse 19), but he was wrong. The father loved the returned rebel as much as ever (verse 20). All was forgiven, and a celebration ensued (verse 24). God is good to keep His promises, including the promise to forgive. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
If you want to get right with God, you can begin with this sample prayer. (Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and to thank Him for providing for your salvation.)
“God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
S. Michael Houdmann, Questions about God, (Westbow Press: Bloomington, IN), 2014.