In the previous articles/broadcasts I’ve talked a lot about how Jesus Christ has changed my life for the better. I’ve encouraged those listening to consider following Jesus as well; to put your faith in him. Maybe you’re still not clear as to exactly what salvation is or what it means to put your faith in Jesus. So today I’d like to explore these in more depth.
What is salvation?
1. Salvation means I’m saved from all that’s evil
We live in a messed up world. Can we agree on that?
Our planet, for all its good moments, is still riddled with conflict and pain. We all suffer. Then we die. This is the result of sin – not just the other guy’s sin, but our sin too. We’re all tainted by this spiritual ugliness (Rom. 3:23). Jesus came to save us from this sin and its catastrophic effects.
He came to remove the penalty of sin. When we’re saved
God forgives our sin and we no longer face the punishment of Hell. He came to remove the power of sin. When we’re saved we’re given spiritual resources to live a holy life. And He came to remove the presence of sin. One day, in Heaven, all sin will be purged and everyone will be able to live pure and holy lives. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
2. Salvation means that I receive a new heart
Did you know that all of us desperately need a heart transplant? Before we’re saved each of us is strongly influenced by an ugly part of ourselves called the sin nature (Rom. 8:7). After we’re saved God not only forgives us, He also gives us a new heart (2 Cor. 5:17). Unlike our sin nature, this new heart is sympathetic towards God. It wants to know God and desires to please Him.
3. Salvation means that the Holy Spirit comes to live inside me
This may sound odd, but God Himself comes to live in those who experience salvation (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit does an odd dance with us. He’s not overly controlling, like a puppet-master. But, without overpowering us, he influences and strengthens us. When his influence is unhindered we’re said to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
4. Salvation means that God continues to transform me
Just because we receive a new heart when we’re saved doesn’t mean that our old sinful tendencies automatically melt away. We still experience some of the same struggles that we had before. The difference is that now, with the Spirit’s help, we have power to overcome our sinful instincts. It’s a slow process, but over time the Spirit transforms us (Rom. 12:2). We become more like Jesus; more loving, more kind, and more holy. One day, in Heaven, this process will be finished and our sinful tendencies will completely disappear (Jude 1:24,25).
What has to happen for me to become saved?
Salvation is a somewhat mysterious processand Christians love to debate exactly how it comes about – how much God does and how much we ourselves do. There are some basics though, that we do agree on.
1. My eyes are opened and I realize that I’m in spiritual trouble
Some folks never figure this out. They may say, “Look, I know that I’m not perfect, but I still think I’m a good person – good enough anyway.” The salvation process begins when we realize that this isn’t true. We’re not basically good people. We’re sinners deeply contaminated by sin. We fall far short of even our own moral standards, not to mention those of God. This stunning realization can drive us in multiple directions. One is that we deny or ignore our sinfulness. Another is that we set about trying to reform ourselves. “I’ll just have to try harder,” we vow. The third response is the only one that leads to salvation. That’s our next step:
2. Igive up and turn to God for help
This is a huge advance in self-awareness. We finally realize that our problem is too big to fix by ourselves. We’ve tried and failed over and over. Our sin is too stubborn and runs too deeply. So we begin to talk with God about it: “God, what can I do about my messed up life? How can you and I get on the same page?”
The good news is that God’s face lights up when he hears those sorts of questions. He’s been waiting to have this conversation with us. There are answers, if we’re willing to look in the right place. The right place is in God’s ancient love letter. We call it the Bible.
3. I gain an understanding, through the Bible, of the salvation that Jesus offers
This is a crucial step. The way of salvation involves understanding specific truths about ourselves and God. That truth is found in the Bible. To be honest, the good news about salvation, through Jesus is a sort of odd, unexpected story; one that you and I, by ourselves, would have never thought up. Because we were hopelessly ruined by sin, God sent his Son Jesus to earth to fix our problem. Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying the price for our sin. We can receive forgiveness by repenting of our sin and believing in Jesus and his work on the cross. Salvation is a totally free gift; nothing that we could ever earn.
4. I choose to believe what the Bible teaches about salvation through Jesus
Open-mindedness opens the door to a fair consideration of the Bible’s teaching about salvation, but open-mindedness will only take you so far. In order for God’s plan for salvation to do any good, at some point you’ve got to decide to believe it. If you’re not ready to believe, then your journey toward salvation has hit a roadblock. That’s not unusual, though. Many thoughtful people have come to this intersection and slowed down, wondering if they really can believe all this Jesus stuff. This is, after all, a rather incredible story. There are good reasons, however, to take it seriously – both historical and spiritual. If you come to the place where it now makes sense to you, where you’re willing to believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus, then you’re ready to take the last step:
5. I choose to put my full trust in Jesus to save me
Salvation is about more than just believing a few Bible facts. Salvation is about taking the next step and making those facts the foundation you build your life upon. You switch your trust from yourself and your good works, or from other people or other philosophies, to Jesus alone. You grab hold of him and hang on. Sometimes this choice happens unconsciously and people realize, one morning, that they somehow they’ve crossed the line and now trust in Jesus. For others it’s a more conscious decision, usually sealed by a prayer, in which they repent of their sins and ask Jesus to save them. It’s a life-transforming choice, one which I made many years ago. I’m still glad I did. What about you? Are you ready to believe in Jesus and put your trust in him for salvation? He eagerly waits for you, stretching out his arms of love. Will you step into them? If you’re not ready, will you at least keep an open heart and mind to Christ? Keep talking. Keep seeking. One day you may come around a corner and find Jesus waiting there for you after all.