One of my primary goals for this blog is “relating Christianity to today’s world.” So, no matter how effectively I might express my views about political or social issues as they relate to the, or how well I may explain a or doctrine, this site serves no purpose if people do not know the most basic principle of Christianity: a with by faith.
This brief article will explain the basics of salvation. If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or if you are unsure whether you will go to heaven or hell when you die, please read the following.
Our Need for Salvation
Many people believe that one goes to heaven because they were good in life. They assume that God will somehow measure our good deeds against our bad deeds, possibly grade us on some sort of curve known only to Him, and based on this grading system, either welcome us into heaven or cast us into hell. Of course, we usually figure hell is for people much worse than us: Hitler may be in hell, but I am not going there.
The only problem with that line of thinking is that the Bible says nobody is righteous! God’s Word says that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Based on God’s own assessment of human nature, if we were saved by our works, heaven would be a very lonely place, because all have sinned and deserve eternal death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The Provision for Our Need
Romans 6:23 must be one of the greatest verses in the entire Bible! While it acknowledges our need—showing that we cannot go to heaven based on our own works—it also tells us the solution to our problem: eternal life is available to us through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9 echoes this sentiment: “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one may boast.” We are unable to earn our own salvation, but God has offered us salvation as a gift.
This salvation is received only through Jesus: He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); I know, that sounds pretty exclusivistic and (some may say) intolerant. I have long since given up arguing with Jesus. If you do not like it, feel free to take it up with Him.
He saved us through His death on the cross. Many Bible verses show this, but I will point out just two of them: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18); and “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
Claiming our Provision
So, how do we receive that gift? It really is a matter of simple faith. Keep in mind that faith is NOT the same as mere belief or head-knowledge. In James 2:19, we read, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Satan, the demons, and many of their human followers know the Bible, or intellectually believe that certain statements about God are true. Yet, they do not have faith.
Faith is more than head knowledge. It is a matter of trust. Because I know Jesus, I realize that I can trust Him with my life. So, I seek to live by faith in Him.
Many evangelicals use the term “accepting Christ” or “being born again” (John 3:3) to describe the step of faith one takes to receive salvation. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Coming to Christ begins with repentance. Saint Peter would preach, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20). Keep in mind that repentance does not mean that one becomes perfect overnight. The Greek word for “repentance” is “metanoia,” which means simply “change of mind.” The Hebrew equivalent suggested a change of direction. Repentance simply means we admit to God that we are sinners and that some of our actions are sinful acts of rebellion against Him. It means that we decide to stop running away from God, and start following Him. Repentance is generally followed by a period of sanctification, during which God’s Holy Spirit guides you to transform your life (that would be the subject of a later study).
If you have acknowledged your sin, you are now able to welcome Jesus into your heart by faith. Saint Paul writes, “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. 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 10:9-10).
Although it is not mandatory for salvation, many Christians can point to a time when they said a “sinner’s prayer” to welcome Jesus into their hearts. There is no “official” or “biblical” sinner’s prayer, but many churches encourage one that encompasses all the basics of salvation: that you are a sinner; that you cannot save yourself; that Jesus died and rose again for your salvation; and that you now turn to Him and believe in Him. One possible sample prayer is the following:
“Dear Lord, I believe you are the Son of God and that you died on the cross and were raised from the dead. I know I have sinned and need forgiveness. I turn from my sins and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving me” [from “How to Accept Christ,” in Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988), pg. 1747].
If you believe Jesus died for your sins and have invited Him into your heart and life through this prayer, I encourage you to take the next steps in spiritual growth. John 1:12 says that we become “children of God.” We have entered His family and, just as if we were his newborn babies, we need to grow. That family is a vital part of your growth.
I encourage you to find a church that believes this message of salvation and will nurture y0u to grow in faith.
Also, buy a copy of the Bible and begin reading it. If you cannot afford a Bible, you may find several good versions online. BibleGateway.com and Crosswalk.com both offer free online Bibles, along with Bible reading plans to help get you started.
If you have questions, need advice about finding a church, or would like some guidance about Bibles or other Christian literature, you may contact me by commenting on this page. All comments on this blog are moderated, so I will read them before they show up online (so, you can send a question and ask me to keep it confidential, and I will respond to you via private email).
May God bless you richly as you walk with Him.