Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting down to the most basic of basics: salvation

Author's note: This is the beginning of a series blogging our way through the book. I invite commentary and feedback!

By grace you have been saved by faith...

Salvation. Faith. Grace. We hear these terms on a regular basis. But what do they really mean?

What is salvation? Is it “praying the prayer”? Does it come from doing good deeds? Is it believing what the Bible says? Is it producing the proper holy feeling inside (as C.S. Lewis mentioned in Surprised by Joy)?

Let’s look at one of the most popular salvation passages in the Bible: where Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, and where the famous John 3:16 passage is spoken.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

John 3:16-21

Normally, this is explained along these lines: “If you believe in Jesus, you get saved. If you don’t believe, you don’t get saved.” Your failure to believe buys you a death sentence.

But that actually isn’t what Jesus is saying at all. He begins by saying God sent His Son to save the world, not to judge or condemn it. That’s God’s true intention. This is a rescue effort to save those who are in trouble and who want to be saved. When the light appears, they move toward it, seeing that it’s for their own good. No matter how sinful, beat up, wounded, or worn out they are, when they see the light, they know that hope is here.

But there are some who like the darkness—who have taken advantage of it to steal and wound and kill. The last thing they want is light exposing their true malicious acts. They flee from the same light that draws those that want to be rescued.

So it isn’t a test to see if you believe the right things about Jesus, and it isn’t just that you believe in Jesus in the sense that you just assert your faith in Him. It’s that you trust Him enough to turn toward Him for His help—and then to live as He tells you to live. (Note that good deeds don’t buy salvation—we’ll be addressing that next time—but our life in Christ is supremely important.)

In our first post, we mentioned sorting out what matters and what doesn’t. This is the first, the foremost, the primary: salvation, being saved, being born again. This is the true essential of the Christian life. It is where and how we are born into eternal life. Salvation begins when you trust Jesus to do what He says He will do.

It’s the ultimate love affair—one of total trust, love, and loyalty. It’s the ultimate adventure—sparking an entirely new life, a new journey.

That’s where we’ll start off next time. I hope you’ll join me.

In Christ,

Pastor George