“The work of salvation, in its full sense, is about whole human beings, not merely souls; about the present, not simply the future; and about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”― N.T. Wright
Does The Modern Man Need Saving?
Saved of what? A bad relationship? A harmful habit? An illness? Too little money? Too much money? Savings-guilt?
When we look humanity, we do not seem to need saving from anything since prosperity and life expectancy are higher than ever before in history. People who have nothing are looking for a savior but people who are satiated with earthly comfort do not even think about it. The church is trying to convince the world that they need salvation from a whirlpool of immorality, humanistic and secular worldviews. The post-modern millennial generation wants to see social justice that focuses on earthly, physical care – often without considering spiritual care.
On the other hand, spiritually-oriented gatherings and meetings cannot ultimately meet people’s physical needs for according to the Barna Institute, as wealth grows, there is clear decrease in church attendance, evangelism and a lifestyle of devotion. Guilt-based sermons are avoided as they have little effect on seared consciences and pre-occupied lives leave little or no room for truth or spirituality. There is also a clear fallout and departure from formal religious institutions and power-control.
Does modern man need salvation? Sure yes, is the unequivocal answer! But the church will have to rethink how and what we proclaim as salvation! In other words, who are we preaching as salvation?
From a Pure Scriptural Perspective:
- Did Jesus Ever Appeal to People to Worship Him? No, He did not. His appeal over and over was: “Follow me.” (Matt. 4: 19; 8:22; 9: 9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21).
- Several people have received salvation without confessing their sin (the woman caught in adultery and the sinner on the cross), and even though confession is vitally important, God seeks something deeper than just lip-service. Many people apologize daily for the same sin and wrongdoing, without changing from the heart. The Bible speaks most of: “They came to faith.”
- The terms “accept Jesus” or “take Jesus into your heart” do not appear in the Bible.
Let Us Reason Together
See: Matt. 1:21; Luke 1: 69-75; 2:11, 28-30; Luke 19:10; Acts 13:23; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Pet. 1: 1; 3: 2, 18; Titus 1: 4; 3: 6.
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2: 2).
Jesus Is Salvation
Salvation and being saved are not a doctrine or a collection of formulas. Do you know Jesus? Do you follow Him? Are you a child of God? Are you born again? These are qualifying questions! People’s answers to these questions are mostly vague, and one sees the uncertainty in their eyes.
For salvation and being saved is a Person – JESUS!
The church nor your good works can save you and you cannot save yourself either! You can read all the self-help books and still be lost for to personally know Jesus is true salvation! The involuntary question, however, is: if almost half of the world’s population are so-called Christians, why is there such a great division in the church-world? Many say they believe in Jesus but many more so-called Christians’ lifestyles bear no image of the person of Jesus.
How Do You See Jesus? The Litmus Test Of Faith
The Litmus Test is a very old but well-known test to determine the alkaline quality of a substance so that you can also determine the presence of acid, or not. Too much acid in the body has a destructive function – it can be likened to the presence of dead, religious practice without true life of Christ in the life of believers. The alkaline balance (life-giving faith in Jesus) in the body provides healing and strength to the individual and to the corporate body.
Do You Have God-First Focus? “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” (Num. 21: 8). Here, people only had to look at the serpent to receive healing. Our salvation is determined by the gift of focus on Jesus who was crucified, like they did in the wilderness to the cursed snake on the pole. Likewise today, human nature substitutes God’s provision, which is not born from a relational-focus on Jesus, but from cold-hearted, religious ritual. “He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.” (2 Kings 18:4).
Who Is Jesus To You Personally? “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 16: 15-17).
The sinner on the cross: “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43).
Paul thought he was doing the right thing. He sincerely believed he was eradicating the sect and glorifying God through it. And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 9:5).
The Samaritan woman at the tomb did not recognize Jesus. The woman said to Him, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26).
That is why Paul prays for the church: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph. 1:17).
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:37-40)
The famous Greek word used here is “μετανοέω” metanoéō. It means changing your position / outlook / thinking, taking a different direction. Like the famous CS Lewis who was at first an atheist, changed his outlook and view, and became one of the most sought-after Christian apologists. To repent assumes turning around, to totally reverse and come to a new insight, to arrive at a new reality that completely changes your current point of view. Repentance is in terms of becoming a child of God, but it is also a journey with Jesus where He brings us again and again to new and deeper insights of His person as we walk with Him on the path of Truth.
Get Right With God
Take note of how you walk: Since childhood, most people regress from pursuing or living for God. We become alienated from Him (Col. 1:12), and thus become increasingly timid or faithless to pray or draw near to God. Likewise in dying relationships, one begins to make all sorts of assumptions about the other person because we do not really know or have contact with the person. Later, some people go so far as to become God’s enemy. Their lifestyle and actions run counter to His will and plan for their lives. This self-destructive lifestyle and direction of human error ultimately ends in the place of death, without God, without peace, without true lasting inner happiness.
The Freedom to Choose life-paths: Some trust their intellect and reason, others their money and position, others their physical strength and abilities. To make amends with God is to walk back to the Father’s house like the prodigal son and surrender yourself to Him. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ (Luke 15: 17-19).
Believe in Jesus
The term for believing is most commonly used in the NT to explain how people get saved (Mark 16:16; John 2:23; 4:39, 41; 8:30; 11 : 45; 12:42; Acts 9:42; 11:21; 18: 8). They simply began to believe when they hear the preaching and testimony of the Gospel of Truth. “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Rom. 10: 9-11). They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?” (John 6: 28-30, The Bible, New Living Translation).
A professor visited me at a time. He was in his middle years and according to him, he had completely exhausted his intellect but still could not find peace. I asked him: “Do you believe that Jesus is a reality? A simple yes or no answer, not a discussion of ‘why’ and ‘why-nots’. ” He looked at me intently, his eyes watered with tears and he replied measuredly: “Yes, I believe Jesus is a reality.” At that moment, salvation came for the man. Later he would tell me that at that moment it became calm in him. He believes!
However, faith must later turn into works when we do what He commands us to do. Think of the woman who had just been caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Surely one can condemn her immediately! Jesus writes in the dust that he who is without sin must cast the first stone. Finally, when everyone was gone, He said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8: 3-11).
A theological explanation of the salvation of God working in us:
- Upon repentance, the onus rests on us to respond to the proclamation of the Word.
- Rebirth is a supernatural action that God works in us when He makes us His children (John 3: 5; 1 Pet. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:17).
- He does the work (Phil. 1:12) and produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit as our new character (Gal. 5: 21-22).
Spurgeon’s Analogy to know if you are reborn?
The pig-and-cat story:
The pig cannot be a cat. It is in his nature to be dirty. The cat, on the other hand, does not like to get dirty. Only God can change our nature. One of the first signs that I have become a child of God is that I no longer want to be dirty and do dirty things. My attitude towards clothing, language-use, racism and desires changes radically. I see the world in a very different light. His love overwhelms me with new boldness, generosity and caring for people.Charles Spurgeon
Peter’s second command was that the people should be baptized. “Be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.” This was an important commission for the early church. It is during baptism that public confession of faith is made.
When Paul found disciples in Ephesus, he asked them, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6: 3-4). They were then baptized again because they were baptized by the baptism of John. As with a marriage ceremony, the love between the fiancées is confirmed before witnesses. The baptismal ceremony is also a beautiful outward symbolic act of what happened internally to a person, namely a funeral
It is a pity when ministers make a call for Christ, they commonly ask people to, “raise your hand” – making the act of repentance a substitute for the act of baptism! Raising my hand is only a symbolic act of a decision made for Christ and it mostly costs one very little (especially when people are asked to close their eyes and not to look around). On the other hand, baptism is more “radical”, setting me up for potential persecution, questions and opposition with my public proclamation: “I no longer live, I believe in Christ, He raises me to a new life!”
Becoming a follower of Jesus implies denying, crucifying and laying down your will and agenda and live in obedience to Jesus. It is then precisely the I-man who has walked away from God. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matt. 16: 24-27).
Self-denying thoughts are central to our new life in Christ. It is important for the new believer and those who have not done so yet, to have a memorial, a moment in time to which one can refer back to as a reminder when the death to self occurred. You are dead (to self), you are no longer alive (Rom. 2:20). Our battle against sin is over, because we are no longer alive (Gal. 5:16, 24). This is our “reasonable religion” – we were given to Him as living holy sacrifices (Rom. 12: 1; Rom. 6:11).
Be Filled With The Holy Spirit
When Jesus leads the Samaritan woman to salvation, He shows her that He is the Fountain of living water, because if she drinks from Him, she will never thirst again. “...but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14). This is exactly what happens when you start believing in Jesus for He becomes a fountain of wisdom, truth, direction, and new values by which you live (Jer. 31: 31-34). The Word of God is unlocked to your understanding and you begin to comprehend what you are reading. The Word comes alive and works in you so that you not only can hear it, but also apply it in your life.
A few chapters further in John 7 Jesus makes the following announcement: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7: 38-40). At salvation, when you have come to faith, the Lord unlocks your “inner fountain”, but when He fills you with the Holy Spirit, the fountain becomes streams of living water flowing out of you to others.
The filling of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that accompany it, is a divine empowerment to be His witness (Acts 8:1). All the gifts are aimed at ministry, building up and establishing God’s people. Like Jesus, you become an instrument in God’s hand to convince people of the truth (John 18:37).
During his ministry, John the Baptist made the following statement about Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1: 8). The term has never been used in the Bible. No one would understand what he meant by this. Jesus again makes the remark at His ascension: “…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1: 5).
The next chapter tells in detail about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4). It was not a one-time outpouring just for the first believers. Later they were touched again in the same way. “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. ” (Acts 4:31).
Later, Peter would be led by a vision to include the Gentiles in God’s Good News message. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” (Acts 10:44). Being filled with the Holy Spirit was a condition of service in the congregation. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” (Acts 6: 3).
All of us want to have a good time and life, and some find this fun time in different kinds of alcohol. Paul asks that we not become drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). A nice time without a “hang-over”! As one can become drunk with wine (filled with wine), our being can also be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes one more bold and “confident”. One loses inhibitions and is no longer ashamed to testify or pray in front of people.
Some people’s encounter with God is dramatic, such as Paul seeing light and falling off his horse (Acts 9: 3-9). Not every person’s experience is so dramatic, but somewhere in the process of being saved and becoming a child of God, there must be a significant experience with God. The Holy Spirit is also the One who seals and confirms your childhood. “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 1:22).
Have Faith Certainty
So many people want to be right first and stop doing wrong deeds, which they know God does not like, before they come and fix it. So they procrastinate and never give up.
Other people work hard to live right and do right so that their works will be acceptable to God. They compare themselves with other so-called believers and judge that they also do not always do right. In the end, they can never say and acknowledge “I am a child of God”. They do not feel worthy! They still sin too much. “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
We are all seekers of peace and happiness, and inner contentment. We are also seeking for what is right, what is the right thing to do or say. After all, we want justice in business and service delivery. However, the righteousness of man is in contrast to God’s righteousness. The biggest criminal justifies his/her actions in one way or the other and the adulterer justifies his/her betrayal by putting the blame on the spouse.
Jesus tells several stories of people who were seekers: the man who found the pearl of great value (Matt. 13: 45-46); the woman who sought the lost coin (Luke 15: 8); the man who found a great treasure on a land (Matt. 13:44). ” Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6).
What Is The Kingdom of God?
Jesus begins His preaching with this message: “…repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17).
The kingdom of God speaks of His rule, His will, His order and His world. Isn’t that the cry of so many people in these times of evil? We long and desire for a perfect kingdom, yet only found in God’s world! Some consider suicide just because this world has become so dark and impossible for them, yet, what transcends all understanding is how so many seemingly successful, famous and even award-winning people commit suicide. It is thus clear that the battle is not necessarily physical, but in one’s world of thought.
Some people get it right to be content and happy. Others never get enough and are constantly looking for even more. “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). Here the kingdom is beautifully explained: The kingdom is not what you put into the body from without, but what comes from within you. Justice – to be right with God. Peace – not the absence of conflict, but the ability to be calm and content in the midst of conflict. Joy in the Holy Spirit – the contagious, bubbling fountain of constant awareness of God’s presence.
How Do You Know Your Are Right With God?
Three experiences are proof that you are right with God: Repentance, baptism, filling with the Holy Spirit. The secret is the gift of righteousness! “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isa. 53:11). It’s a treasure that has been discovered! Like someone who won the Lottery, or picked up a piece of gold. It’s free! You did not work for it. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23-25).
Righteousness is the gift of sonship (a child of God) to walk again with God like Adam and Eve in a full relationship, without sin. Righteousness also points to God’s righteousness – He is the Eternal and absolute standard of justice. His Word is right and true. His character is undisputed and fair. Sin is essentially iniquity, to miss His standard.
When the young man came to Jesus, he fully obeyed the law and could not think of anything he still lacked. He desired to be perfect. “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19: 21-23).
This sums up the theme of justice precisely: Our best justice is still not enough because we cannot save ourselves. If we could save ourselves, why do we need a savior? When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”.” (Matt. 19: 25-27).
We therefore have no choice but to receive His righteousness as a gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—” (Eph. 2: 8-11).
We were created to live in His image and according to His will and righteousness, but the self and self-will have chosen to do our own thing. Matt. 6:33 says it is essential to focus on His righteousness. Our trust is not in our righteousness, but in His righteousness. “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17).
His gift of righteousness enables us to reign as Adam, and to fulfill man’s creative purpose (Gen. 1:28 and Rom. 8:29). “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. ” (Jer. 23: 6).
So we live every day with these words on our lips: “The Lord our righteousness”; “Jesus is my righteousness!” The fact that we are starting here first is also important. If we start in any religious practice or practice, the focus is again on our righteousness and then it becomes dead works (Heb. 6:1). But we always begin first, above all, by seeking His righteousness and living from His perfect sacrifice.
From His Righteousness We Are:
• courageous to draw near to God (Heb. 10:19; Heb. 4:16),
• able to do all things (Phil. 4:13),
• more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37),
• overcomers of Satan (1 John 2:13; 4: 4; 5: 4-5),
• escapees of the bondage of sin (John 8: 34-36),
• recipients of every spiritual gift in heaven (Eph. 1: 3),
• seated with Jesus in heavenly places (Eph. 2: 6).
This gift of righteousness is made our own, we claim it for ourselves, and He works His power in us to be His children. That is the power of the Gospel! Jesus not only commands us to live right, He works the ability and power in us to do His will (John 1:12; Phil. 2:13; Heb. 13:21). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12).
It is God’s grace to man, that He not only told us how to live, He came to show us now!! Jesus just like we are tempted is truly human. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4: 14-16).
How am I saved?
Believe in Jesus!
How do I live as a Christian? You live Jesus’ life and example. In your context, environment, situation, you live Jesus.