“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) is, without a doubt, the single most important question that a person can ever ask. The Bible does not leave this question unanswered.
The Wrath of God
Today’s bumper sticker theology that says, “Smile, God Loves You!” is a deception of gargantuan proportions. Please note that there is not a single case in the book of Acts where anyone preaching the gospel told an unsaved audience that God loved them. Rather, the Biblical preachers warned their audiences that God did not approve of them, that they were in danger, and that they needed to make dramatic changes in their lives.
Whether you are inside or outside the church, you are under a huge delusion if you mistake God’s patience for His approval. Simply because He has not yet opened fire on His enemies, they delude themselves that they are at peace with Him.
God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready (Psalm 7:11-12).
Also make no mistake.. God is not going to allow you into Heaven based on your efforts to live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, do good, help others, or even go to church or be baptized. If you are trusting in the fact that in the past you raised your hand, walked an aisle, or signed a card, your faith is misplaced. Sadly, too many ‘Christians’ today have no concept of what the term Christian truly means. All too often it is applied to someone who has parents that are Christian, who regularly attends church, and/or has read the Bible from cover to cover. Too many people call themselves Christian on the basis that they are generally ‘good’ people who haven’t actually murdered anyone…
Nor is being saved a matter of our will. If all we had to do was change our will, Calvary was meaningless. He would have only needed to give us the proper motivation to change our will toward the good and we would have been saved. But, none of these things will save you from the arrow that He has already drawn in His bow, the arrow that is tenuously aimed at every sinner… at you.
Sin, which simply means to miss the mark… to fall short of the perfection God requires, separates us from God. The Bible Says… [Emphasis Added]
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you.” (Isaiah 59:2).
The Love of God
The Bible is equally clear about the consequences of sin, stating that if you sin… you die!
“For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23)
In other words ALL sin carries the death penalty. Life, both symbolically and physically, is in the blood. Therefore the penalty for sin is the shedding of blood… yours. If you think the Bible seems too harsh when it says that all sin merits hell and a tiny infraction deserves death, You need for a few moments to envision a world without sin, which is God’s plan for the world …also called Heaven.
As Hebrews 9:22 says:
“..all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
However God does not want you to perish and in His Grace (unmerited favor), has given you and me a way for us to be saved from the consequences of sin. However He has only given us a limited time to respond, and when that time is done He will descend once more onto the earth… sword in hand. He will destroy and then rebuild. At that time, the one question we will not be able to ask Him is “Why didn’t You tell us? Why didn’t You give us any warning?” Why didn’t You give us a way out?
He has! But few have heeded the call.
What God Offers
Goes far beyond rituals. He offers salvation, which is forgiveness for sin and eternal life.
Wrap your head around that for a moment… Eternal Life! With never any fear of disease, tragedy and death. No getting old with all it’s accompanying problems. No running out of time. But how is this salvation accomplished?
Blood, in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, was a vivid reminder that God demanded death as a punishment for every wrongdoing (Leviticus 17:11). The animal functioned as a substitute for the offender, and bore the punishment of the person who had sinned. Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, is the most solemn and important holy day of the Jewish calendar. In the Old Testament, Yom Kippur was the day the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people, which brought reconciliation between God and the people.
“On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).
However the book of Hebrews explains that “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (10:4). In other words the animal sacrifices of the OT were but a temporary measure pointing to a future event that had yet to occur … “the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). [Note that the Old Testament is replete with “types” or representations by one thing of another.
In a one-time event (a perfect sacrifice that did not need to be repeated every year), Jesus Christ shed His blood for the atonement of the sins of all those who choose to put their trust in Him.
In other words.. Jesus has saved us from the death penalty by offering Himself in our place. However while the message of the Cross is good news for the penitent, it carries an overtone of warning to those who ignore it’s warning.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Please Note that the word translated love [Agape in the Greek] has little to do with feelings of affection, sentiments of fondness, glowing affinity or mushy sentimentality that never says a harsh word. And it certainly has noting to do with unconditional love. It is a gift that puts the group first.
And, by the way, Jesus is not one of many ways to heaven; He is the ONLY way.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
It’s Your Decision
The Bible does say that God is patient, wanting everyone to come to the point of accepting His gift of salvation (II Peter 3:9). But since none of can be sure we will even be here tomorrow, putting off the decision is the same as saying “no”. One second after you die, your future will be irrevocably fixed, with no second chance, no second choice. So now is when you have to decide. The Bible says:
“Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).
Also, whether you know it or not and whether you agree or not… we are in the very final minutes of the countdown to His coming, preceded by a shaking of this planet, the likes of which no man has never seen before. The world you know is about to come to a very violent end. You simply do not have the time to indulge in ‘tomorrows’.
What you need to do now is accept the gift of an Almighty Savior to stand between you and a holy God. But is it really that simple to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life? The answer to that is “not exactly”.
Sin and Repentance
In the “Christian” world today, we see little emphasis on sin, little preaching on it, little rebuke of it, and little abhorrence of it. It seems we’ve lost sight of what God thinks of sin and how he speaks of it in his Scripture. The message heard from way too many pulpits has been watered down to just “believe” and you’ll be saved, pastors rarely calling for their congregations to sorrow over sin. Yet repentance, defined as a radical change in one’s attitude toward sin and God, is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament as well as the New. It was continually emphasized in the initial and inspired preaching of the Gospel in the book of Acts, while Jesus did not mince words, saying “unless ye repent, ye shall perish”. (Luke 13:3,5).
However it is crucially important we understand that while repentance is not something we do to earn salvation, without repentance there is no salvation. Repentance and Faith as NOT the same thing, but literally two sides of the same coin. You can’t believe without truly repenting, and you can not experience “Godly sorrow” without believing. The Bible presents them as connected but separate..
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).
“Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
What Does It Mean To Believe In Jesus?
The Bible tells us that:
“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].
Unfortunately there are two aspects to the word “believe” and are often confused in the context of salvation… (It would be well to note at this point that the word universally translated belief in most Bible versions is often translated believing in Young’s Literal Translation… In other words it is not a one time event but a continual state of believing.)
1) The first meaning of believe is that we think something is true. However this is not how the Bible uses the word. Anyone can believe that Jesus, or Attila the Hun, lived and died by the testimony of historians. However, just as believing that Adolph Hitler once drew breath does not make you a Nazi, simply believing that Jesus did, doesn’t make you a Christian. Demons, and the devil himself, believe in Jesus, but they certainly are not saved… “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble” (James 2:19). So apparently there is a little more to it than just believing certain things.
2) the second use of the word believe as defined by Strongs Greek Lexicon is… “Pisteuō; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing,) . . . To entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being): -believe (-r), commit (to trust), to put in trust with.”
In other words “believe” in the Bible means to actively trust that something or someone is able to do for you what they claim. And what is it that we trust Jesus to do for us? Sadly the almost universal belief in the church today is that we trust (or believe) that He died on Calvary for us, which does not make a huge amount of sense. Why does it take faith to believe in an event already passed? But read on..
Too many of us ‘believing Christians’ refuse to accept the terms of true discipleship, the willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly for Jesus’ sake… In many cases we have ‘believed’ ourselves into a blind alley. Our Lord’s very disturbing words in Matthew 7:21-23 limits salvation to those who do the will of his heavenly Father …
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart From Me, you who practice lawlessness.” [Matthew 7:21-23]
Scripture warns over and over again that salvation is not a done deal.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10: 36)
“Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach– if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” (Colossians 1:22-23)
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Yet, a huge percentage of teachers of the Gospel, picking and choosing verses to fit into what they already believe about the Gospel, insist that at the moment a person makes a decision for Jesus, and professes faith in Him, he is saved and receives eternal life, which cannot be lost (otherwise it would not be eternal.. as the argument goes). The confession of faith used in many churches is not only inadequate, but isn’t found anywhere in Scripture. The Biblical way to salvation is to see Jesus Christ as not only saviour but also as Lord. To pledge to obey Him as best you can the rest of your life.
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
If one accepts the popular view that salvation has been determined once and for all at the time of confession of faith, how one lives out the Christian life becomes relatively unimportant. Personal holiness, righteousness, and obedience cannot be of critical importance if one is already saved. Yet Jesus said…
“… I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:20)
So the crucial question that has to be answered here is… at what point a person is saved, or should we say finally saved…
The New Testament sometimes says that salvation is an accomplished reality, and at other times says it is still in the future, a seeming contradiction that is not limited to salvation alone. For example… [All Emphasis Added]
Ephesians 2:8-9 states that Christians have already been saved:
“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.”
But 1 Corinthians 1:18 says the process is ongoing:
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
While Matthew 10: 22 says it is still in the future:
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
As does Romans 13:11:
“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.”
And 1 Thessalonians 5:8 that speaks of the “hope” of salvation:
“… let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
There are many many other examples relating not only to salvation but to other critical themes… justification, adoption etc. Many Christians have tried to reconcile these statements according to their beliefs that you are already completely saved but, as is so often the case, much speaking is used to explain the unexplainable, usually resulting in a totally unconvincing, patch up job.
Let’s get down to brass tacks… an event cannot be both past and future, so either the authors of the New Testament were talking through their collective hats and we can drop the entire subject and go catch a movie, or what we believe does not entirely square with what the Bible says.
So what is the answer? Can we be assured we have salvation now, or is it something we have to strive and hope for. Have we already been adopted as sons, or are we eagerly waiting for this adoption? Are we righteous now, or is it yet a distant hope? For those who are actually interested in what the Bible says on the subject… as opposed to what parents, pastors, friends, or denomination may have taught, the answer to all of the above questions is .. BOTH.
As we mentioned earlier the almost universal belief in the church today is that we trust (or believe) that Jesus died on Calvary for us. However it does not take a huge amount of faith to believe in an event already passed. But it does take faith to actively trust that something or someone is able in the future to do for you what they claim. If you turn back to the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament if becomes quickly apparent that just the shedding of the blood outside the tabernacle was not an end in itself … it had to be brought to God and ‘offered’ as an atonement for sin.
Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.. the sacrifice itself, was but the first half of the process, with the second phase… the atonement, still in the future. Complete deliverance will not be realized until Christ puts away sin at the end of the ages, when He (Jesus) will appear “before the face of God for us”. [Hebrews 9: 26].
Which is why Scripture is replete with warnings about watching, being careful and not dropping your guard… Perseverance in living a righteous life is necessary for salvation.
“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”(Matthew 10:22)
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26)
But isn’t this very difficult to do? Yes! It can be. But God gave us help traversing this difficult path.. He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit and said we have to be…
Please note: Christian conversion is a spiritual transformation. A person who is a creation of God becomes a child of God only when he or she is born by a special privilege or grant of the Almighty. It is not the turning over of a new leaf, or a “self-improvement” program in which I “add Jesus” to my life in order to become a better… more successful person. It is the receiving of a new life. When Christ saves someone, He does not grant that person a fresh start… He gives that person a new life… His! This unfailingly results in a new purpose, a new direction, a new meaning to life. Above all you realize that you owe your life to God.
“He came to that which was His own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent or a husband’s will, but born of God”. (John 1:11-13)
“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
Also Note… The “Sinner’s Prayer” is not found anywhere among the cases of conversion in the book of Acts in the New Testament, nor is there a single instance of any sinner instructed to pray for their salvation. On the contrary sinners were admonished to ‘repent and be baptized’.
As said before, too many of us ‘believing Christians’ refuse to accept the terms of true discipleship, the willingness to turn our backs on everything worldly for Jesus’ sake… In many cases we have ‘believed’ ourselves into a blind alley. As Tozer once said …
“We are not today producing saints. We are making converts to an effete type of Christianity that bears little resemblance to that of the New Testament. The average so-called Bible Christian in our times is but a wretched parody on true sainthood. Yet we put millions of dollars behind movements to perpetuate this degenerate form of religion and attack the man who dares to challenge the wisdom of it”.
The true follower of Christ will not ask “If I embrace this truth what will it cost me?” Rather he will say, “This is truth. God help me to walk in it, come what may!” Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior must be an aggressive act of the total personality and not a passive ‘acceptance’ that makes a door-to-door salesman of the Savior. He DOES NOT meekly stand by waiting to know whether we will patronize Him or not. Although we desperately need what He proffers, we sovereignly decide whether we will receive Him
Becoming a disciple of Christ does not mean that you merely engage in formal religious practices, but that everything that you do, everything that you say, and even everything that you think, is done in reference to the living and true God. Biblical believing results in a changed lifestyle…
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)
The living God demands our love and loyalty in return for His Son’s life on the cross. There is no religious magic in the cross with mysterious powers to open the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the establishment of a relationship sealed in the blood of the Son of the Most High, not something He takes lightly. Neither should you.
A much misused Scripture is Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”. Aw, poor Jesus is out there is the cold, shivering, waiting for someone to let Him in. Wont you go ahead and let poor Jesus into your heart? First of all, this is a statement by the Lord is NOT to the unsaved, but to the church in Laodicea (See Revelation 3:14). The picture is truly pathetic… Jesus is standing outside of His own church, knocking for them to let Him in! They are outside of His Kingdom.
While the infinite God may now be waiting to see what you are going to do, we are almost at the end of the age, and the doors will soon be closing. When they do…
Which Side Will You Be On?
If you are reading this, then I’m going to assume that you have put your confidence in Jesus Christ as the God who took on flesh and who traded places with us (during His death on the Cross) when God judged and punished our wrongdoings…and that, accordingly, you are related to God in a new way. What we need to do now is to look at four things: 1) what is the character of your new relationship with the living God, 2) what can you expect to happen in your life now, 3) why should you go forward from here in a relationship with God, and 4) what specific attitudes and actions can you initiate to cultivate this relationship, to nurture it, and to develop it to its fullest expression in your life?
Safeguarding Your Soul
When a person becomes a true Christian he enters a brand new life. In a moment of time he passes from death to life, from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God. Many things start to happen to him that may be surprising. But these vital Scriptural truths are seldom heard from the typical pastor, TV or radio teachers of our day..
The Myth We Are Saved By Faith Alone
I strongly suspect that, if one were to ask the vast majority of Christians what one has to do to be saved, you would get a number of answers like “accept Jesus as your personal savior”, “ask Jesus into your heart” etc. However, while the terminology may vary, the answers would almost all boil down to all you have to do is believe… all you have to do is have faith. In other words, at the very moment the sinner puts his, or her, faith in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as his/her savior, that person has entered into a covenant relationship with God, has received God’s forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life. It is certainly a fact that the Bible teaches that faith is an essential ingredient, without which it is impossible to please God, but it never ever teaches that faith is the only requirement for salvation. In fact the Scriptures point to a number of things by which a person is saved.