What Jesus demands of our salvation
Imagine being sentenced to death by electrocution, where the Supreme Judge who passed the sentence steps down from His judgment seat and takes our place. The criminal is released unharmed and the Judge is electrocuted instead. This in essence, is how Jesus became the Saviour of the world by dying on the cross for our sins. While salvation through Jesus is freely available for anyone, it does come with conditions.
If, as freed “convicts”, we continue living our lives without consideration of the price that Jesus paid for us, the Bible warns that it is as if we crucify Him all over again.
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
The Supreme Judge who died for us
Colossians 1 describes the incredible Supreme Judge of our universe. Jesus Christ is God who is the beginning and the end of everything. He is the Supreme Authority and Head of the church.
Colossians 1:15-19 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
God is perfect and holy. His pure Light obliterates any darkness that comes into His presence. The dark sin that stains us therefore destines us for eternal destruction and puts us on the opposing side of God, as if we are His enemies. Praise God that He is also perfect in His love and kindness. This is why Jesus came to restore our relationship with Him by paying for the sins that separate us from Him. He even gives us His Holy Spirit and promises us eternal life in His Kingdom. This is the Good News for all mankind.
Colossians 1:11-14 NLT May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Colossians 1:21-22 NLT … you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News…
Consider the testimony we give of Jesus
Jesus gives His followers a critical mission, that is to represent His truth, way of living and power on this earth until we are united with Him in heaven.
People “learn” about Jesus through our good or bad examples. We can draw people closer to Jesus – or we can mislead, repel and disgust them by the way we misrepresent God. How can we expect God to welcome us into heaven when our lives misrepresent Him and drive people away from Jesus?
Sadly, mankind has made the mistake of taking our Supreme God for granted over and over again through the centuries. When we drift away from God or don’t truly grasp what salvation demands of us, we misrepresent Jesus’ Good News. Also, see Our broken images of God.
Taking God’s name in vain
We regularly hear the words “Jesus Christ” thrown around disrespectfully these days. This is in direct rebellion against God’s third commandment, which says we “must not misuse the name of the LORD”.
Exodus 20:7 NLT “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
Another way we break this commandment is when we call ourselves “Christians”, or Jesus followers, and refuse to follow His Word. This is another way we misuse God’s name. Just like God lamented over His people who forgot to honour Him centuries ago, He continues to mourn over many of us today.
Jeremiah 2:31-32 ESV And you, O generation, behold the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to you’? Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
False definitions of salvation
Even though we have one Bible, many different ideas on salvation have evolved over time. It can be hard to decipher what God truly says about our salvation – unless we study the Bible for ourselves, free from preconceived ideas or bias.
Some common misunderstandings about salvation
|“You only need to believe in Jesus to be saved.”||Matthew 7:21 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.|
|“You just need to say the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and you will go to heaven.”||Matthew 7:21 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.|
|“As long as you go through this confirmation ritual, you will go to heaven.”||Matthew 7:21 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.|
|“Tell God you have a right to enter heaven because Jesus paid for your sins.”|
|“You don’t need the Holy Spirit to be saved.”||2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ESV And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.|
|“Baptism is optional. It is merely symbolic.”||Mark 16:16 ESV Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.|
|“God’s grace will always cover you, regardless of what you do.”||Jude 1:4 NLT …some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.|
|“After you receive salvation, you are automatically considered new and accepted. You don’t need to work on yourself.”||Philippians 2:12 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,|
|“Doing good works makes you holy. It assures you of your salvation.”||Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.|
What true salvation demands of us
Most of us have never donated our organs or blood to save someone, so we certainly cannot take Jesus’ ‘donation’ of His precise body and blood for us for granted. Our salvation was not cheap and it will cost us something too.
1. Accept Jesus by declaring aloud and believing in our hearts
The first and easiest step towards salvation begins with declaring that we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, but it doesn’t stop there. We are to also submit to Him as our Saviour. True salvation is more than an intellectual belief. Even demons believe Jesus is God and shudder. Salvation involves our hearts, not just our words.
Romans 10:9-10,13 ESV because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
James 2:19 ESV You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
If we genuinely believe that Jesus died for us personally, we will live our lives to honour Him first, instead of continuing to pursue our own agendas. When our desires are not aligned with God’s will, we demonstrate that we think Jesus’ sacrifice is worthless and meaningless to us. We can’t fool the Creator who tests our hearts and minds with hollow words and hollow gratitude.
Jeremiah 17:10 ESV “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
2. Godly grief for our sins that leads to repentance
On the other hand, when we genuinely value Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, we will honour Him with thankful hearts. We will confess our sins and repent, turning away from patterns of thinking and behaviour that offend or dishonour God.
Godly grief is not the same as self-condemnation or penitence. God’s grace is overflowing in its abundance for His children who keep seeking Him. God is not petty and calculative. We stay faithful to Him when we humbly return to Him, no matter how many times we fall, to ask Him for help.
2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
Baptism is mandatory for every believer. It is a way we receive and become filled with the Holy Spirit. The New Testament shows that whenever people accepted Jesus, the disciples would baptise them immediately, usually on the same day. There was never a delay. Also, see Preparing our hearts for baptism.
Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4. Regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit
It is God’s Holy Spirit that purifies our conscience and keeps us from sinning. He will help us reflect Jesus more and more, as His Spirit helps us peel off layers of ungodly thought patterns, attitudes and behaviours. This is how we know if someone is truly saved, as they begin to reflect Jesus more and more.
Titus 3:3-7 ESV For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life
5. Studying the Bible for spiritual truths
We will also start to love to study and understand the Bible. There are many things in the Bible that sound foreign and odd if we merely read them intellectually. Spiritual truths are not deciphered by any human intellect alone. God’s Spirit will unlock His spiritual truths for us. Also, see What Jesus demands of our salvation.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV … God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
1 Corinthians 2:13-14 ESV And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
6. Continually working on ourselves
We are meant to “work out our own salvation” by checking our attitudes daily and ensuring that our actions are aligned with God’s will. We can do a thousand good things with the wrong attitudes and motives, and find that none of them please God or lead to salvation.
Philippians 2:12-16 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…
Evidence of real salvation
Salvation is not just a one-time act. It is something we keep “growing up into”.
1 Peter 2:2 ESV Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation
All convicts who come out of prison need time to be assimilated and re-integrated into society. They need training and encouragement to acquire new skills and leave behind their old ways – otherwise, they remain convicts at heart and no different than when they were in prison. Such ex-convicts are likely to go back to a life of crime and return to the prison that they were freed from.
Similarly, after we are let off the hook and set free by our eternal Supreme Judge, we need to go through spiritual rehabilitation to become true citizens of heaven, no longer living as “enemies of the cross of Christ”.
Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Philippians 3:18-20 NLT For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Believing in Jesus Christ itself does not instantly transform us from enemy to citizen. We need to work on our personal salvation and:
- renew our minds on God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit
- submit our hearts and will to God
- repent of all the idols in our lives
- persevere in our faith and love others well
The Bible points to some obvious signs of a believer who is living out his or her salvation.
1. Follows God’s will and commandments
First, Jesus stated that only those who follow God’s will and obey His Word will make it to heaven. The “many mighty works” we do in Jesus’ name may impress and inspire people, but they are worthless before God if our hearts do not belong to Him.
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
1 Corinthians 15:2 ESV and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
2. Keeps dying to sin and the trappings of this world
Just as Jesus died for our sins, we need to keep dying to our sins in order to live in the liberty of our salvation.
John 12:24-26 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Similar to how we peel layers off an onion, salvation involves an ongoing process of putting away our old ways. There are the outer layers that are more obvious, such as foul language, gossip and debauchery. There are also inner unseen layers, where we harbour pride, jealousy, anger, and unforgiveness. The inner layers are the parts that God values and desires to see clean. The Bible calls those who only work on their outer layers hypocritical. A person who lives out his or her salvation will be renewed through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, from inside out.
Matthew 23:28 NLT Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 15:18-19 ESV But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
3. Seeks to honour God and give Him glory
Another evidence of someone who understands their salvation is their desire and practice of giving God the glory in all that they say and do.
Colossians 3:17 ESV And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Romans 2:6-7 ESV He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
4. Demonstrates Jesus’ power
Jesus also stated that anyone who believes in Him will demonstrate the same power that He did, because His Holy Spirit lives in us.
Mark 16:17 ESV And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
5. Withstand tests to the commitment to God
This world will test our commitment to God. It is only those who endure to the end and do not turn away from God who will hold on to their salvation.
Matthew 10:22 ESV and you will be hated by all for my name‘s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
How we invalidate our own salvation
When we try to water down the gospel to make it palatable, the true message of salvation can become diluted. Salvation involves self-discipline and sacrifice. Even though this is not a popular message, it is undeniably, the only way to receive God’s Kingdom and eternal life.
Here are some hard facts about how we can invalidate our own salvation.
|1. Openly denying Jesus Christ||Matthew 10:32-33 ESV So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.|
|2. Continued unbelief and defiant irreverence towards God’s Spirit||Matthew 12:31-32 ESV Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.|
|3. Not obeying God’s Word||Romans 2:13 NLT For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.|
|4. Continuing to worship idols||Romans 1:18,22-23 & 2:2 ESV For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things… Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die… We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.|
|5. Holding on to hatred and unforgiveness||1 John 3:15 ESV Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.|
|6. Being egotistical, self-serving, self-obsessed, self-absorbed||Romans 2:5,8 ESV But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.. but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.|
|7. Ignoring the needy around us||Matthew 25:44-46 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment…|
Those who receive salvation from God are called to keep away from worldly desires and choose to follow God’s desires. When we fail to do so, it shows that we have never understood our salvation and hence, may have never received true salvation.
1 Peter 2:9-11 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
It is never too late to turn back and be saved
Praise God that He is the perfect Father who welcomes us back after we turn away from Him. Let us repent if we have ever discredited Jesus and our salvation. It is never too late to do so! We see an example of the criminal hanging next to Jesus who asked God to save his soul. Because of his genuine call for salvation, Jesus answered His prayer. God looked at the condition of the humble criminal’s heart, not what he had or had not done. This is God’s amazing grace and we can be certain we will receive the same.
Luke 23:39-43 ESV One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
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