By S.C. Shaw
The question of salvation and what a person must do to be saved begins with the reality that God draws us to Him first, which is why we are able to respond to Him in the first place. Without Him we are unable to believe. However, when God speaks to our hearts and reveals our need for salvation many times we reject Him. We choose to close our hearts to God and refuse to accept that there is a sin problem that has resulted in separation from Him. Which defines being a slave to our own desires.
Unless our hearts are in a place of knowing that we need to be saved, it remains closed. How can our hearts become open to God and our need for salvation become apparent because we are sinners? This is where God’s Word comes into play. The scriptures are God’s blueprint for salvation and the truth can be found in the Bible if we will ask God to open our hearts to His truth.
While some may believe there is no need for salvation and if we don’t think we need to be saved, guaranteed we will never ask for it. However, just because a person doesn’t feel or believe that they need to be saved, doesn’t mean God’s Word is not true. Paul shares that all (not some) have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that all are in need of salvation through Jesus Christ.
All have fallen short of the glory of God because of the presence of evil and sin. The demand of God is perfection. Something that no one but Christ can deliver. Every person is born into sin inherited from Adam. Sin separates all people from God and it is sin that keeps us turned away from God as we are drawn into the world system of greed, pride, and total depravity. Evil represents all that is not of God, and the darkness of evil stands in direct opposition to the light of God. Because God is holy and perfect, the great separation between Him and evil can only be diminished through the plan that God has put in place for us.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Those who are not saved through Christ will perish, but those who recognize they are in need of salvation and accept Christ will receive eternal life. God provided the remedy for the sin problem; it is up to us (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to open our hearts and believe in what we have heard as God calls us to be saved.
We all need to be saved. God has put a plan into action so that we are not left in our sin, which assures that we can be fully reconciled to Him. He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die for the sin that has wreaked havoc in the world throughout history so that we would not face eternal separation from Him. Because of Christ and the gift of salvation, there is no longer condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1). In John’s gospel, Jesus replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.”
When we turn to the scriptures, we have full access to God’s truth and this allows for an opportunity to learn about Him, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, there are many false doctrines and teachings that twist God’s truth so it is imperative to KNOW Gods word in order to test what you hear in the pulpit, social media, other people and even yourself.
I pray as you continue to read, that God reveals to your heart the dire need for salvation and that God’s saving grace will overwhelm you.
Now let us ask the question: “What must you do to be saved?”
- You must hear the Gospel.
What is the Gospel (The good news)? The Gospel is simply this: A perfect, and holy God creates humankind (Adam and Eve), they willfully sin and a breach (violation, transgression) is formed. But God, in His kindness and mercy does not leave us in our sin. He sends Himself in the form of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, to live, die and rise from the dead for those who will believe. One day Jesus will return for His people to spend eternity forever in glory with the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
Let’s look at what the Gospel is not: This is important because there are many false doctrines out there.
- The Gospel is not merely the message that, “God loves you”. Many churches teach a false doctrine that God is all love and that God loves all. While God IS love, He is a balanced God who also hates sin and will pour out His wrath against sin through judgment at the end of this age (See the Book of Revelation). A human example of this kind of balance is claiming that one loves children but somehow does not hate child abuse. God loves humanity but hates the sin and God will judge it accordingly. Without God’s perfect and holy judgments, His love would be empty and meaningless. In other terms, God is only just love to His children alone. So, to say that God is all love without recognizing that He is also just, holy and balanced is to put forth a false doctrine of the true nature of God. God hates sin and will judge it, but those who are saved will not be judged with the wicked.
- The Gospel is not, “God gives you a second chance”. It is much more than that. We have no chance to save ourselves or be good enough, right from the start. God is not our servant or some genie in a bottle. He is not like a credit card who is only there when we need Him, or conveniently available for emergencies. God is the giver of life; He is the breath in our lungs, He is our existence and Christ holds everything together in His hands. This means that God is the center of everything that is good and should also be the center of our lives.
- The Gospel is not, “God wants you to be a good person”. First off, there are no good people. Even Jesus said, there is no one good but God” (Mark 10:18). Of course what Jesus is really saying here is that He is God, which would mean that Jesus was and is good. We define “good” by human standards. But using God’s standards, no one is good. Therefore, God is not concerned with our attempts to be a good person; He is concerned with our eternal salvation that comes from His goodness. The children of God are only able to do good because of Jesus work on the cross which allows us to do everything for the main purpose which is to glorify God in everything we do.
The truth (What the Gospel is: We cannot do anything to please God or make ourselves “right” or justified before Him. It is only through the righteousness of Christ that we are able to live holy, not good… holy. The fruit of our lives may result in good things, but this is only because of Christ in us. We, as fallen humans will always be imperfect and continue to sin, but we have been declared righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21), and now we press on through His power until that glorious day when He returns. God’s children fight to live as Christ has already declared us to be!
The Gospel is about Jesus and what He has done through the work of the Cross. May we not grow numb and may our hearts not become dull to this amazing truth. Reading God’s Word is so important because it helps us see the “macro plan” of God and the awesomeness of what He has done through His great plan of salvation. The God who has created all things and holds all power in His hands calls to our hearts to be reconciled to Him. Without the work of Christ, this world would be utterly lost and destined for hell. God’s holy and perfect judgment against sin would destroy every single thing, yet through Christ there is redemption. What a good God!
It is only through this reality that salvation can be obtained.
This is the most hated and fought against truth in all of history because the carnal man is at war with God and denies that salvation is necessary. Some people refuse to believe that we are innately evil and claim that we are good without God. Turn to the scriptures to find how humans and their nature and so-called “goodness” stack up to God’s perfect and holy nature. You will find that all have fallen short of His glory.
So, we return to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
First, ask God to soften and open your heart to show you His truth. Because our hearts are naturally hardened and closed, only God can do such work within us. We are rebellious by nature and no one can receive the Gospel and truth of Christ without God working in us.
Second: you must believe in Jesus. Mere knowledge is not enough to be saved; even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). You must trust Jesus and follow Him. That means you are walking in the opposite direction of your previous life. Pray to God and ask Him to illuminate the truth of Christ in your heart and mind. God promises, “You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God wishes none would perish (2 Peter 3:9). But He will not force Himself on you. When we don’t choose Him, we do not get Him and it is hell without Him. Not as a doomsday threat, but the literal meaning of hell is the absence of Gods illuminated presence, and all that that entails. If you don’t want Him you don’t get Him. Heaven will be a place that Gods children glory in Christ for eternity. That should sound like hell to those who don’t already love Christ. That is about as simple as I can put it.
Third: to be saved, you must trust God and repent of your sin. Trust that God is who He says He is and also trust that the work of Christ on the cross was enough to save you. Repent of your sin and rebellion against God. Ask forgiveness for those things that God is showing you that have brought harm to you and others in your life. Ask God to give you His strength and the righteousness of Christ so that you may be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Forgive others and allow God to begin to heal you in ways that only He can.
Continue growing and living through the power of the Holy Spirit who has been given to you through Christ as a free gift from God. Pray and talk to God; like any good relationship communication is essential. Most importantly, stay in God’s Word, study the Bible and allow the truth of His Word to shape you as you mature in your faith. God speaks through His Word so read it!
Your life with God will be filled with joy, challenges (which you will overcome with His help) and His amazing presence. I encourage you to ask God to open your heart and receive eternal life, for He is GOOD!
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Contributing editor credit: Lisa M Johnston, Th.M. and Pastor/sozofreedom.com