Practicality: Not only must we leave the kingdom of sin, but we must live as Christ – as citizens of God’s Kingdom. We cannot think it is enough to try to do only one of these, for salvation is the entire process of going from the kingdom of sin into the
The “free gift of salvation”
Is salvation a free gift? By “free gift”, I mean something that we ‘receive’ with virtually no requirements on our part – after all, that’s the nature of something that is freely given. This idea is arguably central to current popular Christianity, yet I am convinced that such ideas distort the Biblical teaching of salvation.
Before I define salvation more clearly, let me describe the current popular ideas. A brief keyword search on the internet for “salvation” and “free gift” gives hundreds of links to the “free gift of salvation”. I even found several sites that condemned the idea that we needed to actually repent and turn away from sin – for salvation is “freely given”, they say. Forgiveness of the guilt of sin by “accepting the gift of Christ”, and resultant eternal life – this is the message of the popular gospel. But it is not the gospel preached by Jesus, nor by the apostles, nor by the early church – it is a gospel of “cheap grace”. The heretical gospel of “cheap grace” comes from consumerism, a narrow focus on only a few verses, and a reinterpretation of the Bible according to a selfish, consumer mindset.
Let me give you an example I have copy-and-pasted from a website I found, I have not added any emphasis (but I have changed the font-size to normal):
The GOOD NEWS!!!
How hard is it to accept this FREE GIFT, Christ as your Savior?
You may think, as so many do, that you have to clean yourself up to present yourself to God but...YOU DON'T... Just look at this:
Nor do you have to understand it all!
God sent His son Jesus with a wonderful gift (gift means free) for you no matter who you are, what you have done or how bad you have been. We are all sinners but He can offer you the gift of salvation paid in full for you by His death and resurrection. He will give you His perfect pardon, Eternal Life accompanied by the Comforter to stay with you, lead you, and gently encourage you forever. And it's ALL
FREE!! with no strings!
Now Isn't That GOOD NEWS?
I listened to a Jewish Christian gentleman make the most profound analogy of the offer of Salvation I have ever heard. He compared Christ to a door-to-door salesman, of all things, saying that He knocks at the door of our hearts and asks permission to come in and show His awesome product, Salvation= Eternal Life, because, He can not show the product unless you invite Him in. You see, neither Jesus Christ or the door-to-door salesman can let you see how their product works if you don't allow them to demonstrate it to you. Now the salesman may be pushy but Christ is NOT!
To accept this free gift, all you have to do is ask Jesus into your life. Just pray something like this: Lord God I realize that I am a sinner. And though I may not understand it all, just the best that I know how, I trust that your son Jesus Christ paid for my sins at the cross, overcame death by rising again and is alive with you. I accept your free gift of Salvation. I invite You to come into my life and show me the way to go from here. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Simple!...Now watch Him give your life a whole new meaning.
My heart both weeps and flares with anger that such heresy is so rampant, and it is heresy, just cleverly disguised in Biblical language. Its heresy should be clear by comparison with Scripture, as I will endeavor to show. What is the above message really saying? Jesus “does it all”, and we do nothing. It suggests salvation is nothing more than taking a free ticket to eternal life. Salvation is seen as a product that we can get. Salvation is done for us, we simply grab a piece of the cake. What is the focus of this sort of gospel? The individual – this gospel is all about “me” and getting what I want. Is it hard? No. What does it cost us? Nothing.
A comparison with Scripture
What did Jesus say about being a Christian?
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 shall lose it, and whoever desires to lose his life for My sake shall find it.
Mat , 14
Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
If anyone comes to Me and does not [comparatively] hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it; lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not first sit down and consult whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So then, everyone of you who does not forsake all his possessions, he cannot be My disciple.
Salt is good, but if the salt has become tasteless, with what shall it be seasoned? It is not fit for the land, nor for manure, but people throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
What is portrayed by popular salvation messages? “It’s easy - just choose the broad way.” “Salvation costs you nothing - you don’t have to deny your selfish desires, repent and forsake sin – you just accept it as another product into your life by saying this simple prayer…” So many Christians are like the incomplete towers of Luke 14 because they are unwilling to pay the full cost of the gospel – but what good is an unfinished tower when it is hardly off the ground? Like kings unwilling to yield the kingdom of their hearts and lives to the true and far greater king, God, we are unwilling to let go of what we have and what we want and serve and obey only God. In this way, far too much of the modern Christianity has indeed lost is saltiness, for it is no longer pure and righteous but contaminated with selfishness and lack of selfless love for God and others. So what good is Christianity like this? “It is not fit for the land, nor for manure, but people throw it out.” How heavily those words should hit popular Christianity today! Such heretical ideas of a selfish Christianity are just the same as the ideas advocated by the world, and instead of being a guiding light to the world Christianity becomes an empty tomb. Is it any wonder that so many people do, indeed, “throw it out”?
My understanding of Salvation – the process of going from the kingdom of sin to the Kingdom of God
So what is a biblical understanding of salvation? I described the two kingdoms, of sin and of God, previously in this post series. I also described how repentance was leaving the kingdom of sin. But it is not merely enough to not sin! So many people today view Christianity as about notnothing! doing this or that, so instead of going the good things God instructs, they do Certainly, they may no longer be committed to sin, but they are not committed to God either – they’re committed to nothing. A healthy Christian mindset is not to make sure you don’t cross lines into ‘sinfulness’, but to make sure you do break the boundaries of selfishness to reach out and care for people. When we are being selfless, our own sin will not be an issue.
Clearly, then, to be part of the
Let me give some examples from the Bible. Think of the prodigal son. He was living a horrible life of sin in a far away land, but he “came to himself” and returned to his father’s house to live with him and according to his will. What a shallow view of ‘salvation’ to restrict it to merely the father’s forgiveness of his son’s sin, for salvation is so much more! The son no longer was in a life of sin in the far away land, but blessed to again be with his father and in a house where he was loved and cared for!
This is the crucial point about his salvation: the son had to leave the far away land, and travel a long distance to again be in his father’s land. It wasn’t about forgiveness of his guilt, it wasn’t about a sacrifice, it wasn’t about declaring his son to be something or somewhere he wasn’t, it was about where his son was. His father couldn’t make him to be somewhere he wasn’t. Again using my analogy of the two kingdoms, the son had to leave the country of sin, and travel to the country of God. The son could not be given “being in God’s country” when he simply wasn’t there! It’s not something that can be given like that. God cannot somehow pick up his country – land, trees, hills, rivers and all - and move it to where people are in the kingdom of sin; they just have to “accept it”, as if it’s some courier package requiring their signature for delivery. That would be like saying that I can go to
Secondly, consider Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:2-10). Jesus said that salvation had come to his house not because Zaccheus felt sorry for his wrongs, not because Jesus simply ‘forgave’ him his sins – but because Zaccheus stopped his sinful actions and instead chose to live righteously. Zaccheus changed from being selfish to self-less, and repaid those he had cheated and indeed his whole live appeared transformed from one of sin to one of goodness.
So how was Jesus the ‘saviour’ of Zaccheus? In the Old Testament, there are many instances of people being saved, usually from death and destruction. The ‘saviour’ in these cases is the person who causes them to be saved – it is also called a ‘deliverer’ in the OT, but it is the same word. It is precisely the same sense in the New Testament. Jesus saved Zaccheus by leading him away from sinful living and into righteous living – hence he was the “saviour” of Zaccheus.
Let me say now that this ‘salvation’ requires no cosmic transaction on the cross; it simply requires people to follow Jesus as he leads them away from sinful ways and into Godly ones. Jesus pointed to Himself as this leader and example, saying “I am the Way.” Jesus never saved people by leading them through the “3 simple steps to salvation”, praying a prayer with them, and sending them on their way – and He certainly never told us to do that.
The heart of the Bible resonates with the desire for God’s people to be holy and pure, living righteous lives that are pleasing to God by selflessly loving Him and selflessly loving others. He desires more than for us to wander in the vast expanse between the kingdom of sin and the
But sadly this whole idea of salvation has become confused with the idea of “eternal life”. Yes, eternal life is a “gift” (Rom ) – but it is given to the people who are in the
Personal and Social Salvation
Note also the very important aspect of salvation that is often neglected. It is summed up in Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus quotes from, saying:
The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on Me; because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to preach the acceptable year of Jehovah and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness; so that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He might be glorified.
Salvation is for the poor, the broken-hearted, the captives, the oppressed and the bound. What does salvation mean for them? Freedom. Deliverance. Salvation is not simply a personal change in commitment to Godliness, but it involves social liberation from the powers that enslave people. Poor, broken, and oppressed people understand the wonder of being saved from such conditions, and understand what it is to give their whole life in return for it. So, in the story of Zaccheus, not only Zaccheus was saved, but also those who he had been cheating were saved from his selfish oppression.
But I wonder; what do the wealthy, proud, selfish, well-off people of this world really know of salvation? As long as we wealthy Westerners have a selfish mindset and reinterpret Scripture to fit with it, I fear we may never see the real meaning of Salvation on both personal and social levels.
To conclude; we are saved by faithfulness to God – to love Him and to love others, which is in obedience to His commands. A saviour is thus someone who leads people out of sin, and into righteousness – such as Jesus. If we follow Him by imitating Him in His love for God and others, we will be lead into the
And what about grace? That, I think, I will have to leave for a future post, for not doubt you are wondering why I have not discussed it here. However, I am quite excited because I think all this will take us to quite an exciting conclusion…