I just thought I should write this out today, as clearly as possible, with my best understanding and background, so you all will know not only where I stand, but also how to be saved. The Bible contains this entire message, and is sufficient for salvation, but it helps when we, Christians, take and “Boil it down” to the essence of what’s required for salvation.
First and foremost, I start folks off with Romans 3:23 where the Apostle Paul says: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Paul was paraphrasing something that both King David and Solomon said in the Old Testament (Psalms 14:3, and Ecclesiastes 7:20 respectively). At Hope Chapel, we use the “Way of the Master” which takes the Law (the 10 Commandments), and proves to people that there is no way any of us humans can keep God’s laws perfectly. He gave us the 10 Commandments not to condemn us, but to bring us knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20). And, as Jesus showed us in the Sermon on the Mount, it’s not our outward behavior that matters (like the Pharisees), but it’s our hearts that God is concerned about. So, if you’ve ever cursed at someone, then you’ve committed murder in your heart. If you’re a man, and you’ve looked with lust at a woman, then you’ve committed adultery. Our hearts are where sin lives (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:18).
So, basically, we sin, that means we do things that are abominable in God’s sight, since God is perfect, holy and righteous, and His will is “Good”. Therefore, we cannot be in His presence, and this is why it says in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” We aren’t talking physical death here, all of us will die a physical death (unless Christ comes back in our lifetime), but rather we are talking spiritual death. What does that mean? From the standpoint of the Bible, it means “Eternal separation from God”. The Bible speaks of Hell, a place of eternal punishment, damnation, a place without hope. The reason there is no hope there, is because you are separated from God – FOREVER.
This is all pretty heavy stuff, and for the person who will be saved, this knowledge of both our sin, and the punishment that awaits us (it is waiting for ALL of us, unless we become “Born again”) should spur us to some kind of “Decision” or action. This is where it gets a little confusing. Most of us would want there to be some kind of “Free will” involved in this, and what we say is that the decision, or “Choice” to give our lives to Christ is the only real act of free will that we can make. Let’s just say it’s the best choice we can make. This is where, in the Bible we get to what Paul says in Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord <Jesus Christ> will be saved.”
Let me interject at this point, the “Simple” version of the gospel that most folks hear, but which is not the WHOLE gospel, nor the “True” gospel. This is what is preached in most places: Jesus came to the earth, was born in a manger (a barn) and came for one purpose: To die on the cross for our sins. He “Saves” us from our sins when we pray and ask him into our heart (the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer”). The proof that He is who He said He is (God) is the fact that after He was crucified, He rose again, was seen by many people and then ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. Now, while this is all true, you must remember that it is only part of the whole gospel, and that makes omission of the other part (repentance) turn it into a false gospel (since it is not the whole truth).
The key in the whole gospel is, again, the repentance, or godly sorrow on our part beforehand, that led us to make the choice to ask the Lord <Jesus> to save us. Again, borrowing from “The Way of the Master” it helps to think of it as if we were born, already owing a huge debt or penalty for our crimes, even though it was our ancestors who committed those crimes. We have sin in our genes, and we are born sinners. From the moment we are conceived, we are conceived in sin and are destined for Hell. That penalty cannot be paid by any amount of “Good works” or efforts on our part. The ONLY thing we can do is come to the realization that Jesus came and died on the Cross at Calvary in order to satisfy that debt which was owed by us. Jesus paid the price for our freedom!
At that point, we all should shout “HALLELUJAH!” Since, without His coming, and His sacrifice, we would all still be headed to Hell. All of us. People ask, well isn’t God love? Doesn’t He love us and won’t He give us a break? Can’t I just pray the prayer, ask Jesus to forgive me and be done with it? Won’t God forgive me if I just ask? The simple answer to all that is that He did (forgive us – all our sins at the cross)! He sent His Son to pay the price for our transgressions! He did what we could never do for ourselves! Again, “Hallelujah!” It simply becomes imperative for us, at that point, to make that choice, the ultimate decision in life, to surrender our lives to Him, to accept His offer of salvation for us. Jesus began His ministry with the words “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And that is why we preach repentance first, at Hope Chapel, and then you can be saved.
So that’s the tricky part: The offer is free, and unconditional, but, the price is your life in return. You must let Christ rule in your heart. That’s what repentance really is I tell people, we surrender our kingdom for His. He gives us eternal life in a place of hope and wonder, and we get to follow Him and do His will, both in this life and the next. It’s not about “Getting” something in return for surrendering to Him, it’s about deciding to follow Him wherever He leads us. Nobody knows where He will lead, for each of us it’s a different path, but always, always with Him by our side, leading, teaching, encouraging, seeking to grow us into people who are more like Him.
And that’s about the best description of the gospel, or “Good news” that I can give. It’s not simple, but it can be grasped by the average person. The concept of surrender that I use for repentance is very much implied in the “Dying to self” idea that is common in the New Testament (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). If we are to die to self, we must grasp that concept that we no longer live for ourselves, but serve Jesus through loving and caring for one another.
The truly mysterious parts of the gospel are those parts where God must be present (in the person of the Holy Spirit) to quicken a person’s heart so they can hear and understand the true gospel, and their need of a Savior. This is the part we call “Conversion” and it would be followed by them repenting and then calling on the Name of the Lord. That is what we refer to as being truly “Born again”. It cannot happen without God helping the person, and it usually doesn’t happen unless someone preaches the true gospel to the person who will be saved. But, God is sovereign, and He will save whom He wants, with dreams, visions, as well as those of us who go out to share the “Good news” with folks. We always tell folks that it’s truly only good news because of the bad news that you are already destined for Hell without you even having to do anything!
I hope and pray this helps someone today to understand that Christianity is not complicated, but it is different from every other “Religion” out there – since all of the religions of the world teach that you can get to god on your own power (by doing “Works”), whereas Christianity teaches clearly that only Jesus could have come and saved us, because He is God, and because He cared enough to sacrifice Himself in our place.