What Is True Salvation?

I've grown up in a solidly Christian home, so I've been to my share of church camps and revival meetings. And it seems that every time there is a week than an evangelist speaks, there is a sermon that greatly trivializes salvation. The message will unfold something like this: "You do bad things, people who do bad things go to hell, pray to Jesus so you don't go to hell and go to heaven." Salvation is presented like a Get Out of Jail Free Card that we just walk up to Jesus and ask for and then walk away. This watered down salvation isn't life-changing, just a way to have a more pleasant afterlife.

The fact is that our main problem isn't hell, it's our missing fellowship (friendly relationship) with God. Our (lack of) fellowship with God is the main theme of the Bible. We read about Adam and Eve who walked with God in the cool of the day, but then sinned by eating the fruit. At that moment they lost fellowship with God because they became sinners. The main story throughout the Bible is God's restoration of fellowship with his fallen creation. Because we are descendants of Adam, sin has passed to us, and we are born sinners (Romans 5:12). The fact that we are sinners will send us to hell because the payment for sin is separation from God for eternity, not just in this life (Romans 6:23).

So, how do we as naturally sinful human beings gain fellowship with God? Four books in the New Testament, the Gospels, are filled with the story of how a perfect God became the only sinless descendant of Adam ever born, Jesus. Jesus did something that only sinners were supposed to do, die and be separated from God. As he was being crucified, he screamed, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". Because He died as a sinner, his righteousness can be legally substituted for ours (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So how do we gain his righteousness? Ephesians 2:8-9 says that it is not based on anything that we do, the best we have to offer God is worth as much as dirty rags. The only way we can gain fellowship is by God's grace, if he chooses to give it to us. Ephesians 2:8 says that salvation is by grace through faith. If we cry out to God by faith (the absence of any of our own works) he promises to save us (Romans 10:13).

If and when God chooses to save us, two things happen. The first thing is that we are given a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). While we are still naturally sinners while living in these bodies, we have a new nature that wants to please God. The second thing that happens is that we are adopted by God (John 1:12, Galatians 4:5). Not only do we re-gain fellowship, we are given full rights as his children. When the Bible says we gain eternal life, we gain eternal fellowship with God starting when he adopts us.

Salvation is far more than missing hell. It is a new relationship with an Almighty God. It is not a gift that we play with for a few days and then forget about it. It is a gift that changes our life now, not just after we die. Salvation is not something we did once. It is something that continues to change us.

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