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Five Essential Bible Truths – Part 2

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What Must I do to be Saved?

The topic of God’s salvation is of critical importance to the human race. It is also a very overwhelming topic to present. Portions of this article have been rewritten five times to be sure that it has been made as clear as possible. The challenge comes in deciding how to approach this incredible subject because it is so multi-faceted. What elements should be presented first? What dimensions should be explored? What perspectives should be demonstrated? Will the student of the Bible want a basic introduction to salvation or is an advanced presentation more appropriate? These are not simple questions. First, to make the concept of salvation easy for beginners to understand, seven statements will be presented that parallel important aspects of salvation. Then, I will address some of the deeper aspects of this topic and expound on the statements for individuals who already have a basic understanding of salvation.

Depending on an individual’s perspective, salvation is something like:

  1. Being born on a train headed for Auschwitz during WWII, but rescued from death by a merciful stranger
  1. Being the only survivor in a plane crash
  1. Winning the lottery
  1. Losing your home and possessions in a fire
  1. Discovering that you have terminal cancer and after a long, difficult fight, realizing that it has gone into complete remission
  1. Being an innocent victim in an act of violence
  1. Receiving a heart transplant

Headed for Auschwitz

Suppose a baby boy was born en route to Auschwitz during WWII. Obviously, the infant could not realize nor understand his destiny. Nevertheless, the train’s destination and the fate of everyone on the train arriving in Auschwitz were certain. Similarly, every person born on this planet is “on a train” that will reach a certain end – whether we realize it (or believe it) or not. This “end” is not death, which is common to men, since physical death is not the end of human existence.  The Bible clearly speaks of two resurrections – a resurrection for righteous people and another for wicked ones. (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 20:5; John 5:10) The “end” I am referring to is a meeting with God. Everyone on Earth will meet God, face to face! (2 Corinthians 5:10) This is man’s destiny. (Revelation 20:12) The crux of the coming meeting is this: God will explain to each person why He judged him or her to be worthy of eternal life or eternal death. The reason I parallel salvation with being rescued from the Auschwitz train is that God’s offer of salvation is man’s only escape from eternal destruction. Since we are sinners, each of us is headed for eternal death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is [eternal] death – but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Later, I will explain why God’s offer of salvation is like being rescued by a merciful stranger.

 

Surviving a Plane Crash

A commercial airliner slams into the side of a mountain. Of the 223 passengers on board, only one person survives. So, how does this illustration parallel salvation? God saves only one person at a time. He does not save nations, churches, friends, family, children or spouses. (Ezekiel 14:12-20) This illustration reveals that salvation is very singular – very personal. Salvation is a matter between God and you. However, a church can offer social and spiritual encouragement.

Winning the Lottery

Everyone has considered the joy of winning a lottery. Getting so much in return for such a small investment appeals strongly to our human nature. In a way, salvation is like that. What God offers is so great compared to what He asks! Sinners gain so much for so little! To know God is an experience we can have that is beyond anything this world can offer. To walk with God is a joy beyond anything this world can provide. To spend an eternity with God will be a prize worth more than anything we can give.

Losing Possessions in a Fire

Next to, losing a loved one, what could be worse than a fire totally destroying your home and possessions? So, does salvation parallel such an experience? When God offers salvation to a person, the issue of surrendering everything to Him becomes primary. God says, “Give me your heart, your affections, your loyalty, your will and obedience and in turn, I will give you salvation.” Usually, God’s offer is juxtaposed between social approval and social confrontation. (Luke 18:18-25) If we submit to God, it often appears that we will lose all that we have worked for – status, fame, money, power, and friends. However, if we accept God’s offer of salvation, then our lives, careers and even our possessions are no longer our own. This is the great test of faith. This is why salvation is like losing everything we own in a fire – for those who accept salvation lose everything they own to God’s control.

Overcoming Cancer

A diagnosis of cancer is often a death sentence. However, some people are able to overcome the ravages of cancer and live to tell about it. Cancer parallels salvation if we recognize that all human beings have the cancer of sin. Sinful natures come at birth! However, it is possible for us through the empowerment of Jesus to overcome the cancer of sin! We can be changed into brand-new creatures. The Bible describes this experience as being born again! (John 3) Even though we are morally frail and spiritually feeble, the “chemotherapy” of Christ’s righteousness can transform a sickly mortal into a healthy example of God’s ideal for the human race.

An Innocent Victim

Each night on the evening news reports how innocent people are killed in some violet way. Even innocent children are abducted, sexually molested and then murdered. The media report daily that innocent people are killed in drive-by shootings. In fact, a friend of mine was innocently gunned down through his front door one night. The “midnight visitors” had the wrong address and were bent on revenge for a drug deal that had gone bad. So, how does the innocent victim scenario parallel salvation? In two ways: First, the sinful nature of Adam and Eve (and its curse) was passed down to their innocent offspring. Cain became a murderer! Unfortunately, as in Cain’s case, it is only a matter of time until an innocent child willfully sins and sin’s curse is perpetuated. Second, God’s offer of salvation is based on a process where the guilt of one man’s sin can be transferred to another person – provided the receiver is a sinless substitute. In our case, Jesus, the innocent, sinless Son of God, died in our place. God allows Jesus’ innocent death to pay sin’s penalty for any person, if that person is willing to submit to the terms and conditions of salvation.

A Heart Transplant

When Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant in South Africa, he made headline news all around the world. In 1967, the idea of replacing a diseased heart with a good heart was heralded as a major step in medical science. Now, three decades later, most people consider that “major step” to actually be a “minor step” and many people have wonderfully benefited from the miracle of heart transplants. However, the logistics of finding donors and the expenses have placed it out of reach for most people. Salvation is similar to a heart transplant since the carnal nature is replaced with a spiritual nature. Each spiritual exchange is no less noteworthy than the first surgery of Dr. Barnard because the effect on the recipient is absolutely amazing! Paul describes this transformation by saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Incredible as it is to believe, this “spiritual transplant” causes a person to love what was once hated and to hate what was once loved! This kind of spiritual transformation happens only through God’s power (grace) on the submissive soul.

Summary

I hope that these seven illustrations will help the reader understand some of the properties of salvation. To further understand these elementary parallels, let us restate these same seven issues, with the support of Bible texts:

  1. The infant born on the train to Auschwitz parallels the fact that each person born on earth is under the curse of sin. Each of us soon commits sin because we inherit sinful natures. Sinners are condemned to eternal death because the wages of sin is death. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” However, Jesus has rescued us from eternal death. Romans 5:19 says, “For just as through the disobedience of the man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many [who receive Him] will be made righteous.”
  1. Surviving the plane crash parallels the fact that no sinner can save another person from eternal death. “….Jesus declared [to Nicodemus], “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) The miracle of rebirth is a divine miracle. Only God can transform a heart thereby providing spiritual rebirth.  The miracle can neither be duplicated nor fabricated nor does it happen on man’s terms. In other words, man cannot make himself “born again.” Man cannot choose to be “born again” whenever he wants to. The miracle of rebirth is something that God alone can do. When the moment of spiritual opportunity occurs for rebirth, we must submit to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If we surrender completely, we will be reborn. If we refuse, the door of opportunity may not be available again. “Today is the day of salvation.” (Hebrews 4:7)
  1. Receiving and experiencing salvation is like winning the lottery! Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Also see Philippians 3:8.) Indeed, even if a person won all of the money in the world, it still would not compare to the riches that await the saints. “What good will it be for a man gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Do not forget – even the richest people on Earth eventually die.
  1. Losing our home and possessions and living for Jesus are similar. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus also said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) What a deal!
  1. Overcoming the cancer of sin is not only possible it is necessary. Jesus said, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father.” (Revelation 3:21) How does a person overcome sin? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If we confess (admit) our sins, then Christ will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness! Jesus will remove from our hearts our love for sin, making us pure in heart.
  1. Jesus was an innocent victim. He was the Lamb of God. Through the sacrifice of His Son, the Father silenced every argument that might prevent a person from being saved. John 1:29 says, “The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” Notice that Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He is not man’s Lamb. Christ died on behalf of God’s enemies: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10)
  1. God offers a heart transplant to everyone, but there is one condition: Unconditional surrender to the will of God. The Bible says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.’” (John 3:5,6) The process of being born of the Spirit is a divine miracle that occurs on an individual basis. Parents cannot experience this for their children, and children cannot experience it for their parents. God has no grandchildren. Each person becomes a child of God through rebirth. (1 John 3:1) When you are “born of water” this means that each child of God is baptized into Christ. Baptism is a public affirmation (just as a marriage vow is a public affirmation) of an inner transformation and life commitment. Baptism testifies that a person has chosen Christ as Lord and Master and will go wherever Christ leads, be all that Christ asks and do all that Christ commands through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19,20; Philippians 4:13)

 

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