How to Gain Salvation

“It is about being good. That’s what ALL religions are about anyway”, said Raven-Symone on a segment of “The View”. They were discussing the American Atheist billboard which stated, “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness’ sake.” This statement by Raven expresses the belief of many Americans and others around the world that religion, including Christianity, is just about living a good life and ‘being good’.  But it isn’t true!

Many claim, “I’m not perfect, but I’m good enough.” Both these ideas come from the idea that you can work, or earn, your way into heaven. In that segment of “The View”, Paula Faris responded to Raven with, “Not Christianity, it’s by grace through faith you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) This one aspect, among others, makes Christianity and the gospel message different than all other religions. It’s not about what you do, or being good enough to gain your salvation and entry into the holy presence of God. You cannot, by your own efforts, save yourself; or make yourself right with God. Instead, it is by the work of Jesus on the cross that God extends his grace and mercy to you.

Candace Cameron Bure responded to the billboard message by saying, “You couldn’t feed me something better to have a conversation that would lead into having a gospel conversation.” There are many misunderstandings about Christianity, and a message like this does offer an opening to simply explain the gospel and correct the false understanding. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul writes to Timothy to say, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Our job as evangelists is to correct misunderstandings and false teachings that abound in our culture. Nearly every epistle (letter) in the New Testament is written at least partially to correct a false teaching or false teachers.

These ideas can lead us to a question to ask the unbeliever, “Are you good enough to get into heaven?” This question helps people think deeper about spiritual things. Most people think either that they are good enough or that God is loving and will just let them in. Mankind falls into the trap of thinking they just need to be better than their neighbor, we can always find someone worse than us. We identify with the statement that we don’t need to run faster than the bear, just faster than your friend. It is a good transition into understanding their knowledge of the God and the gospel.

God will judge by His standard, not by comparison to our neighbor. God gives us His standard in the Bible. It is summarized in Matthew 22:34-40 when Jesus answers the question about the greatest commandments: To first, love God, and after it to love your neighbor. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. The 10 commandments are separated into two parts, one relating to our love of God, and the other regarding how to love our neighbor. When we evaluate our own actions against God’s standard, we all admit we have not followed these commands perfectly. We have all lied at some point. We have failed. Paul writes in Galatians 3:21, “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”

Some respond by answering that they are not good enough, but God will let them in because He is full of love or grace. They have heard enough of the gospel message to know that God forgives, but not enough to clearly understand how God demonstrates His justice. In Romans 6:15, after explaining grace, Paul asks, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Even though God is full of grace, we still recognize the results of sin. In verse 6, we are reminded that, “the wages of sin is death.”

How do we reconcile these two false ideas: ‘being good enough’ and ‘eternal forgiveness’?

First, we understand that God is a good judge and none can keep that law perfectly, so we all deserve punishment for disobeying His law. None of us are ‘good enough’ (Romans 3:23).

If God is a good judge, how can He let us go without the deserved punishment? If you stole a car and got caught, you would be charged and brought into court before a judge. If you admitted your guilt, but responded with “I didn’t mean any harm,” or with “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,” how should a good judge respond? Would he say, “You were sincere, you can go,” or “You learned your lesson, you are free,” No! There is still the matter of the stolen car and the deserved fine of $25,000. However, if someone else came and paid your fine, justice would be complete and you would be set free. How would you respond to the person who stepped in and paid the fine on your behalf?

You see, God can be holy and just while showing grace and forgiveness. Paul summarizes this in Romans 3:22-26, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement… He did this to demonstrate his justice…” Jesus gave us the gift of grace by fulfilling justice on the cross, paying our penalty, “The wages of sin is death.” We respond to this gift by fighting against the sin in our lives because of what He has done, not what we have done to deserve it.

When we understand this gospel message and how grace works, we can look past the accusation that the church is full of hypocrites. God has given us His gift of gace; we are not perfect nor free from sin. We still struggle against sin, but recognize that Christ has freed us from the slavery to sin. We aren’t better than the unbeliever and should guard against becoming self-righteous.

Additional Learning

Prayer

Pray that each laborer in the harvest who shares the good news of salvation will come before Christ with repentance and a contrite heart. We all come to do the Lord’s work with humility, gentleness, and respect.

Author: Jon Neifert
Posted on March 17 2017
Salvation is not a reward for the righteous, it is a gift for the guilty.
Steve Lawson