Mel slowly admitted how distant she felt from God, how distant she had always felt. Even though she had walked the aisle at church multiple times and given her life to the Lord on numerous occasions, she still felt disconnected. “It’s like there is a blockage between us,” she whispered with tears in her eyes, “And I just can’t figure out what it is.”
“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)
Ask this questions to a bunch of different Christians and you will probably get a bunch of different answers. Such as:
- Pray the sinners prayer
- Ask Jesus into your heart
- Raise your hand, walk the aisle, etc
- Make Jesus the Lord of your life
- Be Baptized
- Admit, Believe, Confess (ABC)
- Receive the Holy Spirit
Good old “Christianese”, the words and phrases that we Christians throw around without stopping to think about what they actually mean… It’s a problem, and I’m guilty too. Until a few years ago, answering the above question in Acts 16:30 terrified me. What if I said it wrong or didn’t get it exactly right? Honestly, I avoided having to “share the gospel” if possible. When an opportunity presented itself, I often went with well-meaning but meaningless things like “God loves you” or “I’m praying for you”. Those sound nice, but they aren’t the Good News!
It wasn’t until I went to Bible school (at Frontier School of the Bible) with my new husband, and sat in a Personal Evangelism class taught by Dr. Richard Seymour that it finally clicked! Strangely enough, I wasn’t the only one there who had never understood salvation. My college friend, Kristine, who had been in church her whole life, ended up getting saved in Dr. Seymour’s class. (Something Dr. Seymour says happens every year!)
Which leaves me with a question: what in the world? Every year people who love God enough to want to go into full-time ministry come to Bible school, hear the clear gospel, and get saved? What is wrong with our churches? Maybe it’s our Christianese!
What exactly is it that saves us?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
By grace, through faith, not by works. As in, it is not based on anything I DO! Well, that knocks off praying a prayer, raising a hand, walking an aisle, repenting, being baptized, etc.
What about “Ask Jesus into your heart”? This phrase is incredibly confusing, especially if you take it literally. And who does it get used with most? Children (who happen to be super literal)!
The Bible tells us that we are given the Holy Spirit once we are saved as a guarantee of our salvation. (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-10) So, we don’t have to ask for Him to come in.
There is a verse (Revelation 3:20) that talks about Jesus standing at a door, knocking, but it is not talking about the “door of our heart. And, when you read it in CONTEXT (yes, I’m yelling) you will see that the verse is being written to a Christian church and it is not talking about salvation. Hmmm… So, why do we use this phrase when telling someone how to be saved?
And, “make Jesus the Lord of your life”? This is the idea that in order to be saved (or as an evidence of salvation) a person must completely surrender, give Him total control, and make Him “Lord”. Isn’t Jesus already the Lord whether we live like it or not? And isn’t this basing our salvation on works?
When I first came out of my legalistic, standard-filled, cultic Christianity, this was the type of gospel I preached. I thought that people should be serious about living like a Christian. Even though I was beginning to understand grace, I wanted to make sure people lived “right”. My pastor pulled me aside one day after my gospel lesson to 5th-6th graders and gently corrected me. I’d never heard of “lordship salvation” before. (If you’d like more information about lordship salvation, I’d encourage you to Google it. There are some great sites with information for and against.)
I feel like this approach has good intentions, but misses the mark because often people end up either trusting or doubting based on their own actions (if they are making Jesus “Lord”). There is too much emphasis put on me and my performance, and not enough emphasis on Jesus and what He accomplished for me on the cross. Christians who believe in lordship salvation have a lot of verses they use to back up this idea, but I’d encourage you to look them up and put them in, you guessed it, Context! 🙂
So, then, how can I be saved?
I listened to my new friend as she shared her heart and her frustrations with Christianity and God. She wanted to be close to God, but it wasn’t working. I asked if I could share some verses with her. We turned to John 3:16-18
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (A familiar verse) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
“What if you have always struggled to feel close to God, because you never understood salvation?” I asked. “What if you were always trying to do something instead of believing in and accepting what Jesus has already done?
Mel examined the verses in front of her. “Can it really be that easy?”
I smiled, “I think it is.”
She signed, and I could almost watch a weight fall off her shoulders. Then she smiled.
I don’t know if that was the moment Mel trusted Jesus, but the “when” and “how” aren’t really important…The important thing is that we “do”!
What do you think? Too easy? What are you reacting to? What emotions are you feeling?Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!
I included a link to Dr. Richard Seymour’s website if you click on his name. I’m also including a link to a Facebook note about salvation that I wrote back in 2008 after sitting through Dr. Seymour’s class.