Woo-hoo! The time has finally come for us to embark upon our rocking and rolling trip through the Word of God. So far, we have gone over our travel tips, and have gotten our itinerary all worked out. Now, here with our bags packed and our tickets in hand, it is time for us to board the Truth Train and depart for the first stop on our journey, the Salvation Station.
At this point, some of you may be wondering why a stop there is necessary at all. For those of you traveling in Group #1—those who may have already experienced salvation, or who may have been involved in the life of a church for many years—you may be thinking that you already have a sufficient grasp on the subject, and that a stop there would be a colossal waste of your time. While for those in Group #2—those traveling with us who may have come from unchurched or secular backgrounds, and who may have either made successes of life on their own, or who may have been taught that, in life, there are no absolutes, that truth is a subjective thing, and that morality is something entirely relative to the situation at hand—you may be thinking to yourselves, “I’ve got it made, what do I need salvation from—or for?” And, for those traveling in Group #3—those who may be coming from other cultural or religious backgrounds, some which may believe that salvation is something that is only attainable upon death, when your works are measured, and the good ones outweigh the bad ones—you may also be considering a stop at this station to be completely unnecessary.
However, a stop here could…
For those in Group #1: Make you aware that your present knowledge of salvation is limited; and, reveal how that knowledge can be greatly expanded, both to your own advantage and to that of the Kingdom of God.
For those in Group #2: Prove that what you’ve been taught about truth, morality, and the meaning of life is incorrect; and, convince you that you are a sinner; and one who is indeed in need of salvation.
For those in Group #3: Help you see that your works, no matter how noble or altruistic they may have been, will never be good enough for you to earn your own salvation; and, introduce you to the Person whose one work of atonement is the only one deemed acceptable by God, thus making it the only one capable of securing the salvation that we all need.
Now, in just the short amount of time that it took to say that, we’ve already reached our first stop; a stop which will prove to be most essential because it is here that we will learn what salvation is, what it does for us, and why we need it. As for finding out how we get it, that is something that we will discover when we reach the next stop on our tour—the New Birth Station.
Although those of you in Group #1 might prefer a complicated, detailed, or more theological definition of salvation, I think that it would be in the best interests of all who are traveling with us to start with the most basic one possible. Personally, I like the one I found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary, for it defines salvation simply as “a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.” I like these definitions because “a saving” implies an act, “a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it is something that must come from a source outside of us. Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about:
- It is about the one-time act of faith that makes a person a child of God;
- It is about the life-long process of spiritual growth which follows; the one that transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
- It is about Jesus, the One outside of ourselves who will be doing all of the saving.
As simple as all this may seem on the surface, please don’t let the simplicity of it keep you from the realization that SALVATION IS REALLY A BIG DEAL!In fact, it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized plan and process by which a Holy God takes a Sinner—that is, someone who was “…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3),” and not only adopts him or her into His family as His very own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His own Son, Jesus! Wow! Just imagine, going from alienation to acceptance, from slavery to freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting!
And just how does He make this happen? Through a three stage process that we will come to know as:
- Salvation, Part I—Which is our Redemption;
- Salvation, Part II—Which is our Sanctification; and,
- Salvation, Part III—Which is our Glorification.
Since our DOT for Redemption is—to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor—Redemption, for us, is the act by which our sin debt is paid; an act making us righteous in the sight of God, and setting us free from the penalty and power of sin so we can be legally adopted as His children.This act is a necessity for us because, while God is holy, due to the sin nature we all inherited from our first set of parents, Adam and Eve, we are not. Therefore, before any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives, so that we can be reconciled to God and become holy like Him.
While most of us are all too quick to deny that such a problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the day of our births to the day of our deaths, we are busy acquiring a “rap sheet” full of offenses against God–that is we, either through our thoughts, words, or deeds, are repeatedly violating the laws of God’s righteousness, violations which are all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.” This means that we are all lawbreakers who are on the run from God, totally unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called upon to appear in His court for judgment.
Sadly, and all too often, either because we don’t realize or believe we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think it safe to put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths. But this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the righteous Judge of the universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation whatsoever. And once the charges against us have been read, and our appeals have been proven to be without merit, this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that it demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God
and all things holy.
But there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who is “… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)”—and because of that, He has made a way to provide an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, to plead the cases of all those who will come before Him and acknowledge the crimes of which they are guilty—if they will do so before they die! This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He came to earth, lived a sinless life that met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross in order to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived. Through the substitution of His death for their deaths, which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and to offer them a pardon, without so much as even a fine to pay! Once pardoned, and with their sin records expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God, and then can be legally adopted as His spiritual children!
Since our Dot for Sanctification is—to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use—Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God. In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created. It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new child, and He begins to teach him what it means to be a child of God. He does this by:
- Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
- Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the “fruit of the Spirit”–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
- Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various “giftings” of service imparted by the very same Spirit;
- Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
- Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.
This training is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; and which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.
Since our Dot for Glorification is—to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly—Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children. As the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven, and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ. Plus, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first on earth and later in eternity.
WOW! As you can see, SALVATION REALLY IS A BIG DEAL—in fact, it is the BIGGEST and the BEST DEAL ever to be offered! So, how do we go about taking advantage of such a great deal? Well, that is something we will find out about at our next stop, where we will learn all about the New Birth. Until then, though, it is back on the train for everyone–so all aboard!
Laura Story reminds us of “What A Savior” we have…