Have you ever wondered, what are people talking about when they say that you must be saved if you wish to go to Heaven, or at the very least avoid Hell? In other words, what must one do to be saved? Well, to understand that, one must first go back to the source of our problem. Namely, our sin.
To understand what makes a person a Christian, we first have to go back to the source of our problem. Namely, our sin. We, as human beings, are depraved, sinful creatures. To understand the depth of one's sin is to understand the sheer, unfathomable depravity of even the best we have to offer before God. Yes, to God, even our best, most righteous, most exceptional of all good deeds are evil, vile, disgusting and depraved.
Isaiah 64:6 (KJV) - "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
To understand this verse properly we must first go much, much deeper than simply the words given above. The reason why is because, to the modern person, the term "filthy rags" doesn't elicit the same reaction of utter and total revulsion the original author intended to convey. In the original Greek, the word for "filthy rags" is "ayd" which refers to a woman's "period" or menstrual flux, and was the most vile, disgusting, horrific, gut wrenching thing the Jewish people of the time knew. Especially those with extensive knowledge of the Levitical code. To others however, different imagery was used. For example, when addressing the church at Philippi, Paul chose to use the word "skubalon", which is Greek for dung or excrement. This is seen in Philippians 3:5-8.
Philippians 3:5-8 (KJV) - "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,"
So if you picture for yourself the most vile, wretched, disgusting, horrid, putrid thing you can imagine, you're only just beginning to understand the full measure of how utterly evil and depraved our good deeds are before God. Now, if our "good" deeds are that horrible, imagine just how utterly vile and repulsive our sins and rebellion are in God's eyes. Suddenly even our best deeds no longer look so good, do they? This in turn proves the simple fact that we, in and of ourselves, can't ever hope to come close to matching up to God's holiness. But this now begs another question. Is sin inherent, or is it a choice? I believe it's both. Allow me to explain.
Psalm 51:5 (NIV) - "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."
When we are born, we come into this world with an inherited sin nature. We don't ask for it. It's just a part of who we are. But like our hair, our eyes and our entire body, we inherit our parents traits, as well as all of those from everyone before them leading all the way back to Adam, the first man in all of history. Therefore all are sinful at birth. Every single person. Thus no single human being, no matter how great or small they may be, is sinless.
Hebrews 10:26 (KJV) - "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins."
If we sin willfully? If? That certainly sounds like it's saying that it will happen, should we choose to do so. And there are plenty of examples in the Bible and real life of men and women who had the choice to do good or evil, and instinctively chose evil. But since it's a choice and we can do either good or evil, the decision to sin is thus also a willful choice. As such sin is both inherited (i.e. we're born with the nature that instinctively leans towards evil) and intentional. It'd be one thing if you had no control over whether you sinned or not. If it was not your choice, then it is unlikely that God would hold it against you as you would not be responsible for your actions. However, since it is willful, we are held fully accountable for every sin we commit. So it is both our sin nature and our willful desire to sin that has made us who we are.
Romans 3:10 (KJV) - "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
Because of these two states, both inherited and willful sin, everyone on this planet, from Adam to present, is guilty of sin. But wait a second, doesn't that mean that the very man we follow, Jesus Christ, is also guilty of sin? No, because Jesus was not born of man, but of woman. Now you're probably sitting there completely confused saying, "Aren't we all born from women?" Yes, our mothers give birth to us. However, this is speaking of the source of our identity and of who we are. In biblical terms the man was the source of life, because without his sperm (aka, "seed" in the Bible), a child was not possible. And it is through Adam that all sin has come and been passed down.
Romans 5:15 (ESV) - "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many."
However, Christ was not conceived through normal sexual relations. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, which means that no man's "seed" entered into the woman (Mary) to enable the conception of Jesus. God, through the Holy Spirit, entered into Mary and made possible that which is not biologically possible (i.e. being conceived without the "seed" of a man), allowing Jesus to be conceived, born, and live a sinless life as no sin nature was imputed to Him since He had no physical father like we do.
Matthew 1:18-23 (KJV) - "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." - (emphasis mine)
Did you notice what it says? She was a virgin when she conceived. Physically that's impossible, especially in those times. But with God, all things are possible. So by His being conceived of the Holy Spirit, the "seed" that was given to the woman (Mary) was sinless and flawless, and thus no sin nature was found in Him (Jesus). This part is important as you'll see later on. So why did Jesus, the Son of God, have to be born sinless, clothed in flesh, and made to come here only to suffer and die? As usual, I'll let the Bible answer that for me.
Romans 3:23 (KJV) - "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Once again we come back around to the fact that all have sinned, that we live in moral depravity, with sins as dark and evil as the most vile things you can think of, and then some. And what is the result of this sinful, moral depravity?
Romans 6:23 (KJV) - "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (emphasis mine)
The cost of our sin, the "wages" we earn through the commission of sin, is death, both physical and spiritual.
Romans 5:12 (KJV) - "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
Are you starting to see the picture here? By sinning we bring death upon ourselves. And if we are hopelessly sinful, what hope do we have of being saved from the just and righteous requirement of making payment for our sins? For every sin we commit an act of restitution must be made in turn. But if we are sinful and finite, such an act becomes impossible for us. So who or what can pay for our sins, to wash away our iniquity, our guilt, our shame, our wretchedness?
Christ Died For Us
Since sins, according to God's law, MUST, by necessity, be paid for, that leaves but one option for us. Eternity in Hell: the most horrible, terrible, fearful place in all of creation, and the one and only proper payment for what we have done. Or is it? What if there was another way, a scapegoat if you will, that could take away our punishment and set us free from the penalty of our sins? One such person exists.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (KJV) - "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Romans 5:6, 8 (KJV) - "6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Jesus Christ *IS* our scapegoat. He came to Earth knowing that we had no other way by which to be saved. So He willingly gave His own sinless, perfect life for us that we might be saved and set free. Yes, Jesus took it all. He took every one of our sins, and ever ounce of God's wrath and punishment, the very punishment we deserve, onto Himself. As such all of our sins were taken off of us and put onto Him. That doesn't make us immediately sinless, as we still have our fleshly sin nature, but it does take away the eternal punishment and imprisonment in Hell for our sins that we so rightly deserve.
And since Jesus was both God, and sinless, He had no sins of His own that He would be accountable for. Therefore He was completely free to take all of our sins upon Himself in willing payment for all the evil and wickedness we have done before God. But to do this Jesus had to die, taking our punishment of death and Hell upon Himself, forever imputing His righteousness upon us through this act of sacrifice. But if that were all He did, the work would be incomplete, and Jesus would not be God. So what other act did Jesus do that completed this sin transaction?
Jesus Rose Again!
Luke 24:1-7 (KJV) - "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
In order to complete our Salvation, Jesus not only had to die on the cross of Calvary, but He also had to rise from the grave! Why was resurrection so important to our Salvation? Well, part of it was symbolic, the dying of the old man (sinful) and the raising up of the new man (sinless), and part of it was literal, namely the taking of death and Hell captive, freeing us from the penalty of our sins and giving us eternal life with God. So if sin brought death, the death of Jesus brought us life, and that far more abundantly, and eternal. So how does one receive this payment for sins? Clearly, if people are still going to Hell today, the payment for our sins is not automatic. While they have indeed been paid for, one must understand that Salvation is a gift, and as a gift it must be received first before it can be our own. So how does one go about receiving this gift? How does one become saved from the penalty of their sins?
Trust In Him
(i.e. accept Him as my substitute)
To receive this gift, as with any gift, you must first accept it. No gift is yours, no matter what it is, until it is accepted. So how does one accept this gift? Some call it the "sinner's prayer", or the "prayer of Salvation". In reality it's merely your act of acceptance for something that has already been made yours, but has not yet been received by you. A simple sinners prayer begins by you acknowledging your sins. Confess them to God, then ask for His forgiveness. Acknowledge that you understand that Jesus died and rose again from the dead for your sins, and to save you, and that you freely accept His (Jesus Christ's) gift to you, and you accept Him as your Lord and Savior, and for Him to come into your heart and life and take over completely.
Now I can't just write this for you. This isn't something you recite verbatim and hocus pocus you're saved. It doesn't work that way. This is best done in your own words, and it must be honest, heart felt, and legitimate. It can't be insincere and flippant. You must truly mean what you say. If it's not sincere, then it's just a bunch of words and the gift will still not be yours. This has to be an actual, honest, true request to God. You must WANT Jesus in your heart and life and not just a "get out of jail free" card, so to speak. We're not doing magic here. This is an actual, true, honest spiritual transaction. By doing this you are willingly handing over your entire life to Jesus and in turn He will give you freedom from the penalty and guilt of your sins, and eternal life as a result.
As I said, I can't do this for you. It's something YOU must do for yourself, and it must be honest and legitimate. I can't stress that enough. You can't fake your way through this. God knows if you're honest or not. He knows your heart right down to the tiniest fiber of your being. He knows every single atom in your body. Trust me, for someone who knows that much, you can't in your wildest dreams hope to deceive Him. If it's not legit, you gain nothing but a false title at best, and probably a deeper, darker corner of Hell at the very worst. So you must really, really want this.
So, what is your decision today?
Will you choose Christ, and ultimately eternal life today, or will you reject Him and risk an eternity in Hell forever separated not only from God, but everyone else you love? Are you willing to put that to chance, or will you make the right decision today and choose life by choosing Christ? If He didn’t love you unconditionally, despite all you’ve done, He wouldn’t have did everything He did, including death on the cross, for you. So please, before you reject Christ, perhaps for the last and final time, at least consider what I’ve said already. Your eternity depends on it.