What Is Essential for Salvation?
Have you ever wondered what the essential elements are that make someone a child of God?
- Whether they profess Jesus as their Savior?
- Whether they were baptized in the right way?
- What day they attend worship services
- How they dress?
- Whether they are pro-life or pro-choice?
- Whether they believe in the Trinity or reject the Trinity?
- Whether they avoid alcohol and pork?
Consider each element:
- Are there people who have professed Jesus as their Savior but who will ultimately be lost? According to Jesus, many of the unsaved will claim salvation in His name: âNot everyone who says to me, âLord, Lord,â will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, âLord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?â Then I will tell them plainly, âI never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!â â (Matthew 7:21â23 NIV84).
- Will there be people in heaven who werenât baptized in water? Consider the thief on the cross to whom Jesus promised salvation. The man died without water baptism, as did all those who were saved in Old Testament times.
- Have there ever been people who observed the right day of worship yet had un-Christlike hearts? Those who crucified Christ wanted Him taken down from the cross before sunset so that the Sabbath wouldnât be violated.
- Have there ever been people who wore Christian clothing yet have done things Christ would never do? Some people have worn overtly religious garbâclothing designed to declare their devotion to Godâand yet have molested and abused the innocent.
- Can a person be pro-life yet act in a way Jesus never would? Some have professed Christianity yet have murdered abortion doctors or bombed abortion clinic. Is taking a political stance and advocating for a particular legislative policy a requirement for salvation?
- Must we fully comprehend the nature of the Godhead to be saved? Many who burned people at the stake did so while believing in the Trinity.
- Will we be lost because we ate things the Bible says we shouldnât eat? David gave food meant only for priests to his soldiers, yet he will be in heaven. Pharisees who never touched pork plotted the murder of Jesus.
Doesnât it seem that these particular elements can sometimes put us into a state of fear? What if Iâm not doing it right? We become afraid of getting into legal trouble with God, of having an act of unforgiveable sin put onto our account, of losing eternal life. Yet when fear is the primary motivation for our behavior, what happens to us? We become insecure, which will result in conflict when other Christians practice their faith differently. We object, find fault, put down, and seek to prove wrong the âothers.â As a result, Christianity falls into division, disagreement, and hostility.
But the Christianity that Jesus taught was one of unity, an experience in which divisions fade away and people enter into loving fellowship despite their differences. Jesus broke down dividing barriers: He spoke to women, touched lepers, ate with tax-collectors, and socialized with prostitutes; He visited Samaritans, defended and accepted the poor, and broke the Sabbath rules of the religious authorities so that He could do good works, like healing untouchables.
What was different about Jesus than the divisive Christianity we see today? Jesus loved perfectly, operating only upon Godâs design protocols (laws) for life. He didnât approach life with a rules-first perspective; rather, because He understood how life is built by God to operateâin a never-ending circle of selfless loveâHe served selflessly even those who were breaking the rules.
Jesus came to lead humanity back into harmony with Godâs design for life, away from fear-based rule-keeping and toward love-first behavior. He understood that acts of sin deviate from Godâs designâcausing pain, suffering, and deathâso He avoided behaviors, not religious rules, that would take Him out of harmony with Godâs design. He often broke religious rules in order to bring others into harmony with Godâs design.
Jesus knew behavioral modification could not save anyone, because mere rule-breaking isnât the real problem. He knew that the problem sin caused was a heart that was selfish and fear-riddenâa condition of being outside of Godâs design of love. Jesus knew that human beings need to be renewed, regenerated, recreated; we need to be reborn, to have our hearts of stone removed, to have hearts of flesh put in, to have our hearts circumcised by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew that we need to experience the truth of Godâs love in order to win us back to trust in God, so that we will choose to open our hearts and experience the healing power of the Holy Spirit and then live that love in how we treat others.
Thus, the Bible teaches:
- âLove does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the lawâ (Romans 13:10 NIV84).
- âIf you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, âLove your neighbor as yourself,â you are doing rightâ (James 2:8 NIV84).
- â âLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.â This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: âLove your neighbor as yourself.â All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandmentsâ (Matthew 22:37â40).
Only by returning to the truth of our Creator God, who built life to operate upon the protocols of love, and rejecting the lie that Godâs law works like human law, a system of imposed rules that require imposed penalties, will trust in God truly be restored. Then, when hearts open in trust to God, the Spirit will come in, and a miracle will happen: Fear will be replaced by love, selfishness will be expelled by selflessness, cruelty will be purged by kindness, shame and guilt will be eradicated by peace and contentment, callousness will give way to tenderness, rudeness will turn to kindness, impulsiveness will turn to patience, and divisions will evaporate as people renewed in love experience genuine unity of heart, of principle, of motive, of characterâpeople who celebrate the richness of their diversity in culture, race, nationality, social status, education, and abilities.
What is the essential element that makes someone a child of God? To be renewed in heart to love like God loves and to live in harmony with how our Creator God has built His universe to operate. All of this is made possible only through our Savior Jesus Christ, who took our terminal condition upon Himself in order to overcome it, to eradicate it, and to restore the species human back to Godâs ideal.
I invite you to reject the false human-law lie that has infected Christianity and made it appear that we are in legal trouble with God and that God is a cruel dictator who is required to punish rule-breaking. Instead, worship our Creator God who built His universe to operate on love and who understands that we are all struggling with a condition of heart and mind with which we were born, a condition that needs healing, not punishing, and who sent His Son to procure the remedy that will heal and restore all who trust Him.
I invite you to enter Godâs universe of love!