IS SALVATION A FREE GIFT?
How is a person saved? Is it that you do something about your sin and God will save you? There are questions that must be answered for us to truly know how to be saved? We read in Romans 6:23; "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." If it is a gift, then why do so many feel as though they have to do something to earn it? Is not the real issue, that you need to understand how hopelessly lost you are, drowning in your sin? That your life, your heart and your eternal destiny are hopelessly lost beyond all control and your only hope of deliverance from yourself is Jesus Chris? Let us be real here, you can't do anything about your sin, Jesus did at the cross when He died for your sins. Have you accepted His free gift of salvation?
Paul sums up the gospel for us in 1 Corinthians 15:31; "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;" For he tells us that Christ died for our sins, those five words mean the difference between eternal life and eternal death. While others may say that you must make Jesus the Lord of your life, then and only then can you truly be saved- only deny the reality of the carnal Christian (examine Paul's letters). None can deny that the Christian is to make himself a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2) but one must be a Christian first. Let us not confuse discipleship and worship with the simple message of salvation.
Examine if you will Ephesians 2:8 -10 which says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Notice that in these verses we see that a person is clearly saved by grace, and once they are saved they become a new creature, designed to do good works. It is not good works first and then salvation, but salvation first and then they are newly created to do good works.
Some might be tempted to say that the gospel is clearly presented when we tell someone to invite Jesus in to their heart. After all, a relationship with Jesus is important. However, it is not you that does the inviting but it is God who has invited you.
In order for someone to be saved that individual must make a heart felt decision to forsake their sin and accept the free gift of salvation which Christ offered to us by dying on the cross. If one does not understand they are drowning in their sins and that their only hope is the work that Christ did on the cross on their behalf, than that individual is hopelessly lost. No amount of church going, godly living, or partaking of religious rituals is going to change that. (Romans 10:9-11)
The problem in many of our churches today is that we teach “easy believism,” which is to say that if you will come up front, recite this prayer, sign a card, join the club, and be water baptized you are forever saved. The truth is we do not find this any where in the scriptures. What we find is that salvation is based only on our putting our faith and our trust in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. Paul writes in; Galatians 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Meaning that it is when we stop relying on ourselves and our faithfulness, but in Christ and His faithfulness that we become justified- truly saved!
Someone may ague that it is “easy believism,” to believe that a person is saved when they reject themselves and turn to Christ, but nothing can be farther from the truth. For we are inclined to trust in ourselves, we by nature are inclined to take matters in to our own hands. If you give me a list of things to do or rules to follow that I cannot break I feel as though I have achieved something, I feel as though I am owed something. Never forget that Abraham was not saved by his works but by believing God. Again, Paul writes in Galatians: 3:6 “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Let us never convince our selves that we can determine the salvation of another because they are able to perform some kind of ritual or act. It is clearly the confession of a heart changed by God. We read in; Acts 26:20 “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
So how do we know if someone has truly accepted God’s free gift of salvation. Consider these words from Marty Machowski in his pamphlet “Leading Your Child To Christ”; “The fruit of genuine faith and repentance falls into two categories, the “put offs” and the “put ons”(Ephesians 4:22-24) The “put offs” are the sins we regularly committed as unbelievers apart from Christ: anger, selfishness, jealousy, disrespect of parents, indifference to God’s Word, and other such sins. The “put ons” are those marks of grace that grow in the lives of believers as we conform to Christ. The most significant of these marks of grace are those that demonstrate an independent ongoing pursuit of Jesus. When we see our children demonstrate an independent engagement in worship, prayer, Bible reading, and a love for hearing God’s Word, that is great evidence that God has given them new life. And when we see our children demonstrate a growing love for others and a desire to serve in community with believers, we can be sure that God is at work in their lives."
Of course we should look for the fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives and the lives of others who profess to be believers, but to say that any fruit should be seen before someone becomes a believer is to demand of a seed that it produce fruit before it is even planted in the ground and nurtured. The individual person, like the seed must first die to itself (buried seed/Jesus, only you can save me), transform from it’s previous state (seed/sinner) into the image of what it is to grow into (fruit tree/Christ).
We can never become like Christ, until we first learn that Christ’s offer of salvation is simple (2 Corinthians 11:3) and free- that Christ died for you and for me.