Salvation. This one’s first because it’s a big one. What does the church teach? We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. The wages of sin are death. So we deserve to die. To be specific, we deserve to die a spiritual death and be cast in Hell. But God made a way for us to live eternally and join Him in Heaven because He loves us so much. How do we live eternally? We have to be saved! Unless your denomination doesn’t like to use the term “saved”. Then you must be “born again”! [It pains me to say I’ve actually heard “Christians” argue about which term should be used. As if the terminology is the real issue…] How does one get saved?
Go to church and learn the ABC’s of Christianity:
A. Admit you are sinner. You know the drill. Tell everyone that you do things wrong, and spill your guts about a few particulars. In this step you are not only admitting that you’ve done things wrong, but you are acknowledging that you agree with the concept that you do not deserve eternal life due to your sin. It’s pretty much a humbling process.
B. Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He came down to Earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified on a cross, and after three days rose from the dead. His death paid the price for your sin as long as you believe all of this and move on to step C.
C. Confess with your mouth that you have been saved. Tell someone else that you’ve made this decision.
The End! You are saved now!
ABC’s not your thing? Try this version of a sinner’s prayer instead (taken from a tract):
Dear Heavenly Father, I know I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for my sin. I am willing to turn from sin. I now ask Jesus Christ to come into my heart and life as my personal Saviour. I am willing, by God’s grace, to follow and obey Christ as the Lord of my heart and life. Amen.
(Following the prayer listed) If you have accepted Christ as your Saviour, you are one heartbeat from spending eternity in heaven; however, if you have rejected Him, you are one heartbeat from an eternity in hell. (End of tract.)
Please understand: I am not trying to mock the salvation process or the gospel that the vast majority of churches and Christians teach. I think that these tracts are made, these ABC’s are formatted into steps, and these sinner’s prayers are written out with good intentions of spreading the gospel. And sometimes they work. I think that people are truly led to a saving knowledge of Christ through these tactics. But I don’t think they always work. In other words, I think that hundreds of thousands of people (possibly more) have said the sinner’s prayer or followed the ABC’s of salvation and walked away from that experience believing they’ve escaped a future in Hell when, in all reality, nothing changed. When they die, they will still spend an eternity in Hell. That terrifies me. That burdens me. That makes me want to bawl.
That’s why I’ve started this blog. Now that we’ve looked at the church’s answer to my post title, what did Jesus say about eternal life? It’s a good thing somebody asked Him.
“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’
So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.’
And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’
So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’
But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’
And those who heard it said, ‘Who then can be saved?’
But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’
Then Peter said, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’
So He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents of brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.’
Wait a minute. Somebody asked Jesus how to be saved and He did not tell them to say a prayer!?! In fact, Jesus’ answer would probably be scoffed at in most churches as unbiblical. It almost sounds like a work-based salvation. He told this man to obey the commandments, sell all of his possessions, and then “follow Me”.
A few chapters later, Jesus speaks to a different man in a very different context. Let’s take a look at His chat with the criminal crucified next to Him.
“But the other, answering, rebuked him [the other sinner crucified], saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’
And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'”
Two very different men. Two very different scenarios. Both wanted the same thing from Jesus. Jesus answered them in two different ways. What is the common denominator? The sinner’s statement on the cross sounds quite similar to that prayer I found in the gospel tract. He admitted that he had done things wrong and deserved to be on that cross. He acknowledged that Jesus was undeserving of this horrible death. Then he asked Jesus to remember Him. That was it. Jesus accepted his statement and affirmed his salvation. But if that is really all it takes, then why didn’t Jesus let the rich, young ruler in on that secret?
What do I think? It’s a matter of the heart. Salvation can come through a simple prayer – or through admitting, believing, confessing. But it’s got to be more than lip service. The church has grabbed hold of how it can happen and, unfortunately, started teaching that it always happens the same way. I’m afraid there are a lot of people walking around in the shoes of that rich, young ruler. They asked how they could be saved, and instead of digging into the matter and searching the heart, like Christ did, the church told them to say a little prayer. Is that really all it takes? Is the church actually teaching truth?
What do you think?