A large sign outside a country church we passed one Easter read: “Jesus saves.” To Bible students who love God and enjoy studying His Word, these two words have a wealth of meaning. For those not spiritually inclined, these words mean very little. To most of the world, “Jesus” is just a swear word.
To nominal Christians, Jesus has been given an extreme makeover from who He is revealed to be in the Bible. The “new” Jesus is good for the box office and recording studios. They fit Jesus into their way of life, rather than allowing Him to change them to fit into His life.
What does “Jesus saves” really mean? The word “save” is incomplete by itself. We can save something, are saved by something or can be saved from something.
When it comes to our salvation, we are saved from sin or sins. Matthew 1:21 sums it up, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” I have found it enlightening to add the word “from” whenever the word “save,” “saved” or “salvation” is involved.
saved from what?
If we are saved from sin, what is sin? 1 John 3:4-10 states that sin is disobedience to God's law of love—the 10 Commandments. This law reveals sin—disobedience—and is also God's great standard of righteousness. It reveals to us whether we are walking in the path of righteousness or have wandered away. This is why we need saving.
Due to sin, it is not natural for us to walk the path of obedience. Although God did not create us with His divine nature, we were created in His image— He gave us His character of love. But since Adam's fall, we are all born with evil attributes and tendencies. We are now all twisted and knotted up inside, and must be reborn with the attributes of Jesus—our Saviour from sin—to be able to enter the kingdom of God.
Our nature is sinful. Our character is perfected supernaturally by the power of God's grace. This change is an absolute miracle from God, as we can not do it for ourselves.
The new birth is a complete change of direction. All our nastiness, hating and despising of others is changed to love for everyone we meet. Jesus came to stop us hating each other and fill us with His love, joy and peace.
a plan worth following
God's plan of salvation is so simple; it is religion that has complicated it.
God's law of love is the path of righteousness He has directed us to walk if we want to arrive safely in heaven.
If people want to know where I live, I give them directions. If these directions aren't followed—obeyed—they could either end up in Darwin or Melbourne.
One thing is certain: they wouldn't get to where I live. We too, must follow the directions God has given us in His map—the Bible.
The “thou shalt nots” are the paths God does not want us to go down. We can get lost, bogged or end up going in the opposite direction. We cannot claim to know God and say we are travelling in the right direction if we are not on the path He set for us. In our natural state, we don't even want to be on the path of obedience. The message of the Bible is to turn around and get back on God's path.
God's amazing grace
We are saved—not because we deserve it but because God is gracious.
We must be saved before we can walk the path of righteousness. Neither faith nor works can purchase salvation (from sin) for us—only grace can. Faith is the means to grace (we must believe it), works are the result of being saved— having made the choice to allow the Spirit to live and work in our hearts.
Jesus not only saves us from the penalty— the condemnation—of the law but helps us obey it.
Cheap (counterfeit) grace excuses sin.
God's grace eradicates sin and protects us from falling. Sin is the most costly thing in the universe. It cost Jesus His life—He died in our place. And even though we know about Jesus, sin can still cost us our lives. If we claim to know Jesus yet live without His power in our lives, we have no excuse for our sins.
Ephesians 2:8-10 reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Grace is God's gift to us. We ourselves have absolutely nothing to boast about.
We are only doing God's will for us.
We can't obey God without Him saving us first and putting us on track. He recreates and restores us, enabling us to walk His path.
We devalue God by living as if Satan is more powerful than God. When we do the obeying, God does the fighting for us. To defeat the devil, all we must do is wear the armour of righteousness.
As Mary, Christ's mother, said to the servants at the wedding in Canaan, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.” As our example, Jesus trod the path of righteousness—obedience—in His journey from the kingdom to the cross.
He had to live for us before He could be the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. In turn, we can also tread our path in the same strength Jesus received from His Father, in our journey from the cross to the kingdom—to follow love, peace and holiness, without which no-one shall see God.
God's grace and the law go hand in hand: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).
grace: past, present and future
Grace involves the three tenses of our lives—past, present and future.
Past: Because we have disregarded and broken the law in the past, grace justifies, pardons and cleanses us. Jesus rescues us from Satan's prison, imputes or ascribes to us His righteousness and puts us on course. Imputed righteousness has nothing to do with obedience (works of the law). This is what Jesus did for us at the cross. And it is ours if we confess our sins and forsake our disobedience.
We are not saved by obedience— Jesus saves us from disobedience.
Present: God's grace also sanctifies, empowers and protects us from the devil and his temptations. This is what grace does in us today, by Jesus imparting His righteousness: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Remain connected to Jesus—He came to keep us out of prison. Sanctification is justification maintained.
Future: One day soon, when Jesus comes, those who have lived in His grace will have followed Him all the way to His kingdom. He will glorify us. Satan's prison will then be completely destroyed, because “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
When we meet Him on that day, the only thing we take with us to heaven is our character—the character formed through past and present grace. Our future grace is revealed today in our nature of obedience.
I have personally discovered that this wonderful, supernatural power of grace does work. Where I once disdained someone with unchristlike hatred, we are now the best of friends. Jesus makes it so easy if we but cooperate with Him. He came to save us from hating each other.
Yes, Jesus does save us—completely! We can't be half saved from sin, otherwise we are not. Once Jesus has rescued us, we don't wilfully go back into sin.
A mistake is something we are anxious and happy to make right. “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). Only grace can keep us from falling and reinstates us when we do—presenting us faultless before God with exceeding joy! We can't thank God enough for the gift of His grace, which has been manifested to us in the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour from sin.