Editor’s note: I am significantly revising this page, which has not gotten meaningful updates in many years. If you’re seeing this note, know that it is a work in progress, and feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts in the meantime.
The most fundamental – and for many, the most difficult – question humans face is, “Why are we here?” The answers offered to that question may be atheistic (no gods), monotheistic (one God), or polytheistic (many gods), but they all have to answer the question, “Is there a God?” So, this is the second most important question, because you can’t answer the first without it.
I believe, of course, that there is one eternal, creator God in three persons, and that we were put here by Him for His glory. If you missed why I believe that, read this. For the purposes of this page, though, let’s assume those two points – otherwise, “salvation” is far too broad a term.
Now that we’ve answered the first two questions, our third task needs to be answering the following: “If we’re here to glorify God (or accomplish any other purpose we could have suggested), what does that imply in our lives – and our deaths?”
Again, to keep this page a reasonable length, we’re going with Scripture: we were put here to glorify God by being like Him, but fall short. This falling short is what the Bible calls “sin” – literally, missing the mark. Now, God, because He is a good God, is also a just God. If the only god were an evil god, we would all be in trouble, and it wouldn’t much matter how we live – such a god would not be bound by his or her promises, anyway! However, we have a good God, who holds Himself – and us – to a certain standard: perfection.
Of course, nobody is perfect – we just said that we’ve all missed our mark already! Because God is just, though, He has to uphold the standard He has set. Those who meet that standard – and nobody except Christ has ever succeeded – are allowed to continue to live and glorify God. Those who do not – the rest of us – must be held accountable. We have given up our raison d’être – our reason for being – by failing to glorify God. We have no right to live!
This is why we need salvation – why we need to be saved. We have already condemned ourselves to death, and have no way to buy, talk, or work our way out of it. Nothing we can ever do will make us perfect again, once we have once failed morally. Whether we murder millions or merely swear in traffic, we have become imperfect. Like Lady Macbeth, no matter how long we live or how many “good things” we do, we can never get rid of the stains on our souls – that “damn spot,” that “damning spot,” will never leave and will never fade. There is no appeals court – God is the highest authority in existence, the moral equivalent of a Supreme Court, only stronger, more accurate, more just, and far more permanent in His decisions. Our situation seems beyond hope.
If you have read other parts of this site, though, you know what’s coming. There is hope, from a most unlikely source. That hope is named Jesus Christ. Jesus is a name (basically the Greek version of Joshua), meaning “The Lord Saves.” Christ is a title, “The Anointed One” – someone set aside by a ruler or other authority for a specific task. Jesus was designated – set aside – to come to earth, die on a cross, and rise again, all to give us hope and forgiveness for our sins.
When Jesus that, He traded places with us in a legal sense. There’s a fancy term for this: “substitutionary atonement.” It means that Jesus was substituted for us to pay – atone – for our wrongs. We couldn’t do it, so He did it for us. Think of it this way: during our trial before God, we’re given one question: “Have you obeyed my commandments?” You have two options: (1) answer for yourself, and be forced to lie (unlikely to work well with an all-knowing God) or be honest and say, “No.” You then have to suffer the punishment – eternal death, called “Hell” by the Bible. (2) Having believed in Christ, let Him speak for you, and He will answer, as your representative before God, “Yes, through faith in me.”
Salvation, then, comes only in this one thing: believing that Jesus Christ did come and do these things, and that he is the one and only Son of God. It’s that simple: believe – not just say or think, but believe – that Jesus rose from the dead and is God’s Son, and you are forgiven. Choose any other path – another religion, another God, doing “good things,” meditation, or denial – and you cannot be forgiven – after all, a good God is true to His Word and upholds His standards.
The question we’re left with is this: “If I couldn’t live up to God’s standard before, how will I ever live up to it, now (that I’ve been forgiven through my faith)?” The answer is: you won’t! We’re still not perfect. Unless you die within moments of asking Jesus for forgiveness, your life after that decision will not be perfect, any more than it was before. We will still struggle with – and sometimes give in to – those “sins” – moral imperfections – we’ve dealt with before.
The good news is this: God still loves you – if He loved you before you trusted Him with your future, why would He love you less afterwards? – and will not give up on you. If you couldn’t do anything to earn forgiveness or a right to eternal life, then there’s nothing you can do to hold on to it, either. You – whether you have already trusted Christ or not – are dependent on God as the only source of salvation from the day you are born to the day you die. There is a much-loved verse in the Bible, taken from a letter to the people in Ephesus, in modern day Turkey:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What that means is this: YOU never earned your salvation. No one ever has. That was a gift of God – a gift, something which cannot be bought or earned – and it was by grace – that is, it was, in fact, something which you had failed to earn!
In short, our salvation – the forgiveness for all that we have done wrong in our lives, so that we do not have to face the penalty of Hell – comes only through our faith in Jesus Christ. Not faith that He lived, or that He died, or that He was a nice, Jewish carpenter with interesting ideas. Faith that He was the Son of God, whose purpose in living, dying, and rising again was to take our place, offer us forgiveness, and teach us how to live the way God wants us to live. Without that faith, all is lost. With that faith, all else is insignificant.
Do you have that faith? If not, I invite you to find peace and forgiveness. You can do that through prayer. This is one suggested prayer:
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If so, I invite you to pray this prayer, right now.
If you sincerely prayed this prayer or one like it, you are forgiven of anything you have ever done. God (Jesus) has come into your heart and He will never leave. You can thank God for this right now – simply tell Him, “Thank you!”