SALVATION ACCORDING TO JESUS (I): FROM DESTRUCTION
For God did not send His Son into the world to
condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (Jn 3:17)
desire for us is to be saved. When we have no immediate need or worry in life,
salvation may be a foreign concept. “What do I need to be saved from? I have
everything I need.” But for those deep in the throes of human suffering, a
different question arises: “Where was God’s desire to save me when I suffered
the horrible pain of this tragedy in my life?”
it seems God can’t win no matter what. If God loves us, we don’t need Him. “I
didn’t ask for you, God. I’m happy where I am.” If God doesn’t love us enough,
according to our standard, we question God, “Why didn’t you love me more?”
many are blind to God’s love. People look everywhere for love—to complete
and fulfill them—but are often left disappointed. Jesus Himself said
that, in the last days, the “love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12). People
can live with so much pain and guilt (at times lavishly medicated with a
self-destructive lifestyle); yet, they still may not want to believe they need
saving. Some, perhaps, can’t believe anyone would care enough to save them.
Others might gladly accept “salvation,” but only on their own terms or by using
their own efforts. Sometimes, however, we have to hit “rock bottom” in life to
realize we do need someone to save us.
to save a person that doesn’t want to be saved. Most people today believe in
the path they are on. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be on it. It’s hard to
convince people of the need to change direction. Like a drug addict, who can’t
see the need to change course but is desperately in need of intervention, many
today are chained to the status quo. Change requires faith—trust in what
we can’t always confirm with our eyes. So change is difficult, if not
impossible, until we open our heart.
SAVED FROM WHAT?
heart is open to change and we realize our need for salvation, we may wonder
what exactly we’re being saved from. Jesus gave us an answer in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His
only begotten Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but
have everlasting life.”
desires to save us from perishing and
to bring us into everlasting life. We
may have heard people say, “No one lives forever” and “You only live once.”
Both statements are true. But let’s look at the subtleties involved. The basic
message is: “Life is short, live it up and enjoy yourself.” If the world had a
religion crossing language, ethnicity, and culture, this could be the primary
creed: “Eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32).
and selfish ambition become our primary creed, ethics really just become
roadblocks and obstacles. Morality and moral standards become quaint notions of
an age gone by. Some people will do whatever it takes to get ahead, and don’t
care who they have to step on in the process. This is
what it means to gain the whole world but lose our soul (Mt 16:26).
think: If everyone wants to gain the whole world, but they have already lost
their soul, then what is really left to gain? Jesus said only a fool would
exchange his soul for material gain and the promise of comfort (Lk 12:15-21).
question, “What are we being saved from?” finds at least one answer: we’re
being saved from ourselves. The most dangerous animal in this world is not a
lion, a great white, or some ferocious, now extinct, dinosaur. Humans trump
them all in their ability to lie, steal, kill, and destroy. Some people build
their life, their empires, around lies.
U.S. alone, estimates show well over 50 million babies have been aborted. It
has become a sacred right to destroy life while others profit from a culture of
death. Compare that statistic to the 6 million Jews executed during World War
II. Today, we have enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy ourselves and the entire planet multiple times over.
Humanity is concerned about climate change and carbon dioxide gases; meanwhile,
large multinational corporations legally spray toxic chemicals over much of our
food supply. Small children, in some nations are starving, yet others throw
away enough food to feed nations. The darkness of the human heart often
complicates even simple solutions to the problems we face. Do we need the
statistics of those whose nations have been destroyed in war or those
mercilessly tortured and killed, in the name of war, to admit that humanity
does, at a very basic level, need salvation?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
the evil and depravity in man, Jesus came to save humanity from the seed of its
own destruction. Jesus taught us that sin leads to judgment (Lk 13:1-5; Mt 10:14-15). Jesus also spoke of a real place
of eternal judgment we should avoid—hell.
THE REALITY OF HELL
people don’t like to believe there is a place of everlasting punishment. We
believe in social justice. We believe in the death sentence. We want murderous
criminals incarcerated for life. We may even blame God for genocide under our
sense of justice. But we avoid thinking about the reality of a place of eternal
justice. So we come up with theories that humanity is nothing more than
mindless matter—products of random chance. We build our own codes of
conduct to fit our needs. We assuage our consciences, saying, “A good God
wouldn’t create a place of eternal torment and punishment.” But the reality is,
we enjoy moving the standards to our own liking. We insist on our justice but
we deny God the exercise of His.
exactly is hell? Scripture says those who don’t know God “shall be punished
with everlasting destruction from the
presence of the Lord and from the
glory of His power…” (2 Thess 1:9). This is a
powerful description. It tells us that the “hell” Jesus wants to save us from
is actually a separation from God’s presence and glory. Everlasting destruction,
in the spiritual sense, is the eternal
shattering of our soul because we’ve been cut off from the very presence of our
Creator. Sadly, it appears that those who don’t believe in God will one day get
exactly what they want—they’ll have nothing to do with God.
who don’t know God will find it hard to fathom what this separation from God
might entail for them. Because as bad as our lives may be here on earth, we
still enjoy a lot of good. An impoverished man still has enough taste to enjoy
a simple piece of bread. A poor child still has enough sight to enjoy waking up
to the warmth and light of the sun upon her eyes. A desperately ill woman can
still find a sense of peace and comfort from a small act of love.
says, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). He is the source and
essence of love. When we see love in those around us, we see God’s character in
humanity. In man, we find the indelible mark of the divine image in which we
were created (Col 3:10, 14). It was never obliterated from humankind, despite
our fallen nature; yet, like an antique car fallen into so much filth and
disrepair it has become useless, humanity must be renewed in God’s image
through Christ. No living person on earth right now has been completely cut off
from God’s love, presence, or glory (cf. Mt 6:44-45). But hell is a different
fool, who enjoys light everyday, would say, “Light? Who needs light?” He says
this because he’s never experienced a day in his life completely devoid of
light. We may not realize it, but the presence and glory of our Creator is just
as essential to our life as the light of the sun is essential to our life on
king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him
into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Mt 22:13)
ACCEPTING CHRIST’S HAND
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
don’t need to live apart from God’s love and grace. A person who has been
offered a bright lamp no longer has to live life in the dark.
His time on earth, Jesus often stretched out His hand to heal those who were
hurting. Jesus comforted those who were lonely; He gave sight to the blind,
strength to the weary, hope to those without hope. He offered forgiveness to
those who did not deserve it but needed it. Ultimately, Jesus sacrificially
gave His life, His blood, to pay the penalty of our transgressions (Jn 1:29).
choices and decisions in our life can often have a devastating impact. Our hope
for you is that you will realize the need for salvation in your life; Jesus
came to save you from a course of destruction, and He wants to give you an
opportunity, to step away from such a path, by putting your trust in His offer
many other important teachings of Christ concerning salvation. If you’d like to
receive more information concerning your path to salvation in Christ, please
get in touch with a True Jesus Church near you. Amen.