A Million Ways to be Saved

how to be saved

Mel slowly admitted how distant she felt from God, how distant she had always felt. Even though she had walked the aisle at church multiple times and given her life to the Lord on numerous occasions, she still felt disconnected.  “It’s like there is a blockage between us,” she whispered with tears in her eyes, “And I just can’t figure out what it is.”

“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

Ask this questions to different Christians and you will probably get multiple answers.

  • Pray the sinners prayer
  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • Raise your hand, walk the aisle, etc
  • Make Jesus the Lord of your life
  • Repent
  • Be Baptized
  • Admit, Believe, Confess (ABC)
  • Receive the Holy Spirit
  • Etc.

Good old “Christianese”, the words and phrases that we Christians throw around without considering their meaning. It’s a problem, and I’m guilty too. Until a few years ago, answering the question from Acts 16:30 terrified me. Honestly, I avoided having to “share the gospel” if possible. When an opportunity presented itself, I often went with kind but meaningless things like “God loves you” or “I’m praying for you”. Those words sound nice, but they aren’t the Good News!

It wasn’t until I went to Bible school (at Frontier School of the Bible) with my new husband, and sat in a Personal Evangelism class taught by Dr. Richard Seymour that it finally clicked!

Strangely enough, I wasn’t the only one there who had never understood salvation. My college friend, Kristine, who had been in church her whole life, ended up trusting in Jesus because of Dr. Seymour’s class. Something he says happens every year!

Seriously? Every year people who love God enough to want to go into full-time ministry come to Bible school, hear the clear gospel, and get saved? What is wrong with our churches? Maybe it’s our Christianese!

What exactly is it that saves us?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

By grace, through faith, not by works. As in, it is not based on anything I DO! Well, that knocks off praying a prayer, raising a hand, walking an aisle, repenting, being baptized, etc.

What about “Ask Jesus into your heart”? This phrase is incredibly confusing, especially if you take it literally. And who does it get used with most? Incredibly literal children.

The Bible tells us that we are given the Holy Spirit once we are saved as a guarantee of our salvation. So, we don’t have to ask for Him to come in. Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-10. 

Revelation 3:20 talks about Jesus standing at a door, knocking, but it is not talking about the “door of our heart.” And, when you read it in context you will see that the verse is being written to a Christian church and it is not talking about salvation.

Hmmm… So, why do we use this phrase when telling someone how to be saved?

And, “make Jesus the Lord of your life?” This is the idea that in order to be saved, or as an evidence of salvation, a person must completely surrender, give Jesus total control, and make Him “Lord”. Isn’t Jesus already the Lord whether we live like it or not? And isn’t this basing our salvation on works?

I feel like this approach has good intentions, but misses the mark because often people end up either trusting or doubting based on their own actions…if they are making Jesus Lord. There is too much emphasis put on me and my performance, and not enough emphasis on Jesus and what He accomplished for me on the cross. Christians who believe in lordship salvation have a lot of verses they use to back up this idea, but I’d encourage you to look them up and put them in context.

So, then, how can I be saved?

I listened to my new friend as she shared her heart and her frustrations with Christianity and God. She wanted to be close to God, but it wasn’t working. I asked if I could share some verses with her. We turned to John 3:16-18

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (A familiar verse) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” 

“What if you have always struggled to feel close to God, because you never understood salvation?” I asked. “What if you were always trying to do something instead of believing in and accepting what Jesus has already done?

Mel examined the verses in front of her. “Can it really be that easy?”

I smiled, “I think it is.”

She signed, and I could almost watch a weight fall off her shoulders. Then she smiled.

I don’t know if that was the moment Mel trusted Jesus, but the when and how aren’t really important…the important thing is that we do!

What do you think? Too easy? What are you reacting to? What emotions are you feeling?Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you!

I included a link to Dr. Richard Seymour’s website. I’m also including a link to a Facebook note about salvation that I wrote back in 2008 after sitting through Dr. Seymour’s class. 🙂

 

 

 

 

When Life Falls Apart

 

choose to believe“Is any of this real? Does God really exist? If He does, is He really good? Does He really love me?” I sat at my desk, mind reeling, stomach in knots, staring at my phone, the recent call playing in my head.

Have you been here? I have, more than once. The place of heartbreak, disbelief, doubt, questions… It’s not fun. It hurts. It’s hard!

I was a couple of years out of the cult, had been on my own for about six months, was going to college, and working as a live-in nanny for a challenging family. It had been a hard six months. I did not love my job, at all. Suddenly, I discovered my dream job working with troubled teens! God brought it into my life in a way that HAD to be Him. I applied and got an interview; it was all going so perfectly! God was going to bless my hard work and faithfulness by giving me the job of my dreams! (Or so I thought.) But, then the phone call came…they hired someone else.

I thought I had a strong faith, until the bottom fell out. Now I was questioning, doubting, struggling with my beliefs…

Guess what? That was twelve years ago when I was a young (less mature) college student, but I just had a similar struggle this morning! (And there have been plenty in-between!) Doubt happens. This world hurts.

I don’t know what you are feeling today or what has happened to you. Maybe its the death of a loved one too soon, cancer or other illness, someone you love is still making bad choices, prayers that have gone unanswered for years… Or maybe you are just looking at the mess this world is in and feeling discouraged and drained.

Is God really real? Is He really good? What do we do with our questions and doubts?

I honestly don’t have any perfect answers, just my own experiences and the beliefs I cling to despite my doubt.

I think we embrace the doubt and we ask the questions. Don’t feel guilt or shame for doubting. If God is real, then He is big enough to handle them. And if He is good, then He will love us anyway and understand our struggling humanity. We wrestle through our emptiness and look at what the Bible says and the evidence around us. We remember the things God has done in us and others over the years and the prayers He has answered. I like to find someone who I know will speak truth to me, someone who will love me and not judge or condemn, someone who’s faith is stronger than mine at the moment, and I ask them to encourage me. But…

Ultimately, I just have to choose to believe.

Every time life falls apart… when I don’t get the job, when my babies died, when my prayers don’t get answered, when the childhood friend I’ve loved and prayed for forever still doesn’t love Jesus, when my husband and I are fighting or when he disappoints me, when people hurt me, when death happens… I have to choose to believe.

I choose to believe in the God I know exists even when I can’t feel Him. I believe in His goodness, and sovereignty (that He never loses control), and love for me. I believe that He has a plan and that nothing can stop Him. I believe that Jesus is always the answer. I hold on with determination even when I can’t feel Him. And so far, every time, He has come through, and met me, and held me. This strengthens my faith for the next time.

Where are you on the journey? Are you struggling? Doubting? Questioning? Determinedly holding on? Choosing faith? Trusting? Can you feel Him holding you?

I really didn’t want to write this blog this morning. I was a mess and I didn’t have anything to say. Then Jesus came, just in time, and now I get to write in humility and vulnerability. 🙂 I might be passionate, but I am not perfect. Not by a long shot! But I believe in the God who is!

 

 

Getting to KNOW Jesus (Pt. 2)

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(Yes, I do realize that Pt 1 and Pt 2 of this post are months apart. :-))

How does someone really get to know Jesus, experience Him as a very real Being?

There is no magic formula, no three step process. But as I said in part one of this post, God wants us to know Him. He has promised throughout the Bible that if we seek Him, we will find Him! And I can promise you both from my life and lives I have seen changed, that when you really find Him, you will never be the same!

It’s like experiencing an alternate reality, think Narnia. Suddenly all the knowledge you had in your head explodes into living color, and you get it! He changes you and you realize that you never wanted anything else.

That’s great, but how do I get there?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible, so you know who you are looking for, so you know His character and what He sounds like, the kinds of things He says. I recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual portions of the NIV and some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit in this cemetery on a bluff, overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and quiet, and made me think about how short life is.
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then He already lives inside of you. So it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

I really could go on and on. This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

I’m going to share what it feels like for me, but remember that each person is different and we can’t put God into just one box.

When I seek God, I start with just quiet. (Remember, this is more about us becoming aware of God and less about Him coming to us.) I quiet my heart and mind and remember who it is that I am seeking: my Creator, the Awesome All-Powerful One, my Savior, my Friend, etc. I think about His love for me. Then I just talk to Him. When I am aware of Jesus’ Presence, I usually feel peace, contentment, surrounded and almost held. I know I am loved and I am completely satisfied. Usually there are tears in my eyes…not sadness, but possibly because the emotions I feel are too big for my little human body. (They are here right now as I write this.)

The Kingdom of God is backwards and inside out, so it doesn’t always make logical sense. The weak are strong, foolishness is wisdom, you get everything for nothing… It’s crazy! And the key to this secret kingdom? Faith!

Will you take a chance and step out in faith and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? Let me know what happens!