A few weeks back a new friend at Connections asked me what I believed about salvation.  I posted my response here and many of you were kind enough to give some feedback.

Last week I got another email from someone else who is new to our community.  They had read my post about salvation and had more questions.  Specifically, they wanted to know what I believed about how someone could go about getting/becoming saved.

My response is below.  But before you read it let me say that I’ve found both of these questions to be extremely helpful.  Although I talk about what I believe about Jesus most every week for a living, it is something different to put it into writing.  If you are curious as to what I mean, try it yourself.  Sit down and type your own explanation about what it means to follow Jesus, why prayer is worth giving a shot, what counts as worship, or some other element of faith.  And if you do, send me a link.  I’d love to see it.

For now, here’s part two of my conversation about salvation:

I probably should begin by acknowledging that my understanding is that Salvation begins with God- not us.  It was His love and initiative that sent Jesus to perform His redemptive and atoning work  that makes it possible for us to even be discussing this question.

With that said, my “short” answer is that if we want to be saved, we need to turn away from all the things that we serve instead of God and completely surrender ourselves to trust and follow Jesus as both Savior and Lord.

That’s all.

I hope you read a hint of sarcasm in that last line, because that’s a pretty tall order.  Of course, writing that reminds me of the conversation Jesus has with His disciples where they ask who can be saved and Jesus tells them that our ability to pull off our part of the salvation thing is iffy (He actually says impossible)- then tells them God isn’t limited by our limitations and tends to fill in our gaps  (Mt19:24-26).

I occasionally find myself wanting to reduce my part of the salvation process to something less than complete surrender and an ongoing faith relationship with Jesus.  I want to say that all I need to do is repent, believe, confess, be baptized, be faithful– and I’m good.  While I think those are biblical principals, and obvious and important signs/steps of faith every person who wants to be saved should take- I’m not sure they fully capture the salvation message or demands of Jesus in and of themselves.

Jesus sacrificed His life to save us- and seems to want the same thing back from us if we want to be saved.  He calls us to die (to ourselves, sin, our old way of living, etc.), to be reborn, to follow Him and to depend on Him in an ongoing way as our source of life and our way to relate to God again.

The Gospel of John is big on this last idea as Jesus describes Himself with some spectacular metaphors to illustrate what He offers us.  He says He is the light of the world (and we’re told to live in the light), the bread of life and living water (basic elements needed to sustain life), the Good Shepherd (who leads, talks to and protects His sheep), and a vine that gives life to the branches (us) if/as they stay attached to Him and draw life from Him.

I’ve been a part of churches that saw salvation mostly as a front end thing.  It was about a spiritual transaction that ensured an eternal destination.  We talked about closing the deal and provided steps for people to take to do this.  I’ve taught my share of lessons/messages like this too.  The curious thing is that people got “saved”, but didn’t necessarily end up with an ongoing faith relationship with Jesus.

Honestly, I’m not comfortable with that approach to Jesus and salvation because I think it minimizes what Jesus offers to and wants from us.  I don’t think He wants just 4 or 5 steps from us on a given day- or over a short period of time.  I believe that Jesus wants all of us- forever- and that we shouldn’t settle for or teach anything less.

Does that make sense?

Let me take another shot at your question from a different angle.  What would I tell someone who asked me what they’d need to do to be saved?

I’d tell them that they need a relationship with Jesus.  I’d tell them that God doesn’t just want to move them from the lost column to the saved one, but that He wants them to know Him and live life with Him- both here and in heaven.  I’d tell them that Jesus came to make all of this possible if we are willing to quit trusting in our ways and have faith in Him.  I’d tell my friend that they’d need to acknowledge their need for God’s mercy and believe in God’s love for them as expressed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I’d probably tell them that God has already been at work in their lives- which is why they are asking me this kind of question.  I’d most likely tell them that while the life that Jesus offers is like no other- it can also be tough- which is why Jesus calls it a narrow way and encourages us to count the cost before following Him.  (I used to not point that part out so much, but Jesus did, so I feel like I have to. =) )

If my friend was ready to move forward in their relationship with Jesus, I’d encourage them to talk with God.  To tell Him about their regrets for their sins and their desire to be forgiven and to have a new life with Jesus.  To tell God that they need Him and that they want Jesus to be not only a Savior, but a Leader for their lives.

I’d encourage my friend to be a part of a faith community if they aren’t already.  I’d tell them that they’ll need some folks who are seasoned Jesus followers to help coach them along.  I’d tell them to be baptized- as an expression of their faith in Jesus and their desire to put their old life behind them and live a new life with Jesus.  And I’d tell them to keep going.  To hold on to Jesus.  To do what they understand Jesus is asking them to do.  To follow Him, no matter how things feel or what comes their way.

Of course, I’m sure this would be a two way conversation and that it would have a lot more give and take than those paragraphs describe.

Again, I’m not saying that those who wouldn’t use the same language are wrong.  That’s just what came out for me.