One day, two people were caught in a storm on the open sea. Wind lashed, rain pounded, and waves flung their small vessel about until it began to break. Despite all their efforts, the two travelers found themselves sinking.
In sheer desperation, they did the only thing left to them: They raised their voices in a wind-muffled scream for help.
And through the rain and waves, another ship pushed toward them. Ropes were thrown down. A man jumped into the water and swam to the wreckage.
One of the drowning people turned toward him, allowing strong hands to fasten ropes around them and haul them to safety.
The other pulled away. “Leave me alone!” they spluttered. “I wanted a helicopter, not a lifeboat!”
Now here’s another story…
Two people slipped into a church one Sunday morning and sat listening to the pastor’s message. They heard that all people are languishing in sin and doomed to face its consequences. But then they heard that anyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be saved.
One of the visitors immediately prayed, confessing their sins and asking Jesus to forgive and save them. Then they committed their life to following Him.
The other sat politely through the service, then went back to doing life the way they always had.
The two stories are essentially the same.
Yet so many fail to see that.
We might know—or have heard—that sin threatens our souls. We might know—or have been told—that, if we accept Jesus, we’ll be rescued from our sin and God’s impending wrath.
And yet we brush that aside. We keep living the way we always have. Even if we put our own faith in Jesus, we blush or groan at the thought of sharing His good news with others.
Everyone has their own reasons. But I think the most basic and pervasive deterrent to salvation—maybe even evangelism—is a foggy grasp of what salvation means for us. You. Me.
In this month’s post, we’ll look at four truths that help us improve our vision. This post is by no means comprehensive. But I hope it helps clarify why we need saving, how we’re saved—and why salvation is the most important and valuable thing in the world.
Jesus is an opportunity, not a barrier
Jesus’ teachings about God’s kingdom are full of gates and doors. Through one such entrance lie salvation, joy, and communion with God and others. Outside lie torment, darkness, and isolation.
The Teacher urges listeners to enter, and warns against seeking other ways or tarrying till the one good way closes. And He laments how few will actually come in.
This basic image of a heavenly entrance has settled into our cultural imagination. Yet, whether we deride it or embrace it, we often distort it.
Instead of a presently open gate, we envision one that’s shut or at least guarded. Instead of a trickle of desperate, hopeful pilgrims running toward it while complacent crowds loiter afar and stubborn overachievers try to carve out their own entrance, everyone but the clueless are jockeying for admittance. And instead of Jesus standing open-armed at the door, His secretary huddles behind a desk, checking people’s records to see if they merit entry.
In such a paradigm, faith in Jesus becomes a hoop to jump through. A box to tick off. We’re all on our merry way to heaven, and God has placed a hurdle across our path. We want in, and Jesus is in the way.
So, in disgust or despair, we turn aside.
In reality, there is no locked gate. No crowds jostling on the doorstep. No checkpoint.
We aren’t on the road of destiny that has suddenly been barred. We’re wandering in exile where we very much belong, awaiting a final judgment we very much deserve. And Someone is offering to permanently set us free and welcome us home. Not because it’s fair—it’s not. It’s mercy.
Jesus isn’t a barrier. He’s an opportunity. He doesn’t bar our access to God—He enables it.
He is the Gate. He is the Way. And He’s open to everyone.
“For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame,’…because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” (Romans 10:11-13, CSB)
How we value Jesus determines how we value salvation
Maybe we realize on some level that Jesus is an opportunity open to us, but we eye that opportunity askance.
Some of our reluctance could stem from how we value His offer. Salvation might look nice on paper—but is it worth the risk? Compared to the wide, easy road, is the hard, narrow one worth squeezing onto?
We might insist we want to be saved—until we realize that what we really want is just an easier way to keep on living with our problems and assumptions.
Instead of faith, we want sight so we never have to cede our doubts.
Instead of dependence on Jesus, we want self-sufficiency so we can maintain our pride.
Instead of a cross, we want enlightenment so we can keep directing our lives.
Because, if we truly accepted the notion that Jesus sacrificed Himself to save us from our ultimate enemy, we’d owe Him everything.
Yes, salvation is forever free to us. But it’s free because Jesus paid for it.
Yes, salvation gives new life to our souls and will one day give new life to our bodies. But that same salvation dooms our sin, because that’s what we’re being saved from.
To want that kind of salvation, we’d have to value it—and the One who offers it—more than we value anything else.
To decide whether we want it, we must decide whether our would-be Savior is worthy to be our Lord. Whether He who suffered for us is worth suffering for. Whether He who lives and loves us is worth loving and living for.
Only you can decide that for yourself. But in my and countless others’ experience, the answer is an eternal yes.
We know ourselves by knowing Him
Two things give salvation its intrinsic worth: what we need saving from and who’s offering to save us. Understanding those two things enables us to comprehend what an extravagant offer salvation is.
We need saving from sin. We need saving by Jesus. And paradoxically, we understand both what sin is and who He is by looking to Him.
Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standards or desires for us. It can be an action, word, or thought. It’s also a condition that all of us have been born with since our first ancestors committed the first sin. God made us in His good image, but our acquired sin-condition inclines us to act, speak, and think in ungodly ways.
God created us for joyful, intimate fellowship with Him. Sin destroys that fellowship. It not only dooms us to a life without our Life-Giver—it distorts our view of Him. Without a refresher, we forget what He’s like, what He wants for us, and how we’re meant to live.
Beholding Him through His Word (the Bible) and through Jesus (God the Son in human form) resets our vision.
When we behold God’s perfection, we realize our imperfection. When we behold His faithfulness, we realize our fickleness. When we behold His integrity, we realize our falseness. When we behold His love, we realize our selfishness.
And yet all the loveliness we see in Him is the very thing—the only thing—that will draw us to Him.
The sight of our own sin alone gives us every reason to recoil from Him in shame, fear, or despair. But the sight of His awesomeness and love gives us every reason to draw near in trembling hope that He not only can but will save us—or if not, that whatever He does with us will be right, and infinitely better than all our useless efforts to save ourselves.
And the miracle is, He does save us. And to our wonder, it’sonly the beginning of what He does for us. What once seemed like a destination turns out to be a gate through which we step into a lifetime, an eternity, of drawing nearer and nearer and discovering a fuller and fuller vista of who He is, who we are, what we’re meant to be, and how He loves us.
That journey isn’t always easy. None of us walk it perfectly this side of Heaven.
But on it, we find Him. And He is enough.
God wants us to be saved
Even when we see Jesus as an opportunity to escape danger and gain something better, we might still harbor one lingering doubt that undermines our willingness to accept.
It’s that niggling suspicion that God does not, in fact, want us to be saved.
After all, we reason, if we’re really so awful, He wouldn’t really want us. Either He’s trying to guilt us into doing stuff for Him, or He’s setting us up to fail for His own amusement. Or else He’s full of good intentions but has no clue what He’s signing Himself up for.
So we turn Him down. Or we try to drag out the salvation process until we’re sure we’re getting a good deal.
Meanwhile, He’s practically begging us to accept. Not because He wants to scam us, but because He wants to gift us everything He has to offer. Everything we truly need.
Jesus could have stayed in heaven. No one forced Him to come here, much less to die. Or God could have blotted out the human race the moment we first sinned. More practically, He could have simply not created humans at all.
Yet He did create us. He did come. He did die. And even at the moment He came closest to giving us all up, He spared those who trusted in Him. And even at the moments Jesus most fully expressed the agony of His ordeal, He pressed on.
And today, at this moment, despite all the suffering each of us have gone through and are going through, we still live. This world, which ought to have collapsed long ago under the weight of all our sin and pain, continues turning, the sun setting and rising, the seasons going and coming.
We won’t forever. It won’t forever. But we do now, and it does now, because our Maker wants to have mercy on us.
He wants everyone who hasn’t yet been saved to have every possible opportunity to see and seize His outstretched hand. He can’t bear to leave His once-perfect world messed up forever. But He also can’t bear to let us perish without an offer of rescue.
So as long as we have breath, He holds out His hand to us. He holds out His hand to you.
Acknowledge your need for Him. Confess your sins to Him and repent of them, asking His forgiveness.
Believe the good news: Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins, was buried, and rose to life on the third day to defeat death. After spending time with His disciples, He ascended to heaven, where He intercedes and advocates on behalf of every penitent sinner who trusts in Him. One day, He’ll return to end sin, suffering, and death forever and establish God’s kingdom on earth.
Because of all this, anyone who repents of their sins and trusts Jesus as their Savior and Lord receives adoption into God’s family. God forgives all their sins and credits them with Jesus’ righteousness (good standing). He sends them the Holy Spirit to provide His constant presence and cultivate Christlike character in them. And instead of future wrath and condemnation, they look forward to a glorious eternity with Him in a renewed world.
Ask Jesus to be your Savior. Commit to following Him as your Lord.
Thank Him for His saving work and abundant grace. Thank Him for His open door—and for the love that welcomes us poor, penitent sinners in.
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 (CSB)
2 thoughts on “Freed to be Saved”
Megan, I feel fortunate and blessed to have found your blog. Every. Single. One. of your posts are valuable and instrumental to our walk as Christians. Throughout this post, I kept stopping and rereading. I plan on combing it again at a later point with paper and pencil in hand so that I may pen many of the statements that set my mind pondering. I thank God for you, your gift, and your obedience to our Lord. Blessings, Debbie
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Thank you as always for your encouragement, Debbie. I’m honored to be able to use my writing to help others on their journey with Jesus. Blessings!