What does it mean to “be saved”?
What does it mean to “be saved”?
Christians often tell people to “be saved”, to “believe” in Jesus, or to “believe in” the Gospel. But what does it mean “to believe”? What is the Gospel?
The word Gospel literally means "good news" and in this case it is the good news about Jesus Christ. But this good news begins with some very bad news. The bad news is sin and its consequences.
Sin is disobedience to the laws of the one and only God. His commands are to be found in many places in the Bible, most notably in the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:1-17) and the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament (Matthew 5-7). So, for example, to blaspheme, to steal, to kill, or even to hate others, are sins against God. Any form of behavior which goes against what the Bible teaches is sin. Sin is also universal. That is, everybody has sinned, however good they may seem to us (Romans 3:9-23).
The consequences of sin are various and serious. First of all sin wrecks our lives in so many ways. And it is also evident that sin has a powerful hold over all of us. So often we find it hard to give up behavior that we know is bad for both us and others.
But sin has another serious consequence, and that is the judgment of God. God is perfect and just, and cannot and will not tolerate sin. He has declared that one day He will judge human beings for their behavior. On that day everyone who has not been saved must face God's judgment (Hebrews 9:27). And that judgment is to be feared. He has the power to cast the unbelievers into Hell.
But the good news is that God cares about us. He would rather bring us to Heaven than send us to Hell. The Bible tells us that "God demonstrates his own love to us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), and "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" (John 3:16).
While humanity was totally bound up in its sin, God acted, and He acted in a most amazing way. God came to earth Himself in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago, an event we celebrate at Christmas (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18). This Jesus lived a perfect life. He is the one exception to the fact, mentioned above, that "all have sinned". He also died a sacrificial death, nailed to a wooden cross, eventually triumphing over sin and death by literally rising from the dead (Luke 23:26- 24:49; John 19:16- 21:24).
It is Christ's death that makes it possible for sin to be forgiven, for He bore the punishment for our sin. It is also His resurrection and His living presence in this world through His Holy Spirit that makes the fight against sin a realistic possibility. It is His sinless life, death and resurrection that make it possible for us to reach Heaven. This is the Gospel.
But how can you benefit from that Gospel? It is most important that you first recognize that you are sinful, and don't deserve this perfect God's interest in you. You must also realize that you cannot earn His forgiveness. It does not matter how hard you try, you cannot work you way to Heaven. Salvation from sin is free. It is a gift. You are powerless to save yourself. That is something God alone can do.
You should then ask God to forgive and save you. This prayer does not need to be in a set form, but it does need to be your heartfelt desire for God's forgiveness and help. God will listen to the prayer of those who seek Him (Romans 10:13). You should throw yourself upon His mercy, and tell Him that you desire a new life and freedom from sin. In other words, you should repent. That is, you should recognise the purity of God, be sorry for your sins, and desire to be forgiven.
And of course you must believe this Gospel. Actually, you must believe in the person Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your personal Savior. You must believe in his sacrificial death, that when He died on the cross, He shed His blood specifically for you, He died personally for you, He died the death you deserved to die.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
Once you pray this prayer, you have eternal life at that very moment. You are guaranteed a place with Jesus in heaven. And nothing you can do – or fail to do- can change your eternal status with Jesus.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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