My friend Jim Rives asked it this way: “If God asked you why he should let you into Heaven to live with him for all eternity, what would you say?” (In other words: What do you rely on for your salvation?)
Would you point to your good deeds?
Being born to parents who are Christian?
Or would you point to the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ?
The Bible says that there is only one correct answer, and that only faith in Jesus saves a sinful man or woman hope for eternity. That isn’t a popular truth these days. “Tolerance” has morphed from being respectful of different viewpoints to a requirement that we must accept all viewpoints as equally valid. To suggest that there is only one correct eternal response is (in the view of the world) naked bigotry.
But God could not have been clearer. It was Jesus himself who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Why should that be? Is God being arbitrary, or making it deliberately difficult to be saved? On the contrary. He is providing what we could not provide for ourselves, and the plain truth is that Jesus is the only person qualified to be our Savior.
1. We are lost
Actually, the Bible says we can gain eternal life if we keep the law:
Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. (Lev. 18:5)
That sounds easy enough: Don’t lie, kill, steal, or sleep around. I can do that!
But I can’t do it perfectly. I shade the truth a little bit here. I snap at someone there. I start making my own plans and play the role of god. No matter how hard I try to keep the law, I end up sinning. I can’t keep it perfectly.
No one can:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)
And God, who is perfectly Holy, demands perfection and cannot tolerate sin. He cannot let sin go unpunished and still be God. Therefore, sin has consequences, and rather dire ones at that:
For the wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23)
In fact, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22)
So here’s the dilemma men face: God gave us His law and said we have to follow it exactly to get to Heaven. But it is impossible for me to follow the law exactly, and there must be a death as punishment for my sins.
It is not God’s fault that I am in that situation. It’s mine and mine alone. I’m the one who sinned. And my debt to God is more than I can pay. It’s like owing the bank $100 trillion dollars. It simply cannot be paid . . . by me.
Or by you. It is impossible.
2. Jesus is our Salvation
And that’s where Jesus comes in.
God loved us too much to let us stay in that condition, so he sent Jesus to die in our place:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Pet. 3:18)
He took the sins of the world on his shoulders. The punishment that should have been ours was taken by Jesus on the cross. The resurrection is evidence that God deemed Jesus’ sacrifice sufficient.
That’s why Jesus can be our savior, and why no one else can. No one else in all of history has done a thing to pay your sin debt.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
It’s popular thinking now that there are lots of ways to God, lots of valid religions. But Mohammed, Bhudda, Ghandi, L. Ron Hubbard – those guys may have had a good idea here and there, and they may have been moral people, but they didn’t pay for your sins.
They have done nothing to solve our sin problem. And they’re dead. Their graves are occupied. Jesus is simply the only one in all the universe with the qualifications to be our Savior.
3. We Must Only Believe
So now that we know Jesus gives us the opportunity to get to God, how do we connect the dots? What must we do to be saved? We must only believe:
“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…Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16, 18)
As Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)
That’s it. It is truly a matter of trust. All we have to do is believe that we need a savior, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and accept his gift of grace.
Maybe that sounds too easy for some people. Many can’t let go of the idea that we have to be “good enough.” To DO something. BE something. But that’s not the deal.
And if you think about it, if you say you have to do anything on top of what Jesus did, then you’re saying that what he did wasn’t enough. That he wasn’t a good enough sacrifice, or that he didn’t suffer enough to pay the penalty for everyone.
No, the Bible makes it clear that salvation is a gift of grace, that that it is only our faith and not our works that makes it ours:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:4-9).
So we have nothing to brag about in being saved. We didn’t deserve it, and we didn’t earn it. It has nothing to do with anything we have done. Because Christ died for us, and for that reason only, we have the “righteousness of God.”
So how would you answer God’s question? Who are you trusting in for your salvation?
Jesus, and only Jesus, is our Savior.
Other posts in this series: