What exactly is the gospel message?
I'm sure you've heard the terms "Salvation" or "Saved" before. You may have heard a person say, "You need to get saved!" or "You need to experience salvation." Or "You need to be born again." "You need to ask Jesus into your heart." "You need to give your life to Jesus." "You need to accept Jesus as your personal Savior." I'm sure you've heard one of these sayings before. The idea, the concept, behind all of these is really the same.
We want to seek the answer to the question "What exactly is the gospel message?" by looking at it from the word "saved." Each person needs to be saved. To many people "saved" may sound like a "Christianese" word. But it is a very, very Biblical word and needs to be given our full attention.
When you hear that word saved, what comes to mind? We think of some kind of danger that we're heading for that we need to be rescued from. We need to be snatched away, rescued, saved from that dangerous spot. Well, the Bible is clear that there is judgment for the world in the future. And everyone is going to face this judgment, unless of course, you're saved from that judgment. The Bible tells us how to be saved from that judgment! What you and I must understand today is the good news that the Bible teaches us about being saved from the coming judgment of sin to experience eternal life in heaven with God.
So, today, to be very clear, we want to answer two questions dealing with this issue of being saved from sin, death, and Hell so we can have eternal life in heaven.
Let's get started with our first question.
1. Why do I need to be saved?
Some might say, "Why do we even need to be saved? I've not done anything too wrong. I'm a pretty good person. God's not going to judge me. Therefore why do I need to be saved?"
Well, the way we live our life doesn't change what we all deserve. We all need to be saved. But why?
The answer to this question is all summed up in one word - "Sin." The key word to this question is "Sin." We need to be saved because of the sin we have in our life.
What is sin? That term isn't used as much today. Most people relate this to something a preacher yells from the pulpit as he points his finger and pounds on the pulpit.
Well, again, it's a very important, Biblical word that we need to pay attention to. Sin originally was an archery term, which meant, "to miss the mark." If you were shooting an arrow at the bull's-eye on the target and missed, it was called sin. You sinned. You missed the mark. An activity that I really enjoy is archery. I picked it up a couple of years ago and over time and if I'm really practiced up I'm a decent shot. I actually have an arrow that I shot into the back of another arrow - the official "Robin Hood shot." I was shooting at the target one day and shot one arrow in the target, grabbed another arrow, and shot the second arrow into the back of the first. I was at roughly 30 yards when I made the shot. Do you think there was any sin in that shot? Well, only in my story telling, because I'm misleading you a little. I did shoot this one into the back of the other, but the first arrow had missed the bull's-eye, and the next shot wasn't aimed at the back of the first arrow, it was aimed at the bull's-eye as well. Either way you look at it I missed the mark. But it's always a little fun to make people think I can shoot like Robin Hood.
But "back on target here," sin means to miss the mark. In the archery world it meant to miss the exact mark you were shooting at, the bull's-eye. But the Bible uses this term for our every day lives as well. And in a very real way, it still means to miss the mark. We are to live our lives in such a way as to hit the bull's-eye of the target. We don't want to miss the mark. But who sets this mark that we've got to live up too? Well it's not missing our own mark that we have set for ourselves; it's missing the mark that God has set for us. God sets the target for our lives. And unfortunately for mankind, this mark is set at perfection. We are not allowed to do anything wrong. Not one thing.
Now, I've given you the archery meaning of the word sin, now let's see the theological meaning of the word sin - "anything that is contrary to the character or standards of God." Another easier, but a little less precise definition would be "anything that displeases God." God is holy. He is totally set apart from unrighteousness. He is perfect. And He has perfect standards. Any time we transgress or fall short of His perfect character or standards we sin. When we do something that is displeasing to God, it is sin. And in relation to our main question at hand, "Why do we need to be saved?" Well, it's because of the sin in our lives. We miss the mark that God has set for us and it makes us fall short of God.
Now, I don't only want you to take my word for it, I want to show you this from the Bible. The Bible contains many references to this fact. Rather than looking at all of them, let's consider two scripture references that will help us in understanding this better from a biblical standpoint.
First of all, consider Romans 3:23. It says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." [NASB] From this verse we learn a very important fact that we cannot deny: "for all have sinned" - that includes you and me! In understanding what sin is, we cannot deny the fact that we've all sinned. Considering the Ten Commandments alone (Exodus 20:1-17), if we've ever put anything above God in our lives, or used His name in vain, or stolen, or lied, or coveted, or committed adultery, etc. we have sinned. If we say we haven't sinned, we're lying...and that's a sin.
Romans 3:23 also tells us that because of our sin, we have fallen short of the glory of God. God is Holy and perfect, without sin. Because we have sin, we fall short of His glory. This tells us that there is a division between God and us. Our sin causes us to fall short of Him.
Another important verse to consider in relation to our sin and its results is Romans 6:23a. It says, "For the wages of sin is death..." Consider the word "wage" for a moment. What is a wage? A wage is something that you earn. It's a payment for the work you've done. If you work a 40 hour week, at the end you receive the money that is due you - your wage.
We as people sin. That's a fact. But that sin isn't to be lightly taken. We've actually earned something because of our sin. There's a wage to be paid. What is it? Romans 6:23a tells us that the wages of sin is death.
Consider the word "death" for a moment. What is death? Death, in reality, is separation. We usually think of it on a purely physical level. When we die physically separation happens. Our soul and spirit separate from our body. The material and immaterial parts of us separate. The body is buried and the spirit lives on.
When thinking of death, the majority of the world stops at the physical. But what happens to the spirit after our physical death. There's also spiritual death. Again the word separation comes into view. Spiritual death is the separation of our soul and spirit from God. And if our spirit isn't with God in heaven, then our spirit is separated from God in Hell [Revelation 21:8]. When it comes to the question of why we need to be saved, the answer is clear. It is because of our sin. It separates us from God. We fall short of Him and because of it we've earned spiritual death and separation from Him.
Sounds serious, doesn't it? It is serious. We are, to put it bluntly, sinners. And because of that we need to be saved. This is clearly not the most exciting news at this point, but the true gospel message doesn't stop at our coming doom of judgment because of sin. But in answering the question of why we need to be saved, it's something that you and I must come to grips with.
After understanding the why, we must move ahead. The natural and necessary question to follow with is this:
2. What must I do to be saved?
There is only one real answer to this question, but across the world and even among Christians there are several answers given. Let me ask you: Is it necessary to say the sinner's prayer to be saved? How about walk the aisle? How about raise your hand if the pastor asks? How about surrendering to the complete Lordship of Christ? How about living a good life and doing more good than bad? How about joining a church and being baptized?
All of these are used quite often, especially in Christian circles and are almost confused as being part of what is needed to be saved. Many people say, "If you want to be saved, you need to say the sinner's prayer." It is great to say a prayer to God telling Him what you believe, but the prayer doesn't save you.
Jumping back to the main question at hand, "What must we do to be saved?" - BELIEVE. The key word to this question is believe. Turn to Acts 16:30-31. Here we will find the biblical answer. "And after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'" According to this verse all we need to do is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It's almost a trick question to some extent, because we can't "do" anything really. It's not an outward act. It is an inward act. We Believe!
People have a hard time with this. They feel that it has to be a result of some outward good works done for God. But it's not. Jesus, one day was met by a group of Jews in John chapter 6. They wanted to work to gain acceptance before God. They asked Jesus in verse 28, "'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'" Even in the context of working the works of God, Jesus makes it clear that the only thing we can do is "believe."
Many times you'll tell a person that they just need to believe in Jesus and they'll be saved, and they look at you and say, "Well, that's ridiculous. You mean I just need to believe that there was some guy named Jesus who lived long ago and because of that I'll go to heaven?" It's kind of frustrating when people say that sort of thing. Believing in Jesus is more than just intellectually accepting the fact that there was a person named Jesus that lived long ago. Believing like it says here is actually believing that Jesus really is who He claimed to be, and believing and trusting in what He did for us in dying on the cross and rising again so that we may have eternal life in heaven.
What did Jesus do for us to provide a way for us to go to heaven? - He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Jesus had to die and shed His innocent blood if we were going to be able go to heaven. In Hebrews 9:22 it says that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." In order to have forgiveness of sins there needs to be some innocent blood shed.
Jesus lived a perfect life - He was totally innocent - and shed His blood on the cross. If you've read in the OT you've probably seen that they offered animal sacrifices to God. Some were out of worship, but primarily, they were for covering the sins of the people. A wonderful title that John the Baptist gave Jesus is "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" [Jn. 1:29]. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice offered to actually provide enough forgiveness to take away all the sin of the world.
There is only one condition though to having this sacrifice that Jesus made work in providing forgiveness for your sins and allowing you to go to heaven. And what is that condition? - It's believing in Him. Believing that Jesus did die to provide forgiveness for your sins and then He rose from the dead. And accepting His work on your behalf as the only sufficient payment for the debt of your sin.
You've probably heard it said before that we are saved through faith. Well, thats exactly right. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved though faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one can boast."
So, we are saved though faith. What is faith? Faith is complete confidence and trust in something or someone. Let me illustrate this for you. Probably, as you read this, you're seated in a chair. As you sit in that chair you are exercising faith. You are placing complete confidence and trust in your chair to hold you up. You have your full weight resting on that chair with total faith in it that it will hold you up. That is what faith in God is like. It's complete confidence and trust, placing your entire eternal life in the hands of Jesus Christ to take you to heaven.
So, in answer to our question, "What must I do to be saved?" Just like the Apostle Paul told the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:30-31 when he asked the same question, you must "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Place your faith, your complete confidence and trust, in Jesus to keep you from falling into judgment and instead to take you to heaven. He is the only one who can because of His perfect life, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. That is all that it takes. Isn't it great that it's so easy for us?
Do me a favor for a moment, please. Think about your own life for a second. What are you trusting in to get to heaven? Are you trusting in your good works? Are you trusting in the fact that you're not a bad person therefore you don't believe God would allow you to go to hell? Are you trusting in the fact that you've joined a church and have been baptized? My friends, those things don't save!!! Only Jesus saves!!! And the only way you can be saved by Jesus is to believe in and accept Him as your Savior. You need to trust Him to save you.
In conclusion, friend, the choice now comes to you. God loves you. He desires to have a close and personal relationship with you. And He's made it possible for that to take place. But He doesn't force it on you. He leaves the decision up to you. Will you recognize your sin, and acknowledge your need of a Savior? Will you decide to turn to the Lord and go to Him on His terms by accepting Jesus alone as your Savior? Will you humble yourself before God acknowledging that you can't earn salvation and you need it given to you freely? Will you stop relying on your own personal works and "righteousness" to go to heaven and accept the "free gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"? [Romans 6:23]
If it is your desire to be saved and give your life to Jesus, why don't you tell God about your decision to trust Him? It can be as simple as telling Him,
"Lord, I confess that I have sinned. I understand that that sin separates me from You. I need a Savior. I believe that you sent Jesus to come and die on the cross for me, taking my punishment on His shoulders. I believe Jesus died, was buried, rose again and is alive today! I believe that He and He alone can rescue me from the wages of my sin. I trust in Jesus to save me. I will quit trusting in myself to get to heaven. I trust Jesus alone. Thank you for giving me the free gift of eternal life! Amen."
Friend, based upon the authority of God's Word, if you believe in and trust in Jesus as your Savior, you can know that you're saved. The Bible says in Romans 10:9 "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
-Pastor Michael Tharp
All scripture references were quoted from the New American Standard Bible.
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