Why should I care?
There is a very common statement that only two things are certain—death and taxes. Though death is unavoidable, people instinctively fear it and are always in pursuit of a way around it. Some wealthy people are freezing their bodies in the hope that a future society can cure the sickness that killed them. Others pursue medical means of averting the aging process—just to live a few more years. Christianity makes very specific promises concerning the availability of a wonderful everlasting life. If there is even a remote chance that the Bible is right and man can live forever, doesn’t it make sense to check it out?
The other crucial issue concerns the quality of one’s life here and now. People spend vast amounts of time and money in pursuit of happiness and personal fulfillment, very often without finding satisfaction and true peace of mind. Wealth, physical fitness, community recognition, leisure time, wide screen televisions, and vacations in Bermuda all fail to deliver a lasting sense of true contentment to the restless human soul. If there were a way of discovering the keys to experiencing authentic love, joy, peace, and other such desirable and intangible commodities, wouldn’t it make sense to pursue this knowledge? Christianity boldly makes this claim—that these things can become the everyday reality for those who learn how to cultivate a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
What is a Christian?
Biblically, a Christian is someone who is “saved.” This is also known as being “born again.” At your first birth—when you were born into this world—you were born with a sin nature. This is a major reason why people sin. When you confess Christ as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, you become a Christian, i.e., you get “born again” and become a member of the family of God. At your “new birth” you receive a new nature, the righteous nature of God and Christ.
What is “salvation”?
The Bible uses the word “saved” to refer to people who are “rescued” from eternal death by receiving the gift of everlasting life. When a person who cannot swim falls into the water, he yells, “Save me,” meaning “rescue me.” That is what “saved” means. It means to be “rescued” from eternal death.
Every human being is born into sin and death and has subsequently sinned against God by breaking His laws. Therefore, every person needs to be rescued (“saved”) from the penalty of that sin. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life….” Your sins have earned you death, but salvation from the power of sin and death is available through Jesus Christ.
What if I don’t feel like a sinner? Why should I worry about it?
Even if you don’t feel like a sinner, when you are honest you are aware that something is fundamentally flawed about you and the world around you. We all experience ourselves knowing what is the right thing to do and yet not being able to live accordingly. We find ourselves and others gripped by self-destructive behaviors that make no sense, yet we continue on. This experience is the direct result of what the Bible calls “sin,” or a state of separation from, and disobedience to, the heart and will of God. Therefore, whether you feel it or not, you are affected by the disease of sin and cannot escape it unless you are “inoculated” against it by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Other religions either deny the reality of sin or cannot provide a legitimate atonement for it.
How much will salvation cost me?
Nothing. Why? Because it was paid for by someone else. Have you ever received a gift? How much did the gift cost you? Nothing. Why? Someone else paid for it. All you had to do was accept the gift. Well, the gift of salvation has also been paid for. Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ paid for our salvation with his life. The best known Bible verse in the world says: “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” (John 3:16). You see, the wages of sin is death, and so Christ died to pay that debt. God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you so you can have everlasting life.
Salvation comes to you as a “gift.” Remember Romans 6:23 just quoted above? It says, “…the gift of God is eternal life….” And Romans 6:23 is not the only verse to call salvation a gift. In Romans 5:15-17, the word “gift” is used five times! You don’t work for a gift—it is freely given. The gift of salvation and everlasting life is being offered to you simply because God loves you. Why should God love you? Because He is love, and He created you. He wants you to spend eternity with Him, too, but that is up to you—it is your decision. You can have eternal life through Christ if you want it.
How do I receive the free gift of God’s salvation?
Scripture is very clear on this. God really wants you to be saved, so He has made the instructions very easy:
That 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.
Simple, huh? Sure it is. It is a gift—it was paid for by Jesus Christ and is now being offered to you. What kind of “gift” would it be if it were hard to get? By definition, gifts are easy to receive. Salvation is very, very important, so let’s be sure we understand God’s instructions. To be saved, you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
What does that mean? It means that you say what the Bible clearly declares; that Jesus is Lord, i.e., that he is the Son of God who died for your sins, was raised from the dead and highly exalted to the right hand of God. Have you ever opened your mouth and said, “Jesus is Lord?” You know, a lot of people think Jesus is Lord, but they have never said it. Why not say it right now? Just say, “Jesus is Lord.”
Once you have said with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, Romans 10:9 goes on to say that you are to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. What is it to believe in your heart? It means to really believe it. Is that difficult? No, not at all. You probably believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States, even though you never saw him. In the same way, there are many, many valid reasons to believe that God raised Jesus up from the dead.
Once you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you are saved. Salvation is very easy because God wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and He is offering it as a free gift.
Many verses in the New Testament show that salvation is easy to get and that you get it by believing, or trusting, in Jesus. The Bible often uses the phrase having “faith in Jesus.” “Faith” is a biblical word that means “trust.” Thus, having faith in Jesus simply means trusting in him, and thus trusting that his work is adequate for you to be saved. The following are just a few of the Scriptures that clearly teach that salvation is by faith.
“…righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ….” (Righteousness is the state of being right before God. When you confess that Christ is Lord and that he rose from the dead, your sin is paid for and you are “right” with God, so the Bible says that your righteousness comes by faith [trust] in Jesus Christ. All saved people are righteous in God’s sight).
God “…justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (“Justifies” is a legal word. We are “just” in the sight of God because Jesus has paid for our sin and there is no sin against us, so the Bible calls us “justified.” A good way to remember the definition of “justified” is by thinking, it is “just if I’d” never sinned).
“…man is justified by faith….”
“…we have been justified through faith….”
“…righteousness that is by faith.”
“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
“[We]…know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
There is no need to quote more verses, the point is made—God makes it easy to be saved. Once, in his travels, the Apostle Paul was thrown in prison. A jailer asked Paul the most important question any human could ask: “…what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul’s answer was short and to the point: “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). The same is as true for you and me as it was for that jailer nearly 2000 years ago. If you believe in the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.
Don’t I have to do some kind of work to be saved—get baptized in water, confess my sin, etc?
No. Christ paid for your salvation. It is offered as a gift. The Bible says your salvation is a gift. It plainly states you get salvation by faith. It also specifically says that salvation is not earned by works:
Ephesians 2:8 and 9
(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.
This verse is very clear. It says that you have been saved by God’s grace through your faith. That means that when you have faith in Christ, God saves you by His grace (“grace” is undeserved favor from God). The verse goes on to say that salvation is a gift and that it is not by works.
Many Christians do not realize that salvation is a gift of God’s grace and that it is “not by works.” They are taught that to be saved they must go to church or lead an almost perfect life with no drinking, dancing, etc. That is simply not what the Bible says about salvation! No one can find a verse that says, “You must go to church to be saved,” because there is no such verse. Nor are there any verses that say that you must lead an almost perfect life to be saved. Salvation is a gift—you do not earn it by your works, you receive it by faith in Christ’s work. God saves us because we need it, not because we earn it or deserve it.
There are many people doing good works who have never confessed that Jesus is Lord and who do not believe in his resurrection. Often they are taught that if you are a good person, God will give you eternal life. The Bible is very clear that good works do not save you, as we have just read in Ephesians 2:8 and 9. It is wonderful to do good works or be a “good person,” but that does not get you saved. The Bible says that the unsaved person is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), and no one who is “dead” can do any good works. He must first receive life via the new birth, and then he can work for God. Don’t guess about how to get eternal life. God gave you His Word to openly show you the way of salvation, and Jesus said, “…I am the way and the truth and the life….” You come to the Father through Jesus.
Do I lose my everlasting life if I sin after I have been saved?
You cannot get saved by doing good works, and you cannot undo your salvation if you sin. Your salvation and everlasting life are gifts from God. God never takes back His gift of salvation. The Bible is very clear about this. It says: “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). In the translation of the New Testament known as The Message, that verse is translated very powerfully: “God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.”
Many people teach that if you sin, you lose your salvation and then you have to get saved all over again, but that is not true. God wants you to be absolutely sure that you cannot lose your salvation, so the Bible emphasizes its permanence in many ways.
- As you have seen, salvation is called a “gift” over and over, and the Bible specifically says the gifts of God are irrevocable.
- A term for salvation is “born again” or “new birth” (1 Pet. 1:3 and 23). We all know that birth is permanent. Once I am born, I am a child of my mother and father forever. Even if I am a horrible kid and my parents really don’t like me, the birth is permanent. God wants Christians to know that He loves us and that we are His children no matter how we behave, so He uses the term “birth” to describe what happens to us when we are saved. Birth is a one-time occurrence that cannot be undone.
- Another term for your salvation is “adoption.” At first you may wonder why God would say you are “adopted” when saying you are “born” into His family seems so much more wonderful. The answer to that question lies in the Roman law and culture at the time the New Testament was written. According to Roman law, adoption into a Roman family was permanent, but a naturally born child could be disowned. So, in writing to the Roman people (as in the books of Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians), God used the word “adoption” so they would be sure to understand that their salvation was permanent.
- When you are saved, God gives you holy spirit, His gift, on the inside. Because it is spirit, you can’t feel that it is within you, but it is God’s permanent seal in you that you are His child. Ephesians is very clear about getting saved by believing and then being sealed with holy spirit:
Ephesians 1:13 and 14
(13) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised holy spirit,
(14a) [which] …is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance….
Read those verses again. They are so rich. The Bible says you are sealed with holy spirit, God’s gift. Therefore, you are sealed. God’s salvation does not “leak out” if you sin. You were sealed when you believed, and that seal is a “guarantee” of eternal life, your “inheritance” with the Lord.
- Because your salvation is permanent and you cannot lose it, God says you are His child! “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …Dear friends, now we are children of God…” (1 John 3:1 and 2a). Surely it cannot be that one day you are a child of God and the next day you aren’t. God chose to communicate to us in the words we use in our everyday speech, and we all know that children are a permanent addition to a family. No one has children in his family one day and then does not have them in the family the next day. The same is true for God’s family as for our human families. God calls you His child to make the point that you are permanently in His family. That is also why unbelievers are never called “children” of God—they are not part of the family.
Children have their father’s “seed” in them, and Christians are born of “imperishable seed” (1 Pet. 1:23). The Bible is very clear: If you are saved, you are born into God’s family, you are permanently adopted, you are sealed with holy spirit and God calls you a child of God.
Why should I stop sinning if I cannot lose my salvation?
That’s a good question, and there is a good answer. First, anyone who lives a sinful life becomes a slave “to sin” (Rom. 6:16). People who live lives of sin are often guilt-ridden, depressed, unhappy people. Sin takes its toll on people, and Christians should want to escape the tyranny of sin.
Second, you are united to Christ, identified with him in the most intimate way possible. That is, you were crucified with him, you died with him, you were buried with him, raised with him from the dead, ascended with him and seated with him at the right hand of God (Rom. 6:1-10; Eph. 2:6). Being thus joined with Christ, why would you want to continue to be joined to sin in your day-to-day life?
Third, it is right and proper to thank the one who has given you a gift. God and His Son have given you the greatest gift of all—everlasting life. The greatest gift you can give back is your life in service to them.
Fourth, there are many people who do not know God and who desperately need salvation. They could die any day and miss eternal life. What a terrible loss that would be! One of the things that turn people off to God and the Church is hypocrisy. If you are a Christian don’t live like one, you make it more difficult for the non-believer to come to Christ.
Fifth, how you live and serve in this life will determine how God will reward you in your future life in God’s kingdom. Christ is going to come back to earth and set up a kingdom (“…the meek…will inherit the earth”), and not every person in that kingdom will have the same rewards. Many verses attest to this truth:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
(12) If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
(13) his work will be shown for what it is,…It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
(14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward
(15) If it is burned up, he will suffer loss….
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
(23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
(24) since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
(25) Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
There are many other verses like these that plainly say that Christians will be rewarded in the future kingdom of Christ for what they do for him now. The Bible exhorts you to work hard now so that you will be richly rewarded in the future kingdom.
I’ve done so many terrible things in my life. Can I still be saved?
The Word of God is clear that every person has sinned. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” When it comes to sin, God’s opinion of all people is the same: “…There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12).
God is realistic about people—we are all sinners. The Bible never makes a statement like “Christ died for everyone except murderers” or “Christ died for everyone except adulterers.” The Bible states very clearly that God gave His Son so that “…whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Apostle Paul described himself as “chief of sinners,” because he tortured and killed Christians before becoming one himself. To him, he was as low as a human being can go morally—to actually be a murderer of God’s people. Paul is a wonderful example of the mercy and longsuffering of the Lord, for if a man like him can be saved, anyone can be.
I have heard that people change when they are saved. Is this true?
There is a wonderful spiritual transformation that occurs in your life when you get saved. However, the changes do not automatically occur in your mind or your behavior. The changes occur in what you receive from God and in the relationship you have with Him. When you are saved, you:
- Become a child of God
- Are given holy spirit, the gift of God’s divine nature on the inside.
- Are righteous in God’s sight.
- Are justified before God.
- Are sanctified (that is, “made holy”) in God’s sight (1 Cor. 1:2).
- Are redeemed from the power of sin and death.
- Go from being dead in sin to having everlasting life.
These changes are very real and should powerfully influence how a Christian thinks and lives. But because these changes do not automatically affect a person’s behavior, each Christian has a decision to make. Are you going to believe what you see and feel (“Gee, I don’t feel righteous or holy, etc.”) or are you going to believe what God says in His Word? As a Christian, you must learn to “…live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It is essential to good Christian living to learn to trust what God says. For example, God says He loves you, and God’s love is real even if you don’t feel loved. The same goes for what God has made you to be in Christ and how He thinks about you. God made you righteous, sanctified (holy), and justified even if you do not feel that way.
I have heard that you can tell a saved person by the good works that he or she does.
When you are saved, you are brought into God’s family. You become a child of God, are born again and sealed with holy spirit. However, your behavior does not usually change right away. Occasionally you hear of someone who, at the time he was saved, had a wonderful change in his life that God accomplished. For example, an alcoholic may have immediately given up alcohol. That kind of thing sometimes happens, but it is the exception, not the rule.
God gives careful instructions to His children regarding godly behavior. The Bible says not to lie, cheat, or steal. It commands you not to commit adultery. It says to put away bitterness and revenge and instead to be patient, kind, and loving. It says to be giving and to pray. There are many things the Bible tells you so that you can lead a godly life. It takes time, effort, and discipline to learn to keep the commands of God and live like a Christian. Many verses attest to this, and we will quote two:
Galatians 5:16 and 17
(16) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
(17) For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….
You have to make up your mind to obey God and do what He says. If you don’t, you will listen to the “…desires of your sinful nature” and miss out on His blessings. It is not always easy to keep the commands of God. Even the great Apostle Paul occasionally wrestled with his sinful nature and had a hard time (Rom. 7:14-20). You may not always succeed at keeping God’s commands, but He wants you to do your best. You will be rewarded at the Judgment for the things you do for Christ now. Changing the flesh is your job. God will help, but He can’t do it without you. The reason that so many Christians are “carnal Christians” is that they have never decided to go to war with their flesh and bring their body into obedient submission to the Word of God. These carnal Christians are still saved, but they are living like unbelievers.
Does the Bible say what the next life will be like?
It certainly does. And it is unfortunate that, in many Christian Churches, tradition has for the most part hidden the truth about the future God reveals in the Bible. Knowing about the future is supposed to motivate people to want to be saved, and motivate the saved to want to obey God. Most Christians believe that the saved will spend forever in “heaven”, a place somewhere up in the air. This contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus and the Bible. In one of the best known Bible verses, Jesus taught that “…the meek…will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
God made the earth for people to live on and enjoy. The Bible says that in the future there will be a new earth that will replace this earth that has been corrupted. It would not make sense for God to create a “new earth” if all the saved people were going to live in heaven. God has to make a new earth in the future because the one we live on now will be destroyed. Some of the things that the Bible says about life on the future earth are:
- The Messiah will rule over an eternal kingdom (Dan. 2:44, 7:13 and 14; Rev. 22:3-5).
- The Messiah will rule from Jerusalem, from David’s throne (Isa. 9:7).
- The wicked will be destroyed, but the meek will inherit the earth (Ps. 37:9-11; Ezek. 37:11 and 12; Dan. 12:2 and 3; Zeph. 3:8-12; Mal. 4:1).
- The saved will know God (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:33 and 34; Ezek. 11:18-20; 1 Cor. 13:12).
- There will be justice on earth (Isa. 2:4, 9:6 and 7, 11:1-5, 32:1,2,5,16 and 17; Jer. 23:5 and 6, 33:15).
- There will be no war (Isa. 2:4, 9:4-7; Hosea 2:18; Mic. 4:3 and 4; Zech. 9:9-11).
- People will be healed of sickness and disease (Isa. 29:18, 32:3 and 4, 33:24, 35:5 and 6; Jer. 33:6; Mal. 4:2).
- The people will live safely (Isa. 11:6-9, 32:18, 54:14-17, 60:15-18, 65:17-25; Jer. 23:4-6, 33:6; Ezek. 28:26, 34:25-31; Mic. 5:4 and 5; Zeph. 3:13-17).
- The land will be healed and the deserts will bloom (Isa. 32:15, 35:1,2,7, 41:18-20, 44:3, 51:3).
- There will be an abundance of food (Isa. 25:6, 30:23-26; Jer. 31:5, 11-14; Ezek. 47:1-12; Hosea 2:21 and 22; Joel 2:19-26, 3:18; Amos 9:13).
The future life God offers is one of food, fun, and fellowship. It is hard to imagine a life with no sickness, no war or fighting, no injustice, more food than we can eat and all the time in the world to enjoy each other and purposeful activity, but Christians will get to enjoy that life—forever.
God is offering you everything you have always wanted in this life but just can’t seem to get, and all you have to do to get it is to accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Don’t let God’s offer pass you by, and don’t miss out on everything you’ve always wanted, but won’t get in this life. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord—say it out loud—and believe the testimony of the Bible that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
What happens to me if I do not accept God’s gift of eternal life?
The Bible says that “…the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). Jesus Christ will judge every person who has ever lived. Those who have accepted his free gift of salvation will receive everlasting life. Nevertheless, they will be judged to determine exactly what they will get in the next life, being rewarded or disciplined according to what their deeds in this life deserve (2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:23-25; 1 Thess. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:12; 1 John 2:28). Those who have not accepted Christ because they have not heard of him or his work will be judged righteously according to his wisdom and their works. Those who have rejected him and die in their sins will be thrown into the lake of fire and be burned up (Rev. 20:15). So the choice you have is either to receive the promise of everlasting life in Christ or be judged by your works instead of Christ’s work. You risk having to pay the wages of your sin, which is everlasting death.
Gambling and lotteries are common in today’s world, and people know when the odds are against them. God has stated how to make eternal life a “sure thing.” There are people who are gambling that ignorance will protect them at the Judgment, but that is a bad bet. God makes it plain that if you seek, you will find, so the person who hears a little but then makes the decision to go his own way will not fare well at the Judgment. You must decide to accept or reject the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is every reason to accept Jesus Christ and no good reason to reject him. Why would anyone knowingly choose death over life?
It is a common teaching in Christianity that the unsaved will burn forever, but that cannot be true, for then everyone would have everlasting life (albeit of poor quality). The Bible is clear that only the saved have eternal life. The wicked will receive the wages of their sin—death. There are many verses that say the wicked will be destroyed, and the way they will be destroyed is that they will be burned up. Although there are a few verses that seem to say that wicked people will burn forever, in the original text these actually mean that some people will take a long time to burn up. It was common in the biblical culture to make a point by exaggeration. For example, Christ said, “…if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out…” (Matt. 18:9). Of course, he would be horrified if someone actually did it. Christ just meant to take seriously putting an end to your sinning. There will be a time of burning before some very wicked people are completely consumed, and it may seem like an eternity to them.
The Bible is God’s Word and does not contradict itself. The few verses that some people interpret to say that people will burn forever must be understood in light of the dozens of clear verses that say that the unsaved will be destroyed. Malachi 4:1 is one example of a clear passage teaching that the wicked will be brought to ashes. But there is no reason to be destroyed in the flames. On the new earth you can live the life you have always dreamed about—so why not accept Christ as your Lord and Savior?
The idea that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and the concept that the Bible is “the truth” are hard for me to believe. What do I do now?
Keep seeking. God promises that if you ask, He will answer. This is a small booklet, and so obviously it cannot cover everything. Christian Educational Services has material on Jesus Christ, the resurrection, the infallibility and believability of the Bible, and much more. Don’t be afraid of your doubt—God isn’t. Doubt and uncertainty are not the same as arrogance and hardheartedness. Thomas doubted the resurrection, but Christ did not reject Thomas. Instead Christ revealed himself in such a way that Thomas could believe. If you honestly and diligently seek Him, God will make sure you find Him.
Some of the things I have just read in this booklet are things I have never seen before.
Truth is truth whether or not you have heard it before. Go to the Lord in prayer and to the Word of God with intellectual rigor and honesty and search out what it really says. The Word of God shows you the way to be saved, what you have when you are saved and where you will spend eternity. We at Spirit & Truth Fellowship International ® /Chrisitian Educational Services will be happy to assist you in your search of the Scriptures if you desire help.