Saved. A simple term that has been cherished by some and ridiculed by others. It’s a word that has been used and misused throughout the years in today’s evangelical world. From our standpoint, the essence of the gospel is that we are just that, saved; it is one of the simplest messages of all time, yet one of the most profound and complex. The good news is that Jesus is the Savior. His very name comes from the Hebrew Jeshua which means “the Lord is Salvation.” A fair question might be asked: “What is the ‘Savior’ to save us from?” What threatening condition is there? What are we so desperately in need to be rescued from? I don’t know about you, but as I flip through the channels on TV, I regularly come across a myriad of televangelists who preach about a gospel that Jesus wants you to be healthy and wealthy and prosperous. One often gets the impression that the gospel is to save people from a not-so-prosperous life of poverty.
Seeing no problem of yanking sole verses out of their original context, some individuals pronounce Jeremiah 29:11 (“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”) as a promise of which we must all stand on—they seem to ignore the Israelites, to whom this was written, to assure them of God’s intentions that God would bring about a blessing in the midst of the exile. (Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem trusting in God’s providence, but I do have a problem when we think it’s all about us and not about His glory).
Some preach the gospel with the message that the only danger we have is that of not fulfilling our dreams. Jesus is there to get one the promotion; to have self-esteem; to be excelling in life; to have two cars and a retirement fund.
There are others pull out John 10:10 and declare that Christ has come to give us an “abundant life,” which according them entails a large bank account and a bubbly life with no worries. Once again, the point of the passage is missed.
Still, there are some who also present Jesus as a breaker of bad habits. He’s presented to be there to free us from sexual sin, debilitating drinking patterns, and overeating disorders. Now please, don’t get me wrong, the gospel does affect all these areas of life, but that is not what we are ultimately and supremely saved from.
In back of John MacArthur’s book, Hard To Believe, it says this:
“Too many people just want a Madison Avenue Jesus to make them well, make them happy, and make them prosperous. But Jesus Christ isn’t a personal genie. He is the Savior. He died in agony to satisfy the wrath of a holy God and to forgive the sins of humankind. Faith in Him demands a willingness to make any sacrifice He asks. The hard truth about Christianity is that the cost is high, but the rewards are priceless: abundant and eternal life that comes from faithfully following Christ.”
Once an individual is born-again (another term that is often misused and ridiculed), that person is indwelt by the Spirit of God. No longer is that person the same. That person’s goals take a dramatic shift (whether immediately or gradually) from the temporary and transitory to the eternal and everlasting. Sinful habits are affected—no longer does that person have to give in to sin. But all this is secondary to the ultimate reason Jesus died.
Attaining fulfillment in life is something that is not universal. While there are many who have no purpose in life, there are those who experience a great and fulfilling life (in a way). Heart-wrenching habits certainly are not universal. There are a lot of people who exhibit great discipline and self-control (like athletes and military officers).
What is the desperate need of mankind? What is one universal, incontrovertible fact that we must all come face to face with? Oh you know…sin. We see it in the news, in the streets, throughout the pages of history, but most evidently it is displayed in ourselves. We are the best attestation to the reality of sin. In the deep crevices our minds is where sin is most rampant, loose, and unbridled.
The issues of life come from the heart (Prov. 4:23) and the pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8) yet look at the claims of the Bible describing the heart:
• the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9)
• full of vain thoughts (Jer. 4:14)
• hateful to God (Prov. 6:16,18;11:20)
• full of evil (Eccl. 9:3)
• darkened (Rom. 1:21)
• full of evil imaginations (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Prov. 6:18)
• fully set to do evil (Eccl. 8:11)
• far from God (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8)
• a treasury of evil (Matt. 12:35; Mark 7:21)
• prone to error (Ps. 95:10)
• impenitent (Rom. 2:5)
• divided (Hos. 10:2)
• hard (Ezek. 3:7; Mark 10:5; Rom. 2:5)
• carnal (Rom. 8:7)
• prone to depart from God (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 17:5)
• blind (Eph. 4:18)
• haughty (Prov. 18:12)
• of little worth (Prov. 10:20)
Talk about lowering someone’s self-esteem! Bu that’s the point. By ourselves we are left utterly bankrupt and desperate. It is not until we recognize that fact that we won’t ever see our need for salvation. John MacArthur aptly wrote on humanity’s problem: “Self importance is the reigning reality in human fallenness: man is the master of his own soul, the captain of his own fate, the monarch of his own world” (Hard to Believe, p.14). The heart of man is the real predicament that is universal regardless of race, ethnicity, social status, income, or fame. Everyone is hell bound were it not for God’s intervention. That’s the problem. And the gospel is the solution to that problem.
Though the gospel saves us from sin, it nowhere guarantees a prosperous life here on this side of heaven. Paul beautifully wrote in Philippians:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. . .” (vv. 7-9a)
No longer are we the central character in our lives, rather Christ is. The message is one that everyone must hear. We are all in the same boat. We are all beggars letting other beggars know where there is bread to eat.
What happens to the heart of man once God comes in the picture? The heart is:
• fixed on God (Ps. 57:7; 112:7)
• joyful in God (1 Sam. 2:1)
• perfect with God (Ps. 101:2)
• upright (Ps. 97:11)
• clean (Ps. 73:1)
• pure (Ps. 24:4; Matt. 5:8)
• tender (1 Sam. 24:5; 2 Kin. 22:19)
• single and sincere (Acts 2:46; Heb. 10:22)
• honest and good (Luke 8:15)
• obedient (Rom. 6:17)
• awed by the Word of God (Ps. 119:161)
• enlarged (2 Cor. 6:11)
• prayerful (Ps. 27:8)
• a treasury of good (Matt. 12:35)
A heart that was once wicked and bent against God is now supernaturally transformed by the power of God alone. How awesome it that?!
Are we to soften the gospel message to appease and appeal people to believe? May it never be so! We are to faithfully proclaim, in love, the message that is so hard to believe—knowing full well the power to save rests not in our cleverness and wit but in the power of Him who shed His blood. The message is so simple: “Christ crucified.” Yet, that same message is so profound that man, even if given all eternity, could not mine the depth of it all, always finding more and more treasures that were not visible before to our eyes.
Soli Deo Gloria!–To God Alone Be the Glory!