The paradox of salvation
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (New International Version 1984, Philippians 2:12–13).
Is salvation free or do you have to work for it?
Do you find yourself saying, “Of course it is free because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ!”? Yet you catch yourself wondering if you are failing and that God might punish you or even reject you.
There is a tension in salvation and in the presenting of the salvation message. A little tension can be good. The archery competition at the upcoming Olympics depends on the explosion of force when the bowstring reacts to the tension being released in the recurve bow.
You do not want to make the Gospel too easy, but you do not want to make it too hard. The Gospel is not easy nor is it hard.
The Gospel is simple. Surrender yourself completely and fully to following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It does not matter who you are, what you have done, where you have been, what you have accomplished, how much or little money, power and fame you have.
Yes, there is work involved in salvation. If you are saved you will work. It is not yes to work or no to work. It is the motivation of your work. It is your heart! Do you have a new heart, a born again heart, a living heart, a spiritual heart? Or do you have an old heart, a single born heart, a dead heart, a physical heart?
The words you use are important. It might clarify things if you used the words ‘paid’ and ‘fruit’ instead of ‘free’ and ‘work.’ There is a great price to salvation, but Jesus Christ has already paid it on the cross. There is no work you can do to earn your salvation, but there is nothing better than fruit to show your salvation (Romans 5:8; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:18; John 14:21; James 2:17).
You run into confusion when you try to guarantee something for someone else. The ultimate guarantee will be when you stand before God and have Jesus Christ as your advocate. Until that time you walk by faith.
At OJPM we train our chaplains and volunteers to clearly share the plan of salvation (human sin, sin’s penalty of death – physical and spiritual, Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as the only payment of that penalty, repentance, faith in Jesus Christ alone and commitment to follow Him as Lord). We also train our chaplains and volunteers to boldly challenge each inmate to repent of his or her sin and commit to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.
This is a difficult task with the time and relationship limitations we accept as part of our invitation to minister in the county jails (see June 2016 newsletter article). Yet, this is the soil in which we have the privilege to spread the Gospel seed. The dirt is the heart of the inmate and the path is the county jail (Luke 8:4-18).
I close with this promise that is at the heart of our ministry at OJPM. “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9–10).
That is pretty simple!
Unleashing the captives,