GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION
With so many thoughts and ideas concerning salvation from sins, one thing is for sure - there is only God's way unto salvation. The Psalmist wrote, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation...." (Ps. 25:5). Since God is our Creator, then He sets the rules for life (Ps. 25:1). And since God's character is holy and pure, then He commands likewise from his creation (1 Pet. 1:14-15). But what has occurred? In Genesis 3, Satan came and deceived mankind, thus introducing sin in this world. In essence, Satan corrupted the mind of man. Hence, with our freewill, our bodies, the pleasures of this world, and false, deceivable knowledge, man has chosen to violate the will of God and consequently, has "alienated" himself and has become "enemies in his mind by wicked works" against God (Col. 1:21). The mind, therefore, is that which God has concerned Himself with in restoring and transforming. This is where the gospel of Christ comes into the picture (cf. Rom. 1:16). Christ came to demonstrate that the corrupt mind could be restored and transformed by witnessing, studying, and applying the life of Christ to their life (cf., 1 Jn. 2:6). Hence, everything God teaches concerning salvation involves the life and death of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-10). And just as important as the life and death of Christ is for our salvation, Jesus' other mission as God's final spokesman (Heb. 1:2) was as important. God gave Jesus "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). And as such, Jesus was commanded to be listened to, for He spoke the words of the Father (Matt. 17:5; Jn. 5:19-20; 6:32-35). Hence, Jesus, in concert with his life and death, gave instructions (ultimatums) one had to obey in order to come in contact with His blood to be saved. According to Hebrews 9:14, it was the blood of Christ which could "purge" our conscience of dead works. But remember, the blood of Christ was only legitimate because of the impeccable life He lived (Jn. 14: 3-8; 17:1-4). Hence, the purpose of the blood (which in essence represents life, Lev. 17:11), was to clear the mind of a sinner so that he or she could start over again, mentally, and live for Christ and His righteousness. So now consider the logic of salvation according to God. This is why God, through Christ (our example of righteous living), gave us the plan of salvation, the salvation of our mind.
HEAR THE WORD!
Jesus came to speak the words of the Father (Jn. 12:49-50). God communicated His will to all mankind through the voice of His Son, called the Word of life (Jn. 1:1; 1 Jn. 1:1). Hence, by necessity we all must "hear" the message of God. Jesus said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 11L15). But hear what? Hear the message of salvation which Jesus came to bring (Lk. 1:76-77). This is why the Father said of His Son, "hear ye him" (Matt. 17:5). But not only hear, but understand the message as well (Matt. 15:10). We must open our ears to the knowledge of Jesus, seek to understand it, and finally obey the message (Jn. 3:36; Rom. 10:17; Heb. 5:19). But the most important questions are: Have we heard Jesus' clear message of salvation or have we heard the feigned messages of men? (Matt. 7:15; 24:24). We first must hear the message of salvation as given by Jesus the Christ!
BELIEVE IN CHRIST!
To be open to the salvific message of Christ means that we trust who Christ is. Christ declared himself to be the Son of God (Jn. 5:19-20) demonstrated by miraculous action (Jn. 3:2; Acts 2: 21-22). Jesus said in John 8:24, "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." To believe in Christ means to believe in His message. To believe in His message is to obey it. In John 8 as Jesus spoke the words of His Father, we are told that "many believed on him" (v. 30). What did their believe in Him cause them to do? Verse 31 says, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." To believe in Christ is to abide in His word. To abide in His word is to obey it. Hence, to believe in Jesus is to obey what He commanded. But what did Jesus command?
If Christ is pure and holy, without sin (1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 4:15), how must those who follow him be? The answer is simple, pure and holy (1 Pet. 1: 14-15; 2:21-22; 1 Jn. 2:6). Hence, Jesus commanded in Luke 13:3,5, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." The word "repent" means to change one's mind which results in a change of action (Acts 2:38, 3:19; 26:20). The mind must be overhauled by ridding sinful thoughts that fuel sinful action; hence, we are commanded to think holy and pure (Phil. 4:8). This is accomplished by guarding our minds and capturing sordid thoughts that attempt to invade it (Pr. 4:23; 2 Cor. 5:4-6). Once the mind is taken back from a life of evil thought, then we can live as God called us to live - pure and holy (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:3). As we're led by God's word each day, we can soundly defeat any temptation that attempts to overthrow my mind (1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 4:7). This by far is the most compelling command, for it will determine whether I spend an eternity with God or Satan. The book of Revelation tells us that "there shall in no wise enter into it (heaven) any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27). Those written in the book of life are those who works complemented Holy Writ (Rev. 20:12-15; 22:12). Repent or perish!
CONFESS JESUS BEFORE MEN!
If we're willing to follow Christ, then we must be willing to confess Him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before me, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." The idea presented here, contextually, deals with not being afraid to stand up for Christ (Matt. 10:22,26-31). Christ wants courageous individuals to follow him (Lk. 9:61), those who will not give up when things become difficult in life (Pr. 24:10). Jesus commands and demands those who choose to follow him to be unwavering in their trek (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7). This makes sense. Since Jesus never gave up on His mission, neither should we give up on our mission (Acts 14:22). Once we make an oral commitment to Jesus, then Jesus will require our oath to be kept (cf. Eccl. 5: 1-5). When we enlist into the army of Jesus, then we must fight for him til the day of our death (2 Tim. 2:3-4; Rev. 2:10).
So here is where the mind is restored. In order to enter a relationship with God, we who were separated from Him through sin (Isa. 59:1-2), corrupting our minds (Col. 1:21), must become holy and pure in mind. In short, the mind must be restored. How is this accomplished? The Bible teaches that the blood of Christ is the only substance that can wash away our sins, giving us a new relationship with God the Father (Heb. 9:22, cf. Lev. 17:11). But why Christ's blood? Although blood runs in the veins of man, blood represented life (Lev. 17:11). It is through blood that the body is given its nutrients and oxygen to survive. But when we speak of Christ's blood, we are speaking about an individual that lived this life "without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Peter said, "But with the precious blood of Christ, AS a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19). Consider that the blood of Christ was only made precious because of His life, a life without sin. But how was this accomplished with Christ? By Christ keeping His mind pure and holy, resulting in a life of faithfulness. Hence, the blood of Christ, which represents life, a life without sin, must be applied to wicked minds, thus restoring (2 Cor. 5:17) and through Christ's word, be transformed to a life of righteousness (Rom. 12:2). So the logical question becomes, how do I come in contact with the blood of Christ? The Bible teaches that sins are stored in our conscience (Heb. 9:9; 10:2). A sin is a violation of God's law and when we violate God's law, our conscience becomes affected with guilt and remorse (2 Cor. 7:10-11). If left untreated, our conscience (our moral compass) becomes evil, skewed, twisted, and seared (1 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 10:22). But how can our conscience be restored? By being cleansed. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:14, "How much more shall the blood of Christ...offered without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works." The blood of Christ is what cleanses our conscience. But the question still remains, how do I come in contact with the blood of Christ? In Hebrews 10:22, we are told, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Did you get that? The term "sprinkled" goes back to the Old Testament concept of blood being sprinkled on the altar for the atonement of sins (cf. Lev. 8:11,19,24). In this context, the Hebrew writer is speaking of Jesus' blood being sprinkled upon the altar of our hearts by way of "our bodies washed with pure water." It is interesting that the word "wash" means to plunge the entire person into water. Now make this connection with Revelation 1:5 where it is said of Jesus that "he loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." The word "wash" is the same word used in Hebrews 10:22. Hence, in order to be washed from our sins, (our minds restored), we must contact the blood, and in order to contact the blood, we must be washed. So what must occur? Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved...." Why did Jesus say that baptism saves, when it is his blood that saves? Well, since Jesus' blood efficaciously works in expunging all sins of mankind, which in reality was an expungement of the debt of sin - death, we now must symbolically apply the blood of Jesus to our conscience so that it can be freed from the tyranny of sin and death. How would this be accomplished? In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter said, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Did you make the connection? By being baptized, we come in contact with the blood of Christ (Col. 2:12), and thus our conscience becomes clean! As our minds are restored through baptism (2 Cor. 5:17), we then enter a relationship with God (Jn. 3: 3-5). But with the restoration of the mind, we've also been called to put on Christ, which also occurs through baptism (Gal. 3:27). This means that we then have the task in transforming our minds which continues to be held captive by habitual thoughts and actions (cf. Rom. 7:15 - 8:14). But we don't fight this battle alone. Once baptized as well, we become members of Christ's body (Acts 2:41,47; 1 Cor. 12:13). And as members, we enter into a system where other Christians are going to help us in our defeating sin and remaining faithful to God (Heb. 10:24).
BE FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH!
Once we enter into a relationship with God, He will demand and expect from us total obedience (Jn. 14:15; 1 Jn. 5:3). We are told in 1 Peter 4:17 that judgment will begin with the house of God. This means that God requires more from His people that those who've yet to obey his message of salvation (Lk. 12:41-48). Therefore, God demands of His people faithfulness until death (Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). As God's people, we are called to set the standard, just as Jesus set the standard, for moral living in this life (Matt. 5:16). Our lives must reflect the life of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:6; 3:2-3; Gal. 2:20). We have been called out of darkness to show forth the virtues (moral excellencies) of Him who called us (1 Pet. 2:9). And as such, we must "abstain from fleshy lusts which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). In the final analysis, God will judge all people based on their works (Rev. 22:12), and if our works don't meet up to the standard of the Son (the Word of God), then God will condemn the sinner into the depths of hell (Matt.13:37-41; 47-50). The "grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Tit. 2: 11-12).