IS JESUS REALLY ENOUGH? [The Basics of Salvation]

I have noticed over the past decade or so that many well intentioned believers are no longer satisfied with ‘just Jesus’

Many Christians are adding to Jesus

Jesus and a personal guardian angel

Jesus and an anointing

Jesus and a new revelation

Jesus and ministry

Jesus and end times prophecy

Jesus and interpreting dreams / visions

Jesus and Bible reading, prayer, speaking in tongues

Jesus and being baptized

Jesus and the sacrament of Holy Communion

Jesus and – you put whatever it is you have added to ‘just Jesus’

It is as if they are questioning “Is Jesus Really Enough?”

It has even reached into the area of salvation and knowing for certain that when you die you will be in Heaven and not in Hell for all eternity

Christians are questioning the teaching that you are born again by believing and receiving what Jesus has accomplished for us on the Cross of Calvary – by His death and resurrection

That what He did ‘is enough’ and more than complete and sufficient

As born again disciples of Jesus we believe:

That as human beings we are born into spiritual darkness – separated from God

That we, by our very human nature, live in disobedience to God’s Word and God’s ways and so find ourselves separated from His love – void of any relationship with Him

That God loves us so much that regardless of our heart condition and lifestyle He became one of us – born as a human being named Jesus

That Jesus – God in human form – died on the cross and paid the price for our forgiveness … the wages (result) of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)

That Jesus bodily rose from the dead and was seen many times by up to 500 people at a time

That Jesus made THE way for God to establish a personal relationship with Him and live with Him now and forever … And He offers us this new way as a free gift by grace

We believe all of this as born again Christians

BUT THERE IS MORE: For us to receive this gift by grace…

We need to believetrust that what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection really is enough

That He really is THE Way – the ONLY Way

That He really offers us salvation as a gift / by grace

We need to repent and receive forgiveness

Then we are born again / saved / disciples / in relationship with Him

And, as a result, we begin a new journey in life – a journey with Jesus – where we turn from our old ways of thinking and living and turn to Him and learn to live His way

  • New priorities
  • New perspective
  •  New values and morals
  • New plans and purpose
  • New life…

So, is salvation really as simply as receiving a gift – a gift that we don’t deserve and can’t earn?

Are we saved by what Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection?

Are we really saved by grace?

Are we sure this is not one of those “too good to be true” offers…

… Make sure you read the fine print; there must be a catch

I have been asked numerous times over the past few months:

“Is making a decision and sincerely saying a prayer from the heart enough?”

Not everyone believes that…

Some Christians believe that you need to be baptized to be really saved / born again

Baptized as a believer

Baptized as a baby

Baptized by sprinkling

Baptized by immersion

Baptized in Jesus name

Baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

 

Some Christians do not believe that the Bible is relevant to life today and so do not believe it is God’s Word and do not live by it … so live like those who do not believe

Christian atheists – Believe in God and live like they don’t

Some Christians believe that there are many roads that lead to Heaven

Many way to reach the summit of the mountain and be with God

Thus all religions are basically the same – and it does not matter which one you follow

So, obviously, many do not believe that salvation is found only in Jesus and that “Jesus really is enough!”

Pew Research Group:

65% of Christians in North America believe other religions lead to eternal life

80% of that group name one other religion

Judaism, Islam (Muslim), Hinduism, Atheists…

61% name two or more that lead to eternal life

72% of evangelicals (those who say they are born again) believe other religions lead to eternal life and thus to God

30% of evangelicals believe that you have to work to earn your salvation and relationship with God

10% believe that it is works and grace combined that lead to salvation

James: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:18)

The Bible states:

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

The Message Version: “Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one (Jesus).”

This is foundational to everything else we believe

This is basic to the Christian faith – the true faith as established by the death and resurrection of Jesus

And preached and explained throughout the pages of the New Testament

At the core of our faith it is Jesus alone who saves us!

                                    Jesus really is enough!

BUT, there are apparently passages that seem to challenge the notion that salvation is as simple as receiving a free gift

A gift offered by grace … through only what Jesus has accomplished and done for us

A gift offered by grace … made available even when we do not earn nor deserve it

We tend to glance over these verses … and as long as death is a long way off it is an easy subject to ignore

But, I have been asking myself:

When we come to the end of our days here on earth, is Jesus really enough?

            Does faith in Him plus nothing else make us right with God?

If we believe and trust in Jesus and what He accomplished for us will we enter into Heaven when we breathe our last breath here on this earth?

Let’s look at one of the difficult passages that might help us answer these questions

Mark 10:17-22

As we step into this story we find Jesus in the heart of His ministry

People are swarming Him from all sides for just a touch that might heal them

Just a word that might free them from bondage

As He enters the region of Judea, a rich, a very rich, young ruler approached Him with our very question

Here’s how the story begins to unfold:

Mark 10:17 “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”

The rich young man asked the $64,000 question…

“What must I do?”

In essence, “What is it going to take? How do I make sure I get to heaven? What is the key, the answer, the secret?”

In classic Jesus style, He asked the man a question instead of answering his question

Jesus was a genius at getting people to think for themselves

He knew that people learned best in a dialogue versus a monologue

“Talk with me not at me”

And, Jesus engaged them by following their questions with His own questions that prompted thought about issues at play that they possibly had not even considered

He was revealing the answer to the rich man’s question through the question He asked in return…

Mark 10:18-22 “And Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Jesus was not trying to stump the guy or yank his chain

On the contrary, the passage says that Jesus looked at him and loved him

He really wanted the young man to get it

The answer seems straightforward from the very lips of Jesus

You want to inherit life with God forever? —> Do good works!

Sell everything you have

Give all the proceeds to the poor

Leave everything and everyone

Follow Me

And, an impossibly high standard of good works … “sell all you have and give it to the poor”

It sounds like Jesus is saying:

            Faith (accepting God’s gift) + Works (doing good) = Salvation (eternal life, heaven)

Well, if this is true – we need to face it head-on and get to work, right?

PAUSE…

But, wait just a minute or two…

Paul writes to the believers in the city of Ephesus

The Church in Ephesus was made up of Jews and Gentles coming together in unity to form one family

Racism was very strong at that time and the Jews and the Gentiles could not have been more different from each other

The Gentiles had no religious background and came into faith in Christ from being pagans

They came into the Christian faith simply believing in Jesus

The Jews had this long history of religion and worshipping God which included doing a lot of different things certain ways so as to please God and to live according to what He had told them (Old Testament)

And, the Jews really wanted to add some extra steps to the salvation process that required Gentiles to do some things they did as Jews

Such as: being circumcised and observing certain dietary restrictions

For the Jews who became believers in Jesus in the city of Ephesus they would have answered the question, “Is Jesus really enough” with a strong, flat-out NO!

Paul writes seeking to bring unity and tear down the walls dividing the church and unify them around the truth of the gospel message they could all embrace together

He clearly and simply lays out the formula for eternal life for both the Jews and the Gentiles

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The path to eternal life, to being born again, saved? GRACE and faith

GRACE: It’s a word that simply means we didn’t earn it or deserve it – it is a love gift paid for by Jesus

The decision to make a way for us to have an eternal relationship with God is a gift

Paul states in chapter 2 of Ephesians that Jesus’ death is payment for our sins and brings forgiveness and total freedom from spiritual darkness and death

Why do we need this payment?

We are all imperfect and thus cannot come before a just and perfect God

But, when Jesus, God in human form, who was innocent of all sin, died on the cross, He took the punishment we all deserved

His blood was the payment, the cost of admission for us to stand in the presence of God

It is the only sufficient payment for our sins – total payment, not needing us to add any “works” to it

And, the means by which we reach out and receive this gift is “through faith”

This “faith” is also a total gift from God by grace (Romans 12:6)

Understanding the deal God is offering to us and trusting in it as the pathway to salvation

The only path – the only door – the only Way – to salvation and heaven

What then, must we do to gain eternal life?

Answer: Place our faith in Christ and what He accomplished by His death and resurrection

The part that seemingly comes into conflict with Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler in Mark 10 is where Paul goes on to make it clear that salvation is “not by works.”

So, it seems Jesus is saying:

            Faith (accepting God’s gift) + Works (doing good) = Salvation (eternal life, heaven)

And that Paul is saying:

            Faith (accepting God’s gift) = Salvation (eternal life, heaven)

So, which is really true then?

Well, you don’t build a teaching or a doctrine on one verse … So, let’s look at other verses in this regard

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

How does one grab hold of eternal life – a relationship with God now and a place in Heaven when you die?

Believe in Jesus!

Who He is

What He did

What He taught

What He accomplished and set in place for us

To be sure that we don’t misunderstand, Jesus repeats Himself a number of times…

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

John 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

Clearly, Jesus agrees with Paul – no need for “good works”

So, what was Jesus really saying to the rich young ruler when He gave him a list of rules to keep and things to do?

An impossibly high standard of things to do!

He was not telling the guy to keep the Law perfectly

He was helping him reach the point where he would admit that he could not keep the law in a perfect and complete manner on his own

Jesus wanted him to realize that eternal life was not within his power to achieve or within his ability to earn by following the rules

He was trying to get the young man to realize and say, “I can’t, but you can”

Remember, the young man called Jesus “good teacher”?

Jesus immediately replied, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good – except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)

What was Jesus’ point in saying that?

1> Only God is good

2> By calling me good, you are recognizing that I am God so trust me

If the young, proud, self-sufficient man had humbled himself and said, “I can’t do as you ask”

Jesus would have gone on to tell him what He told everyone else:

                        “Yes, it is true that you are not able to do all that would be necessary to have eternal life”

                        You can never be 100% perfect and be as your Heavenly Father who is perfect so you can not get into heaven on your own (Matthew 5:48)

                                    The standard for getting in to Heaven on your own = perfection

                        But I am God and thus ‘good’ (perfect – without sin)

                                     Believe in me, and you will have eternal life.”

But, this was too big a step for the proud, young man to make – He walked away

Today – for us it is still the same:

We have to admit that we are not perfect and never will be perfect / good enough…

I mean: How good is good enough?

We understand that we need to believe …

Next question: How do we believe?

In other words: How do I place my faith in Christ?

Answer:

Romans 10:9-10 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Paul gives us a simple, two-step process:

1> Believe in your heart

2> Confess it with your mouth

An inward decision

An outward declaration

Believing something from the heart means more than understanding it in your head

With regard to salvation, it means your mind has understood Christ’s offer of grace and sent it to the heart – the executive centre of your life – for a decision

When the heart believes, essentially it means your will fully embraces and trusts totally in the idea

                        What idea?

  • That we cannot earn our salvation through good works
  • That Jesus’ death on the cross provides full payment for our sins – past, present, and future
  • That Jesus’ resurrection from the dead authenticates He is no ordinary man but is God and thus “good” and, of course, 100% ‘perfect’
  • That embracing these truths is the only pathway to eternal life with God

Paul said it starts in the heart, an inward decision, but there is one more step

We must declare it out loud with our mouths – outward declaration

We must profess publicly this inward decision

Tell someone what you have done …

And, the best way to do this, is to be publicly baptized declaring your faith in Christ openly for the world to see and know that you are a believer

In Peter’s first sermon, he clearly expressed the same two-step process

After telling the story of Jesus from beginning to end, laying out all that had led to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Peter wrapped up the message with these words

Acts 2:36-38 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you                        in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter offered two specific steps:

            1> Repent

            2> Be baptized

Repenting is the inward decision

Repent means to do a 180-degree turn

To recognize that you were going in the wrong direction (see Isaiah 53:6)

To then turn around, abandon that misdirection, and head in a new direction

Moving forwards towards God and in His Kingdom

Repentance is not just an intellectual acknowledgment of your mistake, it is also a decision with the intent to live differently

Baptism is the outward declaration

The public confession of this inward decision to turn to God and change your life

When new converts were baptized in a public pool or a river in the first century

People from the community – not just the church folks – come out and lined the banks of the river

They witnessed this external declaration of allegiance to Jesus

It became public record

If later you were accused of being a Christian and taken to court during the persecution, this evidence would declare you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt

If we are ashamed and not willing to publicly declare Jesus as our Lord then there will come a time when He will not acknowledge you as one of His followers

Luke 9:25-26 “…or what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

PAUSE

The rich young ruler knew the Scriptures …

He knew the Ten Commandments and the Law and the Prophets

He understood them and had studied them

But He did not truly believe / trust / embrace – and was not willing to live them

He was a well educated Jewish man and would have known the verse

Proverbs 19:17 (NKJV) “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,

And He will pay back what he has given.”

So, the issue for the rich, young ruler was not that he did not know the Scriptures

He simply could not trust God… He was placing his trust in his wealth

“… sell all you have, give to the poor and come, follow me”

            Trust Me… “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6)

        Trust Me … believe what I have said and you will have all your needs met, I truly will repay your generous caring for the poor

Jesus, speaking to the religious rulers and leaders

John 5:39-40 ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

They too were missing the point – the words of the Bible lead us to Jesus and teach us about Him – revealing His heart and His ways

But only through “believe and confess” can we come to personally know Jesus and have eternal life

Not by keeping the rules or diligently being disciplined in reading and praying

Not by knowing all the stories and principles of the Bible …

“Not by works” but by “faith through grace, a free gift” to those who believe / trust that Jesus is enough

There are many things in the Bible that are a little difficult to understand

Salvation and eternal life is not one of them

God made the path clear

Eternal life with God does not come by our own works, disciplines, or knowledge but by the grace of God as a gift through the person and work of Jesus Christ

We must receive this gift by placing our trust (faith) in Christ through believing in Him and what He has done for us

We do this when we inwardly make this choice in our hearts and then outwardly confess / declare this inward decision to the world

Eternal life with God is real and starts when you put your total trust totally in Jesus

And all it requires is simple faith (total trust) in Jesus and a declaration of that faith

Is Jesus really enough?

Yes – Jesus really is enough!