Paul and Silas, two of Jesus’ disciples, were in jail in the city of Philippi.  At midnight they sang and prayed until God broke down all the doors of the prison and broke the shackles which held their feet, with a mighty earthquake.  They could have escaped and gone home.  But, they did not.  They knew that if they fled from prison, the jailer would surely be put to death for allowing the prisoners to escape.  The poor jailer, frightened and convicted of his sins, came to these two preachers and asked:

“What must I do to be saved?”

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:29-31.

It is that simple: God’s plan of salvation.  The only plan He has for every man, woman and child who was ever born into the whole world.

Salvation Defined

The dictionary defines “salvation” as:

Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.

In religious terms, salvation is the “deliverance from the power or penalty of sin.”  It is the saving of our soul.  It is the term used for attaining Heaven and escaping Hell.

Salvation is God’s love gift to all who want to receive it.  It is God’s answer to the deep longings of the human race for forgiveness, satisfaction and purpose in life. 

Most religions agree that only when we are forgiven for all of our sins can we reach Heaven.  A sinner cannot enter Heaven.  We must be “perfect” to be worthy to stand in God’s presence.

Therefore, “salvation” is in effect the term used for the process of cleansing one’s sin and being made clean and pure in order to stand before the King.  Some say one can only attain Heaven by following a certain set of rules, dos and don’ts.  Others say one can only be saved if he or she cancels out his or her sins by good works.  But the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  Acts 16:31.

We Have All Sinned

The first step to attaining salvation is recognizing, “I am a sinner.”

Often when we hear the word “sinner,” we think about adulterers, cheaters and murderers.  We think, “I do not do those things.  I am law abiding and sincere.  I am not a sinner.”  But a sinner is anyone who has disobeyed the will or commandments of God.  God’s greatest commandment is “love.”  If you have ever told even a white lie, you are a sinner.  If you have ever spoken in a harsh tone to another, you are a sinner.  If you have ever thought negatively about someone, you are a sinner.  If you have ever acted in a selfish manner, you are a sinner.   

In the beginning of time, God created the Heavens and the Earth.  He created the trees and the plants, the birds and the beasts.  He created the sun and the moon.  He created man and woman.

God created man and woman (Adam and Eve) in His image.  He created them as intelligent, living beings with whom He could fellowship.  However, He did not want humans to worship Him out of compulsion, but out of love.  He did not make robots.  He gave humans free will.  He gave man and woman choice. 

In the beginning, God’s creation was without sin.  And it would have remained that way, were it not for man’s choice.

God had given man and woman reign over all that was in the Garden of Eden.  They were allowed to eat and drink, play and rest, and make merry.  The Lord only gave them one rule:  “[O]f the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Genesis 2:17.

From the beginning, God set before man a choice of whether to obey Him, love Him and live – or to disobey Him, not love Him and die.  Unfortunately, Adam and Eve, chose to rebel again God and to disobey Him.

By turning away from God in disobedience, man lost the blessing and protection of God and came under a curse and power of the devil.  They were cast out of the Garden of Eden and lost their close fellowship with the Father.

All men and women were given the knowledge of good and evil, and thus sin and death entered the Earth.

According to the Bible, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23.

As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one!”

Romans 3:10-12.

And if we each examine our own lives, I doubt there is one of us who can say, “I have not sinned.”  We sin almost continuously.  No doubt, you may not have murdered, stolen or committed adultery.  But, we are constantly telling lies, white lies, un-truths, or half-truths.  Our mind is routinely judging those around us.  We are ever acting in a selfish or self-centered manner.

We may try to justify our sins, by quantifying them as “small” sins.  But in God’s eyes, all sin is sin, big or small.  From an airplane, the difference in height between a skyscraper and an average home is negligible.  Similarly, from God’s vantage point, the difference in degree between our small sins and our neighbor’s big sins is negligible.

Thus we have all sinned, our souls have been lost (destined for Hell), and we need to be saved.

God’s Plan

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23.

From the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into sin, God had a plan for the salvation of man.  He had a plan to reconcile His creation back to Himself.  Despite man’s failure to achieve God’s highest plan and purpose in his creation, God did not forsake him.  His plan from the beginning was to send His Son to be “the propitiation for our sins” by dying in our place.  See I John 2:2.  In Genesis, the Lord first spoke of this plan, as He rebuked Satan, stating:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Genesis 3:15.

Approximately 2000 years ago, God sent Jesus into this world to fulfill that plan.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16.

The Bible clearly states that it takes blood to pay for sin.  “[W]ithout shedding of blood there is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22.  Both Biblically and historically we can see that our ancestors sacrificed animals in order to seek atonement for their sins.  Every lamb, bullock, heifer, goat, turtle dove and pigeon offered in the Old Testament times on the altar pictured this: that man, a guilty sinner, must have some innocent one to shed his blood to pay for one man’s sins.

Holding true to this law requiring the shedding of blood for the remission of sins, the Father sent Jesus into this world as a sacrificial lamb.  In John 1:29, it is written, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Jesus was sinless.  He was without fault.  There was no “reason” for Him to be nailed to the cross.  Yet, He allowed Himself to be hung on the cross, giving His life for the atonement of the sins of this world.  He humbled Himself and became the sacrificial lamb, for the remission of the sins of those who will believe in Him.  He nailed our sins to the cross “by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Peter tells us that all of us are bought by the blood of Christ:

[K]nowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

1 Peter 1:18, 19.

We Must Repent

Now that we agree that we are all sinners, if we are seeking salvation, the next step is repentance.  The Bible lays out God’s will regarding repentance by stating, “God … commands all men every where to repent.”  Acts 17:30.  The Bible further states, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  Luke 13:3.

But what is true repentance?  “Repentance” does not mean “a period of weeping and mourning over sin, or sorrow for sins.”  Although repentance may be manifested in an outward expression of deep sorrow and severe self-humiliation (Job 42:5, 6; Joel 2:12, 13; Luke 10:13), sincerity and emotion are not enough (2 Corinthians 7:8-11; Hebrews 12:17).  You ought to be sorry for your sins and ashamed of them (2 Corinthians 7:10), but mourning is not itself repentance.  

The dictionary gives the following definitions for repentance:

  1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
  2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it.
  3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one’s sins.

To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you.

According to the Bible, there are three aspects of repentance.  True repentance requires: (1) confession; (2) turning away; and (3) restitution.  First, we must admit our sins, confessing them before God and apologizing for them.  As it is often said, an alcoholic cannot be delivered from alcoholism until he admits that he has a problem.  If we are unwilling to own up to our sinful conduct, we are not truly remorseful about it and will not be able to overcome it.  Second, we must turn away from our sins.  Simply saying, “I am sorry,” and then going back to the same lifestyle is useless.  Repentance is not mere words, but requires action.  True repentance requires a desire to change.  It requires recognition that the prior conduct is not desirable and positive steps to insure the conduct is not repeated.  Third, repentance requires restitution.  One who is repentant should not seek to enjoy the benefits of past sin.  In Luke 19, we can read the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector who had stolen from many, unjustly over-charging them on taxes and taking bribes.  However, when salvation came to his house and he repented, he not only willingly gave half of his possessions to the poor, but to those he had cheated, he paid back four times the amount.      

We Must “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”

In addition to repentance, we must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?  It means believing that He came to this earth, He died for our sins, He rose to life again, and He is alive.

But believing on the Lord Jesus Christ does not mean that you simply believe that there is a God or that there is a Savior or that Jesus existed.  Devils believe that and tremble.  James 2:19.  You can believe that a certain physician is a good doctor without calling him to be your doctor when you are sick. You can believe that a certain man is a good lawyer without taking him as your lawyer to defend your case.

You are not just to believe the truth about Jesus; you are to believe on Him, that is, depend upon Him, surrender to Him, trust Him; and when you do, you are saved.

He Will Not Reject You

If we come to Jesus to be saved, He will accept us as we are, with all of our mistakes and flaws.  “[T]he one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out,” Jesus says in John 6:37.  He promises salvation to as many as receive Him:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

John 1:12.  Salvation is for the sinner, not for the perfect man or woman.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Luke 5:31.  Similarly, those who are perfect have no need for salvation, but those who are sinners.  He is the Great Physician and will heal our soul instantly when we trust Him.

There is No Alternative Plan for Salvation

Most will agree that “God is one.”  But many will argue that there are many paths one can follow to reach God.  But Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6.  According to the Bible, salvation can come only through Jesus Christ.  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:12.  There is no alternative plan for salvation.

Good Works Cannot Save Us

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9.

We, as sinful human beings, do not deserve salvation.  There is nothing we can do that will make us worthy of admission into Heaven.  We cannot be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments.  We cannot be saved by giving charity to the needy.  We cannot be saved by trying to live a “righteous” life.

In Galatians 3:11, the Bible says:

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith.”

(emphasis added).  Countless Scriptures repeat that there is no salvation through human goodness.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

Titus 3:5.  It is His mercy.  Not our works.

Let us assume for arguments sake that one can obtain salvation through doing enough “good” works to cancel out the “bad” works.  We will define “good” works as those that benefit another.  We will define “bad” works as those that harm others or ourselves.  Under this theory, ask yourself, “Can I do enough good works to cancel out my bad works?”  If you are honest with yourself, the answer is, “No.” 

At the most fundamental level, with every breath we take, every move we make, we are killing tiny living micro-organisms.  Thus, we are constantly sinning.  I don’t think a person exists who is constantly doing good works to cancel out these bad works.

However, stepping a level above that, our human minds are full of “evil.”  We are constantly allowing negative thoughts to enter our minds.  Whether we are jealous of another’s possessions, envious of their status in life, or simply unsatisfied with our own situation, our mind is in effect “sinning.”  Whether we behave in a self-serving manner, speak to our loved ones in an irritated or angry voice, or take for granted the blessings we have been given, we are in effect sinning.  

We had as well admit, then, that no man deserves saving and no man can save himself. Salvation must be free or the sinner could never get it. 

Public Confession

Every person who is saved ought to publicly confess Christ.  Salvation is not contingent on confession, but in Matthew 10:32, Jesus said:

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.

Thus, God will claim as His child any of us who will claim Christ as our Savior, but we must confess with the mouth what we have already trusted in our hearts.  Romans 10:9-10 says:

[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

To claim Christ as your Savior proves that you truly trust Him in the heart.

He Paid the Price

Here is a story I once read that beautifully illustrates what Jesus did for us:

There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town.  One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit.  Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me, swinging this bird cage.  On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.  I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there son?”

“Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.

“Take ‘em home and have fun with ‘em.  I’m gonna tease ‘em and pull out their feathers to make ‘em fight.  I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later.  What will you do then?”

“Oh, I got some cats.  They like birds.  I’ll take ‘em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment.  “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister.  They’re just plain old field birds.  They don’t sing – they ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?”

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?”

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill.  He placed it in the boy’s hand.  In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot.  Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation.  Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.

“Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there.  Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist.  Got ‘em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’m gonna have fun!  I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other.  How to hate and abuse each other.  How to drink and smoke and curse.  How to invent guns and bombs and kill each other.  I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ‘em.”

“How much do you want for them?”

“Oh, you don’t want those people.  They ain’t no good.  Why, you take them and they’ll just hate you.  They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!!  You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?”

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.”

“Done!”  Jesus said.  He paid the price in full!

What Are You Waiting For?

The way is plain and you can be saved this moment if you will.  Just close your eyes and thank Jesus for His sacrifice.  Invite Him into your life.  Ask Him to cleanse you of all of your past mistakes and to help you to walk on His straight and narrow path.  Do not let the things of the past hold you back from accepting the free gift that Jesus offers.  No matter what you have done in the past.  No matter what others may have done to you.  Jesus wants to forgive you.  Jesus wants to accept you.  He has already paid the price, so you no longer have to suffer or bear the consequences.  If you take one step towards Him, He will take ten towards you.

If you are doubting the words you have just read, simply close your eyes and ask Jesus to show you His reality.  And when He does, believe. 

If you are feeling something in your heart, do not wait until tomorrow.  God has given you this heartbeat, this breath, this moment in order to trust Christ, but there is no promise of another.  The Bible says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”  Proverbs 27:1.

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  2 Corinthians 6:2.