Salvation by any name means starting a personal relationship with Jesus by accepting His gift of forgiveness that He offered to the world when He died on the cross.
Many people are confused by these phrases coined by Christianity over the years. In fact, protestant Christianity has been razzed for centuries about these types of sayings. People who are unfamiliar with the true nature of what it means to be a Christian are sometimes put off by them because these sayings make it sound as though there’s something wrong with people that Christianity would presume to fix. While that’s true in a sense, it’s certainly not why God wants to have a relationship with us.
Jesus wants us to come to Him as we are. He knows that we all have stuff in our lives, and He wants to help us with it. Matthew 11:28 says, ” Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest ” (GNT). He has loved us unconditionally since before we were born. Jeremiah 1:5 says, ” I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world ” (NLT).
Why do we need Jesus?
In a word, Sin. God loves us so much, but cannot and will not spend eternity with a person who is steeped in sin. Unfortunately, all but one human in history has sinned. It’s in the flawed nature of our flesh. The bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NKJV). For us, the Sinners, sin equates to eternal spiritual death. Romans 6:23 explains, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (NLT). The free gift of God is described more in Romans 3:24, ” Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins ” (NLT). It was Jesus Christ, the only man in the past, present, and future without sin, who died for our sins. This sacrifice was more than enough to cover our sins. That is the gift that Jesus offers us. We need only accept it.
Where does the phrase, “Born Again” come in?
These were Jesus’ words. “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NLT). Now, you’re probably asking, “What does that mean!?” You’re not alone. Back when Jesus first spoke those words, a church leader named Nicodemus asked, “4 ‘What do you mean. How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ 5 Jesus replied, ‘The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven'” (John 3 NLT). This is a little confusing, but what it means is that unless the Holy Spirit (the part of God who physically resides on Earth) lives inside you, you won’t really know God. You won’t benefit from the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice, and you won’t go to heaven when you leave this world. Think of being born again as filling a hole in yourself that you were never able to fill with anything else on this planet. The Holy Spirit fills that hole in your being, and you can then function as a complete person.
What about being “Saved”? What does it mean to “Get Saved?”
This comes back to Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.” By Jesus’ death on the cross, His sacrifice can save you from that death. Hence, you get saved , by accepting Jesus’ forgiveness, and by moving forward in a relationship with Him. That’s also why accepting Jesus’ forgiveness is referred to as salvation .
The reason for the cynicism surrounding the term “Saved” probably emanates from the common church practice called an “altar call,” where people who want to get saved are asked to come up to the front of the church to “receive Jesus”. People sometimes find this embarrassing, and it can look demeaning from an outsider’s perspective.
This isn’t necessary to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. No one can give Jesus to you, and no one can save you except Jesus. Altar calls can be helpful if you’re kind of at a loss for what to do. At the church I go to, the pastor asks for everyone to bow their heads, and then asks that anyone who wants to accept Jesus’ forgiveness would raise their hand for him to see. At this point, with everyone’s heads still bowed, my pastor makes eye contact with the people who have raised their hands, and explains that you shouldn’t go out and try to reform after making this decision. You can’t make yourself into a perfect Christian because: A. There’s no such thing. And B., Only the Holy Spirit can really do that kind of work in your heart.
If you try to change your life, you’re going to fail, and then you’ll feel really terrible. All that boils down to is religion, legalism, and condemnation. Whether you understand those words, or not, doesn’t matter. What you do need to understand is that when you accept Jesus’ forgiveness, the only thing that you have to do is continue what you started. By accepting Jesus’ forgiveness, thereby allowing the Holy Spirit into your heart, you begin a relationship with God. Your part in the relationship as a new Christian is to talk to God with daily prayer, and read the Bible. This allows God to speak to you, and you to Him – a conversation between new friends.
What about asking Jesus into your heart?
There’s really no need to ask Jesus to come into your heart per se. Jesus already wants to fill that hole in your heart with His Holy Spirit. All you need to do is receive Him, essentially saying, “Yes, Lord!” The book of Revelations describes it as a resident allowing a visitor to come into his/her home, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20 NKJV). The concept of asking Jesus into your heart is something that children readily understand for some reason, and that makes this concept really powerful. Jesus said, “.Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14b, 15 GNT).
What should I say? How do I pray to accept Jesus’ gift?
The best thing is to just start talking to God. He can hear you right now. You can close your eyes or leave them open. You can speak out loud or simply think the words. You can fold your hands, or not. Do whatever is comfortable for you. God doesn’t really care what you do with your body right now. He cares more about your heart – your spirit. Just start by thanking Him for loving you, and for dying for your sins. Beyond that, it’s between you and Jesus. If you’re nervous, tell Him. He knows how you’re feeling, but he likes to hear you tell Him.
If you’re hurting inside from something that until now has kept you from opening yourself up to God, tell Him about that hurt. If you’re angry with God, tell Him. He can handle it. He won’t strike you dead. When you’re done telling Him about it, give Him some time to answer back. Just be silent, and listen for His voice. This won’t likely be an audible voice, but will be more along the lines of a thought that pops into your head, or something that just seems right. You can hear God’s voice. He will speak to you if you give Him time. It might not be right then, but wait for a while. Talk to Him often, and listen for Him even more often.
Find a Church Home
Whether you’ve decided to accept Jesus’ forgiveness, or you’re still not sure what all this is all about, it’s important to find a church home. You may have a problem with Christians, but it’s probably because of one Christian who has hurt you, or perhaps it’s a stereotype in your head. Either way, it’s really in your best interest to look past any ill feelings or reservations that you might have about being around a church full of Christians. God will use these people, the pastor, and the worship to speak to your heart and give you answers.
If you’ve made the decision to accept what Jesus has to offer, the people in the Church will be very glad to celebrate with you. They’re your new brothers and sisters in Christ!
Thank you for that wonderful message, it helped me more than you know. Although I’m already saved, I’ve been going through a time of doubt. I was not always this low. It all started in sixth grade. In sixth Grade I was bullied. I went to a christian school, that was very expensive, and my parents had barely enough money to afford it, so most of the kids came from wealthy families, and were very mean to me. They didn’t accept me when they realized I wasn’t like them, but even though that bad thing happened, my life was changed because of it.
With no one to cling to, my loneliness brought me to the arms of Jesus, and I learned to abide in his love and forgiveness. I grew stronger and stronger each day, nurtured by the chapel services, and Bible classes, now that I wasn’t as distracted by the jeering comments of the other children. I learned that it didn’t matter that they didn’t like me, because God loves me, and that’s what matters most!
Thanks for sharing, Ash. I’m praying that you will come out on the other side of this difficult time with a faith that is stronger than ever, battle-hardened from relying on God as your source. God bless you!
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Isn’t it odd that if the Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?
Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?
If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”
It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?
Maybe it’s because…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT the manner in which sinners are saved!
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
Thanks for sharing your view point. I agree, there are a lot of pet phrases used in churches around the world that can cause confusion. Personally, I don’t know why Jesus used the birthing analogy when talking with Nicodemus, but I’m sure he had his reasons. For the rest of us, instead of using Christianese, I think it’s better to be as plan-speaking as we can, but I think that semantic disagreements are also symptomatic of a larger problem of division between the various churches and denominations across the world.
As Christians who are all followers of Jesus, we need reunite behind the central premises of Jesus’ life and not become distracted by the non-essential minutia. I think we can come together to agree about the love of Christ and agree to disagree about the other stuff, worshiping in the churches that we call home in the ways that are right for us.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here. I see what you’re saying. I don’t want to debate doctrine on this site. The bottom line is that Jesus Christ is where we receive eternal life, but I believe we really experience the abundant life that we hear about in John 10:10, the life of “more than conquerors” in Romans 8 that allows us to rise above our circumstances, comes from having a relationship with Jesus.
In your analogy of the father putting a gift in his lap, if the son never acknowledged the gift and didn’t open it, and just stood up and walked away, allowing the gift to fall to the ground, the son wouldn’t really be receiving the gift and certainly wouldn’t enjoy it. I think that describes a lot of people in the world today: even Christians.
Jesus wants a relationship with us. We need to learn to go beyond salvation as the end-all-be-all of the Christian experience, and move into the abundant life that he has called us to live.