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The Practical Christian Life

Jacob Ninan

Chapter 6

What happens at salvation?

When we come to God repenting from our sins and placing our trust in Jesus for our salvation, God does many miraculous things in our life. In fact, this miracle of salvation is a greater miracle than the physical ones we can think of, because this is for eternity. This is the miracle than turns a persecutor and blasphemer like Saul to a great apostle called Paul. Those of us who have experienced this salvation in our own lives know how supernatural it has been. We want to take a look here at different aspects of this miracle that takes place in a man who gets ‘saved’.

Sins Forgiven
It was our sins that had so far separated us from the holy God (Isa.59:1,2). The first thing needed to restore us to Him was to remove the record of sins that was against us. He could not overlook our sins or simply brush them aside because His righteousness demanded that we should be punished for them (Rom.6:23). But when Jesus died in our place and took our punishment, God came into the position where He could righteously and justly forgive us our sins. He forgives us in such a gracious and magnanimous way that where our record was blood red with the guilt of sin, the blood of Jesus washes it and makes it whiter than snow (Isa.1:18). God puts our sins from His mind as far away as the east is from the west (Psa.103:12). He promises never again to raise the memory of our old sins (Heb.8:12). God now puts away the accusing cries against our sins (Col.2:14) so that our Accuser, the Devil, is disarmed. We are given a clean conscience, free from guilt. Such a salvation from the guilt is possible from nothing but the death of Jesus and our faith in Him. When Jesus died on the cross at Calvary, the veil in the Temple that separated the Most Holy Place from the common man’s entry was torn aside from top to bottom by God, indicating that the way to God is now open for man.

When God forgives us and puts away the record of our sins, He now accepts us as ‘righteous’ in His sight. This is called justification, which is freely given to us by grace following our repentance and faith in Jesus (Rom.3:24). Someone has tried to explain it as being given the status of ‘just-as-if-I’d never sinned’! This is because we have accepted the status of being sinners who deserve death, and received from God the free gift of the righteousness of Christ being accounted to us. Our sin was credited to Jesus, and in our union with Him by faith, His righteousness was credited to us (2Cor.5:21). Now God accepts us ‘perfect in Christ’. The Law that demanded that we should keep all the Law before we could be accepted by God could not make anyone ‘perfect’ (Heb.10:1). But the Law constantly reminds us about our sins (Rom.3:20). But when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by faith, “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb.10:14). In other words, our acceptance before God is now perfect! We can now go boldly into the presence of God our Father with the blood of Jesus (Heb.10:19-22). There is now no condemnation for us because we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8:1).

Born Again
When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, they ‘died’ in the same instant (Gen.2:16,17). From a spiritual point of view this death meant an eternal separation from God, and the immediate result was that the fellowship they had with God was broken. In other words, their human spirit became dead towards God. They felt guilty and ashamed of themselves and tried hide from God in fear. Physically their bodies began to degenerate, and psychologically their minds became corrupted, experiencing foolish thinking, negative emotions and confusion in their choices. God knew that they needed to be ‘born again’ in order to reverse the effect of sin in their life.

When a man comes to God through faith in Jesus, God causes him to be born again (1Pet.1:23;1Jn.3:9). The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in his spirit and causes his spirit to become alive towards God. This re–establishes his connection with God. He becomes a new creature who is born of God, and this spiritual baby grows up feeding on the word of God (1Pet.2:2). The Holy Spirit works in his mind to restore reasonable thinking, positive feelings and the ability to make the right choices. His body comes under the care of God who brings protection. Spiritual, psychological and physical healing will be fully restored only when he is ‘glorified’ in eternity, but every aspect of his life begins to grow better under the care of the Father.

One very crucial change that happens when we are born again is a transformation in our attitude towards sin. When we were born physically we were ‘born in sin’ (Psa.51:5). It was natural for us to sin, and even though we had a conscience that convicted us in the beginning when we sinned, we usually ignored it and went on sinning, trying only not to get caught. When we are born again, God takes away this heart that was inclined towards sin and gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek.36:26). This transformation makes us to want to stop sinning and to always do the will of God. This hatred for sin is a sure mark that shows that a person has been born again.

An important truth we must recognise is that when we are born again and become children of God our old sinful nature is not removed from us. But we are set free from the bondage we were in earlier that compelled to serve the old nature (Rom.8:12;6:14). Now we hate sin and do not want to sin, even though we may still fall because of our weakness, lack of power to overcome and ignorance of what God has provided for us. But there is still a duality in us in that what has been born of God in us – our new nature (new man, new self) – will exist along with the remains of our old sinful nature (sometimes called the ‘flesh’). There is a constant battle between these two natures. We are to keep the old nature on the cross (Gal.5:24) and put to death by the help of the Holy Spirit every desire for sinful behaviour that comes up from the flesh (Rom.8:13). Here is where we demonstrate our hatred for sin, fear of God and love for God.

One way to understand this is to think of the death on a cross. The cross does not kill its victim at once, but over hours of agony. Our ‘old man’ has been now placed on the cross with Christ (Rom.6:6). If we feed this old man on the cross now and then by yielding to the lusts in our flesh, it is going to take much time for the old man to finally die, if at all he dies! Therefore we are exhorted to ‘put off’ our old man (Eph.4:22,23), not to yield any part of our body to sin (Rom.6:13), and to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom.8:13). This is an example of how we ought to respond to what God has already done in our lives.

Children Of God
When God causes us to be born again through His Spirit, He declares us to be His children and Himself as our Father. This is an extremely privileged position for us that He has given to us who used to be His enemies because of our sins. To have the Creator of the universe as our Heavenly Father and to live in that relationship daily is our privilege. To know that He knows everything about us – such as the strengths He has created us with and the weaknesses we have because of our sinful nature, every detail of our sinful past (Psa.103:13) – and that still He loves us with an everlasting love, gives us the boldness to approach Him without fear or condemnation. We can open up ourselves to Him frankly and honestly with the confidence of His understanding and compassion, and ask Him anything (Jn.16:26,27). We know that He watches over us, protects us, plans good things for us and causes even our mistakes to work something for our good (Jer.29:11;Rom.8:28).

We also become the younger adopted brothers and sisters of His eldest Son Jesus Christ. As God’s children we become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus (Rom.8:17).

We must understand at the same time that when we are made ‘children of God’ we do not become ‘God’ in essence but remain as created human beings, albeit with the Spirit of God residing in us (Rom.8:9). We are only ‘adopted’ as children of God (Eph.5:1), even though we have been declared as fellow heirs with Christ (Rom.8:17). Another aspect of this is that even when God has given us the authority to use the blood of Jesus for access to His presence and the name of Jesus to heal the sick or to cast out demons it is Jesus who has the real power and not we. Our authority comes from trusting in Him and submitting to Him. Remembering this will keep us from some of the heresies that have come up in the church.

Names In The Book Of Life
Jesus the Lamb of God keeps the Book of Life in which is written all the names of people throughout the history of the world who have trusted in Him and whom God has found worthy of eternal life (Rev.20:12). Those whose names are not in this book will be thrown into the lake of fire after the final judgment (v.15). This also gives us access to the tree of life that was kept away from Adam and Eve after they had sinned (Gen.3:22-24).

Many Christians assume that once they are born again and get their names into the book of life eternal life is given to them and they cannot lose it by any means. But this is a grievous error. Jesus has given a promise, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev.3:5). But this means that it is possible for the names of some to get erased, because otherwise this promise would not mean much.

‘Eternal life’ is obviously a life without end, and that is what Jesus offers to everyone who gets saved by believing in Him. He has also told us that no one would be able to take such ones from His hands or the Father’s hands (Jn.10:28,29). What we should not forget is that He does not take away our choice to walk away from Him! We came to Him by putting our faith in Him, and it is possible that we may choose to walk away from that faith. Unfortunately this happens in some cases when people choose some sinful pleasures above the commandments of God and refuse to repent. There are many warnings against this in the New Testament (Heb.3:12-14;6:4-6;10:26,27;2Pet.2:1-9). What we must understand is that our eternal life was given to us by His grace through our faith (Eph.2:8,9) and that if we give up that faith we can longer claim eternal life from God. Paul warned the Gentiles not to take their salvation for granted because Israel lost it and they, the Gentiles, stood only by their faith (Rom.11:18–20).

Eternal Life
It is well known that one benefit of salvation is eternal life (Jn.3:16). Many people understand this only as living forever, without realising that even the people who are thrown into hell ‘live’ there forever (Rev.20:10,15). In a strict sense, only God is eternal because He has no beginning or end. We all have a beginning when we are conceived in our mother’s womb, and from then onwards we will live forever, either in heaven or in hell! The eternal life that God promises His children is more than just living forever or living in heaven forever. It is for us to receive the ‘eternal life’ that is in God. This is, in fact, the life of Christ, or His character or nature, that we can know experientially (Jn.17:3). This is the divine nature that we partake of when we become God’s children (2Pet.1:2-4). It is not the essential nature of God’s divinity, as we have seen earlier. The greatest news is not just that we can be forgiven our sins but that we can be transformed from our sinful nature into God’s nature.

Freedom From The Law
All religions of the world tell us to do certain things or to conform to certain standards so as to find acceptance by God. In other words, they all teach following different ‘laws’ in order to reach God. The Bible reveals God telling us that no one can become good enough for God by doing things or following laws (Rom.3:20), because everything we can do is tainted by sin and God’s standards are infinitely high. That is why Jesus has come with the good news of grace or unmerited favour from God where we find acceptance with God ‘freely’ by acknowledging our unworthiness! When we receive that acceptance, we are freed from the demands of the law that were needed to be met before we could find acceptance. This is what it means to be freed from the law (Rom.8:2). When it refers to the Law of the Old Testament it also means that we do not have to follow the laws relating to ceremonial purifications and also clean and unclean things.

However this does not mean that a Christian is without any law! We must be careful not to exaggerate the grace of God and think that we are not under any law! It does not mean that we can live anyway we like because we are under grace (Rom.6:15)! Those who are born again through the work of the Holy Spirit when they repented from their sins and put their trust in Jesus find another law working inside them. This is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:2) that works against the sinful desires coming up from the flesh (Gal.5:16,17). It is as we follow this law of life that we get transformed into the life of Christ.

Receiving forgiveness of sins and justification is only the beginning of salvation. Once we are accepted by God as His children He begins to work in us to transform our actual lives into His character. This process is called sanctification, that continues all through the rest of our life. Sanctification means to be set apart for God and to be made holy. Some people imagine that when one is born again he is also at the same time ‘sanctified entirely’ as if there is nothing more to be done. But the fact that we are tempted to sin even afterwards shows us that this is not true. Some others claim that when one is baptised in the Holy Spirit he is sanctified entirely – body, soul and spirit. This too is to be unrealistic. In reality sanctification means to be made holy in a practical sense – God causes us whom He has declared to be righteous and accepted in His sight to actually become righteous in our practical life. In other words, He wants to translate our judicial position before Him to become our real, practical position; He wants us who are ‘in Christ’ to actually become like Christ in our behaviour. This takes place little by little and it is a lifelong process.

When we are born again we are wholly set apart (sanctified) from God’s side as belonging to Him and not to the world anymore. At the same time He also wants to sanctify us entirely in a practical sense in our body, soul and spirit, which is the goal of this lifelong process of sanctification (1Thess.5:23). The first is our position in the sight of God, and the second is the process that we go through from then onwards.

This process of sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit works in our life and we cooperate with Him by submitting to Him (Rom.8:13). Some make the mistake of thinking that all they have to do is to read the word of God and ‘behold’ the beauty of the Lord there, misunderstanding 2 Corinthians 3:18. Others claim that since they are under grace automatically sin will stop having any power in their lives, misquoting Romans 6:14. This is what comes from reading verses independently of others! We shall look at this subject in more detail in a later chapter.

This final stage of salvation is what will happen when we are raised up to be with Christ and we are given ‘glorified’ bodies that are perfect and without sin or sickness or any blemish. Then we will no longer have any remains of our old nature with us that will tempt us to do wrong. That is how we will be for eternity.

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Go to Chapter 7. Forgiveness of sins.

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