If you have ever been involved in any formal sport, such as football or basketball, I can guarantee that you have heard a coach say, “We need to get back to the basics.” I have the same feeling at this point in my life as it relates to ministry. I am finding that many people are not grasping what it means to be born again, or saved by the grace of God. I am discovering a number of people who view Christianity only as a collection of traditions, rules, and processes, and fail to see the core of what it means to be a Christian. With this in mind, I want to unpack a series of scripture that focus on the heart of salvation.
Ephesians, chapter 2 is great section of the Bible to look at regarding the before and after. Verse 1 starts off by telling us who we are before accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It tells us that we are dead, worldly, followers of Satan, disobedient, and self-centered. Obviously, not a flattering list. But that is not all; it then tells us that we are children of wrath. The reason that we are children of wrath is that we have rebelled against God, and live for our own passions and not for God’s purposes. The decision to reject God comes with a consequence. That consequence is the wrath of God. And to top it off, we are told that this is the reality for all of mankind before we accept Jesus, no exceptions. That means you. Verse 1-3 is full of bad news.
Now for the good news, in verse 4 everything turns on the two words, “But God…” And when I say turns, I really mean it. It is a complete 180. Despite our deadness, despite our rebellion, despite living for ourselves, despite following Satan, God chooses to intervene. Why? Because God is merciful, because God is love. All of mankind deserves punishment, we deserve His wrath, but instead God gives us His mercy and love. How does he do it? He does it through Jesus Christ, His Son (Verse 5). And the result of God’s actions in Christ is to make us alive, to save us from His wrath.
What is crucial is to see is that the word used in verse 5 is “made.” This word is past tense, not future tense. Therefore Ephesians is telling us that when we receive the grace of God, we are made alive at that moment. Through the grace of God we pass from death to life at the moment we receive it. Jesus calls this being “born again” in John 3:3, “"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Paul calls it being a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The old includes death, worldly pursuits, and self-centeredness, and we are told it is gone. The new includes re-birth, life, and salvation, and we are told its has arrived…now!
However, what you call it is not important, but was is important is to realize that being a Christian at its core is about being made alive, about being saved by the grace of God. And this happens at the moment of receiving that grace.
So how? How do you receive grace? How do you pass from death to life? 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 way you receive grace is through faith in Jesus Christ. The way you pass from death to life is through faith in Christ. This is the heart of what it means to be a Christian. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)