We close this section of the Basics on Salvation by pointing out a few misapplications. These are essentially ways in which salvation in Christ is misunderstood or less than it really is. Falling into these doesn’t mean that salvation is not real for us but that we are not walking or striving after its fullness in Christ.
Let’s call the first misapplication “Fire Insurance.” Salvation is so much more than escaping the flames of eternal judgement. While there is the benefit of eternity with Christ, the benefits of salvation begin now. We have access to God’s throne now. God works in our life now. Sometimes I wonder if Christians are overselling eternity and underselling what faith in Christ means for each and every day. Not that eternity with Christ isn’t huge or real, but for many if not most, the mountains of problems in their life today are more pressing than a distant promise. If all we see in salvation is fire insurance, then we’re missing a whole lot of life in Christ.
The second misapplication is seeing salvation as some kind of group initiation or “getting religion.” There is a social aspect to our life in Christ. We desire to be with folks, to worship, to support, to serve, and to care for each other. But if the social aspects are all there is, if lives are not wonderfully changed, if the kingdom of God is not advancing, then we become a social group and not a family of believers. We’ll explore this more when we consider the Church in an upcoming section of the Basics. But for some salvation is not experienced as new birth but as entrance to a new club. The benefits are not what Christ does but what the others in the club have to offer.
A third misapplication is seeing salvation as a means of getting our desires. That salvation is a door to riches, prosperity, fame, or perhaps a last-ditch effort to find solutions or meaning. Some of this is false advertising. Yes, God does hear our prayers and knows our struggles. He does promise an abundant, rich (think rich in meaning and not rich in wealth) and satisfying life (John 10:10). But salvation means that we come to an end of ourselves, throw off our desires, and adopt the desires of God. Jesus himself said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, NASB95)
Nearly everyone coming to Christ for Salvation starts in one of these three. We are scared of eternal judgment, we are drawn in socially, or we have come to the end of our rope and want God to fix our lives. The problem isn’t starting there, it is staying there. My first step of salvation was motivated by the fear of hell. But today that fear is not as important as loving God, loving others, worshiping Him, serving Him more and more each and every day.
Salvation in Christ is “fire insurance”, it does usher us into a new family, and does invite us to bring our problems and challenges to God. The difference however is what salvation is really all about. A changed heart and changed desires. No longer is the most important person in my life me. Jesus is. That step of faith in accepting Jesus as savior must, at some point, be followed with the second step of accepting Him as Lord. Sometimes those happen in quick succession, sometimes they are years apart.
The interface of that ongoing work of God in our lives is the Holy Spirit. Our next section of The Basics looks at the person and work of the Holy Spirit.