“In [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Giving steps to salvation can be misleading because it implies that a person can work his way to heaven by completing "steps." As the above verse says, salvation is by His grace; we cannot earn it (Titus 3:5). Being dead in sin, an unbeliever doesn’t have the capacity to love God (Ephesians 2:1).
Thankfully, “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), God redeemed us. Redemption is paying the price to loose from bondage. By sacrificing His Son on the cross, God paid the price for sin (which is death), freeing believers from sin’s oppression. By resurrecting Christ from the grave, God proved the sacrifice was effective, giving the Lord Jesus authority to rule and intercede at His right hand (Romans 4:25; Mark 16:19).
Although we cannot merit heaven by taking steps to salvation, we are called to respond to Christ’s redemption with repentance and faith. Even that response is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thus, the question is correctly worded, “What are God’s steps to salvation of sinners?” He did it all through Christ!
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified [declared righteous/not guilty] as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; . . . Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:23-24; 27-29).
The next question is, “What should be our response, by God’s grace, to Christ’s death and resurrection? Let’s review the following three responses. Discern whether you need to respond to God’s grace to be saved from sin and its sentence of hell.
Steps to Salvation (i.e. Response to Christ’s Redemption)
Recognize need: Before receiving Jesus as Savior, you must understand why you need a Savior. Most people think if they live a law-abiding life, they deserve heaven. The problem is their definition of law-abiding. On Judgment Day after death, we won’t stand before a fallible, human judge. We will answer to a holy God, who rightly judges our thoughts, words, and actions.
God gives His law in the Bible, summarized by the Ten Commandments. Have you kept them? You might be thinking, “Well, I’ve never murdered anyone.” But Jesus revealed the true meaning of the law. He equated hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15). Looking at someone with lust, Jesus taught, was adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-29).
Besides, all of us have broken the two greatest commands: loving God wholeheartedly and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). By loving possessions more than God and loving ourselves more than others, we have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Are you guilty? “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The penalty for sin that we all deserve is death, eternal separation from God in hell (Romans 6:23). Do you realize your need for a Savior from sin? That is God’s grace in convicting you!
Repent of sin:
In believing in Jesus as Savior, you must change your mind. Repentance isn’t a “Sorry I got caught” reaction. It is a change of mind, a heartfelt sorrow of how sin grieves God, resulting in turning away from it to Christ who gives the power to overcome sin. You cannot embrace both sin and Christ.
Although repentance leads to a change of behavior, it doesn’t mean we’ll never sin again. But we will have a different attitude toward it. Instead of craving the gratification of sin’s enticements, we’ll learn to detest it. God changes the lure of sin for the pure desire of delighting in Himself.
After convicting us of sin (first response), God’s grace gives us the repentant desire to change (second response). Turning from sin, we turn in faith to the only Savior from sin. This trust in Christ’s payment for and triumph over sin involves the third response to God’s grace.
For repentant sinners, God provides salvation from the penalty and power of sin through Jesus. Our response must be faith in who Christ is and what He has done. Jesus lived a perfect life for He was God in the flesh; Jesus died a redemptive death for He is the Savior from sin; Jesus resurrected as the Victor over sin and death for He is Lord over all.
By God’s grace, we repent of sin, trusting Christ as Savior from sin and following Him as Lord of life. We’re born again to new life by the Holy Spirit. Thus, He changes our desires to joy in glorifying the Lord.
In conclusion, a person cannot merit heaven through taking certain steps to salvation. Rather, God calls a sinner to respond to Christ’s redemption. Even the response of repentance and faith is His grace. Christians have nothing to be proud about; they boast only in the Lord!
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Note that God saves Christians unto good works. All other religions require earning salvation by good works. Islam, for example, requires keeping the Five Pillars as steps to salvation.
In our pluralistic society, claiming one religion as truth seems arrogant. But God is not confined by men’s wishes and beliefs. As sovereign Judge, He could have let the law condemn us, resulting in eternal separation from Him in hell. But in love, God sent Christ to save His own from sin. Glory to God alone! How do you respond?
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