To be clear, we’re saved by grace through faith. You are saved the moment you believe.
However, being “saved” is a whole lot more than escaping hell and going to heaven when we die. For instance, the Greek word for “save” is σῴζω (sōzō). Here’s what the Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament says about this word:
to save, rescue; to preserve safe and unharmed, Mt. 8:25; 10:22; 24:22; 27:40, 42, 49; 1 Tim. 2:15; σῴζειν εἰς, to bring safely to, 2 Tim. 4:18; to cure, heal, restore to health, Mt. 9:21, 22; Mk. 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; to save, preserve from being lost, Mt. 16:25; Mk. 3:4; 8:35; σῴζειν ἀπό, to deliver from, set free from, Mt. 1:21; Jn. 12:27; Acts 2:40; in NT to rescue from unbelief, convert, Rom. 11:14; 1 Cor. 1:21; 7:16; to bring within the pale of saving privilege, Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21; to save from final ruin, 1 Tim. 1:15; pass. to be brought within the pale of saving privilege, Acts 2:47; Eph. 2:5, 8; to be in the way of salvation, 1 Cor. 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15
You can see the various contexts for this word yourself by clicking on the Scripture links. What we see here is that “salvation” is holistic, dealing with every part of our being—past, present, and future.
You were saved (Rom.8:24; Eph.2:5)….
You are being saved (1 Cor.1:18; 2 Cor.2:15)…
You shall be saved (Rom.5:9-10).
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ has invited us into His life. His goal is to make us fully human—in other words, to become like Christ. As Michael Hardin says, Jesus is the True Human.
Again, if you were to die the moment you believed, you would spend eternity in communion with God in heaven. But if you don’t die the moment you believe, you are to spend every moment forward communing with the Father, through the Holy Spirit, in Christ, in heaven…now…while still living and breathing on this earth (John 17:3; 2 Cor.13:14; Eph.2:6; Col.3:3).
Salvation, then, is a cooperative process, via the Holy Spirit, of learning how to become who you already are as a son or daughter in Christ. In other words, to get from where you are (experience) to who you are (reality) in Christ. You’re already “complete in Him” in reality (Col.2:10 AMP), but you’ve still got a long way to go experientially. This is what Paul means by “working out” your salvation…
12-13 So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice—and that not only when I was present to give it—so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. (Phil.2:12-13 PHILLIPS)
As other translations put it, you are to “work out” what God has already put in you; and you access everything you already have in Christ by grace through faith.
Now that a biblical foundation for salvation is laid, we’re ready to look at my main point. This is my point…
One of the biggest tragedies of modern evangelicalism is that salvation is mainly seen as a transaction rather than a relational process. So, instead of seeing Jesus incarnated in us, the person Jesus is trying to reach through us gets our canned salvation speech.
The Great Commission sounds a lot like this…Jesus paid for my ticket to heaven on the cross…I believe it…ticket to heaven punched. Check. And now that my ticket is punched, I’m to go out and get everyone else’s ticket to heaven punched.
The only trouble with this is, Jesus didn’t tell us to do that! He told us to go and make disciples in the context of our communion with Him (Matt.28:19-20). And both discipleship and communion can only be done in relationship.
So now, because of our truncated view of salvation, we have spiritually immature, emotionally unhealed, relationally dysfunctional, self-projecting, log-eyed, conditionally-loving, inconsiderate and dishonoring “Christians” trying to convince the world to receive Jesus, not realizing that the real message they’re giving is one of a false Christ.
It’s false because we don’t look like Jesus at all.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Consider this…sinners loved Jesus because they could tell He loved them. They didn’t love the Pharisees because they could tell they weren’t loved by them. If we had to pick, based on how the world sees Christians, which one would we be more like? Selah.
Do we still wonder why the world has a dim view of Christians but not of Christ?
But also consider…Jesus lived hidden for 18 years (from age 12 to 30), learning His Father’s heart, learning what it means to be a son…before He started His ministry. I’m not suggesting that you keep your mouth shut for 18 years, but why do we think we can skip what Jesus didn’t skip?
You may ask, what can I do in the meantime? Well, if you have their permission (called honoring them), you can share your story. And we all have one! Your story, or testimony, is not just about the day you gave your heart to Christ. It’s about what Christ is to you, everyday of your life
One thing I learned from 30-plus years of being a parent…my kids learned far more from my character than my lectures (a very humbling prospect!) The same is true here. The most effective witness we can have in the world is to let Christ love us and heal us, tearing down our relational walls and removing our log-filled eyes. Then we will see like Him and love others like Him…and then maybe we’ll get similar results.