What is salvation? This is a question of no small importance to believers and unbelievers alike. Here is a brief summary drawn from my reading of the Scriptures and Wesleyan theology. Please note the word “brief” in the previous sentence. This is not everything that can or needs to be written.
Salvation is about today not only tomorrow
We often talk about salvation in terms of going to heaven, and that is part of it. The hope of the saved is an eternity in presence of God, but salvation is not only in the future. It is more than a ticket to heaven, much more. Salvation is the work of God in our lives right now to free us from guilt, shame, and the shackles of sin that hold us trapped in patterns of behavior that destroy life, joy, and happiness.
Salvation began before you ever thought about God
We often think of salvation in terms of a “coming to Jesus moment.” Most of the time when we talk about “being saved” we think of an intense moment or period of time when we take an intentional step toward Christ. But to properly understand salvation, we need to understand that God began working for our salvation long before we were ever aware of him.
Even before we believe or have any inkling that we might come to believe, God’s grace is at work in us. That voice we commonly call “our conscience” that nudges us toward honesty, kindness, compassion, and mercy is not our own. It is the voice of God. It is the call of one who is leading us into the light, if we will follow. We often fight against this. We resist God’s grace, but it is there even before we know to call it grace.
Salvation fixes us
Nearly everyone understands that the world is broken. Yes, we see beauty. Yes, we can name moments of soaring heroism and mercy and grace that move us to tears or shouts of joy, but we do not have to look very hard or long to see that these things are so precious to us because they are so rare. The world is a place filled with suffering, hatred, jealousy, greed, cruelty, selfishness, violence, and despair. The world is broken. We are broken. We feel within the relentless impulses, the rage, the resentment at others, the longing for approval, the fear of rejection, the emptiness that we cannot fill, the wound we cannot heal. We are driven by forces we cannot fully understand or overcome. We are held captive by things we dare not speak out loud because they are so at odds with the image we try to project to the world.
The word we use for all of this is “sin.” Salvation what fixes us and fixes the world. God sees and knows all the things we are afraid to see in ourselves and terrified to say out loud. He would free us from their power, if we would only turn to him. If we would stand or kneel before him and drop all the ploys and tools we use to fool the world and hide from ourselves what goes on inside of us, if we would say, “God, I can’t do this. Forgive me. I need you,” he will answer, “Welcome home, child.”
Salvation brings us peace and joy
One of the first great works of salvation comes when we finally lay down our resistance to God’s grace and come to him seeking forgiveness and pardon. When we finally say, “I am yours,” we are forgiven and find ourselves at peace with the God we had been fighting and resisting before. We know the joy of coming home after a long season of wretched wandering.
Salvation begun is not salvation complete
This first work of salvation is not the last. When we lay down our arms and cease to fight against God, our struggle is not over. The sin that has bound us is broken but not exterminated at that moment. It still wars against us, now sometimes even more persistently. The ongoing work of salvation is our cooperation with the grace of God to master the sin that rages within us. The Holy Spirit working in us gives us the power to win this battle, but we must use the tools God has placed in our hands — worship, prayer, searching the Scriptures, the sacraments, Christian fellowship, works of mercy, compassion, and justice. We must run the race set before us as the Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ. This is the lifetime work of the Christian.
Salvation is for you
God wants you to know his peace, joy, freedom, and happiness. No one is excluded. There is no need to wait. Today is the day of salvation, if you will seek it. Call on the Lord while he is near and he will save you.