I try. I pray. I fail. It’s a cycle really. What is the point of salvation when I am still here when I am not the “perfect girl” I want to be?
My 4-year-old brother likes to sing this song to me while we play together. “I like you. I like you. I like you. Just the way you are.” I always think it is the sweetest thing. It is really comforting. However, amid my cycle of failure, it seems a waste. Why sing of all of this liking when I am not someone who is likable and don’t seem like I ever will be?
I read the stories of change in the Bible and the stories of the missionaries and followers of God throughout the generations. They are “saved” and then their lives are so amazing. They become selfless, responsible, and seemingly perfect people. But, I had that conversion. And, I am nowhere near perfect or even near changing. Sinning, struggling and saved. Those do not seem to belong together. Then, I start doubting my salvation. So, what is salvation? Am I saved? Are you saved?
A man many many years ago had the same question. A man named Nicodemus. In fact, in John 3, we see his whole encounter with Jesus where he asks the same question with different words. “What does it mean to be born again?” He has no idea what that phrase means. Jesus tells him that to be taken to the kingdom of God, to be delivered from the kingdom of the world, he must be born again. When Nicodemus, understandably, does not understand, Jesus tells him that only God can create this unseen change. As they continue discussing, we hear the ever famous verse. The one verse that everyone knows! John 3:16. “For God so loved the world…”
That’s all great and all but it so monotonous. You probably finished that verse in your head! Verse 17 explains this. It says that we are “saved through Christ”. There is nothing else here. This is the crux of the idea of being “born again” or being “saved”.
Salvation is to be delivered or protected from a specific danger or problem. In the Bible, this problem and danger is the three letter word we are all familiar with. S-I-N. So, the Biblical definition is that we are being delivered from sin.
When we are saved…our identity is changed. We become people who are promised eternal life. Why is that important? The root of sin is not in our good or evil deeds, but in removing Jesus from the center of our lives. Our pride tells us that we can and must be successful, good, and knowledgeable people, even about the Bible all while forgetting Christ. When we define ourselves by these things, however, we place ourselves under sin’s rule and the identity that gives us.
When we become Christians, that whole identity changes. We are no longer defined by those acts. We are defined by Christ. We change because of Christ. We learn because of Christ. We succeed because of Christ. None of these happen the way we want them to. We don’t get that amazing IQ, a perfect friend circle, and not even a perfect heart. But, we have a heart that is God’s.
As such, when we try to go back and define ourselves by our actions, we get disappointed and doubt our salvation. This is why we need to only find our identity in Jesus.
I’m not saying that we should not care about change. Fruit is important. However, that change comes because of Jesus and does not define us. All we need to do is go to God. We don’t need to struggle hopelessly anymore. We have an identity as royals!
So, what about Nicodemus? Does he change? What changes in Nicodemus? Nicodemus does change. He gets the boldness to help put Jesus in a tomb after the crucifixion. Doing so, not only hurts his reputation with the Jews but also shows his stand in the matter of Christ. Sure, Nicodemus has no big conversion like Paul or Peter even but Nicodemus has that change that is characteristic of a follower of Christ.
Nicodemus changed. The important thing is that he becomes a follower of Christ. We do not know anything else. He cares about Christ. So, care, read, and pray. Follow, starting with your heart; then, your soul; then, your mind; and then, your strength! Your life will be transformed! Believe. Salvation is not about anyone but only about Christ
Salvation is simple and complex at the exact same time. We may have doubts, we may need growth, we may fall to the various pressures of life. However, ultimately, being a Christian is about being a Christ follower. To be saved means to have this Christ in you. To not be saved means that we aren’t on that path. Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautiful tale of this. Christian continually gets off that path but ultimately is being led by God to the Celestial City. That is what salvation looks like.
It can be easy to focus on change or success or knowledge even. However, salvation is ultimately only about Jesus. We cannot care only about the by-products. We have to care about Christ himself.
We try to prove ourselves as worthy by looking to be changed people, successful people, and knowledgeable people. But, let’s be honest. We can’t. We fail. We lose. However, Christ says that He knows all of that. He knows our deepest problems and insecurities. And, through it all, He says that He loves us...just the way we are. Not because we are amazing or anything but because He is! So, let’s give up focusing on making ourselves worthy but instead start caring about this Christ and this God who showed us grace when we deserved none, love when we are unlovable and hope for when we die.
To end, look at these beautiful lyrics from the song, Do It Again, by Elevation Worship:
I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
Believe in Christ. He will work again. Christ saves!