Why “Jesus Saves” Is So Much Better Than “Jesus Approves”

Series: Jesus Saves

Yesterday I wrote, with examples,

There was a time when people knew what it meant that “Jesus saves.” The punsters’ follow-up, “at First National Bank” degraded the concept when the concept was still known widely enough for the pun to work. In most of Western culture now, though, neither the biblical phrase nor the pun is heard anymore. The concept now (if not the wording) is Jesus approves.

“Jesus saves” means almost nothing to most people outside the Church today. Saves what? is the obvious question. I’m going to explain what that means here. As I do, I’m going to ask you to set aside for the moment any silly or clichéd associations you have with it. This two-word sentence is at the heart of the world’s most widely held belief system. That might be a hint to you that there’s some real substance there after all.

For the source of this information, read Romans chapters 1 through 8.

Saves” equals “Rescues”

A formerly-well known a”First National Bank” pun has trivialized “saves” in this context, so let’s say instead, “Jesus rescues.” In this context they’re synonyms, as being saved from a sinking ship is the same as being rescued from one.

So who needs rescue, and from what? You and I do, from eternal consequences for our sin.

But we do live in a post-Christian culture, and this is a second word in today’s post that requires explanation. Sin is any falling short of the right standards of the eternal, living, personal God who created us. It’s a  universal condition. Consider the Ten Commandments: we all lie sometimes, we all covet, we all fail to give God the worship he is due.

Sin is also closely associated with the failure to live in perfect fellowship with our loving God. Sin causes alienation from God, and alienation from God leads to further acts of sin.

You see, even though God loves us all completely, there are things in each of us that he does not approve. He does not approve of murder. He does not approve of theft, or hatred, or idolatry, or greed, or sexual immorality.

We’re all guilty of these things to one extent or another; and all of us are guilty enough to merit the consequence: eternal separation from God, the condition known as hell; a condition separated from God’s love and hope and joy, and therefore since God is the one true source of goodness, it’s a condition separated from all love and hope and joy.

“I don’t want to die!”

I had foot surgery yesterday morning. I got the usual pre-op warning about the possibility of death. It was a remote possibility but nevertheless a real one, and it’s going to happen someday. I don’t want to die. No one does. Even the suicidal person doesn’t want to die; he or she just weighs it as even less undesirable than continuing to live.

No one really wants to die if it means a long, long continuing existence without love, hope, or joy. We’re all headed that way, though, unless someone can pull us out from it. We can’t do it for ourselves. We a rescue.

Jesus Rescues

Jesus came to earth, God in the flesh, to rescue us from the eternal death of separation from God. He died on the cross to take our place, substituting his death for our own. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we don’t have to.

Whether we gain that benefit depends on whether we trust him with it. Those who do, through no bootstrap-pulling of their own but only by the work of Christ on our behalf, are saved eternally from the penalty for sin we deserve.

Jesus Saves: Far Better than “Jesus Approves”

Now in the context of these posts, I must emphasize that it the rescue Jesus effects for us is from sin. He saves us from the wrong we have done. This is the grace of God: not to call wrong things right, but to make wrong actions forgivable in Christ.

To call wrong things right is to violate both truth and justice. When God paid the penalty in Christ for the wrong we have done is different. It’s justice and truth in action.

To accept Christ’s work on your behalf is your choice. You could pay your own penalty for our own sin, continuing forever in separation from God. But why? Wny would you want to, when you could experience justice, truth, forgiveness, hope, joy, and the greatest love of all, the love by which Christ laid down his life for us?

“Jesus saves” is so far better than “Jesus approves,” I can’t imagine why anyone would say no to it.

Series Navigation (Jesus Saves):<<< From “Jesus Saves” to “Jesus Approves”Why “Jesus Saves” Is More Real Than “Jesus Affirms You” >>>

5 thoughts on “Why “Jesus Saves” Is So Much Better Than “Jesus Approves”

  1. There is a cost to “Jesus saves” that you don’t have to pay with “Jesus approves”

    The cost boils down to our desire to do things our way and not God’s way. The price we pay is sovereignty over our lives, we no longer get to decide what we believe is right or wrong for our lives.

    “Jesus approves” appeals because we are in control of what Jesus approves of. We are free to live our lives as we please.

    However it is a false freedom. When we reject Jesus/God and live to please ourselves we think we are free, we think we are in control, but we are not. We are enslaved. We are enslaved to our own desires which is why we need Jesus to save/rescue us from them.

    But it means we have to renounce our sinful self and to put Christ first in our lives, Jesus has to be Lord and King.

    For some this will be a hard price to pay. But it is worth it. It is the best choice anyone can possibly make.

    The reality is you are giving up something that you can’t keep, and don’t really have control over anyway to gain an eternal treasure and destiny that you can’t lose.

  2. Hi Tom,

    “I don’t want to die. No one does.”

    As a former Christian I don’t understand how you can say that. When I believed death would result in me being (re)united with Jesus, et al, I had no qualms about dying. The entire premise of these two posts is that we need to be saved by Jesus in order to have the reward of an eternity to “experience justice, truth, forgiveness, hope, joy, and the greatest love of all, the love by which Christ laid down his life for us?” Why would you not want that to happen as soon as possible? What earthly experience or emotion can come anywhere close to the heavenly joy and love that is ahead?


  3. Shane, thanks, actually I miswrote that. I don’t want to die eternally. I was (and am) completely at peace about going on to be with the Lord.

    But I’m not in a hurry, for reasons similar to those that Paul expressed in Phil. 1:19-25 (ESV here):

    for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

    For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.

  4. I offer no comment here on any specific topic other than what seems to be a very generalized feeling serving as an almost unconscious backdrop behind the existential needs being filled by all of these assumptions. For all of us there may be a kind of feeling that if some kind of Universalism or if some kind of Pantheism could just be true then we’d end up with something more akin to our hopes and our feelings for all of us and thus more akin to reality in general. We sort of assume all of that based on what are our valid feelings for humanity and sort of unconsciously forgo our existential experience of the loveless, which is a peculiar neglect given that God truly is love, is truly in the ceaseless present willing the good of all. For those who are existentially swayed thusly, I offer to you that Universalism or Pantheism may or may not be philosophically valid approaches to interpreting reality, and, the answers to that and to our own body of feelings all merit our genuine attention and need to be explored. Whatever answers you find are not the point of this comment, rather, the key in all of that is simply to avoid the mistake of neglect.

    The Christian finds this: Ultimate Reality – God – is love. Where and how and in what manner Universalism or Pantheism ultimately succeed or fail in such means and in such ends is, really, the question at hand. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting those thoughts, those philosophical questions.

    As for the Philosophical Naturalist straining towards love’s Ends, well, you’ve no intellectually coherent A nor B nor C….nor Z at this table outside of your own (insolvent) philosophy’s categorical constitutions – at every level – of love’s antithesis: indifference. Avoiding the mistake of neglect just can’t help you.

    But for the rest of us, the key here is for all of us to avoid the mistake of neglect. And yes, our philosophical naturalist friends are of course welcome to join, only, you’ll find yourself confronting a remarkable lack of means.

    As for the Christian, he will tell you that when it comes to God and Man, volitional love’s ceaseless reciprocity amid all that is Self/Other/Us within the Triune God instantiates that very footprint across Man’s entire reality, Man’s entire potentiality. All of the Christian’s Firsts begin there. All his Lasts end there. And such carries him out of those contours of (any) Pantheism, out of those contours of (not out of the possible, but out of the coerced) Universalism, and into immutable love’s inescapable topography.

  5. Regarding our own avoidance of neglect, whether we look at pantheism, or universalism, or those claims upon reality found in the epicenter of the Triune God Who is love, or what have you, David Bentley Hart reminds us that it is not totality, nor chaos, but the compositions of love’s inescapably triune landscape where being’s vectors converge. His book, “The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth” in part explores such contours – a brief excerpt:

    “Within Christian theology there is a thought – a story – of the infinite that is also the thought – the story – of beauty; for pagan philosophy and culture, such a confluence of themes was ultimately unthinkable. Even Plotinian Neoplatonism, which brought the Platonic project to its most delightful completion by imagining infinity as an attribute of the One, was nonetheless compelled to imagine the beauty of form as finally subordinate to a formless and abstract simplicity, devoid of internal relation, diminished by reduction to particularity, polluted by contact with matter’s “absolute evil”; nor could later Neoplatonism very comfortably allow that the One was also infinite being, but typically placed being only in the second moment of emanation, not only because the One, if it were also Being, would constitute a bifid form, but because being is always in some sense contaminated by or open to becoming, to movement, and thus is, even in the very splendor of its overflow, also a kind of original contagion, beginning as an almost organic ferment in the noetic realm and ending in the death of matter. Christian thought – whose infinite is triune, whose God became incarnate, and whose account of salvation promises not liberation from, but glorification of, material creation – can never separate the formal particularity of beauty from the infinite it announces, and so tells the tale of being in a way that will forever be a scandal to the Greeks. For their parts, classical “metaphysics” [rather than rigorous metaphysics] and postmodernism belong to the same story; each, implying or repeating the other, conceives being as a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence: amid the strife of images and the flow of simulacra, shining form appears always only as an abeyance of death, fragile before fore the convulsions of chaos, and engulfed in fate. There is a specular infinity in mutually defining opposites: Parmenides and Heracleitos gaze into one another’s eyes, and the story of being springs up between them; just as two mirrors set before one another their depths indefinitely, repeating an opposition that recedes forever along an illusory corridor without end, seeming to span all horizons and contain all things, the dialectic of Apollo and Dionysus oscillates without resolution between endless repetitions of the same emptiness, the same play of reflection and inversion. But the true infinite lies outside and all about this enclosed universe of strife and shadows; it shows itself as beauty and as light: not totality, nor again chaos, but the music of a triune God. Nietzsche prophesied correctly: what now always lies ahead is a choice between Dionysus (who is also Apollo) and the Crucified: between, that is, the tragic splendor of totality and the inexhaustible beauty of an infinite love.”

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