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 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.
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