||Salvation is a buzz word and turns me off just on account of that. So without the Christianese, tell me what I need saving from?
||Your bad habits and death to mention two things. If you don't have some bad habit, if you have never lied, if you have never coveted something that someone else has, if you have never been selfish, if you have always loved your neighbors, and if you are never going to die, then you do not need saving from anything, you are a perfect person and therefore you should click here.
||Bad habits and dieing, that's just human nature.
||But there's something wrong with that nature. Common sense tells us that smoking, lying, dieing is wrong. Common sense tells us that that is not the way the universe should be, especially that dieing part.. We have simply succumbed to our nature because we think it is normal.
Normal for us is abnormal to God. In the beginning, there was no lying, bad habits, war or dieing. Just innocence, immortality and companionship with God who made us. That is the way God set up the universe. It was for his own good pleasure that he gave us immortality and innocence. It was man's choosing that changed immortality to death, truth to lies, independence to addictions, love to hate, innocence to guilt. Instead of wanting companionship with God, we do everything we can to hide from God. Denial is our own worse enemy.
||Okay. I admit there are bad things in the world, and that I have problems even if death is the only problem I have. But where is your proof that things were different at one time and where is your proof that things will turn to your God's normalcy again?
||The proof is the form of trial evidence. The type of evidence found in a courtroom. The major source of the evidence takes the form of testimonies in the Bible. In the Bible are stories written by people who have claimed to know God. These people claim to know him on a personal level. God has told them things, and has performed things that these people bear witness to. God has told them the distant past when Adam and Eve were innocent and immortal. God told them events that would happen in their lifetime. God told them events that would happen in their future, and even in our future. God told them his goal and our purpose. All these stories and their historical backdrops are what you the jury must judge. You must judge whether they are telling the truth. And you do so for your benefit as well as for his.
||Why should I treat the stories in the Bible as non-fiction?
||Because non-fiction is the genre of the document. The books of the Bible do not start with "Once upon a time." The books usually start off with a barrage of history.
||Why should I believe the God in the Bible instead of the god of Islam? What makes the Bible true and not Islam?
||Because the testimonies of the Bible do not contradict one another, while the doctrines of Islam do. In the Bible, each testimony points to the same God and therefore has the ring of truth. Islam doctrine contains the first five books of the Bible as well as the Injil-- the gospel of Jesus Christ, but Islam's later prophet Mohammed pulls the carpet out from under the former. Muslims pick and choose which prophets to believe because their prophets don't work together. Unfortunately, Muslims have picked the wrong prophet--the one which introduced error into the rest. For example, here is a simple contraction between the Injil and the 6th pillar of Islamic faith. The 6th pillar is "Kill the infidel." An infidel is one who does not believe in Allah and his prophet Mohammed. In the Injil, on the other hand, Jesus understands that only 1/4 of people will actually come to God for saving, yet Jesus's command is still "Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus simply repeated a command that God gave to Moses 1450 years before (Lev. 19:18) Islam believes Moses too, but Islam conveniently ignores that part of their doctrine.
It is easy to find contradictions in religions that base themselves on the Bible but have added their own doctrines later. Islam is not the only one like this. Mormonism, Unity, Jehovah's Witnesses follow in the same line. If people knew their Bible's first, they wouldn't be deceived by the additions. Stick to the Bible and suspect the additions.
||Okay, enough sidetracking. What then is salvation?
||Freedom from your sins and death. In some sense of the word, salvation is also a process.
||What is sin?
||The Christianese response is "sin is rebellion against God." Which means nothing to you since you have no God for contrast purposes. So, sin is all those bad thoughts you have, all those unhealthy things you do to yourself and to others, as well as ignoring God. God counts your bad thoughts and your bad habits as rebellion against Him, because God wants good things for you.
||Why do I sin?
||Because you are a sinner. I am not being facetious. You are not a sinner because you sin. You sin because you are a sinner. It is in your nature to do it. Everybody is a sinner, just as everyone is human. We are born with this condition. It is a condition that has been passed down to us from the first sinners Adam and Eve. This concept is called original sin.
Original sin is easily illustrated. I am an American. I am an American because my father was an American. I also have a big nose because my father and my mother have big noses. I received those traits from my parents whether or not I want them. Now say that Adam and Eve exposed themselves to an atomic bomb which mutated their genes reducing their life spans from an eternity to 80 years. This particular gene transmits to their children. The children transmit it to their children, and so on. The mutation travels down the generations and now we only live to about 80. Sin was sort of like that--a spiritual atomic bomb. All subsequent generations are affected and afflicted.
||Why does God hold me liable for Adam and Eve's bad choice?
||Because you have already made the same choice. You have already proved yourself the same as them. Adam and Eve chose "the knowledge of good and evil" over the "tree of life". Adam and Eve chose to be able to decide matters of good and evil for themselves rather than be innocent and live forever. They did not want to leave matters of good and evil to God. They wanted some of that action for themselves. But despite God's warning that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil brought death, they ate from it anyway.
Adam's and Eve's problem was that they underestimated the scope of that knowledge. It was too much to handle. It is a big tree. They could not eat every fruit on it. They could not grasp the entire bread and width of the knowledge of good and evil. Partial knowledge brought the wrong choices. They now had a lot of problems that they never had before. They suddenly became self-centered--they realized that they were naked. They instantly felt shame for the nakedness and their disobedience--they hid from God. They started blaming the other for their mistakes. Adam and Eve knew they made a giant mistake. But instead of finding God to help them, forgive them, or undo what they did, they simply hid from God, the giver of life. So in comes death. And what should be more amazing, is that despite the problems Adam and Eve brought upon themselves, they still wanted to chose matters of good and evil for themselves. They never asked God to take that ability back. From Adam and Eve to this very day, you can say that all the wars, strife and death in the world has been man's plummeting of the depths of the knowledge of good and evil.
The choice Adam and Eve made is the same one you have. That ability to chose matters of good and evil is as tantalizing to us as it was for them. But it is deadly. Right now, you are choosing matters of good and evil as it suits you--that was and is still a big mistake. You now have the choice whether you give the decisions of the knowledge of good and evil back to God. It is between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life where the rubber meets the road. It is where man makes his choice between Self and God. And by the way, Jesus refers to himself as the "Bread of Life. Jesus is the fruit of the tree of life" Your choice is between self-righteousness or Jesus. It is a matter of whom you trust.
||You are starting to sound like a Southern Baptist. I'm a dirty rotten sinner. I can't do anything right. I have been choosing between good and evil using my own standards for all my life. I did a good job most of the time. Now I feel like shit. Why should I listen to you anymore?
||Because God loves you. He loves you anyway--just as you are. Problems and all. You are still immensly valuable in his sight. Even after Adam ate the apple, God went to look for him. God did not abandon him. God actually provided clothes for him. God knows you are a sinner and that you were born with the condition. All he wants to do is to restore you to what he designed you to be in the first place. Innocent, immortal and his eternal companion.
||Oh. That's not so bad. What do I have to do to make God do that for me?
||There's only one thing you have to do for God to do that for you. All you have to do is trust Jesus That is it. No hitches, no 1000 hail Mary's, no penance in the rain forests of the Amazon. You don't even have to go to church on Sundays. The gift of innocence, immortality and God's eternal companionship are not earnable. They are a gift. There is nothing you can possibly do to earn the gift. You simply cannot afford it. Bill Gates can't afford it. Mother Teresa couldn't earn it. It is gift and a gift that you cannot buy. Understand tough that the gift was extremely expensive, but God has already paid the price on our behalf. God gives the gift away to those who trust Jesus.
||Those gifts seem mighty pricey. What price did God pay?
||The price to take away your guilt in order to buy your innocence, the price to take away your mortality and buy you immortality, and the price to bring you into the presence of God was all paid by Jesus. Jesus gave his life for ours.
||How did Jesus's life exactly do that?
||That is a long story. A Bible's worth. I cannot summarize adequately in one cell of a table within a web page. In a nutshell, there is a penalty for sin. We are sinners but that doesn't remove the guilt or the penalty. In the end, God will share his heaven with us, but His house not only is a non-smoking environment, but also is a sin-free environment. He doesn't tolerate sin in his house. Since we are definitely not sin-free, God provided us with forgiveness on that count. God placed all the sin of the world on Jesus's back and then sacrificed Jesus on a Roman crucifix. Sin died along with Jesus. That action, sin's death, opens heaven's door to us. It is the door Jesus made. It is the reason that God implores you to trust in Jesus, because without trust in Jesus, there is no door for you to walk through.
||How do I know that I will live forever if I trust Jesus?
||It is a promise of Jesus. But it is much more than that. Your living forever has been God's goal all along. He wants you to walk in the garden with him as he did with Adam, Eve and Enoch. He wants to chat with you as he did with Moses and he wants to do it forever and ever. He loves you. At the same time, God will give you power to overcome your sinful nature by putting his own nature in you. His nature is that of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in.
||Can Jesus make good on his promise of eternal life?
||Jesus is the only man to have rose from the dead--and stayed that way. If he can do it for himself, he can do it for you and me.
||Jesus' rising from the dead is in the Bible. Does any non-Biblical source record that as well?
||Yes. The Roman historian Flavius Josephus who lived in the first century also recorded the event in Antiquities of the Jews (18.3.3):
"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets and foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
||Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. What is it about Jesus that is so important? Can't I believe in God without believing in Jesus?
||No. Because Jesus is God. Jesus declared himself to be "I Am" in John 8:58. God's name is "I Am" in Exodus 3:14. Remember watching the movie the Ten Commandments? That was Jesus talking to Moses on Mount Sinai 1450 years before being born of Mary.
||What must I do to be saved then?
||Just trust Jesus. Here are three Bible thumps so you know that I am not making this stuff up.
Jn 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Mt 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
Ge: 15:6 "Abram believed the LORD", and God credited it to him as righteousness." (LORD, in those funny capital letters in your Bible is YHWH is Hebrew, which means "I Am". The Jews were too scared to say YHWH because they thought they might take God's name in vain accidentally. So they replaced YHWH with LORD.)
||Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit? There seems to be three people floating around here. This is confusing. What's the deal with that?
||The Bible never explains it. The Bible only reports it. God apparently has a triune nature. He is a single being, yet has 3 distinct parts. At times you see him as God the Father. Sometimes you see him as Jesus. And then He is also dwelling within you, the Holy Spirit. As Jesus says, "I and the Father are one. If you see me, you see the Father."
As the Jews say, "God is one." The Hebrew word translated to "God" is Elohim. Elohim is a plural word which means "majesties". "The Majesties is One." The reader of the Bible accepts the triune nature even though he cannot explain it. This acceptance is no different than a physicist accepting that atoms consists of protons, neutrons and electrons. Neither Bible reader or physicist can explain the triune nature of God nor the triune nature of atoms. It is just the way it is. A fact of the universe.
The fact that God's nature is revealed the same way time and time again and yet remains unexplained, is a testimony in itself to the reality of this God. For the rest of nature is like this too. Wonderful yet unexplainable.