The bare minimum for Salvation

How do we know we’re saved? What do we have to do? There’s a lot of opinions on what it takes to receive salvation, so today we’re throwing that all out and instead looking at what examples are in the Bible. This will serve as a message to us for encouragement, because people like to complicate salvation in particular, and we know from the example of the Pharisees that harmful doctrines are formed around attempts to justify sin. Our encouragement will be that salvation is for anyone, in any situation, and at any time in history from Adam to today. But before we begin, let’s spoil the key to salvation and plainly observe the only requirements, which will be the consistent basis throughout all of scripture:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9

Salvation is for anyone

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people – And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. – Titus 2:11/Joel 2:32

Salvation is offered to everyone, there’s nothing you can do to exclude yourself from this. A great lie is that we may have done some great evil, or led a life so terrible, that salvation would be impossible, or that we couldn’t possibly atone for so much sin. But if this were true, then Jesus died for nothing. Instead we have nothing to atone for, and no actions or thoughts could separate us from God. Jesus died to make our wicked lives right, because otherwise it would be impossible for us to do it on our own, and no one would be saved! Salvation is for everyone who professes that Jesus is Lord, and believes in their heart that he died for their sins. And anyone who has sinned can do this.

Salvation is for any situation

When Jesus was crucified, there were two criminals crucified with him as well. Neither of them were saved, and both fulfilled what was said about all humanity:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

While we were still sinners is the important part here. We all have sinned, and if salvation is truly possible for any situation, then it is possible while we are still sinners.

Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. – Mark 15:32

These men, both condemned to die, without hope or anything left in life, were still sinning. But because salvation can happen in any situation, we see a transformation in one criminal that is written about in Luke.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

This man led a life of sin and unrighteousness, and after receiving salvation, he neither lived a new godly life nor anything else except die on the cross with Jesus. All he did was profess that Jesus was lord, and believed in his heart what Jesus was dying for. This blows apart the lie of the Pharisees that salvation comes from scripture, following the law, gradual good change in life, or by simply being descended from Abraham. We know that this one decision by the criminal was enough to make him more righteous than any Pharisee:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:20

Do not be deceived! It is never too late for salvation, nor is it complicated. We’re incapable of following the law perfectly, that is why God has given us another way. Profess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that he died for your sins, and you will be saved!

Salvation has never changed

This last point is to shed light on the fact that God doesn’t change, and as such neither has his requirements for salvation. This means that everyone in the Old Testament could receive the same salvation offered to us today, looking forward to Jesus instead of looking back like us. There are countless Old Testament examples of righteous people, made right by their faith alone through God’s grace, that we can therefore turn to and learn from.

Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” – Galatians 3:11

This verse from the new testament is quoting the same thing that applied to the Jews in the Old Testament:

See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. – Habakkuk 2:4

Salvation and righteousness in the Old Testament did not depend on the law, but on faith just like today.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” – Romans 4:3

Throughout history, salvation has depended on professing that Jesus is Lord, and believing today that he died for our sins, and in the Old Testament that he would die for our sins. We know that the Jews needed the same faith we have in the messiah because of this:

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:11-12

And there is salvation in no one else. Profess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that he died for your sins, and you will be saved! There is nothing more to worry about, that’s it! No matter what you’ve done, or how much more you can do, if you do this you will be saved. We have all sinned, so which criminal are you on the cross with Jesus?

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:10-13, which quotes the Old Testament Joel 2:32

Have you ever felt dead?

He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. – John 19:30

When Jesus died, he stayed that way for three days before coming back to life. What was it like during these three days? We know through example, because the Old Testament contains people who experienced pieces of Jesus’ struggles to come. This is so that when we experience something similar, we will be prepared. We know that we will experience pieces of Jesus’ life because we are specifically called to be more like him:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:29

There are two Old Testament examples I want to share of people experiencing pieces of Jesus’ three days of death. After this we’ll better understand this specific struggle we’ve faced in life, and/or we’ll be more prepared for it in the future. Everything Jesus went through was for a reason, whether is was for prophecy or as an example. And the three days of death he went through shouldn’t be overlooked. So let’s begin with the first example.

Esther

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:16

Queen Esther is told by Mordecai that she must go to her king and beg him to revoke a law put in place by a noble named Haman to kill all the Jews in the land. In the law of the country, whoever approaches the king without being called by him is to be put to death unless the king holds out his sceptre and welcomes them. Esther understands this and knows she must go to the king without being called, or else the following will happen as described by Mordecai:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

Esther also doesn’t know if the king will spare her, because what she is going to do is against the law. Her response is if I perish, I perish, therefore she has accepted her death if the king so chooses. For three days Esther fasts with this choice in her heart, and for three days she is dead. Have you ever made a decision like this? A decision where you’ve accepted the worst outcome, believing that it will happen? A decision that brings an awful dread inside, even though it’s the right thing to do? A decision that you can’t back out of, or else you and people you know will suffer terrible consequences? Esther was a willing mediator between King Xerxes and the Jews to bear the impending price of Haman’s law. For three days Esther went through what Haman desired: the death of the Jews.

We all face decisions in life that could have terrible consequences for us, but can end with us following God’s plan. Esther could have lost her position, wealth, influence, etc. all for putting God’s people before herself. She died in her heart and mind the day she chose to help Mordecai, and during this death we get a small glimpse of Jesus’ experience of death. Jesus chose to become the exact mediator Esther represents: the mediator between God and man, bearing the price demanded by sin. Another important similarity is that Esther and Jesus were both willing to accept the consequence of their choice, and what Esther did during her three days are indicative of how we should respond, and show us a small glimpse of what Jesus experienced during his three days of death.

Esther’s response was to fast while she was dead in her heart and mind. Fasting brings our focus to God alone, taking our attention away from the world and what we’re asked to surrender. When Jesus fasted in the wilderness, he quotes part of this important passage in response to Satan’s temptation to eat:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 8:3

When Esther died in heart and mind, her body lived because while she fasted she lived on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Similarly, when Jesus’ body died, his spirit lived on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. – 1 Peter 3:18

Have you ever been given a choice to follow God and possibly lose your life, or your influence, or your money, or your friends? Enter willingly and fast, focusing on God and living on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Do this and you shall be made alive.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. – Esther 5:1-2

Jonah

What if you’ve not been willing to follow God? What if you’ve made the wrong choice, and you put God last? What if you’re trying to escape God’s plan? Jonah, a prophet of God, didn’t do what Esther did, he tried to escape God’s plan. But God is merciful and gives us second chances. However, God will put us through an experience to teach us how to continue. After Jonah tries to escape from God’s plan, he winds up in the sea, and his three days of death begin:

Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. – Jonah 1:17

The question about this example is how is this similar to Jesus? Jesus didn’t try to escape his father’s plan. But what Jesus did was bear the consequence for our failure to follow God’s plan. Jesus experienced what Jonah went through because he took on these mistakes, these failures, these sins, so that on this day we wouldn’t have to. We know Jonah and Jesus are connected because of this sign:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:40

Jonah shows us the most specific experience of death that Jesus felt. And we know that Jonah felt dead because of how he describes this:

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. – Jonah 2

Does Jonah’s experience describe something you’ve gone through, or are going through now? Are you ignoring God’s plan, or have you put something in place of him? Are you running away? Do you feel dead, lost, alone, or in the dark? When Jesus died, he was alone in the heart of the earth. He was in the darkness, dead and lost. Even God turned his back, and to the roots of the mountains Jesus sank down. So what do you do about it? What caused God to release Jonah?

“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” – Jonah 2:9

Return to God. Profess that he is Lord, and believe in your heart that Jesus paid the price of sin for you. If you’re experiencing the death Jonah went through, there’s something in the way between you and God, and it must be removed. In your time of loneliness, darkness, and hopelessness, use it as your time of fasting and turn your eyes to God.

Whether you are willing to follow or you’re trying to escape God, you will experience pieces of Jesus’ death in your life, just like Esther and Jonah. We are called by God to be more like Jesus, and even though we may be going through one of these types of death, we know that Jesus conquered this for us. Whatever pain or temptation you’re experiencing, Jesus has experienced:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. – Hebrews 4:15

If we return to God, if we never lose sight of him, he promises deliverance from the death we may be experiencing. It may very well not be three days specifically for you, but it was for Esther and Jonah so that we may look and see their simple connections to Jesus. The point of this message is that God delivered the willing Esther and unwilling Jonah, because in the end they both followed him. God will deliver you if you do the same:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16:9-11

How Does God Communicate With You?

God is always talking. Sometimes people hear him, sometimes they don’t. There’s a lot of stories out there about people hearing God or knowing what his plan is for them. But what about when you don’t? What about when you feel like God isn’t saying anything? I believe there’s two things to consider when this happens: you can’t hear anything because there is sin in the way, and/or you haven’t discovered how God wants to uniquely talk to you. The first reason comes from Isaiah, after a sermon at my church covered this incredible text, and the second comes from personal experience and various scriptures.

There is sin in the way

In Isaiah 6, simply put the prophet Isaiah encounters God. In this fantastic display, Isaiah realizes how unworthy he is to be before God. This is because to be before something so holy and perfect means that our imperfections and failures become all the more obvious.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Immediately after this, a seraphim touches his mouth with coal from God’s altar.

With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

And all the wrong in Isaiah’s life is taken away. At that very moment, he is made right with God. But the important thing to note here is what happens after this, what happens after the sin in Isaiah’s life is out of the way. Now, the Bible is purposeful in how its words are arranged, and sometimes the little things shouldn’t be glossed over. The next verse in this chapter begins with:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying

It does not say “Then the Lord said,” or “I heard the Lord say.” It says then I heard the voice of the Lord saying. God was talking the whole time, and only now does Isaiah hear the Lord saying anything. Only after Isaiah recognizes his sin, and after his sins are taken away, can he hear what God has been saying the whole time. This happened to Isaiah for us to understand that sin gets in the way of hearing God. That is why I believe it is the first and most important thing to look for if we’re wondering why we may not be “hearing” anything, or why we feel like there’s something gnawing at us when we ask God to speak. God is always talking, and it’s forgiveness that allows us hear him.

But what about after this? What about after forgiveness, after the guilt and the shame is removed from our lives? You may feel like you sometimes hear God, but not always. You get glimpses, but never the whole thing. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes you’re just left confused. Or maybe you’re still not hearing anything at all? Forgiveness, that first step, changes us. And God is always drawing us towards the opposite of who we used to be. Before we go into this, know this simple promise:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. – Psalm 32:8

God knows your language, do you?

Behavioral assessments like Myers–Briggs or DISC tell us how we prefer to interact with people, and how we prefer to be interacted with. We all have different minds, personalities, and behaviors, so we see and miss different things in life. They are our flaws and our strengths. But this is not something God takes into account, because if we approach God blameless and with forgiven sin, he’s going to talk to us in a whole new way, a way that isn’t concerned with our pasts, our personalities, or our human nature.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

The only way I felt I could further explain how God communicates with us is through a part of my life story. My personality feeds off of control, certainty, explanations, and results. This causes incredible worry and doubt when things aren’t going great. But this is also all fixed by complete trust in God. Trust requires us to get rid of our pride and put something other than ourselves in its place. The first time I practiced this was in college, and I was interested in a girl. At the time I was trying to pray more, and was still only getting glimpses of God talking to me. I felt like this was a good opportunity to practice something I read about in the Bible around that time:

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” – Malachi 3:10

I wanted to test God by giving him my complete trust, and seeing what he would do with it, because I knew he would do something. I prayed to God that if this girl was not right for me, for him to take her away from my life so that I wouldn’t have to think about her anymore. I had to believe that this was how he was going to communicate his plan to me, and what I gave up in return was control over my relationships, worry over making the wrong decisions, and thinking that I knew what was good for me. The next day I went to class and she wasn’t there. A week later I asked a friend about her, and he said she dropped out for some reason. It was at that moment a great weight was lifted, and I knew with absolute certainty that I had nothing to worry about anymore, because God is to this day taking care of me.

The point of this short story about my life is that this is how God talks to me. I can’t hear him unless my sins are forgiven, and when he talks to me he’s expecting absolute trust. I had to make that leap, and it gets easier and easier the more I give to him. Other possible relationships have all been dealt with in the same way, and God has always done what I asked. When it comes to relationships, this is how God talks to me. It is nearly the same for everything else in my life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

God is always talking to us, but sometimes we can’t quite make out the words. Find out how God is talking to you and what he’s saying by first asking for forgiveness like Isaiah, and then start trusting him with decisions, problems, and your life. He wants you to give your worries to him, he wants you to hear him, and he wants you to trust him.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

A Method for Creating Unique Literature

It’s often that works of literature are heralded as creative and original by how similarly creative and original their story is. For example, a simple glance on Goodreads’ list of most original books contains countless novels that nearly everyone has at least read or heard of. What made them unique? In general, it was their story. Now you might be thinking that this article is about how to make a creative story, however, I’ll be taking a different approach. There’s already thousands of articles and even books on how to create creative stories, so I don’t want to add another to the pile.

In this article, we’ll be looking at how grammar can help make a work of literature unique. When I began writing, I was constantly worried that my tales might conflict with the millions of other books out there. I wanted to find a way to create my work differently, to find another angle of presentation, and also increase my writing skill at the same time. Once I found a way, it helped make the story differentiate itself from others quite well.

Now there’s no rule to follow to create a different grammar style, but I’ll share what I did in hopes that it might help someone find their own way.

Here was my plan:

Have a story

Before I thought about the presentation of my writing, I had to have a story. There are several types of writers, and some can begin writing immediately, some need to write outlines, and some need to just think about it for a while. It took me a long time to simply think about it and get it together, but that’s my creative process and it worked for me. Find your best method.

Find what stresses your capabilities

Your writing ability needs to be pushed to the point where you’ve reached something that you don’t think you can write about. I discovered a few exotic works of literature that intrigued me, and they were all lipograms, a form of constrained writing. One was Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright, which doesn’t contain the letter “e” throughout the entire book. There were several others, and they all practiced similar constrained writing methods. I thought that this might be interesting, and it was certainly something I didn’t think I could do for an entire novel. This may not be you, but I didn’t want the sole focus of my story to be on the constrained writing quality. I felt that it would instead enhance its presentation in a deeper way, and be a supplemental factor to the language of the book.

Employ your tactic

“Juliet is the sun” (From Romeo and Juliet) is in my opinion one of the most powerful metaphors you can find. I wanted this same strength in my story, and I also wanted to use a constrained writing method. So then what? Well I thought about how powerful metaphors are both in design and writing. Then I thought about the weakness of the metaphor: The Simile.

“Juliet is like the sun” simply isn’t as special as the original quote, and doesn’t show the same inherent qualities attempted to be conveyed. For, Juliet is the sun. She doesn’t have similar qualities that sun has, but the same qualities. In fact, there’s no difference between the two.

My tactic? I would use constrained writing and never use any common similes. Yes, the definition of a simile isn’t limited to comparison using “like” or “as” but it was a start, and would remove any direct similes. I would be forced to use metaphors for comparison.

Now similes can be incredibly beautiful, especially in poetic writing, but I made a decision to omit their use entirely for the purpose of being constrained and forced to find a harder route. My book needed to be difficult to write so as to pay attention to each sentence with the same care as the last.

Your tactic may hinder progress in the beginning, but it has lasting benefits

While the words “like” and “as” never show up in my story, I never realized how much we naturally use them. For example:

“As they walked past a tree, it looked like it might fall.”

The occurrences of “like” and “as” may not even be direct comparisons, but I had to stick with my rule and find a different way of communicating my idea:

“While they walked past a tree, it showed signs that it might fall.”

Though simple fixes, they really made me think through every single sentence. It was a pain for a while, but eventually my brain began to think without common similes, and it became a habit of not using them. Although more prominent in descriptions of people and things, metaphors dig deeper the more you use them and the less you use similes.

Here’s an excerpt from Portents of a Weeping World that shows a part of the result of omitting similes:

“It was all the earth that reflected the light and beauty of her face. Her hair was a waterfall, ever flowing and setting the stars. Her lips the springtime roses blooming, full and void of imperfection, yet wielding beneath their splendor a tongue grasping thorns that pierce if unheeded. Her eyes bore the flames of fluent jasper, trailing into smoke of agate and diamond. She was the end of bedlam, master of all the wonderful, and empress of the empyreans. She turned and faced Daeon, he lost all breath and could not hold her gaze.”

As I said before, this article is about my method, and isn’t intended to be a rule or solution for finding a unique grammar style, merely an idea to find your own. You may not even want or need to find one, but if you’re looking for a way to further make your book special and differentiate itself from the masses, this might help. It doesn’t even have to be grammar! But try and dig deeper than the story, and think about its presentation.