How Does God Save Me?
This is the “million dollar” question, because it is worth its weight in gold. The way that God “saves us” to get us to heaven is exactly the way that this new “heavenly life” is meant to be lived until we get there. Remember the Salvation Basics? Here’s where they really come into play.
The Mighty “Formula” for Salvation
How does God save me? We are saved by grace through faith! This is the mighty "formula" which God has worked out for our salvation. He has been doing this every moment of your life, though you probably didn’t know it, and will continue doing this all through eternity.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 WEB
This compact statement needs to be taken apart, so that we can truly grasp the two most important practical aspects of salvation: a) what God is doing for us and b) what is required of us to do. Here is the gospel of salvation in its simplicity:
1. "Saved" means two things: Getting you to heaven and getting heaven's way of life into you on earth. We all need to be saved, both down here and for up there. None of us can save ourselves. The "good news" is that God loves us, wants to save us and has made a way to do it through Jesus Christ.
2. "By grace" means that God's way of saving us is to give everything to us and do everything for us that we cannot do for ourselves (which is just about everything). He is even helping us with the parts that we need to do! Grace works for us, before us, with us and through us.
3. "Through faith" means that our part includes believing in and trusting in what God says He is doing and has done. This opens the way for the Spirit to work in us, helping us want to love the Lord and to follow His ways. We don't "work" our way to heaven; we "trust" our way there by the work God does through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit.
4. "Not of works" means that there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve this gift of God's grace and mercy. Not even our faith is a "work" that saves us. We trust in God's love, Jesus' work at the cross and the Spirit’s power.
Never lose sight of these basics! You will need a “good grip” on grace in order to have a continuing confidence and joy in your salvation—the saving act that has already taken place which will bring you one day to heaven. You will also need a masterful grip on grace to stay surrendered to your Lord, live by His peace and flow in His Spirit, so that His salvation can also bring you into heaven’s way of life on earth.
Since so much of the New Testament is devoted to explaining what it means to be saved by grace through faith and how that should impact the way that we live, this is by no means a small subject in scripture. Plan on reading all that the Bible has to say, for we have an enemy, who tries in every conceivable way to obstruct or obscure the simple truth of the gospel and to rob it of its power.
By Grace through Faith Now and Forever
Throughout your very long life, which begins here and continues seamlessly into eternity, the great truth that you are being saved by grace through faith will never change. The only thing that will change is that you will begin to trust Jesus and yield yourself to God and His grace more and more, until you trust Him completely with everyone you love and everything you have to manage. In heaven you will be totally trusting that God will forever be supplying you life and all that a rich, full life requires. The tremendous “secret” is that God is already giving you down here everything that you need for life itself and for right living (which is heaven’s way of life).
You may be seeing clearly enough your need for God to save you, especially in terms of getting you to heaven. Don’t let that entirely steal your focus! This is merely the entry point to a total transformation of the way you are meant to see the whole of life. Even so, this entry point is where we learn the liberating truth that God’s work to save us for heaven is based on His grace and is received by us through our faith. However, our need is far in excess of simply getting to heaven when we die. Everything about us needs saving if we are ever to be raised in this life into the “glorious liberty” of the children of God, living heaven’s way of life while still on earth.
By God’s design, your way of entry into that process of growth will soon turn your attention from eternal salvation (as you become more confident of it) to the more mundane earthly needs you have for God, now that you know that He is real and that He wants to save you. Not knowing God until we are finally “saved” means that we haven’t been consciously aware of what is available to us from God. Our true education can’t begin until we meet the Teacher! Naturally, the Lord will go to work to make every new believer aware of how much they need God and how much He makes available. This always means encountering problems and difficulties that you will need God’s help with.
Our two most obvious needs down here are for God’s saving mercy and His saving help. God’s mercy comes to us primarily through the gift of Jesus’ death for us; God’s help comes to us primarily through the gift of Holy Spirit’s work for us. Just as Jesus died for us our death; Holy Spirit has come to be our new life. As we slowly learn to trust Jesus’ death to be a full and sufficient covering for us whenever we sin and seek mercy again; so too we slowly learn to trust Holy Spirit’s guidance into the new life of love and faithfulness that we yearn to live.
Due to the fall from grace we have a dual problem: We are bound by sin and we are blind to truth from God’s perspective (the only one that counts). Because of our common weakness at overcoming sin in our own strength, you will have plenty of opportunities to go to God for mercy. Due to our common blindness of what is really right, good and true in each situation, you will have plenty of troubles you will need God’s help in overcoming. These dual needs drive us all to God—if we let them—and it is there that we discover the way to overcome is by learning how to be saved by God’s grace through faith time and time again.
As this process takes place, the recognition of your sins will make you seek God as your Savior, both in terms of forgiveness for having sinned, and for help in overcoming them. We could say that this first stage is learning to get sin out; the second stage is learning to get more of Jesus in! This process of repenting of sins and seeking mercy and help will greatly grow your appreciation of God’s love, patience, mercy and grace, which you will need as you turn towards the higher calling of living by His Spirit.
The Choice That Is Ever Before You
You will need God’s help learning how to live in His peace, confidence and joy when you are besieged by problems. This is by no means easy at first, because our trust levels in God are so low. His answer, however, is always the same: “Trust Me and obey Me.” Jesus hasn’t saved you for heaven so that you can live your life any way you want to on earth. He has saved you by introducing you to Himself, so that now you can trust and follow Him as He leads you step by step into what He has planned for you.
Just like those first disciples, you have a choice now that you have met Jesus. Will you “go back to your nets,” or will you leave everything to follow Him? If you try to cling to your life, keeping everything under your preferences and control, He says that you will lose your life for sure! The only way forward is to seek to follow Him. He wants to lead you into life. He is the only one who can do it. Apart from Him you can no sooner enjoy heaven’s way of living down here, than you can mount up in your own strength to gain it up there. We are meant to open our hearts to Jesus the way a flower opens to sunshine.
The first step with Jesus is always to trust Him with everything and anything that has just happened. The second is to seek Him so that you can handle things His way. As the trusting grows, the obedience becomes easier and more natural, because our desire to do the next right thing is supernaturally sustained by the Holy Spirit whenever our hearts are fully surrendered to the Lord. Learn these prayers and make them your favorite traveling companions: “Jesus, what do You want me to do next? What are You trying to show me? How should I respond to this situation?” Trust, listen and obey.
As you learn to trust your own life to Jesus, He will begin helping you learn how to trust your loved ones to Him as well: First, that He will get them to heaven; second, that He will help them with every other concern you may have for their well being. In this way we learn by a natural grace to become intercessors for those we already love.
Beyond this, is becoming so enamored with Jesus that you begin to care for the ones He loves that perhaps you haven’t: the hurt, the lost, the needy, the lonely, the sinful, and the forgotten ones. In short, everybody else! He will show you some of the ways He wants to save them through your prayers, your words and your work. Then He will help you to trust Him to work through you as you trust, listen and obey.
Nobody walks this path perfectly, so don’t be discouraged at the sight of it. I wanted you to see a wider perspective on God’s work in your life, not so that you would begin doing all of these things right away, but in order for you to understand how absolutely pervasive the working of God’s salvation truly is. And it is all based on this one perfect “formula”: We are saved by grace through faith.
You Lived by Grace Once Before
It may surprise you to know that God has always been working in your life, saving you by grace through faith. When you were a little child, it was the grace of God’s Spirit working with you, helping you to explore your world, teaching you how to laugh, learn, love and play. The Spirit is so good at doing this without calling attention to Himself that you never knew your life was being sustained by the superabundance of God’s saving gifts. One of those key gifts is the provision of a trusting nature to little children: Without it the child could receive nothing! Indeed, the telling sign of a lost childhood is the inability to be as trusting as a little child. Jesus says that unless we become childlike again (with His help), we will by no means enter the kingdom He desires to bring into our lives down here.
Even things that we typically pride ourselves for are His saving gifts: intelligence, common sense, outward beauty, physical strength, family and national heritage. If we step back a bit, we can easily see that no one can give these things to themselves! God is the giver—that’s what grace means. OK, but what about things our efforts have made of these “starter kits”?
Surely, we “gave” ourselves things that we have worked hard for: character, virtues, educational degrees, occupational success, material prosperity, etc. Once again, if you step back far enough, you would have to admit that something in you made you want to work hard, providing the desire and motivation to build upon what you were originally given. That “something” is a gift of grace which has “saved” you in these dimensions of accomplishment. This is not to belittle your part but to help you magnify God’s. In this way you will gain eyes to see how to entrust everything in your life to the God who has already been bringing life to you.
Can you see by this how utterly pervasive God’s giving of everything necessary for life and right living truly has been in your life? Every good gift comes from the Father of Lights and it has power to “save” us from the deprivation, destruction or darkness it’s absence would allow. There is far more to your salvation than simply getting you to heaven! In the next three articles we will explore further what these key concepts of salvation, grace and faith mean for us.
Father, I have spent my whole life trying to save myself in one situation after another. Now, at last I'm beginning to see that You have been wanting to be my Savior all along. You want to save me by getting me to heaven through what Jesus has done for me. And You want to save me in every situation and circumstance of my life—no matter how badly I'm doing or how difficult it is. I gladly accept Your gift of grace! Help me to believe in You and all You are doing for me through Jesus and by Your Spirit.
Jesus, thank You for doing the work I would never have been able to do, in going to the cross for me. Thank You for saving me from the hell my sins deserved! Thank You for making a way to for me to enjoy eternal life with You in heaven! Help me now to learn how to live in this life by trusting You and following You. I desire to become Your heaven-directed and Spirit-filled servant and friend.
Holy Spirit, I am going to need a lot of help from You to keep me in remembrance that it is not me who saves me, but God and Jesus. Forgive me for grieving You so often in the past by not listening to Your voice in my conscience. Help me learn to listen to You now! Grow my eyes to see and my ears to hear everything You are speaking to me and showing me in the Word and in the world.
More to Explore of God’s Live-Saving “Formula”
What is salvation? Salvation is what we need. Everyone needs to get to heaven for instance. Often that is the first thing on a person’s mind when they go looking for God. But there is so much more to salvation than getting to heaven. In any area of your life where you need help, God wants to come to your rescue. He provides everything necessary for saving you by His grace through your faith.
What is grace? Grace is the part God plays in saving us. It’s definitely the lead role. Without His mercy, His help, His wisdom, His guidance, His comfort, His provision we’d be back right where we started, trying to rescue our life by our own means. Happily, our Father is an outrageous giver. You don’t have to earn or deserve His saving help: You just have to become more adept at receiving it.
What is faith? Our “job” is to get really, really good at believing in the grace that is being offered us by our loving Father. If someone wants to give you a present, you still have to trust enough to receive it. Believing leads to trusting and trusting leads to receiving. That is the way of faith which opens wide the door for the Lord’s salvation to stream into our life.
On to the Next Question!
How can I be sure I'm saved? It should come as no surprise that doubt and unbelief are enemies of the life of faith. God has overcome your unbelief—now you know who Jesus is—but you will soon have to fight off your doubts in order to keep your confidence in Him flying high. Make sure that you know how to stay sure…
Scriptures and Foot Notes
 Now that you know Jesus, our Father is giving you everything you need to live fully and to live rightly; our task is to learn to live by what He supplies: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
 See especially Romans 1-8, then all of Galatians and Ephesians.
 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV
 That nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God's children. Romans 8:21 AMP
 According to Jesus troubles are “guaranteed” to come your way, so be prepared: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
 By “looking” the Lord means focusing upon Him, not the problem; then trust Him, follow Him and the salvation will surely come: “Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22 AMP
 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
 See John 16 and Acts 2 for more on the Holy Spirit.
 Jesus' word here about entering the kingdom of heaven applies to heaven’s reign on earth. “Saving faith” gets us into heaven in the next life, but childlike trust is required for entering into a heavenly life in this life: And said, “Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all].” Matthew 18:3 AMP
 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17