The biggest and most dramatic need of mankind is to become right with God. To become right with God is to become saved from God's wrath and be renewed by the Holy Spirit and be given eternal life (Matthew 25:46). This is called salvation. What is salvation, and how can one become saved?
The moment of salvation is the moment of truth, when we take off our rose-colored glasses through which we thought that somehow all would be well with us, and we stop kidding ourselves that we are really rather fine people. The moment of truth is when we take our heads out of the sand and face the truth about ourselves.
One truth that we learn from the Scriptures is that we are desperately wicked. The Bible declares in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
The Bible says in Romans 3:10-18:
As it is written, There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
These verses tell us of a horrible truth that we must honestly and frankly face. God is telling us that we are like poisonous snakes. God is telling us that we are altogether rebellious against Him in every fiber of our beings. All the good things that we have been doing are not at all pleasing to God; we do them for our own selfish reasons or because we think that through them, God will look with favor upon our spiritual corpses in which we have no life. Moreover, we are enslaved to Satan, who is our master if we are unsaved (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Another truth that we must face is that because of our sins, we are under the wrath of God. God's Word declares in Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death." The death that God has in view is not merely physical death but it is spiritual death. That is, God declares that because of our sins, we must be eternally in hell under the wrath of God, paying for our sins. God created us good and after His image; therefore, we are accountable to Him for our actions.
God says in Matthew 12:36, "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Our thoughts, words, and deeds, when viewed in the light of the perfection of the law of God, will prove beyond a doubt that we are sinners. To pay for these sins, we must be cast into hell and suffer eternal damnation. What a heartbreaking, impossible future there is for us if we are unsaved. We might have thought we were good people with the best still to come in our lives, and now we discover the awful fact that we are corrupt sinners subject to the eternal wrath of God. Can there be salvation? Can there be a way of escape from this horrible predicament?
Another truth that we must face is that God has provided a marvelous, glorious, wonderful way of escape from our sins and the wrath of God, and that way is through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16). God so loved the world that He not only provided for the redemption of the universe, but He also provided for the redemption of those who recognize their bankrupt spiritual condition and cast themselves on the mercy of God. For these people, Christ became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), that is, Christ took all their sins upon Himself. As our substitute, He was judged by God as He stood before the Roman governor, Pilate. Christ was found guilty for these sins, and God poured out His wrath on Him as He, as our substitute, paid for these sins.
Wonderfully, we do not have to understand how all this happened. However, it is imperative that we recognize the truth that in Christ and only in Christ is there salvation. Somehow, through Christ, God's wrath has been satisfied, and we are no longer under condemnation before God. The Bible declares in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Those who have placed their trust in Christ have realized their hopelessly sinful and lost condition. They realize that their sins were sending them to hell; they have begun to see the terrible nature of sin, and within their lives, there is a tremendous desire to turn from their sins. They know that Christ must be Lord of their lives. Because Christ is God who has given us His Word, the Bible, they begin to have an ongoing desire to know more and more about His Word. As they learn from God's Word, they want increasingly to be obedient to all that they find there.
The Bible declares in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This verse teaches us that somehow through Christ, those who trust God will have their sins forgiven. This is what salvation is -- to be saved from the wrath of God, which we otherwise deserve because of our sins. Salvation is to abandon ourselves to Christ as our only Lord and Savior.
Before we are saved, both in body and soul, we are spiritually dead; we lust after sin. We are in rebellion against God and we are slaves of Satan. By God's mercy, He reaches down into our lives and begins to open our spiritual eyes and spiritual ears so that we see our utter sinfulness, and we begin to hear from God's Word the importance of turning to Christ as our only Savior, the Only Way by which we can be reconciled to God the Father. As God works within our hearts, we begin to more and more sense our terrible predicament. We realize that we are only a breath away from eternity; and if we die without the Savior, we will eternally be in hell. In our uneasiness, we begin to cry to God for help. As the publican of old, we pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
At some point, unknown to us, God gives us brand new souls. The soul is the spirit essence of man. The soul is the part of man that leaves the body at death. If we are saved, it is in our souls that we go to live and reign with Christ in heaven. It is in our souls that we experience eternal life. It is in our souls that we become born again. It is in our souls that we are new creatures. It is in our souls that we have been raised with Christ, that is, we have experienced the resurrection. It is in our souls that we never wish to sin again. It is in our saved souls that we have an ongoing, never-ending desire to be obedient to God's Word.
Because our souls are brand new after we are saved, our lives are quite different from what they were before salvation. It is true that in our bodies, we still lust after sin. Our bodies have not yet experienced the resurrection. But because we have received our new souls, we feel terrible when we sin. In our new souls, we feel violated by our sin. Therefore, we find true happiness only as we live obediently before God. Increasingly, then, we deny the lusts of the sin which our bodies crave, and we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we earnestly love and who has become the Lord of our lives.