Salvation & the First Great Commandment
“Don’t matter how much money you got, there’s only two kinds of people: there’s saved people and there’s lost people.”
– Bob Dylan
I have no idea when or why Bob Dylan made this comment. I can only guess that he is referring to Christian salvation. “Salvation” can point in radically different directions depending on who is speaking:
“Courage is a kind of salvation” – Plato
“Work hard to gain your own salvation” -Buddah
“Come with me if you want to live” – Terminator
because of this, we must make it our aim to know and speak the Gospel with great clarity. It is quite possible to confuse or even mislead a person from drawing near to God when sharing stories of our own salvation. I know in my own life I have muddy the work of the cross with my own self-help / social work version of the Gospel. I am forever grateful to God for sending others to clean up my mess when I scatter strange seed in the field. So lets get back to the basics, enjoy the Gospel, and forever be grateful for the work of the Cross and the salvation of Christ!
3 Things I know
1. The Worker – Jesus alone. (Acts 2:36; 4:12; Rom. 5:19)
2. The Work – Jesus Saves. (Rom. 3:24-25; 5:10: Tit. 2:14; Col. 1:22)
3. The Fruit – Alive in Christ. (Eph. 2;10; Tit. 2:11; Col. 1:9-14)
The Gospel is the greatest news we have ever received, and although it is a mystery (Col. 1:26-27), and it is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14); we should labor to communicate it with clarity and truth.
For this reason, Mark 12:30 (which stems from the Sh’ema found Deuteronomy 6) has become a great tool in understanding salvation and the work finished on the Cross. It is no coincidence that Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is the central prayer of a Jewish persons life. Verse five contains the greatest commandment, “to love the Lord your God…”, and is made possible through the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel recorded, expands this “Love” to four areas of our life that can help us understand and explain Salvation.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Heart – kardia: control center, seat of feelings, emotions & desires
“This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…” -Mark 7:6
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart.” -Romans 6:16
Scripture is very clear that fallen man (all mankind), has a heart that needs to be saved. Humans were created to be in the presence and the pleasures of God, but unfortunately we have suppressed and traded this truth for lesser pleasures. One of the greatest works of salvation is done on the heart of man; God awakens the heart so that it feels and responds to Himself rather than the things He has created. The prophecies of Jeremiah 31, 32, and Ezekiel 36 are for today. They are emotions and feelings bursting forth towards God in new ways. The fruit of the spirit can be understood logically, but it is first and foremost felt; a redemption of the heart.
How would salvation be great if it left us desiring temporary things, treasures in this life that eventually pass away? Godly affections are one of the greatest gifts God can grant us, the ability to live satisfied in eternal things – mainly God himself. What every Christian has in common with the Apostle Paul, Peter, Mary, the Twelve, and every Christian throughout history, is that we join Peter in saying… “Though you have not seen him, you love him [Jesus].” (1Peter 1:8)
Soul – psychē: self conscious life, breath, life
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” -Mark 8:36
“And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life.” – 1John 2:25
It is often assumed that God is flexible or without opinion when it comes to heaven. There is a broad assumption, that it is wrong of God to qualify who can and cannot spend eternity in His presence. The reality is, Heaven consists of God’s family and His kingdom – a family and kingdom sewn together by mutual affections. If you love God today, and have believed in His Son, you will enjoy the presence of God for all eternity! After this life, there is no change of heart, no repentance, no salvation.
The promise of Eternal life (1 John 2:25) is granted because we are one with Jesus through salvation (1 John 5:11). One of the great evidences of salvation, is that the promise of eternal life washes away the fear of death. It comforts us when we loose those we love, and it brings hope to any fatal injustice done in this life. Through salvation, Christians join Abraham looking forward “to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
Mind – dianoia: thought capacity, intentions, mind, capacity
“And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” and they cried out again, “Crucify Him.” And Pilate said them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him” – Mark 15:12-13
“And He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the scriptures” – 1 Cor. 2:16
The time of the Judges is a picture of the unsaved mind. Without a King, the people were released to live and act how they saw fit, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6,21:25). Unfortunately this mindset did not awaken and die with the Judges. It is wide and broad, alive in differing degrees, throughout all of history. “Theology shapes Biography.” Ultimately what we believe about God will shape our lives. With the Jews of the first century, we see the great irony of what the unsaved mind can lead us to do. Unable to comprehend the true identity of Jesus, Pilate declared, “The King of the Jews… the King of the Jews”, and then displayed it for all the world to see; but their minds could not understand, and their only reply was….“Crucify Him”.
Did you know that the depths, the riches, the treasures… of all wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ? (Col. 2:3) Without salvation the wisest of men cannot begin to debate the simplest Christian on the meaning of life. The unsaved mind sends one in the opposite direction of God and it is God’s arm of salvation that turns us around. Every year I appreciate more and more the new mind that God gives us in Christ. The “Mind” of God is given through salvation to every believer; with it we are able to discover the will of God so that our lives become pleasing and able to serve the Only Wise God! (1Cor. 2:16; Rom. 12:2)
Strength – ischus: bodily powers, strength, might, powers, ability
“Even though they all fall away, I will not… you [Peter] will deny me three times.” (Peter & Jesus) – Mark 14:29,30
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter…” -Acts 4:13
There is physical strength and there is inner strength (the strength of the will). God possesses both in far greater degree than any man, but it is the latter we need most and find ourselves desperate for. At what point Peter was “saved” is up for debate, but what we know for sure is that before the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter was without strength. It’s bad enough that Peter denies Jesus multiple times, but his true impotence is seen clearly as he cowers before a little girl and bystanders, “…I do not know the man who you speak” (Mark 14:71). This “weakness” is not unique to Peter, but has been crippling the legs of humanity forever. There has, and will remain, an inability to stand for truth – especially the truth of Jesus – until strength is found outside of our weak vessels.
Peter’s life is a wonderful testimony of how God works strength in us through salvation. For all the weaklings out there – including myself – there is hope! Peter’s life “post-resurrection”, is filled with moments of strength and courage. This new strength has flowed down from the Cross and into the veins of Christians for the last two-thousand years. The need for this strength will not cease until Christ returns; persecution is rising, missions are as relevant as ever, and as I read the future only gets more and more exciting as we wait for Christ return. A sure sign of salvation is a fearlessness that comes only through the Spirit of God. A resolve to stand and declare Jesus to a world that crucified the holiest and most innocent of men.
These four areas do not speak to everything finished in the work of the Cross, nor does it begin to exhaust these topics, but I hope it helps you understand why all of us are desperate for salvation – a salvation that does not only secure our future in heaven, but enables the realities of heaven today (Matt. 6:10). Salvation is an absolute miracle, a work that only God himself can achieve. To reach down and redeem the innermost parts of man, to satisfy perfect justice, and to grant the rewards of perfect righteousness to a person is almost impossible to understand. In fact without the mind of Christ it is. In much study there is weariness, but in the revelation and communication of the Gospel there is only life!
So, Bob Dylan said there’s only two kinds of people…
and I completely agree.