A Destination and A Journey
Jesus began his public ministrty by calling people to follow him (Mark 1:16). What does it meant to follow Jesus? It involves both a destination - Jesus is taking us somewhere. But it also involves a direciton of travel.
The direction Jesus is taking us is towards God and away from the world. The fact that we are heading towards God means that God himself is our destination, and we'll come back to this. But travelling away from the world is important.
When we say that we are travelling away from the world, we don't mean that a) God is uninterested in the details of this life or matters of practicality; and we don't mean that b) we should be uninterested or uninvolved with relationships with other people.
When the Bible describes the world, it references a value system that prioritises the temporary (1 John 2:15-16). Thus, in summary, Jesus is leading us away from the temporary to the eternal.
And that brings us to the destination. The Bible word to describe this destination is salvation - not just a process, but an accomplishment. It's a state of having been delivered from danger and brought into safety.
Salvation is a rich, full, multi-faceted concept referring to the entire work of God to deliver people from sin and its consequences.
Specifically, salvation is the work of God in Christ that brings people from death to life, from alienation to belonging, from guilty to forgiven, and from slavery to freedom. And it's a big theme all through the Bible.
Notice that are saved both from and to: from death, alienation, guilt and slavery to life, belonging, forgiveness, and freedom.
In Acts 16:30, a man who needs a life re-set button asks Paul a poignant question: what must I do to be saved? Before we answer that, there are two other key questions: why do we need saving? And what is that God has done to save us?
1. Why we need saving: we are separated from God because of sin
Sin is disobedience: anything contrary to the law or will of God. Sin is also idolatry: when anything other than God is ultimate in our lives. Sin brings spiritual death, moral pollution, legal guilt, and relational separation from God. It's bad. Here are some verses that confirm this:
- Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death
- Romans 3:23: all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.
- Isaiah 59:1-2: Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
2. What God has done to save: Jesus bore our sins on the cross.
According to Hebrews 9:26-28, this is what Jesus did:
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Jesus took our place as a substitute bore the penalty that should have come to us; as a sacrifice for our sins, he paid the penalty for oursin.
3. The result of what God has done: salvation and reconciliation.
Salvation means that we are saved from God's judgment against sin; reconciliation means that we are restored to oure relationship with God. Paul descsribes this in several places:
- Ephesians 1:7: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
- Ephesians 2:13: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
4. What is our response? To believe the good news that we are saved by God's grace through faith in what Christ has done.
- Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
So yes: Salvation is a destination, and following Jesus is a journey. Life with Christ is both: we follow Jesus towards God and away from the value system of this age; Jesus rescues us from sin and places us in a right relationship with God. That's why we call this good news.