“In your opinion, what does it take for a person to go to heaven?” That’s the question I use as a simple means to determine someone’s relationship with God. Usually the answer is just as simple – either a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation, or a claim that good works such as right living is needed, or perhaps a denial of the existence of heaven. In any case, the answer is often just that straightforward.
But are things really that simple? For Christians in particular, is salvation really as elementary as saying, “I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior, and I am convinced he died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins”? Several verses in the New Testament support this simple view of salvation. Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” and “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Does salvation have other requirements? Is it conditional in any way? Leaning on the principle that we must consider the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), we can find clear Biblical descriptions of a complex set of behaviors that accompany salvation. Rather than calling these behaviors conditions that are necessary for salvation, I would like to call them conditions that describe a born again believer. I am indebted to John Piper in his book, Future Grace, for developing this understanding of salvation.
Psalm 25 catalogs many of these salvific behaviors. I urge you today to read the psalm in its entirety to see how many of them you can find. Let me list a few of them.
1. Trust, a belief that confidently acts based upon faith.
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; (v. 1-2)
2. Hope, which looks forward as strongly to God’s future blessings as it looks backward in thanks upon the gift of salvation.
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (v. 5)
3. Humility, for God gives his grace to the humble.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (v. 9)
4. Covenant keeping. Believers will not perfectly keep God’s commands, but they aim to do so, and when they fall short they quickly repent and seek forgiveness.
All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.(v. 10)
5. Fear, the respect and awe due to one so great and mighty.
Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; (v. 12-14)
What other conditions of a saved person do you see in Psalm 25? Do you see them in yourself? They are the unavoidable result of the Holy Spirit working in those who are born again, who are made new, who are destined for heaven. They give a fuller and more complete picture of what it means to be saved.
So my prayer … is that every one would realize what a serious mistake it is to assume that conditionality means uncertainty. It doesn’t mean uncertainty for God’s children. Not if God is sovereign over conditions and he is sovereign over the condition faith. John Piper