Salvation is a slippery word. Most Christians would say that salvation means going to heaven when you die. It means asking Jesus into your heart and not going to hell (if you believe in such a place). Most Christians would also be able to tell you, without thinking too hard, the core doctrine that salvation is “by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ.
Salvation. Grace. Faith. What do these words mean?
These articles seek to provide a framework for walking in freedom and victory in regards to sexual purity issues. However, it’s a paradigm that applies to all of life. Our intention is not to sit up here on our pedestal and lecture you on how bad you are. Instead, we want to speak the truth in love, break the cycles of shame, and equip you with real and practical tools for walking in victory. John 8:32 says that “the truth sets us free”; not prayer, not ministry or counselling, not 12 step programs (all of which can be vehicles for the truth), but it is the revelation and application of the truth that brings real and lasting freedom.
Salvation Here and Now
Biblically, the word salvation (Strong’s G4991, H3444) means “welfare, prosperity, deliverance, preservation, safety, victory.” It means to be saved, whole, healed, delivered, made free and kept safe and sound. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says that “now is the day of salvation.” Many Christians are able to understand salvation as a future event or abstract concept. However, it is much more difficult for one to apply these salvation principles to their current circumstances or sin patterns, and much less to the issue of personal sexual purity. Salvation is so much more than just going to heaven when you die. Salvation is freedom for the spirit, soul and body, here and now.
By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ has unequivocally defeated sin, shame, death, and the powers of darkness. This includes everything related to pornography, masturbation, lust, self-pleasure, and whatever other taboo topics one can imagine. Jesus’s victory is absolute in nature and eternal in duration. The battle is over. It’s done. The rulers of the present age have been put to public shame. The blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Our sins have been cast into the depths of the sea. Jesus is predisposed to help us and is longing to give us what he shed his blood to attain: absolute freedom from sin. So why do so many believers fail to see that victory manifest in their lives?
The Abundance of Grace
For many, the porn issue has been framed by language that establishes it as a “battle.” One must fight to walk in purity. This mindset, well-intentioned though it may be, often creates a “works” cycle, where people are trying to gain something (namely, freedom, purity and victory) that Jesus already paid for. Then, when they can’t achieve it, they feel worse about themselves, which causes the sin cycle to repeat, creating a terrible downwards spiral of striving, failure and shame.
There is hope. Romans 5:17 says:
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
“Abundance of grace”, “free gift of righteousness”, “reign in life.” These are key phrases. “Grace” has been (at least in my Christian experience) another difficult word to define. Many would call it “favour”. Others would say that it means receiving blessings that you do not deserve. These definitions are not wrong, but they are not particularly concrete either. Grace in Hebrew is “Chen” (Strong’s H2580), which means favour, but it is also closely connected to the word “Chanah” (H2583), which means to encamp or to pitch one’s tent. This may be a far more useful definition for “Grace”: to pitch one’s tent. It implies a dwelling place: presence, intimacy, fellowship, communion, abiding, and rest. It also contains the idea of routines and rhythms of life. We pitch our tents with God, and he pitches his tent with us.
This grace, this favour, this pitching of tents, this kindness of immense proportions, is the thing that gives us victory over sin.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Our familiarity with the words can often keep us from a revelation of truth. That verse could just as easily be reread as “sin will have no dominion over you because you are not striving to fulfill a list of dos and don’ts, but you are pitching tents with God.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
When we operate as if we can overcome with our own strength, we disqualify ourselves from receiving the grace that would bring real freedom. Often, this is our pride getting in the way. When we realize our weakness, we can position ourselves to allow God to break into our situation.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
So if grace is this incredible substance that allows us to gain victory over sin, the question is, how do we access it? Humility is one key, as per the verse above. But there is another key that allows us to walk in a greater grace: faith.
Faith in Righteous Identity
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
As Christians, we are already standing in grace. We already have God’s favour, but faith is the thing that allows us to see it manifest in our lives. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It is the firm belief in who God says he is and what he has said he will do on our behalf. Perhaps the most important and most challenging thing is to believe that you are who Jesus says you are. Romans 5:17 speaks not just about the “abundance of grace” but also “the free gift of righteousness”.
Knowing that you are righteous, and not a sinner, is the foundation of being free from sin. Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse puts the sin identity in the past tense: we WERE sinners. Yet many Christians still say that they are “just a sinner saved by grace”. 2 Corinthians lays it out unequivocally: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As a follower of Christ, you are the righteousness of God; it is your spirit-born identity. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Hebrews 10:1-2 says the following:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?
This verse implies that the new covenant achieves what the previous could not: zero consciousness of sins. That is to say, a conscience that no longer has a broken and sinful identity stamped on it. It is as if sin never happened. Shame keeps us trapped in a cycle of trying to appease our guilty conscience and atone for our transgressions, which inevitably repeats the sin cycle. However, knowing and understanding in the deepest place that you have a new righteous nature causes you to act out of that identity. Many people try and do it the other way around; they try and do good so that they can feel good about themselves. Jesus said, in Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” It’s time to start believing that we are the good trees that Jesus shed his blood to make us. The will of God for our lives is this: righteousness consciousness over sin consciousness; son identity over sin identity; rest in grace over striving to fulfill the law.
Living by grace is doesn’t mean trying not to sin, it means enjoying being sons and daughters. It’s receiving what God freely wants to give while pouring out our own lives as an offering of love. Stop striving. Receive the gift.
Repentance: To turn, to change one’s mind or purpose. To turn from sin and come back home to a father that loves you.
Grace: Favor, kindness. God pitching his tent with us. His empowering presence that enables us to change. We have access to it by faith.
Faith: The substance of things hoped for. Confidence in things unseen. Belief in God, his word, and his nature. Trust.
Righteousness: Being in right relationship with God and having actions that demonstrate this. Being marked as pleasing and desirable to him.
Holiness: Set apart. Dedicated to one thing and one thing only. Not common.
Salvation: Saved, whole, healed, delivered, set free, kept safe and sound. Salvation is for the whole being (spirit, soul, and body) here and now.