At the risk of being exclusivist, the name of Jesus alone is the only way anyone can be saved. Now it is important to remember what kind of salvation we are talking about here. Because some people will get the wrong idea.
Some years ago I worked with a young man at chicken hatchery plant. He and I spent hours talking about religion and matters of the day, because I was in my first ministry and was still feeling out what that was like. Yes, I was both working part-time in ministry and working for a local chicken company. That was life then.
One thing that my young co-worker struggled with was his relationship to his girlfriend, that he said lately had run aground. He said they weren’t getting along and as an older, married man, wanted to know if I had any advice for him. So we talked about Jesus. He was not a Christian, but was curious if Jesus could help him in his dilemma. He really loved this girl, but she just didn’t like some of the things he was doing. We talked about faith in Christ and the kinds of changes it could and would bring into his life. He liked what he heard. After several discussions, he agreed he needed to be baptized, and he was the first and only baptism I had in that ministry. After his baptism, I never heard from his again, as he moved on and I left the position at the hatchery.
Something that has always bothered me about his conversion was his motivation. I was certain at the time he possessed saving faith and so I encouraged his baptism. But did this motivation come from a genuine desire to be saved from his sins and serve the Risen Savior, or to get back in good with his girlfriend, a far more immediate need? I hope I will get to meet him again, especially in heaven, so I can ask him.
Salvation is not a panacea. You cannot make it mean whatever you want it to mean. I preached a message a few years ago based on an issue I had with Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” film, in which she depicted her father coming to faith in Christ at their country church because he didn’t want to die and not be with his family. I made the point then that we cling to what brings us to Jesus. If it is something as fickle as the preacher who preached to us the gospel, will we still be Christians if the preacher moves on to a different church? Would Dolly’s father still be a Christian if there is a rift in the family and he stops going to church? If we are led to faith by a girlfriend or wife, and then stop dating that person or we end up divorced, are we still in love with Jesus?
Salvation is not a cure-all for domestic issues, problem family members and the like. Salvation doesn’t take the pain away from childhood abuse, or family trauma. Salvation in Jesus isn’t salvation from poverty or challenging circumstances. Salvation in Jesus is salvation from sin and the renewal of the heart. It is the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit to help us deal with challenging circumstances. It is the promise and guarantee of eternal life beyond this one, where all of our struggles and tribulations will be repaid in glory. We cannot expect or demand that salvation in Jesus will solve all of our problems. But it helps.
For my young friend above, I hope that even if things did not work out with your girlfriend, you found in Jesus a greater friend above all, so that when you met the next girl she found you to be a godly man. My hope for Dolly’s father was his growing faith in Jesus Christ led to a transformation of his whole family. Seeing a father making Jesus a priority is transformative, so that when the next crisis hits, he doesn’t hit the bottle but he falls to his knees.
Salvation in the Name of Jesus is a tool, but it is the most powerful tool we possess to engage in the struggles of life. Through Him we have hope, that even in the midst of crisis, we know the best is yet to come. We know this is not all there is. We know we have a heavenly Father who lives and exists to teach us and guide us and show us wisdom and order in the midst of chaos. We are not alone.
May I encourage you today to seek this salvation for yourself. Don’t be “married” to a religion or to a physical person or an ideology. These will not save you. Only the Name of Jesus, faith in His life-saving power, His resurrection glory, His surpassing authority, His love for us, all that we could ever hope for, the cross, the burial and the resurrection, the touchstones of our faith in Him, only He can save us truly.
Dear Lord, forgive me where I have failed You, failed to broadcast the wholeness of Your truth and power to others. Father where I have encouraged some to salvation in Christ based on lesser goals, based on lesser needs, please forgive me. For You alone Jesus are enough. You are sufficient for all my needs, all I could ever want. Anything else I have today in relationships and blessings are given only because You love me and know me better than I know myself. Please afford me the grace and mercy today that I may improve my calling and reach out to more who need You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.