Jesus Christ was crucified. He died a painful death on the cross, to redeem us for God.
We are saved by faith in Jesus. We are saved because we believe that He died and rose again.
The Bible says that we receive salvation through the mercy of God. We did nothing to deserve mercy. We are able to place our faith in Jesus because God has given us the ability to believe. It is a gift from God ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ). This gift is a treasure that is worth more than gold.
However, the Bible says that we must endure to the end in our faith in Jesus Christ ( Colossians 1:22-23 ).
There is a huge difference between earning salvation (which would mean that God would owe us something, and would give us reason to take pride and to boast), and guarding the gift of salvation.
Of course, if you see the gift of salvation as something that can never be lost, then there is nothing to guard — always assuming you can ever be sure that you had the gift in the first place.
How do you guard the gift of salvation?
Five sections in the book of Hebrews warn against a downward slide that starts with neglect and drift, becomes a hardening of the heart, then a falling away, then indulging in deliberate willful sin and, finally, despising the grace of God. That’s how you can lose the gift of salvation — by treating it as a light matter, by not valuing it. Eventually you reach the place where you stop believing in Jesus.
What is necessary to actively guard the gift of salvation?
The important thing that you need to do, the Bible says, is to exercise your faith in Jesus Christ. You express this faith through acts of loving kindness ( Galatians 5:6 ). Acts of loving kindness are done through self-sacrifice in serving others. This means death to self — living for Jesus by serving others. That means your fallen, selfish nature – what the New Testament calls ‘flesh’ – has to die.
It is vital to state, once again, that you have salvation, which means legal right-standing with God, through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross. You have been crucified with Christ, the Bible says ( Romans 6:6 and Galatians 2:20 ).
However, we are called on to make this legal right-standing an increasing reality in our experience. To do this we need to yield to the dealings of the Holy Spirit and to co-operate in His work of changing us into the image of Christ ( Galatians 5:25 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 ). In other words, we have a part to play. We have responsibilities. ( 2 Peter 1:5-11 ).
The image that the New Testament uses for this dying to self is the one of crucifixion — a slow, painful suffocating of self.
Galatians 5:24 says:
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
This is the experiential outworking of our faith. I, for one, have not reached the point of complete death to self. We are called on to crucify the sinful nature, which means that I, at least, am facing an ongoing painful future, until the Lord takes me home to glory.
This raises an interesting question: How do we crucify ourselves? You can nail your feet to the cross, metaphorically speaking, and then one hand, and then what? You will need help with that third nail. And help is what God promises, through the Holy Spirit. He is working every circumstance to bring you to an end of yourself. Every tough experience you go through is Him, helping you with your problem of needing to die to self.
It also makes sense of the apostle Paul’s warning to those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ ( Philippians 3:18-19 ).
The Bible presents all this as a warning and as an encouragement. If you are suffering trials of many kinds, it is not because you lack faith ( James 1:2-4 ). It is because God means it for good — the strengthening of your faith, the slow destruction of your self-life, the salvation of your soul ( 1 Peter 1:6-9 ).