The Scriptures reveal there are three phases of our salvation. Our salvation has a past, a present, and a future. Ephesians 2:5 says Christ saved me in the past. I had nothing to do with this area of my salvation, because I was dead in my sins. In other words, I was spiritually dead, and a dead person cannot do anything, think anything or say anything. I was helpless and hopeless, until Christ died for me on the cross, reconciling me to God (2Corinthians 5:14-19). This is the past tense of salvation. I have been saved period. I did nothing to accomplish it, and I can do nothing to destroy it. In the past I have been saved from the penalty due my sins (Romans 6:23), once and for all time, by the death of Christ.
The present tense of salvation, however, is another matter entirely. This involves my walk with Christ, my abiding in him, my falls and victories, my disappointments and my joy. The commandment is to work out my own salvation, because God is at work within me, prompting me both to desire and to do his own will (Philippians 2:12-13). The Scriptures say I must reckon my old life (in Adam, the flesh) and its power over me to be dead in the past (Romans 6:3, 10-11, 14), and focus anew on Christ, my new Man or new Life (cp. Hebrews 12:1-2). Sin must not be permitted to reign over my life anymore (Romans 6:12-13). Christ has saved me both from sin’s reward (death) and sin’s power, which is slavery to the flesh, or acting out the life of unrighteous Adam (1Corinthians 15:56; Genesis 3:6). While abiding in Christ, my strength is spent seeking to do good or undoing the harm I’ve done in the past. This is where I strive for victory, and this is where I fall and fail. Here it is possible to destroy my life with evil and reject Christ after I have tasted of him. Here there is great hope for victory and the possibility of great loss and failure. Nevertheless, even if I blow it all and destroy all God has given me in this life, my life is secure with him. If I live for seventy years, more or less, and spend those years running from my Savior to enjoy what this world has to offer, my life will be destroyed. Nothing of eternal value will be reaped from the time I spend upon this earth, and I will receive my portion with the unbelievers, yet Jesus will never fail. He is my Savior, still. I’ll lose any reward that was to be mine, but he is committed to me, and he will not repent of saving me, for God is Love, and love never fails. (2Timothy 2:13; cp.1Corinthians 3:10-15),
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13 NASB)
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he, himself, will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NASB)
The third tense of salvation is yet future. In the present, I groan waiting for this salvation to be complete in my experience (Romans 8:23-25). I groan in my spirit, waiting for the glory to come. It is not only the righteous who groan, but all creation groans, waiting for that glorious time when the presence of sin will be removed from our very lives (Romans 8:18-23), and our bodies will be redeemed (cp. 2Corinthians 5:1-8). We groan for the fulfillment of the promise of God in us, while the world groans for what it knows not. It seeks to satisfy its inner void with the depravity of sin. Oh God, hasten the day when the knowledge and the Spirit of Christ will fill this earth. May he be praised in all that he does.
The cross has done all this! I am nothing without Christ. My only boast is in him. Without Jesus, I cannot change, for I am unable to repent. Repentance itself is a gift from God. Without him, I am yet in my sins living an imperfect, unholy life in Adam, the flesh (Ephesians 2:2-3). Nevertheless, Jesus has come and has given me new life in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5). Because of the cross, many things which were formerly impossible to me have now become possible, for he has given me great authority in Christ (Ephesians 2:6-10). This is the Good News of the cross. This is Good News to me, and it is Good News for all.