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Individual Salvation

Salvation is Individual (excerpt from The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller )

“A meal fuels growth through nourishment. The Lord’s Supper, also called Communion or the Eucharist, represents ongoing growth in God’s grace. In order to survive and grow, individuals must eat and drink regularly. That’s what we must do with the gospel of the grace of God. We must personally appropriate it, making it more central to everything we see, think, and feel. That is how we grow spiritually in wisdom, love, joy, and peace.

Religion operates on the principle of “I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey.” As we have seen, believing the gospel is how a person first makes a connection to God. It gives us a new relationship with God and a new identity. We must not think, however, that once believing it, the Christian is now finished with the gospel message. A fundamental insight of Martin Luther’s was that “religion” is the default mode of the human heart. Your computer operates automatically in the default mode unless you deliberately tell it to do something else. So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.

We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not. Human approval, professional success, power and influence, family and clan identity—all of these things serve as our heart’s “functional trust” rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and a lack of self-control.

You cannot change such things through mere willpower, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. This is how we grow.”


In case you don’t know, I am a HUGE fan of Tim Keller. I saw him speak at a Exponential conference two years ago. Among the speakers were Ed Stetzer, Vince Antonucci, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Alan Hirsch, Dave Ferguson and others. And while all the speakers were impressive, I found myself literally sitting there with my jaw hanging open at some of Dr. Keller’s insights into the Gospel of Christ. If you’ve never read anything by him, I would highly recommend you do so.

For more information about Dr. Keller and his writings, his author page on