No one can be saved based on our own efforts.
A rich young man came to Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22), asking what he needed to do to be right with God. This man had followed the religious laws with great commitment. Jesus, realizing he was wealthy, put him in a situation to test his heart. He said: “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor… Then come, follow me.” The man went away sad, because he had many possessions.
This got Jesus disciples thinking (verse 25): “Who in the world can be saved? Have we done enough to find salvation?” In Matthew 19:26, Jesus responded: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” He was telling them that they could not save themselves. There are essentially two ways to be right with God. You can follow God’s law 100%, without fail. Or you can trust in Jesus. He was telling his followers that they could never do enough to follow God’s law to perfection. That’s why it’s impossible to achieve salvation, humanly speaking.
Jesus did everything we need to be right with God.
But Jesus himself achieved salvation for us when he went to the cross. He can do what we can’t do. The only one who can atone for our sin is God himself, standing in for humanity. That’s exactly what Jesus did. All the work of salvation was done on the cross for us.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NKJV) For the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
[Related: The Atonement – The Garden or the Cross?]
[Related: Understanding the Cross After Leaving Mormonism]
[Related: The Cross of Jesus and the Courtroom]
To be saved, we need to respond to Jesus with faith.
In John 6, people were asking Jesus, “What are the works we should do to please God?”
John 6:29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
All we need to do to be saved is the believe or trust in Jesus. Jesus takes it from there. The Holy Spirit is poured out on you. You become born again. You begin a new life. This is the “good news” of the Gospel. It’s not working to go to the temple, or any other commandments or ordinances. The good news is to believe in Jesus. Then follow him the best we can as he leads. We will sin daily! But that’s okay because Christ has atoned for all of our sins – past, present and future.
This truth is source of a great joy! What an assurance to realize that you are in the palms of Jesus, and that he will not let you go. You will fall, but he will pick you up and carry you. The LDS often tell a story of a man who fell into a pit. That illustrates the human condition. They describe how God will put a ladder down into the pit to allow the man to climb out. But here’s what Jesus has done. We fell into the pit. Our legs were broken and our spine crushed. We could not climb up that ladder. So Jesus came down the ladder, picked us up and carried us out. It’s not what we can do. Our part is simply to cry out in faith to Jesus for help. He comes down and takes us to safety.
That’s the Jesus we want to know and share with others. He is the one who gave it all.
[Related: How Mormons Think About Salvation]
[Related: How to Know You’re Right with God]