Growing up in the teeny-tiny fundamentalist Baptist church by the creek (I do not recall the name of this church, but I recall the creek I used to look at through the window) I was well versed in the "You are a horrible, rotten, evil sinner and God would rather just throw you in hell. There were many hell fire and brimstone sermons, and at the age of five, I was terrified enough that I went forward during the altar call and was 'saved.' This is a process that was repeated many times over the years...only it was called 're-dedication.' There would be a sermon on a particular 'sin' I would be scared of hell, question the sincerity of my salvation, get 'saved' again and hope it sticks this time. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The sins preached against were numerous. Watching a specific TV show, reading a certain magazine, listening to a certain music group, wearing 'immodest' clothes, not being 'bold enough,' The list of 'sins' goes on and on. Over time, though. I slowly came to a realization. These things were not sins, or at least not as 'sinful' as some people made them out to be.
I felt driven to read my Bible for itself, to try to forget everything I was taught and simply read. I found this amazing thing called grace. I had always heard that we are saved by grace, but then, you better follow all these rules' in order to be 'truly saved.' Not only that, but the rules I was made to follow, to feel hell-bound over, were man-made- or man-made extremes.
Reading the Bible just in and of itself, I realized that God does, in fact, have 'rules' for us to follow but they have precious little to do with what I had been taught all those years.
God's greatest command is LOVE...He said so himself when asked what the greatest command was. Jesus said, in short, to "Love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself." I read further on and see "Let us love one another, for love is of God and anyone that loves not knows not God." "They will know you are my disciples by your love." and so on.
I read on and found Matthew 25 about the sheep and goats and how they are separated. It isn't by what we are entertained by, it isn't what we wear...but how we LOVE and care for our fellow man.
Love is another thing that was distorted in my growing up. "Love" was defined as "Telling people they are horrible, rotten sinners that God will toss into hell. This is not Biblical love. The love God wants us to share is found in 1 Corinthians 13. You know it..Love is patient, kind.....it keeps no records of wrongs.
Love, Biblical love, is what I found to be the difference between being 'saved' and receiving salvation. It is understanding God's undying love for us. God does not want to toss in hell; he wants for no one to perish! God so loved us that he sent his son, who endured unspeakable pain and agony so we can be saved.
Having that love in you can't help but bubble over and overflow and reach out to others. We don't love because it is on the checklist of holiness; we do it because we have realized just how God loves us and in realizing that and letting his love wash over you....you can't HELP but spread it around. You see someone in need and your heart yearns to help them. It pains you to see suffering in any form. This isn't a work; it comes as natural and predictable as the sunrise.
When you let His love come and captivate you, when you toss aside the 'rules' and let the Holy Spirit work a mighty work in your life? THAT is when salvation comes. You realize that there is noting you can do to earn salvation, and that your very best efforts are what God thinks are filthy, horrible, and rotten- not you someone who he created the innermost being of certainly not one he sent Jesus for.
This is grace. This is freedom. This is what God desires for us.