The starting point for discussing salvation, is not what we can do, but what God has already done. God not only diagnoses our condition, He also provides a cure. God initiates salvation. He makes the first move. He takes the first step. Because of His lavish love, marvelous mercy and amazing grace, God offers us salvation as a gift.
That's what grace is all about. It is a gift God gives us. It is something that is not deserved and could never be earned. No one could ever be good enough to earn what God freely gives us.
Specifically, the gift God gave is His son, Jesus. God sent Jesus to die for the sins we committed, so that we could be saved from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, God is willing to forgive us for all the wrong things we have ever done and all of the right things that we should have done but didn't. Jesus' death on the cross pays the penalty for all these things.
Surprisingly, Jesus never gave a detailed explanation of grace. We are dependent on other sections of the New Testament for that. What Jesus did do, though, is perhaps even more helpful-He demonstrated grace. We see a demonstration of grace in Jesus' forgiving a woman who had been caught in sin (John 8:1-11). We see it in Jesus' forgiving the disciples for their mistakes time and time again (Mark 9:14-32, 33-37; 10:13-16, 35-45). We see it in the miracles and in all the other things Jesus did for people that they didn't deserve. All these are demonstrations of God's grace and mercy, and they show us His desire for sinful people to be saved.
He is still alive
Not only did God send Jesus to die for our sins and graciously offer us forgiveness, He also raised Jesus from the dead! This, too, is essential to our salvation (Romans. 4:25). If God had not raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus would not have been able to forgive us (I Corinthians 15:12-17). When God raised Him from the dead, however, it showed clearly and powerfully that He really is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). He is still alive, and He is seated at the right hand of God interceding with Him on our behalf (Romans 8:34). Since Jesus is the Son of God, as His resurrection clearly indicates, we must listen to Him, submit our lives to Him, and trust Him for our salvation.
Once a person begins to understand this message, that salvation originates with God and is based on His gracious act of sending Jesus, then and only then is it time to consider what role humankind plays in the process. If a person is convicted of his sin and need for God and believes God is willing to save him, his question then becomes, "What should I do?" God's grace is available to everyone, but not everyone receives its benefits. What makes the difference? How can one "receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17)? What response is necessary?
Next: The Response