I learned this one from a local pastor here. His name is Mike Fabarez at CompassChurch.org I hope
to do a podcast on this presentation method on http://OverflowToday.com soon.
This is a great diagram to cause someone to understand where we put works in the salvation
equation. This is a good one for when we are asked if all we have to do is place our trust in Jesus’
blood sacrifice, and then we can go out and sin all we want and be a hypocrite. A repulsive thought
to a Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Muslim, or any other works-based religious person, right? Even an
agnostic might be uncomfortable with grace if it allows hypocrisy, and I would not blame them.
OK, here’s the diagram. My explanation verbiage is lengthy below, so first let me just write the four
lines of formula that you will draw for the person you are talking to. You draw the first line, and then
have dialogue. You draw the second line, then dialogue. Etc. Etc. So all that would appear on the
piece of paper, or on the restaurant napkin by the end of the discussion would the these 4 lines:
C=H ‘ +W
(Try to draw the formula lines so that the = signs are lined up perfectly, best showing the distinctions.
And notice my attempt at a dotted line in the last line of formula, just before the +W).
**See note at the bottom of this entire document regarding why this diagram is particularly effective
with members of pseudo-Christian cults like JW, Mormons, etc. Yet I primarily use it to
communicates grace well to a typical seeker.
OK, here’s how the conversation might flow, as if I am speaking to you from across a table:
Could I show you the main difference between Christianity and most all other religions on earth? It
involves where my good works or good deeds fit into earning my way into heaven. I’ll use these
W – my good works H – Heaven as my reward, at death. C - Christ’s sacrifice on
Now the BIG difference is what someone relies upon for heaven, or places his faith in.
Almost all religions in the world believe this, right? My good works = Heaven at death. Like this:
But Christians believe that Jesus has to be involved, right? So, they believe that Jesus paid the price
for my sins, so his sacrifice + my obedience and good deeds = Heaven at death, right? Like this:
But wait a minute. Actually, although many churches or people might leave you to assume that, that’s
actually not what Christianity teaches. That’s not what the bible teaches, and not what churches that
accurately teach the Bible believe. What the bible teaches is this. Placing my faith in Christ and his
blood sacrifice on the cross as full forgiveness for my sins is all it takes for me to be guaranteed my
heavenly reward at death, and for eternity. Like this:
Now you might protest, as would many, “That’s too easy. And that’s cheap! So you can put your
trust in Christ, and then go out and cheat on your spouse, cheat on your taxes, and be dishonest at
work to move up in the company. That’s not right!” Well, I agree with you. And biblical Christianity
would agree with you. Yes, good works are connected to a Christian’s salvation. The above formula
is not a sufficient representation of the bible’s view on salvation. I’m going to put a W on the same
line as the biblical salvation formula. Watch where it appears. This is a subtle but giant difference in
BIBLICAL salvation and salvation that is taught by virtually all other religions in the world:
The bible teaches that heaven can only be attained through a person deciding that they are now
sincerely depending on the blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross as full payment for their sins. That
dependence, or that faith equals heaven….plus good works. Do you see the big difference now? It’s
huge. Your good works will contribute NOTHING to God’s acceptance of you into heaven, and you
dare not rely on your deeds at all or offer them up to God at all as an addition to what Jesus did on
the cross. Instead, biblical Christians slide the W, our good works, way over to the other side of the
equation. They take a position which is essentially AFTER salvation is granted.
Meaning what? Meaning that if we’ve sincerely placed our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice as full forgiveness
for our sins, we are guaranteed our place in heaven AND good works will begin to FOLLOW over
time. These good works will begin to increase in our life NOT because we are trying to ensure our
salvation or help it stay active. No, these good works will follow because sincere faith in the cross
causes one to greatly appreciate the grace that has been given them. That evokes a loyalty and a
desire to serve the one who rescued you. Further, the bible teaches that the decision to trust in the
cross, when made sincerely, causes God to send his spirit to transform that person’s heart from the
Will that Christian ever be perfect? No. Might they fail terribly at times during their life? Perhaps.
But that will not involve an attitude of intentional, flagrant disregard of or abuse for the grace of
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It would, instead, be accompanied by great shame and guilt in the life
of that presently sinning Christian. And because a sincere conscience is in him, and because he has
a heart that has been changed by God, he will not go on committing that sin indefinitely.
So you see, my good works are not involved at all in my ATTAINING salvation at in true Christianity.
But if my dependence upon the cross is sincere, good works will FOLLOW my faith in Jesus’
sacrifice. A consistently sinful life done with an attitude of indifference probably means that my
decision to rely on the cross as full payment for my sins was not sincere and that I should examine
my life and turn from my sin to the cross. No, we don’t believe in good works helping one attain
heaven. But neither do we believe in free heaven + freely sinning. A heart for obedience will follow
a heart that depends on the cross.
**This diagram can help you force a cult member to choose his position on the list of formulas, as
well, instead of passing himself off, perhaps even in his own mind, as a biblical Christian. Recently,
with a Jehovah’s Witness friend named Mark, I challenged him with this when he claimed his gospel
and his Jesus was the same as ours. I explained the diagram to him and said, “So Mark, then you
are saying that you believe the 4 line as an accurate picture of salvation, right?” He could not
embrace that formula, and had to admit that his belief was line 2. I really think that for the first time,
he saw that our view of salvation is not cheap, and that our view of salvation might have a chance of
being called biblical. He was forced to take a position on the formulas and he was unable to blur the
lines between his salvation view and our own.