Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

James 2

James 2 begins with some strong words about how we treat people in our patch.  “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,”  while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become  judges with evil thoughts”?  There is no room for partiality in God’s kingdom.

God expects us to love all people everywhere.  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it”.  Can we get to heaven and eternity by our own efforts?  James makes it pretty clear that won’t happen.  God only allows us to become perfected when we keep ALL the law.  One failure point disqualifies us from being good enough to be free from it’s conviction.  And how we treat others is definitely one area most if not all of us will fall short.  Treating people with partiality is a sin.  Failing in one area – committing one sin – puts us without entry to eternity with God.  It’s why we need Jesus.

James goes on to make clear that faith alone is not what it looks like when one becomes a true Christ Follower.  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him”?  James starts with a question about what salvation really looks like.  And then he goes on to answer it quickly.  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works”.  If we truly have faith and a relationship with Christ – we will be moved to live out that faith through works.

Works are a result of faith, but not really a choice, but rather a result. James uses Abraham as an example of what faith will do in our life.  It comes alive and leaks out through works.  It isn’t something we keep to ourselves. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed  by his works”. We can’t contain our faith and keep it to ourselves.  It has to come out and bless others.  “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”.  It isn’t that works are part two of a salvation experience with Jesus.  But rather that true faith in our Savior and Lord can’t be contained and held within. It will come out of us.  It is a sign of a true relationship with the Savior. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead”.

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Colossians 2

Colossians 2 has Paul encouraging the church at Colossae to focus on their walk with Christ.  “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving”.  We need to do a much better job in helping Christ Followers understand what it means to truly walk in Him.  Becoming a Christ Follower is not a point in time event – sure it happens at a point in time – but it is the beginning of a lifetime relationship where He not only has become Savior, but also Lord of our life.  We receive Jesus and need to root down in Him, but also then work to build up our faith which we do for the rest of our life.

Growing as a Christ Follower is critical to keeping us on the right path.  The world is filled with tools the enemy uses to try and drive us into the ditch.  “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”.  There are many false teachings and deceitful traditions that will lead us astray if we aren’t rooted in the Truth.  But Jesus alone is the answer.  “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”.  There is no other book, no other source of truth, than Him alone.

When we receive Christ and follow in believer’s baptism, we are “buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead”.  Baptism is the symbolic public expression of our faith in Christ, where we put off our sin as we go into the water and are set free through His cleansing grace as we come up from the water.  Jesus has already won the victory over sin.  But as humans, we certainly have not, and need the saving grace God offers us through Christ’s death on the cross to set us free from the penalty of our own sinful nature.

Sin is a big deal.  In our modern world, sin is downplayed as a ‘poor choice’ or ‘no big deal’.  Not so in God’s eyes.  “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross”.  Truth is we are dead to God because of our sin.  He can’t just look the other way.  His holiness and righteousness demand that He deal with sin in our life.  That’s why Jesus went to the Cross.  There has to be a payment for the sin we commit, and Jesus paid that price once and for all at Calvary.  All we have to do is receive that free gift of grace and mercy and make it our own.  We can go from dead to eternally alive by choosing to make Jesus our Savior and Lord.  Have you done that?

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3 has Paul telling us about his call to be a minister of the gospel of Christ.  He was under house arrest because of his missionary efforts to bring the truth to the Gentiles, which wasn’t at all popular with the religious leaders of the day.  Paul was tasked with unveiling a mystery: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.  All Christ Followers are one – believing Jews and believing Gentiles are joined together into one body of Christ, into one Church, and no longer separated before God.  This is very new thinking in Paul’s day, and one met with much resistance.

But Paul sees it as an honor to unveil God’s plan to the masses.  “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities  in the heavenly places”.  Christ’s death on the cross revealed God’s finished work of grace for all people, and Paul’s mission is to tell the world!

It wasn’t something that was without resistance and Paul encourages the church to stay the course.  “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory….that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”.  Paul was under arrest because of this message, but during that time he was used by God to write the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Even though times can be difficult, the Holy Spirit dwells in us and will strengthen us in His power.

Why does Paul challenge us to not lose heart?  Here is his answer: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”.  Spurgeon writes “Two expressions are used: ‘rooted,’ like a living tree which lays hold upon the soil, twists itself round the rocks, and cannot be upturned: ‘grounded,’ like a building which has been settled, as a whole, and will never show any cracks or flaws in the future through failures in the foundation.”

The cross pointed in four ways, essentially in every direction, because . . .

  • God’s love is wide enough to include every person.
  • God’s love is long enough to last through all eternity.
  • God’s love is deep enough to reach the worst sinner.
  • God’s love is high enough to take us to heaven.

Paul wants us to lean deeply into the everlasting and unmeasurable love of Christ.  In that love we are filled with the fullness of God.  Clarke writes “Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest. To be filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the fullness of God is still greater; but to be filled with all the fullness of God utterly bewilders the sense and confounds the understanding.”  That’s what God offers us through our relationship with Christ.  Do you have that?

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2 is a  power chapter where Paul breaks down the reality of life with and without Christ. His statements are long with a lot of words and pacted with truth, but they give us a true picture of how things truly are. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”.  Based on our own efforts, we are toast.  We are sinners following an enemy in a life of disobedience without a future or a hope.

But God offered us a different option.  Not because He had to, but because He loves us.  “But God, being  rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.  How does God love us?  With His mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and His grace (giving us what we don’t deserve).  That’s His love in a nutshell.

Then Paul shares the simplest reality of salvation in all of scripture.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.  God’s offer of salvation is freely given and can only be received through accepting it as the gift through which it was offered – a faith relationship through Jesus Christ.  There is nothing we can do to earn or achieve salvation on our own – no matter how hard we try.  Salvation does not result from how hard we work or what we do.  It comes only through faith and personally receiving Christ as God’s gift of grace to cover the penalty of our sin.

Does that mean we can just receive Christ through faith and then sit around until we die?  Not hardly.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.  Doing things don’t save us, but are certainly a result of being saved.  When we receive Christ, our heart becomes focused on serving God and others – fulfilling the Great Commandments that Jesus taught – and we are motivated to serve others.  We transition from being “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” to a place where everything changes when we are saved.  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”.

 Paul shares the reality of life with Jesus.  “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility….For  through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and  members of the household of God….In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”.  When we receive Jesus He tears down the walls that keep us from God because of our sin, and builds in us a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.  But it only happens when we make the step of receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.  We have to make God’s gift of grace and mercy our own.  Until then, we live lost and apart from God’s glorious plan for our life!

Luke 18

In Luke 18, Jesus shares some parables and lessons. His first is around how we “ought always to pray and not lose heart”.  One part of prayer is persistence.  Jesus tells the story of a widow who kept coming over and over to the judge seeking justice.  God wants us to persevere in prayer.  When we do, Jesus says “will not God give justice to  his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily”.  Jesus makes it clear that we need to continue to pray and not give up.  Throughout scripture, we’re told that God listens and answers.  We merely need to keep asking.

The question comes to Jesus about how we should prayer.  He gives two examples – one on how not to pray – on on how to do it:

  • “The PhariseeGod, I thank you that I am not like other men
  • the tax collectorbe merciful to me, a sinner”!

Jesus makes it clear that it is the tax collector who will be saved – “this man went down to his house justified”.  It wasn’t the religious leader that He was speaking about.  It was the tax collector who humbly prayed to God as a sinner who needed mercy, not a prideful religious leader that feels like he is good enough on his own.

Jesus is among the people and parents are bringing their kids to Him.  “When the disciples saw it, they rebuked them”.  Jesus was too busy to spend time with kids.  He had more important things to do.  But Jesus has a different plan.  “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God”.  Jesus was not only blessing the children but goes on to say “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”.  These little kids were the example of the kind of faith that is needed to gain eternal life.  True, complete faith.

A ruler came and asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life”?  Jesus gives him the first bar – “You know the commandments”.  The first thing is to obey what God has told us in His Word.  And when the ruler said he was good on that, Jesus gives him the second requirement.  “ One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor”.  Obedience is one thing, but a willingness to give up control to all we have is another.  We have to put our faith and trust in Christ.  Unfortunately, “when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich”.  He wasn’t willing to let go of his ‘stuff’ and follow Jesus completely.

There is a cost to being a Christ Follower.  In fact, it costs us everything.  But Jesus makes it clear that “there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life”.  Following Jesus will cost you everything, but it will return even more.  We have to let go to be able to receive all.  It’s a difficult thing to do, but the rewards are beyond anything we can imagine!

Luke 16

In Luke 16 Jesus teaches His disciples about money.  He tells a story of the rich manager who was being fired from his job, and decides to call all the debtors to the business he was managing and offer them a reduced level of debt.  His logic was that it would build good will, and once he was fired and on the street it would provide him some friends and places to go.  The truth of the matter is that you can’t buy friendship.  But Jesus’ lesson was about much more – the importance of integrity and honesty.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own”?  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be honest in all things we do.  And when we are not, there is a price to pay.  Our character matters and will cause issues if we don’t live it well.

He goes on to share an important principle.  “You cannot serve God and money”. He doesn’t say that money is evil.  But He does make it clear that it competes for our heart and can get in the way of our serving God.  The reality is that money can cause us to prioritize the wrong things, and put stuff ahead of God and people.  We can only have one Master in our life.  We can’t have split allegiance.  God doesn’t share that spot well, actually not at all.  He insists on being Lord, the King of Kings, and that means money has to serve Him, and what matters to Him.

Jesus finishes the teaching by telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man who suffered much on this earth but ended up sitting next to God.  The rich man could see him across the chasm from hell, and asks God to allow Lazarus to give him some relief from the very uncomfortable place he was.  God says no, and we need to heed the reality that there is a big difference in eternity between heaven and hell.  The rich man then asks that someone be sent to warn his family.  Jesus says “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”.  We all face a very real judgment.  We’ll stand before God one day.  We need to listen and heed the truth that the Bible contains.  Sin is a real problem that will cause eternal separation from God.  We can avoid that, but we have to take action while we are living.  Are you ready?

Luke 10

Luke 10 gives us the plan Jesus has to reach the world – 2 by 2 evangelism.  He appointed 72 others and sent them out in pairs to spread the good news.  “The Lord appointed  seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go”.  John the Baptist was tasked with preparing the way of the Lord originally, but now, Jesus sends out groups of two into every town and place he is planning to go.  That was quite a group of preparers, but Jesus is kicking his ministry into high gear.

Why?  He makes it clear.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are fewTherefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”.  That hasn’t changed.  The harvest today is still plentiful – but we get so busy living our own lives and caught up in the chaos of the world that we don’t share the Good News with those in our patch.  Jesus warns his disciples: “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves”.   The world was a rough place back then, and it is no different today.  The enemy wants to destroy all Christ Followers, whether we’re doing the work of the ministry or not.

Jesus makes it clear that like the four kinds of soil that God’s Word can be sown upon, there are two kinds of towns that the disciples would encounter:

  1. “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you
  2. But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near”.

As we share the Good News, we must never forget that we are not responsible for the response.  The harvest belongs to God.  Our job is to live our lives in a way that others can see Jesus in us, and to speak the Good News to those we come across in a way they can understand it.  It is up to them as to their response.  We will not see everyone receive it with joy.  But that isn’t what we are tasked with.  We are to go and share!

Jesus is asked a very important question – maybe the most important question of all that each of us need to know the answer to.  “Teacher, what shall I do to  inherit eternal life”?  A simple question, but profound in its impact.  Eternity is a very long time.  We need to know, with confidence and assurance, the answer to that question for our life.  Jesus told the man “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”.  The two great commandments where Jesus summarizes all the law down to these things.  Unfortunately, we all fall short.  That’s why we need Jesus.  Christ alone is the way to eternal life.  There is no other path!

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