Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

John 4:42-47

John 4:42-47 has Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman and the people from her village who have come to see Jesus based on her testimony and invitation to ‘come and see’.  They’ve heard Jesus’ teaching, and believe He is the Messiah and Savior.  “They said to the woman, We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world”!  They came to see Jesus based on her words, but they realized that salvation comes from a personal relationship with the Savior, and they have come to believe in Him and make that personal.  She did what was needed to get them to the Savior. He did the rest!

Jesus moves on.  “After the two days he left for Galilee. Now, Jesus knew well from experience that a prophet is not respected in the place where he grew up. So when he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, but only because they were impressed with what he had done in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, not that they really had a clue about who he was or what he was up to”.  Galilee was Jesus’ country – where He grew up. Because those from His home area felt so familiar with Jesus, they did not honor Him the way they should have. The locals from His area were impressed but it was dependent on the wonders arising from their sight of the signs He had performed in Jerusalem, not on a realization that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

Jesus is in Cana, the place He performed His first miracle.  “Now he was back in Cana of Galilee, the place where he made the water into wine. Meanwhile in Capernaum, there was a certain official from the king’s court whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked that he come down and heal his son, who was on the brink of death”.  Jesus had made His home in Capernaum. Though Jesus was at Cana now in this chapter, the official travelled the 20 or so miles from Capernaum to Cana.  The situation is dire, and he came to beg Jesus to come heal his son.

This official believed Jesus could help because he knew that Christ had performed a miracle at the wedding.  Signs and wonders from God are obviously good things, but they should not form the foundation of our faith. We should not depend on them to prove God is alive and who He says He is. In themselves, signs and wonders cannot change the heart.  It requires us to have a personal relationship with the Savior, belief from our heart, not in what Jesus has done or can do, but in who He is and how He can change our hearts.  The official has faith in Jesus, not as Savior, but as someone who can do miraculous things.  That isn’t saving faith.

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John 4:35-41

John 4:35-41 has Jesus schooling the disciples on the harvest.  He has just told them that the harvest is plentiful and they shouldn’t just sit back and wait.  “These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time! The Harvester isn’t waiting. He’s taking his pay, gathering in this grain that’s ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant”.  Jesus used the idea of food and harvest to communicate spiritual ideas. The idea of harvest meant that there were many people ready to enter the Kingdom of God, and that the disciples should see themselves as workers or reapers in that harvest.

Spurgeon wrote ‘Expect a present blessing; believe that you will have it; go to work to get it, and do not be satisfied unless you do have it’.  Jesus challenges the disciples to get after it.  “That’s the truth of the saying, This one sows, that one harvests. I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others”.  This is a huge principle around evangelism.  It is rare that someone takes a non-believer from their place of non-belief, to become a Christ Follower.  Most of the time bringing someone to Christ requires time and the investment of many along the journey.  Jesus is teaching the disciples that although they hadn’t done anything to bring the Samaritan people to the place of being ready for harvest, they were in a place to be able to do that following the hard work of others.

The villagers had come to see Jesus.  “Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman’s witness: He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out! They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days”.  The Samaritan woman testified that Jesus knew all about her and those who knew her believed.  At that moment they did not know enough to trust Jesus and His work on the cross; but they could most certainly believe in Him as the Messiah of God. They did believe because of the word of the woman who testified.  Our most powerful witness is to share the impact of Jesus in our life, just as the Samaritan woman did.

They ask Him to stay, and Jesus obliges. This was remarkable in light of the opinions of most of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day regarding the Samaritans.  They were second class citizens and not worthy of a Jew interacting with them.  And because He stayed, the impact continued to grow.  “A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say”. The remarkable testimony of the woman at the well-connected these Samaritans from her village to Jesus; but in hearing Jesus teach themselves, they came to a deeper personal faith in Jesus as both Messiah (Christ) and the Savior of the world.  If we bring people to Jesus, He does the rest!

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”.

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!

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