Pastor Ryan shares how salvation is a gift from God by grace through faith available to all. He challenges us to stop trying to add to what God requires for Salvation and to humbly submit to Jesus to the be hero of our lives.
- In what ways are you tempted to ADD the saving work of Jesus? Jesus PLUS Knowledge? Jesus PLUS Good Deeds? Or Jesus PLUS Obedience?
- When you think about the non-Christians in your life, do most of them seem to not NEED a Savior, not WANT a Savior, or not BELIEVE a Savior exists? What does that say about the culture we live in?
- Take a moment to thank God for the incredibly generous and loving gift of freely given grace – of his favor to adopt us into his family. Meditate on what it means that God rescued and delivered you from sin, shame, death, judgement, fear, and bondage.
Message Manuscript Below
We’re Looking for a Hero
Over the past year, I feel bad for movie theaters. Who has gone to a movie in the past year? Anybody? Now I’m no movie buff, but I make my way to a theater a couple times a year. And I miss the opportunity to go overpay for popcorn and a drink entirely too big for one person to watch a story I’ve already seen a hundred times. Now let’s be real, there are really only so many stories that movies tell – the coming of age, the falling in love, the underdog overcoming a struggle, and of course, the story of the hero!
So often, in the story of the hero, it is someone who is not the obvious choice. He or she must succeed against all odds to rescue someone (or an entire planet) from destruction. I’m guessing you are all more than aware of at least a few movies that share this storyline.
The reason hollywood can make so many movies with this general theme is because there’s something inside us that loves a hero who saves helpless and vulnerable people. It’s the story of salvation! Oddly enough though, we don’t often think of ourselves as the people needing to be saved, but we want to be the hero. Kids never play the damsel in distress. They want to be the good guy, the hero.
And it’s no wonder that we are wired to love the story of the hero, after all, we’re created in God’s image. But the problem is, in the cosmic story of God, we are not the hero. He is. We are the poor, pitiful people who are facing ruin without a savior stepping in.
Today we are picking up our series on The Essentials, those beliefs we at Ashworth deem as primary importance. And today’s topic builds on those that have come before it. So far we have learned about GOD who is the creator and sustainer of all things. Then we learned about ourselves, human beings, God’s pinnacle of creation and how we were created with incredible potential but marred that perfection through sin which now eternally separates us from God. But Jesus, the Son of God, fully human and fully divine, came to this earth to live a perfect life, die on the cross defeating death and the grave, rise to new life and now sits in glory in Heaven.
Today we will look at the reason WHY God sent his son Jesus to this world. To Save Us. Jesus didn’t come just to be a model citizen or teach great lessons. His purpose was bigger. He is the Hero of a cosmic story, the Savior of our entire world.
The Who of Salvation
Let’s take a look at our belief statement about the salvation Jesus made possible:
Salvation is a gift from God to all people.
First, we see that Salvation is a Gift. We (anybody who is willing to receive it) are the recipients of that Gift and God is the giver of the gift. That means we are the ones IN NEED OF THE GIFT. We are the one who are stuck in our sin with no way to free ourselves from the bondage we have created for ourselves. And God, as the giver of Salvation, is the ONLY ONE who can offer this Salvation.
Sure, we might want to think of ourselves as the Hero of our own story who can achieve some level of merit to earn our salvation, but that’s not how the story goes. All through Scripture we see God choose to save Noah from the Flood, and the Isrealites from captivity in Egypt. He saves David from the Philistines and again rescues his people out of Babylon. In every story, God is ALWAYS THE HERO. And that’s why he is the hero of our own story of salvation.
What is Salvation?
Let’s continue looking at our beliefs:
We can never make up for our sin through self improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can we be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins at the moment one receives Christ into their life by faith.
Looking at this statement we see 2 things: We are saved from the penalty of sin and given eternal life. Basically, this comes back to our statement on Humanity – Heaven vs Hell. And this is true. The gift of salvation removes the penalty of Hell and offers us eternal life with God in Heaven.
BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE! I sound like the infomercial guy – “But wait, there’s more!”
In the OT, the hebrew word “Yesa” as well as the NT word “Sozo” carry a wider meaning than our limited meaning we think of when we say saved. These words can be translated as Rescue/ Help/ Deliverance from… This word points to a liberation. But liberation from what?
- from sin and guilt (Rom. 5:1; Heb. 10:2)
- from the law and its curse (Gal. 3:13; Col. 2:14)
- from death (1 Pet. 1:3–5; 1 Cor. 15:51–56)
- from judgment (Rom. 5:9; Heb. 9:28)
- from fear (Heb. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:7, 9)
- from bondage (Tit. 2:11–3:6; Gal 5:1)
There is so much that could be said about all these things, but suffice it to say, when Christians say that we have ABUNDANT LIFE in Jesus, this is what it is talking about. Freedom from all these things that hold us back so we can LIVE FOR GOD, using the gifts and passions he has put inside us.
One quick disclaimer here: NOWHERE in scripture do we see Salvation pointing to material prosperity, health and wellness, or protection from all danger and trials. All of the apostles lacked these things, and they had incredible faith. It is an AMERICAN LIE that belief in Jesus should be accompanied by an easy, healthy, comfortable life.
How to Receive this Salvation?
So now that we know what salvation is (and isn’t), the next question we have to answer is how does the Bible say we receive this good gift from God? Paul is very clear about this in his letter to the Ephesisans:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
As long as people have had breath, we have been trying to find ways to obtain salvation. The ancients tried to appease the god’s through sacrifice. The Pharisees tried to achieve salvation through obedience to the law. Shortly after Jesus life, the Gnostics tried to gain salvation through a spiritual wisdom. In the Middle ages it was through indulgences or good works. All through time, including today – we are seeking salvation through other means than Jesus. Sure since the time of Jesus, Christians have known he is key to salvation, but even then, we often add something to the requirement for salvation. We make it Jesus PLUS. We still see it today.
- Jesus PLUS Knowledge
- Jesus PLUS Good Deeds
- Jesus PLUS Obedience (Baptism, no smoking/drinking/gambling/swearing)
But what we see in scripture is that God always saves solely because of his good grace, his choosing, his goodness. Its all because of him – not because of anything we add to our faith in Jesus. And so if there is something inside you that makes you feel special when comparing yourself to a non-Christian, you’ve got it all wrong. There is nothing you can boast about, other than God’s goodness and love!
Can I Lose my Salvation?
Now in the 2nd half of our belief statement, we explain something that is a historically baptist position about salvation – one my father in-law took issue with when I told him I as preaching this message. Let’s keep reading it:
Because God gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ and adopts them as his own, the believer is secure in that salvation for eternity. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. It is the grace and keeping power of God that provides this security. No power in the universe can separate God from His children.
A quick summary of this paragraph is that a believer in Jesus doesn’t need to worry that they are saved one day and then if they do bad stuff the next day that they are not saved until they repent again that night. There are Various Ways People Describe This Belief
- Once Saved, Always Saved
- Eternal Security
- Perseverance of the Saints
Just like how people have a different attitude about Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act which are 2 names for the same policy, how we describe this concept makes a big difference in how people feel about it. As opponents of this idea like to argue, the idea of “Once Saved, Always Saved” gives people the false impression that if they say a prayer at kids camp when they are 7 years old that they are good to go – they have their ticket to heaven the rest of their lives, regardless of how they live.
And I would agree – that is a dangerous position for somebody to hold. And I would argue that while somebody might say a prayer or say they accepted Jesus into their life, it’s entirely possible that all they were doing is paying lip service to Jesus – without ever putting a saving faith in him for the forgiveness of sins.
But it’s hard to argue against verses which support the idea that a person with an authentic saving faith never has to worry about losing their faith again – because your faith isn’t up to you, it’s a gift from God. Let’s take a look at John 10:
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.John 10:28-29 (NIV)
But What About…?
But let’s be honest here, we all know people who we thought were followers of Jesus who now we look at their lives and we wonder, if they died tonight, what would happen? In fact, that is such a powerful and worrisome question, it has been used as an evangelistic tool for decades now.
And while I know people want a clear answer here, I can’t do that from up front here. By telling people exactly what salvation looks like, by praying a prayer, we have mistakenly made countless people feel like they crossed the finish line of faith and are all set. That’s been a mistake, because taking that step of faith isn’t crossing a finish line but a starting line. It is a first step of salvation, but it should be followed by the long road of sanctification, of growing in Christ-likeness, and in bearing the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So if the best way we can identify if a person has a saving faith, it’s to look for fruit.
Because of how we see salvation here at Ashworth, we understand if some of you don’t feel like you can put your finger on a date as to when you became a Christian. Sure some people have that clear moment when they decided, like Paul on the road to Demascus. But many more of us start exploring, start going to church, try to learn more, act how we think God wants, and in time realize we are fully committed to Jesus. We realize we are bearing fruit and at some specific point, the Holy Spirit entered into our hearts and made us new creations in Christ. We just might not know the exact time. But God does, and really, that’s what matters.
How Will you Respond to a Savior
After all this talk about what salvation is, who needs saving, and how we are saved, the biggest question is, “How will YOU respond to this message about a Savior?”
Some people don’t believe this story that they need a savior. They can’t fathom being the pitiful people in need of a hero to rescue them. They want to be the hero. They know they have some rough edges, but nothing so bad that it requires a savior.
Some people don’t want a savior. They hear the story of Jesus and his offer of forgiveness and they reject him as savior. He is’t what they are looking for. He is asking for their humility and submission to his way of life – and that simply sounds unappealing. They would rather live the life they want, according to their own rules and let things shake out however they will at the end of their lives.
Still others don’t believe a savior exists. Don’t believe there’s a bigger story surrounding them. All of life is a cosmic accident without any grand meaning. This can lead to a fatalistic mindset that nothing has any value or importance beyond momentary pleasure or pain.
Finally, some others see their need for a savior, are glad to receive the deliverance from all the things that have bound them, and put their faith in Jesus. They believe and accept the free gift given by God described to us in the pages of the Bible.
This last position is where I hope you are. God desires that EVERYONE would receive deliverance from sin, shame, the law, the curse, etc. and follow Jesus. That is the life He created us for. It is the abundant life he has made available to us. And all he asks is that we allow him to be our HERO!