22 May 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 7, Salvation (part 3)

Salvation. We’ve been talking about it now for three weeks. We've seen where it comes from, who begins it, who saves us, how we are saved. We have seen all these things. But what do they mean? I mean, I’m saved—now what? Do I go about living my life as if nothing happened? Do I have to be always afraid that if I make one false step that I will be cast out of the kingdom of God? When it comes to salvation and what it means, we could come up with a thousand questions. Can I lose it? Oh, I can answer that one real quick—ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

There are some systems, some organizations that will tell you that outside of their group there is no salvation. That if you do not belong to this particular man-made group, you cannot be saved. The Roman Catholic system makes that claim, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Let me make this abundantly clear. Salvation does not come about by joining a particular “church.” Even this one. Salvation is a work of God. Period. I cannot save anyone. This church cannot save anyone. It is God who works in a person’s life to bring their dead spirit to life, to make that person righteous in His eyes, to redeem them from the kingdom of death and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, to reconcile that lost sinner who wanted nothing to do with God, and it is only by His grace that he forgives sins so that He might make us able to enter His rest.

We begin today by discussing The Particulars of Our Salvation. What is involved in our salvation? How does God save us? First, by Regeneration. Our pastor calls this, "A secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us." He has to! He has to breathe life into us because we are dead. We are born dead. When God warned Adam about eating from the tree in the Garden, He said “In that day you shall die.” The Hebrew literally means, “Dying, you will die.” Basically, God was telling Adam that if he ate of that tree, he would begin to die—not only physically, but spiritually as well. Did he die physically that day? Well, yes, in a way. He started to die--he began the dying process; cells in his body began to die. That death is passed on to all of us. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13 both tell us that we were dead in trespasses and sins. We are dead. We are born dead.

But when God sets out to save a person, the first thing He does is breathe His Spirit into that person to bring their dead spirit to life. Because He sees a person that has done so many wonderful things and so many good works that he has no choice but to save them, right? Uh...yeah. Titus 3:3-5For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. We are regenerated, brought to life by the Holy Spirit. Check out what the verses following Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 have to say. Ephesians 2:4-5He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, [and] made us alive together with Christ. Colossians 2:13He has made [you] alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Ezekiel 36:25-28“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them…you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Notice what God says here. I will cause you to walk in My statutes.” We don’t just decide one day to follow His laws. He causes us to do them!

Why does He do that? Because He HAS TO in order for us to follow them! That’s why He brings our dead spirit to life—so that we can walk in a way that pleases Him. Regeneration. Next is Redemption. Where do we usually see the word “redeem?” Coupons. When I redeem my coupon for 25 cents off a loaf of bread, what do I do? I hand a little slip of paper to the grocery clerk and that clerk removes 25 cents from the price of that loaf of bread. When we talk about biblical redemption, it’s kinda the same, but a bit different. When we are born, we were under the curse of the law. Every single person, Jew or Gentile, when we are born we are born under the law of sin and death. Whose law? God’s law. We owed a debt to God. Why do we owe that to God? Because of our sins. If that debt is not paid in this life, what will the payment be? Eternal punishment in Hell. It will be paid one way or the other. No way around it.

When Jesus died on the cross, He died, He ascended to Heaven, He entered the Most Holy Place in the heavens with His own blood. That blood removed from us the penalty we were due—but only for those who believe. Christ offered His blood to the Father, and--contrary to what the Roman Catholic will tell you, contrary to what the LDS will tell you, contrary to what the Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you--He didn’t just knock a few dollars off of our debt. His blood completely removed from us the price tag that was on our heads—the handwriting of ordinances against us—that price tag was given to the Father, and He destroyed it. No, you're right--God isn't fair! Ephesians 1:7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. 1st Peter 1:18-19you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Galatians 3:13Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. Galatians 4:3-5When we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But…God sent forth His Son…to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Titus 2:14—[Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Christ offered His blood to the Father as payment for our eternal spirit, that He might remove from us the price tag of eternal Hell. It’s not fair.

Next, Reconciliation. We hated God. Period. There’s no, “Well, I haven’t really made up my mind yet.” A person either loves God or hates God. Period. If someone hasn’t made up their mind—then they have made up their mind. And because we hated Him, He counted us as His enemy. Romans 8:7-8The carnal mind is enmity against God…those who are in the flesh cannot please God. James 4:4Friendship with the world is enmity against God. But, guess what God did? He sent His Son. Think about that. If I broke into someone’s house, stole their TV and their stereo, poured lighter fluid on everything and set it on fire. Became their enemy. They come to me, wanting to reconcile our relationship. I ask them, “Well, what can I do?” They tell me there’s nothing I can do. The only way to reconcile the two sides is for them to allow their son to die. “No, no! There has to be some other way!” No, there is no other way. Their son has to die. That’s what God did. We broke into His house, stole His stuff, set His stuff on fire—but He allowed His Son to die to pay for our actions.

There is nothing we can do to repair our relationship with God. Except to believe that He has done everything that needs to be done by allowing us sinful humans to put His Son to death. He sacrificed His Son for our lawless deeds. God is not fair. Colossians 1:19-21For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. Romans 5:10-11For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We did not want to make peace with God. And if He had not sent His Son, there never would be peace between God and any man. The whole lot of the human race would burn in Hell. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4). Reconciliation.

Finally, Forgiveness. I hope I can do this justice. Because this is the whole purpose of the gospel. That God forgives sinners. This, my friends, is the most important concept when it comes to understanding salvation. Because without God forgiving our sins, there is no regeneration; there is no justification, there is no redemption, there is no reconciliation. There is no way for our salvation to be possible without forgiveness of sins. In fact, without understanding forgiveness of sins, the gospel is not gospel. It is not “good news.” It’s just “news.” To hear some people talk, the only reason God sent His Son was just to show us how much He loved us, and to help us live in luxury. One fellow on TV had the audacity to declare that Christ came so you could pay your light bill and your phone bill. Quote--
“He said, ‘Because I live, you shall live also.’ He wasn’t just talking about breathing. He was talking about living an abundant life. Not a barely-getting-by life. Not a life filled with lack and mediocrity. No, because of the price He paid, we have a right to live in total victory. Not partial victory where we have a good family and good health—but we constantly struggle in our finances. That’s not total victory…He has paid the price so that we may be totally free…Free from poverty and lack. Free from low self-esteem…”

But that’s because Joel Osteen is afraid to talk about sin. Listen up my friends. The cross had nothing to do with your health, or your finances, or especially your self-esteem. In fact, if you were to ask the Lord Jesus Christ, He would probably say “To Hell with your self-esteem.” And I don’t say that to cuss, but that He would say, “Take your self-esteem and send it to Hell.” Because that’s where it belongs. God doesn’t care about your self-esteem!!!

Now, here’s the thing. Even though we are dead to God, even though we hate Him and reject Him at every turn, we still have the ability to do “good” things. “Wow, that Mr. Jingleheimer. He’s such a good person. He does so many good things. There’s got to be a special place in Heaven for him.” If he has accepted Christ as his Savior—there is. But if Mr. Jingleheimer has never asked the Lord to forgive his sins, has never called upon the name of Christ—then his place is not going to be in Heaven. That’s not my idea, folks. That’s the clear word of Scripture. Because without forgiveness of sins, there is no way for a person to enter into the Kingdom of God. Period, paragraph. Psalm 130:3-8If You, YHVH, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for YHVH, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning…O Israel, hope in YHVH; for with YHVH there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all iniquities. When those four men in the gospels brought their friend to Christ—their friend to who was bedridden with the palsy—when Jesus saw their faith, what did He say? "Thy sins are forgiven!" Kind of an odd thing to say. But that’s why Christ came. To forgive sins. Even that was only a part of His main goal.

His main mission was not to heal, was not to give sight to the blind and to heal lepers—and it sure as heck-fire was not to heal your bank account! Those things were part of His main goal which was what? To glorify the Father. Christ could have gone around restoring sight and healing lepers until the end of the age. But we would still be plagued by the curse of sin in our lives. See, the problem we humans have is not sickness, or poverty, or disease, or anything like that. Those are only symptoms. Just like a runny nose and a hacking cough are only symptoms of a cold. We can take cough medicine and stock up on Kleenex™ all we want. But until we get rid of our cold, we’re still going to have a runny nose and a hacking cough.

And I don’t care what Jesse Duplantis says, I don’t care what Kenneth Copeland say, I don’t care what Creflo Dollar says—just because a person is saved does not mean they will be free from this world’s troubles! It does not mean that we will stop having sickness and poverty and disease—because we live in a world and on a planet ruined by sin. Romans 8:20-24 (NLT)Everything on earth was subjected to [the] curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as [if] in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us…the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom.

It is sin that separates us from God. It is sin that causes sickness and poverty and disease. And only when all things are made new will those things be done away with. We believers in Christ will always deal with these things. But, with forgiveness of sins—and only by the forgiveness of our sins—God can allow us into His kingdom. Habakkuk 1:13You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Psalm 5:4-5For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. We could not be brought to life, we could not be reconciled to God, and we could not be redeemed from the kingdom of sin without the forgiveness of our sins.

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