14 May 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 7, Salvation (part 2)

We pick up where we left off from last time, talking about The Preparation For Our Salvation. We saw that The Whole Trinity Was Involved. We have seen already that it was The Father's Choice, it was The Son's Cross. Next we see it is The Spirit’s Conviction. That there is nothing in us that desires to follow God, but we are drawn by the Holy Spirit.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to God because we don’t want to be drawn. When we are going on about our happy little lives, happily sinning our lives away, tra-la-la-ing our way toward the gates of Hell—the Holy Spirit enters in, breathes life into our dead spirit, and makes us alive to God. John 16:7-8“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” 2nd Corinthians 4:4But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. We cannot know how to please God unless He shows us. 1st Corinthians 2:11-14Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Why do we think they are foolishness? What condition is our spirit in when we are born? Ephesians 2:1You, therefore, being dead in trespasses and sins… Colossians 2:13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. So that's the Preparation For OUr Salvation.

Next, The Provision For Our Salvation. Matthew 1:21. Mary is with child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph wants to put her away privily (divorce her privately), but the angel tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” And again, when did God decide to send His Son? Before the foundation of the world, God provided an offering for our sins. He provided a Lamb. Why? For God so loved… Here’s a question for ya. Where is the first place we find the word “love” in the Bible? Yeah, Genesis, no kidding! Specifically, Genesis 22.

Genesis 22:1-2Now it came to pass after these things that God said, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering …" In verse 2, where does God tell Abraham to take his son? Moriah. Many Christian scholars, archaeologists, believe that this Moriah went by a different name by the time of Christ. Guess what that name was. Golgatha. Christ was most likely crucified in the same place where Isaac was offered as a sacrifice. But that Old Testament stuff is so boring! Look at verses 7-8Then Isaac said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Who will provide the Lamb? John 1:29“Behold the Lamb of God!”Behold the Lamb that God provided to take away the sins of His people! The Lamb that God provided as a burnt sacrifice! The Lamb that will be laid on the wood, and take the fire of God’s wrath!” God provided a Lamb for our sins. A spotless, sinless Lamb without spot or blemish.

Let’s talk about His Sinlessness. We went over this in a previous lesson, but we really need to stress it because there are a lot of “churches” that are teaching that Christ sinned, or that He at least wanted to sin. That is blasphemy. And yes, I will cross that line and use that word. I'll tell that to anybody. To say that Christ was capable of sinning is utter blasphemy! Who was Jesus? He was God! Can God sin? James 1:13-15Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. So, according to James, what are we tempted by? Our own desires. Where do those desires come from? Our flesh. Our sinful nature that we inherited from Adam.

Adam passed it down to all his children, his sons passed it to all their children, and then who passed it to us? Our human fathers. Did Christ have a human father? Did He inherit a desire to sin? We sin because of our desires, which spring from our sinful nature, which we inherit from our human fathers. Christ did not have a human father, did not inherit a sinful nature, had no desires that were opposed to God—do you think He could have sinned? This also throws out the window the Romish claim that Mary had to be perfectly sinless so that Christ could be born sinless. Jesus did not have a human father--that alone guaranteed He would be sinless.

When we sin, can we say we have been tempted by God? No. Why? Because He cannot be tempted by evil. Is Christ God? Can God be tempted with evil? "Well, wait a minute! Hebrews 4:15 says we have a High Priest who was in all points tempted as we are!" We need to make a distinction—Jesus was tempted with sin—but He was not tempted by sin. Temptation has two sides—the one doing the tempting, and the one being tempted. I can walk in with a bottle of liquor and say, “Hey, come on, let's roll!” But you can look at me and tell me to take a hike. In other words, I tempt you with something, but you are not tempted by it. 1st John 3:5 (NASB)You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 1st Peter 2:22 (NASB)He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. So that’s The Preparation, The Provision, and now The Procurement of Our Salvation. In other words, as the jailer cried out in Acts 16:30“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

First we need to have A Genuine Humility. Matthew 5:3-4, 6-8 (NASB)“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Acts 2:37They were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"Well, first you need to know that that God loves you very much and has a wondereful plan for your life!” How many times in Acts do we find the word “love?” ZERO!! Not once, in the entire book of Acts, do we EVER read anything about the apostles telling people "God loves you." If Rick Warren and Bill Hybels had written the book of Acts, Stephen would have been the most beloved man in all of Jerusalem because he never would have exposed the people's sins.

When the rich young ruler came up to Christ, asking Him how he could inherit eternal life, did Jesus beat around the bush? Did He say, "Well, you're doing pretty good. I mean, you're a good person, and God is really cheering you on. And He loves you very much." Did He try and sugar-coat His message in an attempt to be “relevant” to this young man? No. The first thing He did was to take him to the law. Matthew 19:16-22Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, “'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Christ simply showed this man the cost of eternal life. He did not want to pay it. Today he would have said, “I’m a successful attorney with high-powered clients! I’ve got a three-car garage, a house in an expennsive subdivision; I belong to to the country club, got a condo in Boca Raton. I’m supposed to give all that up for some pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by?” Around here, someone might say, “All I gotta do is sell a few bags on the corner and I make a ton of loot. I ain't gotta work, ain't gotta pay taxes. I got a shiny car with a boomin’ system and a set of 26’ spinnin’ rims. I got more girls than I know what to do with. I'm supposed to give all that up?” Now, did Jesus go chasing this guy? He simply laid it out there for him, said “Take it or leave it”—and he left it.

I have got to share something with you about this story of this young man. Let me give you one example of what a bold-faced liar Creflo Dollar can be. He was doing an interview with CNN. The lady asked him about this particular passage. Listen to what this man said, word-for-word. “If you keep reading down a few more Scriptures, it says, ‘And he received a hundred-fold, everything that he gave.’” That is NOT what it says. If that man does not repent he will have a lot to answer for one day. That is why I continue to point out people like this. So you will know to avoid them and not be deceived by them.

Eternal life requires A Genuine Humility. It requires A Granted Repentance. 2nd Timothy 2:24-26And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. It is God that grants us repentance. Do we want to repent? We would like nothing better than to continue our lives sinning and doing every other evil thing we please, thank you very much. Without repentance, there is no salvation. If we are going to teach the love of Jesus, we must teach repentance.

Matthew and Mark both tell of the first thing Jesus taught after He was baptized by John and tempted by Satan. What was that? Some people would have you think that the first thing He taught was for us to love one another and do good things and to help people and to not judge anybody and blah blah blah. NO! The first thing Jesus preached was “REPENT!” Turn away from your sin and return to God! And to us, the Holy Spirit preaches to us all our lives, but we keep throwing up blinders so we don’t see, we stop our ears so we can't hear, and then one day God gets sick and tired of us ignoring Him and the Holy Spirit reaches down and turns on the light in our spirit, and we see what a wretched sinner we are, and that God has been patient with us, not wanting us to perish until we do repent, and He puts a new spirit in us. And He shows us how worthless the things of this world are.

Then we mourn over the years we have spent serving our own desires. 2nd Corinthians 7:9-10Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner…For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. A Genuine Humility. A Granted Repentance. A Gift of Faith. Not only is our repentance a gift from God, but the faith we need for salvation comes from God as well. Romans 3:28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Romans 4:5But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

There are three components to saving faith. Knowledge. Romans 10:14How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Assent, or Acceptance of the facts as being true. James 2:19You believe God is one; you do well… Which brings us to Commitment. The rest of James 2:19…even the demons believe and tremble. Commitment is a trust in the person of Christ and striving to live a life that is pleasing to God, and show the world that you are His child. And the life we lead is of much more significance than any little prayer we pray. Because if we are going to go around bearing the title “Christian,” then we are telling the world “This is what Christ looks like.”

And for some people, the cause of Christ would be far better off is they would just not claim they are a Christian. Because they are showing the world a picture of a false Christ. I'm reminded of the story my fellow DefCon blogger Desert Pastor told of a young deserter from the army of Alexander the Great. When they brought the young man before the emperor, he asked the soldier his name.

The young man replied, “Alexander, sir.”

The emperor snapped back, “What did you say?”

Again, the reply “Alexander, sir!”

Alexander looked the young man dead in the eye and said, in no uncertain terms, “Then you either change your conduct or you change your name!”

When it comes to those who claim to be following Christ—if they have not changed their conduct, then God has not changed their name. Knowledge and assent are needed. But more than anything, a commitment must be made.

Let me close with an illustration. One of the classes I take for nursing is OB. We learn about the many processes of birth. One of the things that really struck me was when we take our first breath. See, in the womb, the child does not actually breathe. He is supplied with blood and nutrients through the umbilical cord. He doesn’t need to use his lungs, and in fact the only reason his lungs stay expanded and open is because of the amniotic fluid he is swimming in, which is filled with—you don’t even want to know. But here’s the thing—during birth, as the child is making his way through the birth canal, the lungs are squeezed through a tight space, and most of that gunk gets pushed out. And after they get squeezed coming through the canal, when his chest comes out, the first thing that child does is—it’s not to cry. Crying is not the first thing the child does. Before the child can cry, his lungs have to recoil—his lungs have to be filled with breath. Check this out—the Greek word for breath is pneuma. Want to know what else that word pneuma means? “Spirit.” Before we can cry out to God, we have to be filled with His breath—or, literally, His Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be…” what? Born again. You must be squeezed through a narrow way, you must push out all the stuff you were filled with before, and you must be filled with the breath—the Spirit—of God, so that you can cry out to God. How cool is that?

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