Friday, July 5, 2013

How Can the Death of Jesus Lead to Your Salvation?

Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 19:25-27, John 3:16, Matthew 19:17, Matthew 19:21:22

Let's place ourselves (hypothetically, of course) in the position of Jesus.  Imagine for a moment being born in a stable and placed in a manger.  Picture having your birth announced by angels.  How would you feel if wise men and shepherds came to pay homage?  What if a king tried to kill you just because you were born and your very existence felt threatening to him?

Imagine knowing, at least by the age of 12, that a good and close friend would betray you or that the leaders of your religion hated you.  Suppose you knew that you would be put to death because of a bloodthirsty vote of your peers and that you would be hung on the cross until dead -- while in your early thirties.  Not a pretty picture is it?  And yet that is what Jesus Christ of Nazareth willingly faced so that we might be saved from our sins.

He fulfilled his job long ago.  Now, what must we do to be saved?

In Ephesians 2:8-10, Jesus tells us that salvation is not by works -- so no point in bragging about what we do.  He tells us salvation is by the grace of God; that's grace through faith -- our faith.  It is a gift from God.

Is he telling us not to do good works?  Not at all.  He is simply telling us that good works alone will not take us to the kingdom of heaven.  If we have works without belief, our souls will not be saved.

Our salvation is a gift from God -- the God that sent his only begotten son that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but have eternal life. 

Who can be saved, you wonder?  In Matthew 19:25-27, Jesus tells us that humanly speaking, nobody can be saved -- but with God, all things are possible.  Once again, our salvation comes from God so it is possible with him.

Salvation comes through faith and through belief.  In John 3:16 we read "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Think for a minute about babies at Christmas.  The first year, they respond to the bright lights and the happiness of those around them.  By the second year they begin to have the concept that good things come at Christmas.  Most people are happier and more loving and giving.  Mom and Dad have usually introduced them to Santa Claus by then.  With wide eyes and expectant hearts they know that joy is coming to their lives.

Jesus told us that we had to become like children and to believe just because we were told about God and heaven.  We were to have a child's trust and faith and to believe him with complete and utter confidence that it is so because he told us it is so.

What exactly is faith?  "Faith isn't something you get -- it is something you have or don't have."  Kenneth Copeland

Faith is simply believing in something that you cannot see, cannot touch, cannot smell and cannot hear.  It's believing in something that's not logical.  It's believing even when men revile you or persecute you or say all manner of false things about you for Jesus' sake.

It is believing even when people say you are crazy for believing.  Remember Noah?  God told Noah to build that boat.  The rains are coming, Noah.  You need that boat to survive the flood.

Remember how his neighbors all laughed and pointed fingers at him?  Noah got quite a reputation in his neighborhood.  You might say he was the neighborhood joke.  But Noah had faith that God had instructed him to build a boat and so he BELIEVED, he ACTED ON THAT BELIEF, and he was saved from the flood -- he and his family and the animals, two by two.

You and I, we didn't get to live when Jesus walked the streets, trusting good people to feed Him and his disciples.  We didn't get to see Him touch a leper and see the man made whole.  We didn't get to graze the hem of his garment and feel our bodies healed.  How anyone could have watched him perform those miracles and not know and understand that he was the son of God is unbelievable to me.  But there were many then and many more now that spit in the eye of the truth.

In an eulogy, Princess Diana's brother said he thought that the constant search of the media, and many people, for flaws in Diana was caused by the need of those at the low end of the moral spectrum to find something wrong with those who are truly good.  How much more might this be said of Jesus, the true Son of God?  The truth and goodness which he represented provoked jealousy, anger and murder to those who were less good than he.

Faith is complete and utter trust.  Faith is belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Faith is unwavering confidence in the words of Jesus.

Salvation is a GIFT FROM GOD.  We don't own it -- it's not a right.   In fact, for those not born to the Jewish faith, it was a gift not originally meant for us.  It is not our birthright.  It is only when we TRULY BELIEVE that we are granted salvation at all.  We can't earn it by doing good works.  We do good works because our faith leads us to do them and because Jesus told us to go into all the earth and preach the gospel to all the people.  When we do good things for others we are doing it as if we are doing it for him.  But good works are not to earn salvation; they are to serve Jesus and to take his message to others in need.

In Matthew 19:21, a rich man asked Jesus the route to salvation.  Jesus suggested the man sell all he had -- give to the poor -- and follow Him.  The man went away in sorrow because he could not fulfill Jesus' command.  Jesus then told his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Today we are told that the eye of a needle was a reference to a small door in the wall surrounding towns back then.  Animals entered and exited through them).

Did Jesus mean we couldn't be saved if we have money?  Probably not.  He probably meant that most rich men value their money more than they value eternal life.  They live for the comfort of now rather than the comfort of the future.  Money is their false god.

Mother Teresa did exactly what Jesus said.  She felt in her heart of hearts that God had called her to sell all her belongings, give to the poor and commit her life to helping the impoverished.  She did what God asked.  It is said that when she died, she owned the sari of the order she founded, two pair of sandals and two pair of eyeglasses.  But those who met her say she was a woman totally devoted to God and a person of joy.

Jesus' disciples, puzzled at his response to the rich man, asked how a person could reach the kingdom of heaven.  He told them by keeping the commandments of God, of which the most important is to love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.

The route to salvation is placing God above service to wealth or other false goals.  In Matthew 19:21-22, Jesus tells us to forget the wealth and come FOLLOW HIM.

In summary --  salvation is a gift from God given by the grace of God.  It is received through faith in God by believing in Jesus who died on the cross that we might be saved.  It is facilitated by obeying God's commandments and by following Jesus, not the false glitter of the world.

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