to God’s Way
A true story was told of a beggar who stopped
a lawyer on the street and asked him for a quarter. Taking a long, hard
look into the man's unshaven face, the attorney asked, "Don't I know you
from somewhere?" "You should," came the reply. "I'm your former classmate.
Remember, second floor, old Main Hall?" "Why, Sam, of course I know you!"
Without further question the lawyer wrote a check for $100. "Here, take
this and get a new start. I don't care what's happened in the past, it's
the future that counts." And with that he hurried on down the street.
Tears welled up in the man's eyes as he walked
to a bank nearby. Stopping at the door, he saw through the glass the well-dressed
tellers and the spotlessly clean interior. Then he looked at his filthy
rags. "They won't take this from me. They'll swear that I forged it," he
muttered as he turned away.
The next day the two men met again. "Why,
Sam, what did you do with my check? Gamble it away? Drink it up?" "No,"
said the beggar as he pulled it out of his dirty shirt pocket and told
why he hadn't cashed it. "Listen, friend," said the lawyer. "What makes
that check good is not your clothes or appearance, but my signature. Go
on, cash it!"
Sometimes it is just as hard for sinners
to cash in on God’s forgiveness. We think God will not accept us
as we are; out of fear of rejection we refuse the proffer of salvation.
God’s grace has provided for our salvation. It has nothing to do with a
good name or a bad name; it only has to do with God’s provisions. Salvation
has nothing too do with how often we have sinned, or how many times we
have sinned. It only has to with the fact that God has already offered
the acceptable sacrifice for our sins. The sacrifice God has made was for
all sin, both great and small. It was for every sin ever committed or that
will ever be committed.
Submitting to God’s Righteousness
Why is it so hard to submit our souls
to the salvation so freely given by God? God’s offer is a free
gift of his grace through faith in Christ. It is offered to all who are
lost. According to Paul all are lost. (3:23) Why do so many think there
must be another way? What God has given seems so simple.
When God gave Moses the law in the wilderness,
he gave it in simple terms so they could understand it. Moses says, "Now
what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your
reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend
into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is
it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to
get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near
you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set
before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction." (Deuteronomy
God’s law is simple and adequate. When
God set before the Israelites the law of life and prosperity, death and
destruction, God wanted them to understand what he had given them was enough.
They wouldn’t have to seek additional revelation. The law was near them,
it was in their hearts. The law was understandable and they wouldn’t need
to seek to simplify it. However, in spite of its simplicity, the Jews went
about to establish their own way of righteousness.
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to
God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about
them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought
to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. (NIV)
The Jews believed salvation was exclusively
for the Jew. They rejected Jesus Christ because he offered salvation
to all alike. They couldn’t see God saving anyone outside the Jewish race
without them first becoming a Jew. It was hard for them to understand that
God’s sovereign plan included everyone with no exception. The Jews refused
to submit themselves to God’s righteousness as they sought to establish
their own righteousness. They sought to make Christ conform to their way
of thinking. They wanted to ascend to God’s throne to tell him what kind
of Messiah they wanted.
There is an inherent weakness in religion.
After we have practiced it for a while, we begin to think God owes us something
for our sacrifice of time and effort. We begin to think our religious zeal
is the means to our salvation. When we begin to think God owes us something
for our effort, it is only naturally to think---the more zealous we are
the more God is indebted to us. When we adapt this mind set it is easy
to believe some are more deserving than others because of their tireless
effort. As religion becomes the focal point, we lose sight of God. Religion
can leave us lost in a maze seeking to make ourselves righteous before
God through human effort.
Many today are like the Jews---- they
have a hard time accepting God’s righteousness. We had rather work
for it than accept the free gift God offers through Jesus Christ. The Jewish
religion of works makes it abundantly clear that we can’t receive it by
works. They were zealous for God, but their zeal was without knowledge.
They refused to accept God’s sovereign plan to save every person through
the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They sought to establish their own means
of righteous acceptability before God. They sought it through a system
Religion may lead us to twist the scriptures
to our own destruction. There were those in Peter’s day who were
questioning God’s plan and his promises. Peter writes, "Bear in mind
that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul
also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way
in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain
some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people
distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."
(2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV)
The only way to be righteous before
God is to accept the righteousness he offers. He is willing to
give it to us. Christ lived a perfect life and made the perfect sacrifice
for our sins. God is more than willing to accept his righteousness for
God’s Plan for Our Righteousness
God in his sovereignty has chosen to
save the world in Christ. Paul has gone to great extremes in Romans
to reveal that no one is righteous, and no one can be righteous before
God without faith in Jesus Christ. In writing to the Ephesians, Paul speaks
of God’s predestined plan and personal faith with the same stroke of the
In him we were also chosen, having
been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything
in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who
were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with
a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing
our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--
to the praise of his glory. (NIV)
It is obvious that God has a predestined
plan and he is working everything out to conform to that plan.
It is obvious that all who choose to believe are included in that plan.
you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the
gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with
a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance
until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise
of his glory." It is obvious that everyone can be included in God’s
plan as they obey God.
Some teach there is an unpardonable
sin. They believe it is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven
men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone
who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who
speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age
or in the age to come." (Matthew 12:31-32 NIV) Growing up, I always
heard these verses taught in regards to an unpardonable sin. One for which
there was no forgiveness. It left one believing that one could commit a
sin that was unpardonable. If one committed this sin, one was outside of
God’s forgiveness with no hope of salvation. To say it is unpardonable
leaves no room for repentance. However, the word unpardonable is not found
in these verses. However there is a sin, which cannot be forgiven.
In these verses Jesus is saying there is no
forgiveness for one who rejects God’s plan of salvation revealed by the
Holy Spirit. To reject the Holy Spirit’s teaching concerning salvation
is to reject God’s plan to save you. The Jews could reject and crucify
Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness. In fact, Jesus prayed, "Father forgive
them, for they know not what they do," as he hung on the cross. But, they
could not blaspheme the Holy Spirit and be forgiven. When Christ died on
the cross he sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and to reveal
God’s plan to save those convicted. The Holy Spirit’s revelation of God’s
plan to save the world through Jesus Christ is God’s last revelation. It
is the last call to salvation for everyone. If we reject the Spirit’s call
there is no forgiveness for we blaspheme the Holy Spirit’s proffer for
salvation. There is no way we can be saved as refuse the only means of
We can refuse to be included in the
plan of God. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not an unpardonable
sin unless we refuse to repent of it. It is possible to blaspheme the Holy
Spirit in rebellion and then turn to him in obedience for salvation. The
moment we turn and accept the Spirit’s plea---we are saved. It is only
unpardonable if we refuse to repent and turn to Christ through the message
of the Spirit.
The Jews refused to be included in God’s
plan. The Jews of whom Paul speaks are committing the sin of blasphemy
against the Holy Spirit. They refused to accept the Spirit’s teaching that
salvation was for everyone who believed in Christ. Paul said, "Christ is
the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who
believes." (Romans 10:4 NIV) Israel refused to hear. They sought their
own way of righteousness. Israel heard the word proclaimed, but they were
unwilling to heed its message.
But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they
did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends
of the world." Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
"I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you
angry by a nation that has no understanding." And Isaiah boldly says, "I
was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who
did not ask for me." But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have
held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (NIV)
We Must Call Upon the Lord
"Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved." This is God’s plan of salvation. The only
persons these verses exclude are those who refuse to call upon the name
of the Lord. The verses presume everyone has a right to call upon the Lord
for salvation. There has been no arbitrary decision made by God to allow
some to call upon him while refusing to allow others to call upon him.
It is simple; God’s sovereign plan includes everyone. It only excludes
those who refuse to accept God’s sovereign plan to save them.
But what does it say? "The word is near you;
it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are
proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and
believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is
with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says,
"Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there
is no difference between Jew and Gentile-- the same Lord is Lord
of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved." (NIV)
We are required to trust God’s plan
for salvation. It is very difficult to fathom the depth of God’s
thinking—in fact it is impossible. This is why faith is required. We know
God knows what he is doing. Therefore we can trust him in simple faith.
If we trust him we will not be put to shame on judgement day.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond
tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and
through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Trusting God does not require tracing out
his plans or knowing the depth of his mind. It simply requires accepting
his plan for salvation.
The Lord richly blesses all who call
on him---God’s plan involves accepting personal responsibility. Calling
on the name of the Lord simply requires us to come alive to Christ, as
we renounce traditions which have been handed down to us.
1 Peter 1:18-23
For you know that it was not with perishable
things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way
of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious
blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before
the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your
Through him you believe in God, who
raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope
are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth
so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply,
from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed,
but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
God does not arbitrarily save you against
your will. You must come to him on his terms. He has chosen to
save everyone in Christ, but you must come to Christ.
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus
is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (NIV)
You must confess with your mouths and
believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. True
confession is more than uttering words. Confession involves confessing
and forsaking our sin. When the Ephesians came to Christ they openly confessed
their evil deeds and burnt their sorcery bibles to embrace Jesus Christ.
Many of those who believed now came and openly
confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought
their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the
value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this
way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (NIV)
The Ephesians confessed Christ as they
renounced their sins. Confessing Christ involves renouncing our
sinful way to walk in the light Christ provides.
1 John 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him
and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If
we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and
do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the
light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his
Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive
ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful
and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word
has no place in our lives. (NIV)
Confessing Christ relieves us from carrying
the burden of our own sin. A preacher of the early 1900’s said
that when he was 12 years old he had killed one of the family geese by
throwing a stone and hitting it squarely on the head. Figuring his parents
wouldn't notice that one of the 24 birds was missing, he buried the dead
fowl. But that evening his sister called him aside and said, "I saw what
you did. If you don't offer to do the dishes tonight, I'll tell Mother."
The next morning she gave him the same warning. All that day and the next
the frightened boy felt bound to do the dishes. The following morning,
however, he surprised his sister by telling her it was her turn. When she
quietly reminded him of what she could do, he replied, "I've already told
Mother, and she has forgiven me. Now you do the dishes. I'm free again!"
Believing requires us to die with Christ
in baptism so that we may come alive to him in the present.
He said to them, "Go into all the world and
preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized
will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (NIV)
Or don't you know that all of us who were
baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore
buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ
was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live
a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we
will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know
that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might
be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone
who has died has been freed from sin. (NIV)
God’s Salvation Must Be Proclaimed
God does not arbitrarily save the lost
without a proclamation of the word of Christ. It is essential for
the message to be proclaimed. Today there is a necessity for this message
of salvation to be proclaimed into all the earth. Not only are you included
in God’s plan to save the world through Jesus Christ, God also shares the
responsibility of proclaiming the message with you.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed
in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And
how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach
unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of
those who bring good news!" But not all the Israelites accepted the good
news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" Consequently,
faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through
the word of Christ. (NIV)
There is a dire need to preach the simple
message of salvation to a lost world. How can they hear unless we preach
it? How can we preach if no one sends and supports preachers? The message
of salvation is heard through preaching the word of Christ.
God has chosen to save every person through
the sacrifice of Christ. You are included in his plan through your willingness
to confess Christ as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him
from the dead.
If you believe God resurrected Christ from
the dead you must allow him to be resurrected in your heart as you strive
to live according to his commands. This is the only real proof that we
have been saved.
Will you not allow Jesus Christ to be resurrected
in your hearts today? Will you confess him today? Jesus says, "I am the
way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through
me. (John 14:6 NIV)