Sunday, November 10, 2013

Salvation: Our Action or God's?

Assurance of our salvation is an issue for some.  Can I know for sure that I have done enough to be acceptable to the Lord?  In a similar vein, when we have conversations with people about a relationship with Christ, many believe they can do enough good to be acceptable to God.

So how much of our salvation depends on our actions and how much is God's action?

Here is what the Scriptures say:

2 Timothy 1:  8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Titus 3:  3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Ephesians 2:  8 For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Colossians 2:  13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Isaiah 64:  4 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf,  and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

God is amazing.  We are not deserving of anything because of our sin.  And nothing "good" we do is acceptable to pay the debt of our sin against the holiness and righteousness of God because it is all like filthy rags in comparison.  Yet God's grace "makes us alive" and gives us the opportunity to respond to Him by faith.  He forgives our sins based on Christ's death on the cross.

So our salvation is a work of the love, grace and mercy of Almighty God toward and in us.  And if it were not for His grace, we couldn't even respond to Him because we are dead in our sin.  Our salvation does not rest on us being acceptable to God by doing good.  That way none of us can boast about anything except the gift of God we have been given.  And any good that flows out of us after that is God carrying out His workmanship through us.

If you have received Him, thank Him.  If you have friends who are trying to earn their way to God and wonder if they have done enough, tell them.  Its all about God's amazing grace.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Its Time

1 Peter 4: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Its time. Judgment has begun. In fact, it has been going on for some time. But as we edge nearer to the end of time, it will increase. Just as those in Peter's day were facing "fiery ordeals," we face some today. Believers like our pastor friend Cedric are boldly preaching Christ in increasingly dangerous environments. We can pray for them.

We also will and do face some testings of various kinds. And what words of encouragement do we find here?

1. We get to share in the sufferings of Christ. And as we do that He reveals His glory in it. Notice what is said: When we are insulted for the sake of Christ, His Spirit of glory and of God rests on us.

2. We get to praise God for the opportunity to bear His name.

3. We get to understand the concept of eternal rewards. In quoting Proverbs 11:31, Peter is underscoring that the righteous will receive some of their rewards while here on the earth. This is in keeping with Jesus' teaching that the meek will inherit the earth. So while we receive some blessings now, the rewards that await us later are far greater. In the same way, the consequences the wicked receive now are only a taste and will be far greater for them in eternity.

This is why we are encouraged in the face of suffering to commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and keep doing good. Ever wonder where the phrase "whole hog" comes from? I believe it came from a conversation a chicken and pig had one time about a ham and eggs breakfast. The pig reminded the chicken that for the chicken that breakfast involved a contribution but for the pig it meant whole hog.

Let's not grow tired or discouraged but rather rejoice that we can be whole hog for our Savior, keeping eternity in view. Its time.