Posts Tagged 'Our great salvation'

Panic Podcast – Hindrances to Spiritual Growth

Today, I conclude our Monday series, Our Great Salvation, by looking at some things that prevent us from become the mature Christians God is calling us to become.

 

Panic Podcast – The Holy Spirit and Our Great Salvation

The various ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and in the Church are the subject of today’s study in our series, Our Great Salvation.

 

Our Great Salvation, Final

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Jeremiah 8:20

 The harvest is finished; the summer is over, and we are not saved.   (TLB)

In our final look at Our Great Salvation, we’re going to look at a startling aspect of this topic:  people who think they are saved but are not.  Jeremiah 8:20, our text, has a real historical context that cannot be ignored, and we will examine that context shortly.  But there is real problem in the church of Jesus Christ today that, believe it or not, was predicted by our Lord before the first church was even built.

The field is the world, and the seed represents the people of the Kingdom; the thistles are the people belonging to Satan.  The enemy who sowed the thistles among the wheat is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels.  (Matthew 13:38, 39  TLB)

The Kingdom, of which the visible church is a part, is made up of true believers and unbelievers; that’s the whole point of the parables in Matthew 13.  A lot of those unbelievers think they are true believers, but in fact, they have never experienced any kind of meaningful conversion.  We have already learned that a “conversion experience” is a component of salvation; that a sinner doesn’t “ooze into” Christianity; he moves decisively from the darkness to the light.  That conversion experience is different for everybody, but nobody is born a Christian; nobody gets educated into being a Christian; going to church week after week doesn’t make anybody a Christian.

In its simplest terms, “to be saved” means to be separated from the world.  It means that, while at one time the things of this world nourished you and were the reasons behind everything you did; now everything you need is found in God.  It means living for God when once you lived for yourself.

You may wonder how this is possible; how can a person think they’re saved, but not be saved?  There are many reasons why this has happened, not the least of which is the altar call, the most ineffective way of bringing a sinner to Christ.  Anybody can “come forward” and think they are accepting Christ because they were emotionally moved by a stirring sermon.  But are they really saved?  The same thing is true of “confirmation,” a process many mainline denominations practice, whereby children who were baptized as infants go through a series of classes and tests and are finally deemed to be Christians when they pass those tests.  But are they really saved?

To help us understand this problem, we look back to a time before the church existed; back to the days of the prophets.

Historical context

Jeremiah had it tough.  It was his job to preach repentance to his people.  This he did for his entire life, yet they would have no part of it.  It was an uphill struggle for Jeremiah to fulfill the call of God on his life.  Beginning with chapter 7 of the book that bears his name, a great revival had broken out in the land of Judah.  You can read all about this in 2 Chronicles 34, 35 and in 2 Kings 22.

Young King Josiah had ordered the restoration of the Temple and its grounds.  After years of neglect, it had fallen into a sorry state of disrepair.  When the workmen had cleaned it up, a priest named Hilkiah, father of Jeremiah, found a long-lost copy of the Law.  Finding the Law, reminding the people of what it said, along with the restoration of the Temple, brought about a kind of national revival.  For the first time in a long time, the Temple was back in use, sacrifices were being offered and people from all over Israel streamed into the Temple.  It all looked very good.

But was it?

Then the Lord said to Jeremiah:  Go over to the entrance of the Temple of the Lord and give this message to the people: O Judah, listen to this message from God. Listen to it, all of you who worship here.   (Jeremiah 7:1, 2  TLB)

The message was not all that good.  Remember, the Temple was now back in use.  The Law was found again and was being taught.  Throngs of people came to the Temple, just like in the old days.  But God’s Word to the people was not a word of encouragement, but a word of warning to return to Him by changing their ways.  In other words, returning to the Temple was NOT the same thing as returning to Him.

You think that because the Temple is here, you will never suffer? Don’t fool yourselves! Do you really think that you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and worship Baal and all of those new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are saved!”—only to go right back to all these evil things again? Is my Temple but a den of robbers in your eyes? For I see all the evil going on in there.  (Jeremiah 7:8—11  TLB)

During Josiah’s day, returning to the Temple was THE thing to do because everybody was doing it.  However, many of those clamoring to get into the Temple were also visiting the other temples—temples of Baal.  These people wanted to have it all!  They wanted to worship Yahweh, but also Baal.  They wanted to be a part the believing class, but didn’t want to give up their sinful habits.  Their attitude, which may seem silly to us, was in reality a dangerous one.  They thought that just because the Temple was restored and a religious revival had broken out and the economy was doing well that God was happy with them, even while they continued to sin.  They believed God would just continue to bless them and protect them and that He was turning a blind eye to their sin.  They had completely deluded themselves into thinking they were saved.

Yet they were not.

Once again give them this message from the Lord: When a person falls, he jumps up again; when he is on the wrong road and discovers his mistake, he goes back to the fork where he made the wrong turn. But these people keep on along their evil path, even though I warn them.  I listen to their conversation and what do I hear? Is anyone sorry for sin? Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”? No, all are rushing pell-mell down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse rushing to the battle!   The stork knows the time of her migration, as does the turtledove, the crane, and the swallow. They all return at God’s appointed time each year; but not my people! They don’t accept the laws of God.  (Jeremiah 8:4—7  TLB)

So, things were bad in Judah in spite of what it looked like.  All those sins and idolatry were bad enough, but the worst thing of all was their rejection of God’s Word:

How can you say, “We understand his laws,” when your teachers have twisted them up to mean a thing I never said?  (Jeremiah 8:8  TLB)

And this is the biggest problem, not only in the church today, but in America as a whole.  In spite of Judah’s willful ignorance of God’s Law, they thought they were wise.  And it’s no different in America today.  We have enjoyed the blessings of a Godly heritage for generations, and we think they will continue because we “tip our hats to God” every now and again, and we open our ball games with a prayer, and our politicians talk about “God’s blessings.”  But, as we have seen, God wasn’t happy with His people merely because they crowded into the Temple while their hearts were far from Him, so what makes us think we’ll fare any better?   We have preachers twisting God’s Word out of all proportion so as to allow any and every sin; they never preach against anything for fear of offending their biggest givers.  We have a government making and enforcing ridiculous and often immoral laws because they are, by their own estimation, so much smarter than everybody else.  How are we any different from ancient Israel?  We deny God’s Word; we stubbornly refuse to do what it tells us, all the while talking about God’s presence among us and His blessings in our lives.  How deluded are we?  Do we really think God would put up with that kind of behavior for long?

Results

God is a God of love, yes.  However, He is also a God of righteousness and holiness and He demands those things from anybody who claims to be a believer.  Because of Judah’s continual sin and rebellion, God had no choice but to bring upon them the promised punishment, because He is also a God of justice.

Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.  (Jeremiah 8:10, 11  NIV)

Self-delusion plagued Judah and it’s a curse on American society today.  Like Judah of old, we are more concerned about our crops and grain than we are about our salvation.  We may have, for the moment at least, dencent retirement accounts and enviable lifestyles, but in the main most Americans can say along with the people of Judah, “We are not saved.”  It’s a pathetic place to find yourself:  more focused on the temporary things of this life than on your immortal soul.

The results of Judah’s pseudo-conversion were devastating.  Jerusalem was besieged.  Its inhabitants, suffering beyond measure, waited in vain for help to arrive, which it never did.  And it’s not like the Babylonian horde was a surprise to the people; prophet after prophet warned them that Nebuchadnezzar was closing in.  Time and again the people were opportunities to repent and “get saved.”

The questions we should all be asking ourselves are these:

Am I truly saved?  Only you can answer that question.  If someone were to ask you this question, you’d probably look at your questioner with a measure of contempt.  Yet the question must be answered:  Are you born again?  Or have you deluded yourself into thinking you’re saved?  Don’t let your present circumstances, good or bad, influence your answer.  It’s the state of your heart that’s important, not that of your bank account.  Have you experienced the life-changing power of Jesus Christ personally?  Is the Holy Spirit dwelling within you?  Many in the church today claiming to be Christians are, in fact, just very good people.  But they’re not saved.  They’ve never experienced the reality of the risen Lord.  How about you?

Where are you looking for salvation?  It’s heartbreaking to think of how many harvest times—how many golden opportunities have come your way, and you’ve not noticed.  Sermon after sermon; evangelist after evangelist; friend after friend; all these opportunities came your way, and you ignored them or brushed them off.  Where are you looking for salvation?  If you’re looking to your family, you’ll be disappointed.  If you are looking to your career, your education, your talents; all those things will not save you.  Only a relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ will save you.

Here’s the thing:  The salvation offered by God is great because He is a great God and He does so much for us. Sure, our entrance into Heaven for eternity is guaranteed; our sins are forgiven and we no longer have to worry about judgment and condemnation; for the first time ever, we may experience God’s agape love.  But our great salvation gives us a better today, not just tomorrow.  We may experience God’s richest blessings; His abundant provision; His personal care and protection; these are the wonderful benefits of salvation we may be enjoying today.  Everything you are looking for is found in one place:  Jesus Christ.  Get smart; get saved.

Our Great Salvation, 7

 BeFunky_benefits.jpg

Saved By His Life

 Romans 5:10

 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (NIV)

Hold on a second!  Weren’t we saved by His death?  What exactly was Paul saying here?  And to what life was he referring?  The life Jesus lived before the Cross?   The life He poured out on the Cross?  Or the life He is now living since the Cross?

Probably the best commentary on this one verse (also the shortest) comes from J. Vernon McGee, who simply wrote:

You see, He died down here to save us; He lives up yonder to keep us saved.

Who are we to argue with Dr. McGee?   Paul cannot be referring to the life Jesus lived before the Cross.  Nobody is saved by living like Jesus lived.  He left us a good example of how to live, but merely copying His example gets us nowhere.  In fact, if you try to copy how Jesus lived you’ll end up frustrated!   Without the benefit of salvation, nobody can come close to living the kind of life Jesus lived.

If we look at Romans 5, we can see that Paul is simply writing about the benefits of salvation.  We’ve been justified by faith, and we’re on our way to heaven, but there are some wonderful benefits available to believers in the here-and-now.  These benefits, by the way, are things that those who don’t believe spend a fortune trying to attain.  Even some believers are not appropriating these benefits for reasons that may make sense to them, but not to the Lord.  He makes these benefits available; they are free for the taking.  But He won’t force any of His children to enjoy them; it’s up to us to reach out and grab hold.

How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ.  (Ephesians 1:3  TLB)

The benefit of PEACE

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (NIV)

The very first item on Paul’s cornucopia of justification is peace.  Now, in a very real sense, peace is a blessing reserved for our future, as Paul mentioned already:

But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who obey him, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.  (Romans 2:10  TLB)

This future peace is something we as Christians can look forward to.  However, no less real is the possibility of real peace today; right now.  Prior to salvation, we were at odds with God; we were His real enemies.  In fact, all God’s work for us was done while we were His enemies.  He did not love us when we were loveable.  We were completely helpless, ungodly sinners when Jesus Christ died for us.  We were worse than passive sinners, actually.  We were His enemies.

But all that changed on the Cross!

It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him—all things in heaven and on earth—for Christ’s death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood.  (Colossians 1:20  TLB)

There it is, in the past tense!  Christ’s death on the cross has MADE peace with God.  Thanks to His work on the Cross, God is no longer angry at man because man is no longer God’s enemy.

For Christ himself is our way of peace. He has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one family, breaking down the wall of contempt that used to separate us.  (Ephesians 2:14  TLB)

Real peace is available only when a sinner is made right with God.  Real peace doesn’t come from treaties or weapons or spending a fortune trying to find it, make it, preserve it, it or buy it.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.  (John 14:27  TLB)

The benefit of ACCESS

… through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  (Romans 5:2a  TLB)

The word “access” means that now, unlike before, we are able to approach God in prayer.  Understand what this means:  the unbeliever doesn’t enjoy this privilege at all.  Unless he is praying the prayer of salvation, God doesn’t hear him.   It’s Jesus who has cleared the way for us to approach God; it’s Jesus who has, as it were, taken an unworthy sinner by the hand into the very throne room of God.

Now all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, may come to God the Father with the Holy Spirit’s help because of what Christ has done for us.   (Ephesians 2:18  TLB)

How unfortunate and sad it is that some Christians don’t take more advantage of this access to God.

The benefit of HOPE

Not long ago, Mark Steyn observed:

Hope is for losers. Hope is passive. Hope is lying on the floor hoping something turns up. Hope is like luck. It might show up. You might be walking down the street and $1 million may drop in your lap, but it’s highly unlikely to. Hope cannot achieve the impossible.

Of course, he’s talking about hope with no basis in fact.  The hope the Bible speaks of is different. Hope in the Bible is always linked to the work of God.  And hope in the Bible is not passive, but it’s active.

It [God’s grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…  (Titus 2:12, 13  NIV)

So hope in the Bible involves believers living right—living lives that glorify God—but looking ahead to a better future; a future full of the presence of Christ!

The world is looking for hope today.  Politicians run on platforms of “hope,” but, as Steyn remarked, that kind of “hope” is for losers.  This is why so many people are so restless today; the want hope; they need hope, yet they can’t find it.  The Christian, though, possesses a hope that doesn’t rest in any man or movement.  Our hope looks like this:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28  NIV)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38, 39  NIV)

The benefit of TRIUMPH

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  (Romans 5:3, 4  NIV)

What Paul is describing here is perspective.  In Christ, we no longer view “our sufferings” the way we did before.  Now we “glory” or we have “joy” in them because we now know all “our sufferings” have a purpose.  They work to our benefit; they perfect our character in ways we can’t imagine.   Just look at the words associated with “sufferings” in these verses:  glory, perseverance, and hope.  All positive things!

It should be noted that while we may indeed have peace with God, we may not have peace with man.  We are still living in a world that is essentially hostile toward God, the things of God, and the people of God.  Sometimes those negative aspects of this world brush against us.  But we have the benefit of knowing that while the enemy of our soul may be trying to harm us, any trouble or suffering that comes near us actually benefits us.  We grow stronger and closer to God as we triumph over our sufferings.  The strength in us is brought out by trouble.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (Job 23:10  NIV)

The benefit of LOVE

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts…  (Romans 5:5a)

It’s not until the sinner finds Christ as Lord and Savior that he finds this love.  No man, save a Christian, may experience God’s love.  It’s foreign to us; God’s love is not naturally found in us; therefore, it must be poured INTO us!  And God’s love is not the same as human love; human love is often a caricature or parody of God’s love.  Think about it:  human love disappoints; it frustrates; sometimes it angers; occasionally it fails.  But God’s love never does any of those things because it’s perfect.  Shedd comments:

The Holy Spirit produces in the believer an immediate and overflowing consciousness that he is the object of God’s redeeming love, and this is the guarantee that hope will not disappoint him.

The love of God, that is, the reality of God has been poured into our hearts.  Since “God is love,” then, when we became believers He imparted something of His own nature to us!

The benefit of the HOLY SPIRIT

…the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:5b)

The Holy Spirit is the key; He is the One who makes all the present benefits of salvation real and He guarantees the future blessings will come to pass.  It was through the work of the Holy Spirit that, for example, God’s love was “poured out” into our hearts.  That phrase, “poured out,” refers to an inexhaustible supply.  In other words, God’s love never ends.  But it goes even further because the Holy Spirit mediates ALL the blessings found in Christ, which means all of His blessings never come to an end.  What a marvelous thought that is.  Here on earth, we say:  “All good things must come to an end.”  This is the nature of all aspects of human life:  they’re temporary.  No matter how hard we try to cling to the good things of this life, they disappear.  But the blessings—the benefits—of salvation are eternal.

The benefit of DELIVERANCE from wrath

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  (Romans 5:9  NIV)

God’s love has been established; it’s been demonstrated in verses 6—8.  Since God has already done so much for us, we may reasonably expect Him to bring our salvation to it’s final consummation, and part of that is the fact that there is NO wrath coming at the believer from God.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…  (Romans 8:1  NIV)

What does it mean to be “saved from God’s wrath?”  It refers to our final deliverance from the last, great Judgment to come.  This is guaranteed, not by our good lives or conduct, but by our justification—by what God has done for us in Christ Jesus!

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  (Romans 5:10  NIV)

The benefit of JOY

And all the preceding brings us to the final (for the purposes of this piece) benefit of our salvation:

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.  (Romans 5:11  KJV)

This is much more powerful verse than it appears.  It means, among other things, that wherever you are, whatever you may be going through, you can rejoice in God.  You may not be able to rejoice in your health or in the state of your bank account, but you may rejoice in God.  You may find this hard to believe, depending in what state you may find yourself in today.  You may not feel like rejoicing in the least.   But the fact is, this joy is something that exists outside the sphere of this world, and functions independent of anything in.  This joy was put in you by the Holy Spirit as one of the fruit of the Spirit!  So, it’s there, and all you have to do access it, release it, and enjoy it.  But, like all of the benefits of our great salvation, it’s all up to you.  You choose whether to enjoy them or not.


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