Salvation: What It Is & Isn’t…

The manger, the cross, and the empty tomb:

This is what separates Christianity from every other belief system: God did for us what we could never do for ourselves: became fully human while remaining fully God, lived the perfect sinless life we should have lived, died the terrible death that we should have died as the Father’s holy judgment against sin, and rose again bodily from the grave, conquering death itself. THIS is the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate , loved ones.

But we must never assume that we have all received this free gift just because we are in this room, in a church building or worship service—there is no automatic upload via spiritual WiFi simply because you are physically here! We must never think that this glorious grace & atonement for sin applies to everyone simply because it happened. This gift, like all gifts, must be received, loved ones—the present must be opened, as it were.

Oh my friend we must be certain about this, we must not take it for granted—upon leaving on a road trip you would go back & check if you thought you left your garage door open and stove on—you would check; too risky not too. Same here:

2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. 
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Have you received this glorious free gift of grace?
Or is the present still wrapped under the tree?
Is the outfit of Christ’s perfection just hanging in the closet with the price tag on, unworn?

You might casually say, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus. I’m a Christian. I’m set.”

Belief is good, and belief is important. Praise the LORD!

My friend, when you are sick, does believing in medicine make you well?
Does merely believing in the existence of hospitals cure you?
Don’t you actually have to take in the medicine?
Don’t you have to go in to the hospital & be admitted for you to be cured & healed?
Don’t you have to agree with the doctor’s diagnosis & submit to his/her cure?

Same with salvation, same with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ & His death on the cross & return to life three days later—not only do you believe that it happened, but do you believe that it happened for you in particular, to pay your personal staggering debt of sin? Do you claim this free gift as your own forgiveness & adoption & new life? By faith alone, have you applied Christ’s sacrifice as the only payment for your own sinfulness & rebellion against God?

This is where many stop because moving to this step—applying the Savior’s death & resurrection to our own personal account—means we must by faith sign the full confession that we in fact deserved the wrath that Jesus received.

But our sinfulness doesn’t want that, surely we aren’t THAT sinful, surely if Christ hadn’t been crucified we wouldn’t have been punished like THAT, surely not for eternity!?

Our sinfulness wants a loophole, wants to either plead the 5th or be acquitted on a technicality—“I didn’t know, nobody told me, what I did is not that big a deal (it’s not nearly as bad as him or her)!”—but on no grounds does our sinfulness want to fully expose our brokenness before a holy God and fully admit that we do not deserve Him and that we NEED Him to pay our penalty for us. Oh how humbling that is—the full confession, taking full responsibility, no excuses, no blaming others, appearing spiritually naked before the LORD; Adam & Eve wouldn’t do it & they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. We their ancestors have been doing the same every since.

And so many church attenders are stuck at mere intellectual belief but have not received Jesus as their Savior & King, have not applied, BY FAITH, His death & resurrection as the payment for their own horrific sins of rebellion, of treason against God as we all, in different ways, have sought to be in charge of our own lives.

The Lord Jesus is not an add-on to your old life, but the death of your old life, old nature, old dreams, old goals, old allegiance, etc. The Lord Jesus is not that extra boost to put you over the edge to accomplish your dreams, the free-agent signing toward the end of the season to help you win your definition of the championship. Jesus is not the fast food extra value meal upgrade for just a dollar more, something that is nice to have but not necessary…He is a completely new meal entirely, a completely new restaurant, with completely new taste buds for you…

Without surrendering to Jesus as Savior & Lord, we are on a train hurtling toward an eternity apart from God (this statement alone is of the highest offense to our sinful natures). Many, when they hear something insightful in the Bible, try to apply that wisdom to help them become more peaceful, more generous, more patient, etc. (along with other nuggets of wisdom they hear from other religions, self-help gurus, pop songs, Facebook memes, etc.)

But without surrendering to Christ as our Savior & King, they are merely getting up on the train and walking in the opposite direction, changing their seat perhaps (and doing this many times over the course of their earthly lives and feeling great because of it). They may improve a behavior or two but they are STILL ON THE TRAIN hurtling toward the terrible destination.

Becoming a Christian is not this, my friends, not just applying a few principles in your life as a new year’s resolution. It is pulling the emergency break on the train and crying out to Jesus to get you off the train entirely, a new life revolution—new King (Jesus, not yourself), new goals, new dreams, new purpose, new beliefs, new allegiance, new citizenship, new family, as well as having our moral debt to God the Father paid in full by the death & return to life of God the Son…and then to begin walking in the opposite direction of the train with Jesus Himself leading you (even though others continue to have “so much fun” on the train and try to coax you back on, looking at you pitifully as you stand seemingly stranded & seemingly alone in an open field).

This receiving of Christ is no casual event, no inadvertent occasion, no unnoticed occurrence, no “lovely parting gift” at the end of the game show to console you for not winning the grand prize.

Sometimes my children will sneak in a treat into the shopping cart without me realizing it until we get home, a little extra somethin’-somethin’. When we get back to the house, they look at me with a grin and I wag my finger smiling as I take the first two of the treat as the parent tax and hand them the bag of goodies. No loved ones, that is not how one receives the free grace of Jesus Christ…not accidentally, not without knowing it, not just one sneaked in little treat in a cart full of other goodies…

It is not buying a used car and having the salesperson offer to throw in new floor mats for free…or buying a new car and having the salesperson throw in an upgrade for free. “Yeah, sure, that’s nice, thank you—I’ll take it!” as we then shift our attention quickly to other things. The floor mats are free, and Jesus’ grace is free, but they are not the same thing. One is eternity changing, the other is not; one is necessary, the other is merely nice…

Babies are not born casually & neatly & quietly & painlessly—they are born with a cry, but it is the beautiful cry of life! Same with Christians—receiving the grace of Jesus is NEW LIFE, is REBIRTH, and it doesn’t happen as a little add on simply because we have attended church for years or done religious activities dutifully.

Sinners are reborn through faith in Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our sinfulness (conviction of sin!) and our unpayable moral debt to God the Father and our need for a Savior and as the Holy Spirit enables us to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ alone is that Savior, that His torturous death on the cross is that payment for me, for you, for all who receive Him & believe in His name He gives the right to become children of God…born of God (John 1), that His return to life is the ultimate proof that Christ has conquered death and is willing & able to enable all who cry out to Him to conquer death as well…Jesus doesn’t offer us behavioral correction but bodily (and spiritual) resurrection.

Has this happened to you, loved one?

Have you fled to Christ to be your holy Savior,
or is He merely a hired consultant for your behavior?

Have you treated Him like a life raft when you’re spiritually shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, or is he the atv that you don’t really need but is nice to have a little fun riding on every now and then?

By faith, have you placed yourself on the operating table to receive a total heart transplant from Him, or do you just want Him to do a little cosmetic/plastic surgery to improve your external looks?

Hebrews 6:18-20: “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Have you fled to Christ to take hold of His forgiveness for YOU & your crimes against God the Father?

This is the difference between intellectually knowing that a person on Death Row can appeal to the Governor of the state for a pardon…and realizing that you are on Death Row and actually appealing to the Governor of the universe for pardon.

Reflect on this, loved ones…ask the Holy Spirit to confirm that you are a son or daughter of God by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone…

As others have said,
the Lord Jesus did not come to make bad people good
but to make dead people alive (Ephesians 2:1-10)…

2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. 
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Luke 18:11-14: 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Acts 4:10-12: “…10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.’ [Psalm 118:22]

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:21: And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32).

2 Peter 2:6: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone [the Lord Jesus!],
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16).

Luke 5:31-32: Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”