Category Archives: Salvation

Work out your salvation

Philippians 2:12-13  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Though we can’t earn salvation through good works, not all of the effects of salvation can be seen immediately in us and we’re called to persevere in our faith and “work out” our salvation.  As we progress in our walk with Christ, God works in and through us.

At the point we would call conversion, we do become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), our old nature dying and our new nature being in Christ.  It’s through persevering faith, though, that we really take on the new attributes of a Christ-follower, the fruits.  The Holy Spirit works in us “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. This means our very desires begin to change because of God’s work in us.  We don’t just change because we think we’re supposed to change, we change because we now desire to do so.  Our wants begin to align with God’s will and purpose.

When we follow Christ, we take on His plans as our own and God has us bring about His will by transforming us to be more like Him.

The Judge is on our side

Romans 8:33-34 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

We stand accused.  As brothers and sisters of Christ we’re enemies with Satan and he seeks to condemn us for our sin.  He’d love to bring up every wrong thing we’ve ever done, every lie we’ve ever told, every mistake we’ve made.  Misery loves company and the devil would love to have some company.  His problem in this though is that Christians have been covered in the blood of Christ.  We’re justified, no longer condemned (Romans 8:1).

No matter how badly we’ve sinned, Christ covered it all and we’re immune to Satan’s accusations.  But oh how he still tries.  Until the final day he’ll hunt around like a lion, trying to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  But in the end, God wins.  And if God wins, we win.  If He who called us and justified us prevails, so shall we prevail.  How can we be condemned when the judge Himself is on our side?  When our advocate, our intercessor, is the One who bled that we might live?

No accusation brought against us sticks because we’re children of God.

———-  How would you act differently when you felt condemned if you kept in mind that Christ is interceding for you?

Justified

Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Justification belongs to those that believe on Christ Jesus for salvation.  If you’re saved, you were first called, but the thing is, not all who are called receive justification.  How is this verse reconciled in light of the fact that not everyone who receives God’s invitation to salvation responds to it?  The calling here can’t refer to the invitation, but must refer to an effective call of the Holy Spirit on the life of the one who would believe and become justified.  Those He chose from the beginning are those who received this call.  If you’re a Christ-follower, that’s you.

You’ve been chosen with a purpose and with that comes justification.  In other words, you’ve been declared “not guilty” because Jesus took on your sin when He died on the cross.  Your sin is forgiven.  With that comes a promise.

You’ll be glorified on the last day.  This is to say that you’ll receive a new body, a resurrection body.  It’ll be perfect, free from all the flaws our current bodies entail.  When God called you, He equipped you for faith and He justified you when you followed Christ.  This is not without reward.  When you get to see Jesus, you’ll be justified, sanctified, and glorified.

Redemption in Christ

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

If someone asked you what it means that we have redemption in Christ through His blood, how would you answer?  Dating back to the Old Testament, the understanding of a redeemer was one who ransomed someone else, freed them from slavery or captivity.  God was the Redeemer of Israel when He led them out of captivity in Egypt.

You and  I have been redeemed too.  When we accepted Christ we were freed from the slavery and bondage of sin.  We’re no longer guilty.  Christ’s finished work of atonement on the cross through His shed blood ransomed us from sin and we are no longer under its control.

Sometimes we still sin, but it’s not because we’re under the bondage of sin.  We’ve been redeemed, we’re bought and paid for with a price.  We belong to Christ.  His blood paid our ransom.

Chosen for holiness

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

What am I here for?  What is this life all about?  The longer we live, the more we seek meaning in life, the more we may be caught asking these questions.  So did God create us with some intent?  Did He make each of us with our own purpose?  Yes and yes.

Even before time began, when all that existed was God, He thought of you.  The Creator chose you in Christ (that is, He chose you to belong to Him as His child) before He even made the earth where you would reside.  He made you to be uniquely you, with special talents and abilities – and purpose.

Our purpose on this earth is not to succeed financially and become rich, nor is it to make a name for ourselves and become famous (James 2:5).  God made us to be holy and blameless before Him (1 Thessalonians 4:7).  But how can we achieve this holiness?  We can’t be good enough to meet God’s standards.

The Lord planned all along that those He chose would be made holy “in Christ” (Colossians 1:22).  We are sanctified and redeemed by the Son of God, and He always intended it this way.  Those who are chosen in the Son of God become sons and heirs of God (Galatians 4:7).

Prepare to Meet the Lord

John 1:23 (ESV) He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John the Baptist was well known for baptizing people in water when they confessed their sins and repented. Known to us as the forerunner to the coming Messiah, he was speculated to be many things while he lived on this earth. The thing about John is that he understood his role and never tried to be anything but what God called him to be. He was not the Messiah and he did not try to be even though some thought he was.

The purpose of John’s baptism, as he understood it and as we understood it today, was to prepare the hearts of those to whom he preached. You cannot truly be ready to meet the Lord until you’ve admitted that you need Him. Repentance means admitting that you’re a sinner and therefore that you need God to save you, because the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). John spoke of making straight the way of the Lord, and part of that is preparing the hearts of the people to receive the coming Christ.

Water baptism is symbolic of our death to sin and new life in Christ. John prepared people to meet the Savior before they even knew who He was. This was all ordained by God and worked perfectly into His plan of salvation. Today, we still need to come to Christ, first admitting that we are guilty of sin and incapable of saving ourselves. Only He can save us.

Stop, in the Name of the Law!

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all. (Hebrews 7:27-28).

More on this next week…

In Christ alone

I Timothy 2:5  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.


Many and varied are the ways that man tries to get closer to God.  New religions spring up all the time, each seeking to find the right way to become whole.  Hundreds of self-help books are shelved at each book store, none quite adequately fulfilling our quest.  None quite bringing us into that place where we stand in right relationship with our Creator.

It’s sad that we spend so much time searching when the answer our souls seek has already been given.  We don’t attain enlightenment by searching within ourselves.  We don’t achieve entrance into heaven through doing enough good deeds.  There is one way to God and He is Christ Jesus.  He is our Savior, our King, our friend. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36) and not one thing was created that was not created by Him (John 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and only He qualifies to mediate between God and man (John 14:6).We can try to fix ourselves, try to gain knowledge, or try to work our way to righteousness, but in the end it’s all in vain.  Only Christ can save us.  Only He can set us free (John 8:32).

By the grace of God

Romans 3:23-24  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Some ask how a loving God could allow anyone to go to hell.  Could this be the wrong question though?  A better question is how a just God could allow any of us to go to heaven.  Even at our best, we still fail to live up to God’s standard for “good”.  Our very best attempts at righteousness are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  This is true of every one of us.  The question then is not how God can send some of us to hell but how He can allow even one of us to enter into fellowship with Him.

Two words come to mind: love and grace.  God is all-knowing.  It was not a surprise to Him that man would fall short of the plan.  But even in spite of this, God created a way.  Through His Son we can know Him.  By His grace we have been delivered.  Only someone who is full of love could even conceive of forgiving His enemies and allowing them a place that only friends deserve.

God does not send people to hell, we’re all headed there on our own from birth.  Our loving God provides a way out, a way to Him.  We can never earn this.  It’s by grace alone.

 

Faith alone

Romans 3:28  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

There was, even in the time of the first century church, controversy surrounding the subject of whether one is justified through faith alone or whether that is not sufficient on its own.  Many Christians of Jewish heritage believed that one must first become a Jew (come under the Jewish laws) before becoming a legitimate Christian.  Today we have similar sects within the church that believe justification comes though a combination of faith and works.

There is no biblical support for this view.  To the contrary, the Bible tells us that Jesus died once and for all (Romans 6:10).  To add requirements for salvation is to cheapen the cross.  James’ argument in the New Testament (James 2:14-26) is not that works are a requirement for salvation but rather that salvation through faith in Christ results in good works.

The bad news is that there is nothing you or I can do to get into a right relationship with God.  The good news is that because of Christ Jesus we don’t have to earn our way into God’s favor.  Justification is found through faith in Christ alone.  This is a wondrous, glorious truth.  God loves us so much that He sent His Son because He knew that otherwise we could never be good enough (Romans 5:8). We just need to put our faith in Him.  What an awesome God we serve!