Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Saved By Grace

Happy 2011 everybody!!! I hope that each and everyone of you had a wonderful holiday season filled with family, gifts, food, and of course Christ. But as the season once again passes we are left to return to our normal day to day lives. I was thinking however this last week of different resolutions that I would like to set for myself this year. I have never been good with these. My diets last about a week and a half and I still bite at my nails. What are some of the goals you have set for yourselves this year? To Lose some weight, to visit family more often, to stay away from some of those bad habits? How many of you this year set a goal to come to know Christ? In my thoughts, I began to realize that there is no better goal we can set. Whether we already have a relationship with Christ or not, we can always get to know him a little bit better. How great it would be for each and every person to set a goal to be saved this year. While I know this goal is unrealistic, I do wish to talk about this for my first blog of the year 2011.…Saved By Grace.

This topic is a very sensitive one for me as I came from a religion which didn’t preach that you are saved by the grace of Jesus. All through my growing up years I was taught that we must do certain things as well as believing to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And throughout my childhood I never felt that I was doing a good enough job. No matter how good I was, I always fell short of what I thought I should have. It wasn’t until later in my life when I began to really study the Bible that I came to know the truth of the matter. All that I needed was to accept Christ. He would take care of the rest.

I remember my former church would sometimes mention those out there who believed in being saved by grace. They would tell me that it was those who thought they could go out and do whatever they wanted to do and it was ok because they believed in Christ so they were good to go. Now of course if it is explained to anyone in this manner, it sounds ridiculous, right? So let me just take this moment right now to clarify what is meant by this. Christ came down and suffered for the sins of the world. He took every last one of them upon himself of his own free will. Not one sin was left unaccounted for. This is why He said, when on the Cross, “It is finished.” or, “It is enough”. Because from that point on it was enough. All we now have to do is believe in what he did and our sins are forgiven. Now, this does not mean we have a free ride during our lives to do whatever. Believe me everyone of you, GOD KNOWS YOUR HEART AND YOUR THOUGHTS AND YOUR INTENTIONS! If you say you believe in Him and don’t mean it, He knows. 

God gave us 10 commandments in the Old Testament which were to be strictly followed. When Jesus came and fulfilled the law, they were done away with and we were given two new commandments. 1) To love the Lord your God. And 2) To love your neighbor. And how do we show our love to Him? By following his example. We help those in need, we give to the poor, we keep God in our thoughts and Satan far away from us. If we say we accept Jesus into our lives, and then we don’t follow any of His teachings, have we really truly accepted Him in our hearts? No! And He knows it. If we truly have faith in Him then we do what He taught. But these things are not what saves us, only Christ can do that. 

Let me pose a scenario to you which relates to this topic: You grow up in a very loving family and all your needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are taken care of. However, like some kids get, you tend to be a bit rebellious in your actions. You are lazy and don’t really want to do anything that wont be fun for you. So your parents, in an effort to teach you some discipline, put a chore chart on your bedroom door. You now have a list of things which you need to complete each day. Things such as cleaning your room, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, etc…. One day you are out climbing in a tree with your friends when suddenly a branch breaks and you start to fall. About half way down your pant leg catches on a limb leaving you dangling 20 feet in the air. Naturally you do what every young child would do, you yell for help to your Mother and Father. But as you are yelling for their help, your Father appears and says, “I would love to come and help you my son, but you have not completed your list on your bedroom door. Since you didn‘t complete all you had to get done, I cannot help you.” What kind of parent would do that?!?!? Friends, our Father in Heaven loves us more than any parent here on Earth could ever comprehend. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many times we read the Bible, or how many times we fell short of His expectations. He still loves us and will be there to reach out to us as long as we believe on him. 

I had a good friend of mine and his wife come and visit our church where I attend. It was a very good sermon and I believe everyone was touched by what was said. At the end we went to lunch and his wife and him were contemplating coming each week. They really enjoyed the church, pastor, and hospitality of all the members. After they had left though, I received an interesting text message from him. He asked me, “We just heard that your church teaches that your salvation can be affected by your sins. Is this true?” I don’t know where he heard this from but I was glad he asked the question, because as most questions do, they spark a flame. I was now pondering this and it got me to study it out. How can it be possible for someone to be “un-saved”? That is the same as being un-born, or un-grown. It is not possible. On another note, Jesus died on the cross for our sins. What would be the purpose of Him going through all that He went through, if it wasn’t enough? What was the point, if we still had things to do as well? 

But there are some out there who will argue this point. They will say that the Bible says it is by our works which we are saved. James Chapter 2 says, ”(V14)What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (V17) Thus also faith by itself, if it does no have works, is dead.” First off, let me just make it clear that I agree with this scripture 100%! But, I believe this to be one of the most misunderstood scriptures in the Bible. I will refer back to earlier when I was talking about true faith in Christ. All this verse is saying is the same thing I said, If you say you believe in Christ but don’t follow His teachings, you don’t have full faith in Him. But nowhere does it say that our works will save us!

Another passage others will bring up is how the Bible constantly tells us we need to be baptized in order to be saved, or we will never reach the kingdom of Heaven. This one is more simple to explain because it can be explained in one verse that is overlooked. Matthew 3: 11 in which John the Baptist says as he is preparing the way for Christ, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Many things changed with the things Jesus did during His life. The Law of Moses was disregarded and a new law was given to us. And with this was the Law of Baptism. Jesus is now our baptizer. When we accept Him and give our lives to Him, we are baptized not by water, but by that fire that is mentioned in Matthew.  Nowhere after Christ does it mention that a water baptism is necessary. It does however mention water baptisms. In Acts 8: 36, 37 it say, “Now as they went down to road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Peter said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’” Notice the wording however. Peter did not say, you must. Peter said you may. Many churches in the world to day will perform baptisms even though they preach that you are saved by grace. Why? What is the point? Baptism is an outward expression of an inward commitment. In other words, when you are baptized, it is a way of declaring to the world and to God in a physical way, your commitment to Him. Is it necessary to do? No. But it does show you have faith if you do it with the right reasons and a willing heart.

Let me give you a scripture to use yourself. This is one of my favorites because unlike the previous two I have just given you, in this one there is no possibility of misinterpretation. This is in Ephesians 2: 8-9 which says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." How much more clearly does it have to be written? NOT OF WORKS. Right there in the Bible for us to read. 

Now, so far I have told you that if we have true faith and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, that we will be saved. But there is one exception to this, and only one. Many of you know it to be the unpardonable sin. So what is this sin that has no forgiveness?  Mark 3: 22-30 states, "And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He has Beelzebub,' and, 'By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.' …'Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation;' because they said, 'He has an unclean spirit'“ Here it says that even if you are saved, if you are to deny the Holy Spirit by which you were saved and speak ill towards it, you shall never receive forgiveness. After all, how can you be saved of your transgressions and later say it was false and expect the saving power of Christ to still have compassion on you? You have denied Him and so He will deny you what could have been yours had you believed.

My friends, I would like to close this with a story to help fully illustrate the love our Father has for us. The unconditional love that is there. This was given by Kenyon J. Scudder from a 1961 Reader's Digest article, "A friend of his happened to be sitting in a railroad coach next to a young man who was obviously depressed. Finally the young man revealed that he was a paroled convict returning from a distant prison. His imprisonment had brought shame to his family, and they had neither visited him nor written often. He hoped, however, that this was only because they were too poor to travel and too uneducated to write. He hoped, despite the evidence, that they had forgiven him. To make it easy for them, however, he had written to them asking that they put up a signal for him when the train passed their little farm on the outskirts of town. If his family had forgiven him, they were to put up a single white ribbon in the big apple tree which stood near the tracks. If they didn’t want him to return, they were to do nothing, and he would remain on the train as it traveled onward. As the train neared his hometown, the suspense became so great that he couldn’t bear to look out of his window. He exclaimed, “In just five minutes the engineer will sound the whistle indicating our approach to the long bend which opens into the valley I know as home. Will you watch for the apple tree at the side of the track?” His companion said he would; they exchanged places. The minutes seemed like hours, but then there came the shrill sound of the train whistle. The young man asked, “Can you see the tree? Is there a white ribbon?”Came the reply, “I see the tree. I see not one white ribbon, but many. There is a white ribbon on every branch. Son, someone surely does love you.” 

God surely does love you! Each and every one of you. When Jesus was hanging there on the cross, I can promise that he thought of all of you. And if you will only believe in him; when the day comes that you are returning home on that “train” to His kingdom, you will see all the ribbons of welcome for you to return home. God bless you all and may this year be one of dedication to him. Lets learn and grow together!

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