Triumphal Entry

I. Introduction

In our bible study lessons, we are getting closer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Oddly, just in time for Easter. What are the odds?

Jesus has been making His way toward Jerusalem for His final Passover. Along the way, He has been telling parables and teaching in synagogues. He has been describing the Kingdom of Heaven, prophesying about the end times, sharing difficult wisdom such as “It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God,” healing the sick and the lame.

Jesus has set out resolutely toward Jerusalem to fulfill His purpose. And in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus tells His disciples what He’s doing, but the disciples do not understand.

Now He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be ridiculed, and abused, and spit upon, and after they have flogged Him, they will kill Him; and on the third day He will rise.” The disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

And they continued toward Jerusalem. Jesus gives sight to Bartimaeus, offers salvation to Zaccheus, tells the parable of the Ten Minas.

On a side note, I’ve been attending a bible study on the doctrine of the rapture, and it’s opened my eyes to better understanding some of the things Jesus says, including the Ten Minas. Jesus prefaces His parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11-12 with,

Now while they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then to return.

Jesus is explaining to Israel, who is expecting their Messiah to deliver them from Roman occupation, that their expectations will not be met, at least not in the way they expect. Jesus will die, prepare a place in heaven for them, and then return. That’s what Jesus has been doing for the last 2000 years. Interceding on our behalf, and preparing a heavenly place for us.

And now, in Luke 19:28,

After Jesus said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Jesus continues with His purpose. He has resolutely set His feet toward Jerusalem.

II. The Unridden Colt

Luke 19:29-30,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.

Two thousand years later, and I read this and barely give it a second read. Did you know all four gospels record this event? Why are all four gospel writers giving this focus to this event? It seems so insignificant, Jesus on a donkey.
I mentioned earlier that Jesus has been performing miracles on His way to Jerusalem. Our scripture says Jesus is near Bethany, where Jesus performed probably His greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating Jesus’ power and authority over life and death. This had, as you can imagine, a huge effect on the Jewish population. Here is the scene from John 11:43-46 – Jesus prays to His Father in heaven,

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Out came the man who had died, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

The next chapter, John 12 verse 9, still near Bethany, crowds are following Jesus. They’re even following Lazarus, so they may see a man raised from the dead. All the people believed Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and they yearned for His deliverance.

But the Pharisees denied He was the Messiah and plotted to kill Him. They even plotted to kill Lazarus. They wanted to destroy this revelation that the Messiah had come, not knowing or understanding that their very plot to kill Jesus was fulfilling His prophecy.

And now, Jesus asks for a donkey. What’s going on?

I think one possibility we cannot overlook is that, not only is Jesus fulfilling prophecy, He is making prophecy. In Zechariah 9:9-10 is the following prophecy about the triumphal entry of the Messiah –

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is righteous and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

And I will eliminate the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
And the bow of war will be eliminated.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

It would be easy to simply fulfill this prophecy, but Jesus adds a layer of complexity to demonstrate His sovereignty. He says in Luke 19:29-31,

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.”

Jesus said it, so it is so. This Mount of Olives is a hill outside of Jerusalem, which a day’s journey from Jerusalem. It is a place of great significance. It was on the Mount of Olives that king David wept, along with his faithful followers, as he fled from Jerusalem and from his son, Absolom. According to Zachariah 14:4, the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives, which would then be split in half, forming a great valley. It is here that the “triumphal entry” of the Messiah will occur.

Jesus paused here on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem. He sent two of His disciples on ahead to fetch the donkey. Jesus didn’t need to ride, it was not a long walk into Jerusalem. I think this is the first time Jesus rides an animal, the only other time is in Revelation 19:11 when He returns on a white horse.

No, the purpose for riding into Jerusalem on a never-ridden foal of a donkey was to fulfill prophecy, and thereby to proclaim He is the Messiah.

Jesus’ exact knowledge of the location of the donkey, as well as the response of the owners, indicates Jesus is completely aware of and in control of His environment. The fact that the donkey on which Jesus rode had never been ridden may also be symbolic of His deity. In Numbers 19:2 and Deuteronomy 21:3, animals sacrificed to God were not to have ever borne a yoke. The unyoked, unridden donkey is a clue that the donkey is an offering to God, something to be used in His service.

I also think Jesus riding on a never-ridden donkey is also miraculous event. Ever watch those old cowboy movies with the colt bucking and leaping because it’s never been ridden or broken-in? The donkey’s owners were probably saying, “I gotta see this. I’ll get my iPhone camera and video it.”

It’s also interesting that the disciples did not ask first to borrow the donkey. Jesus as Lord has the right to use anything we think we own. Think of the various ways in which a previously unridden animal could have been acquired. Jesus Himself could have gone and asked to use it. He could have identified Himself as Messiah, and explained that He had certain prophecies to fulfill, and the use of that person’s animal would be an important contribution to His kingdom. Or Jesus could have sent His disciples to say the same thing. Once they explained who Jesus was, surely the owners would let them borrow the donkey. Or they could have rented or bought the donkey.

But that’s not the way it was done. Instead, the two disciples went into the village, and without asking, started to take the donkey. Right in front of the owners. Exactly they Jesus said to do it. Exactly the way Jesus said to. Find the donkey, take it, give an explanation only if they were challenged.

The owners said, “Hey, that’s mine,” and the amazing thing is that the disciples said, “The Lord needs it,” and the owners were like, “oh, ok.” The two disciples walked off with the donkey. No promises made to return the donkey.
Back in those days, wealth was often measured in terms of cattle. Today, it would be like getting into somebody’s Maserati and driving off. “Sorry! The Lord needs it!”

Maybe the owners understood who Jesus is, and recognized Him as Lord. If Jesus was indeed Lord, then He had every right to use what He had created.

If Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, why did He need to borrow a donkey? Why not just … I dunno, make one? I think Jesus is consistent throughout His life. His parents didn’t stay in a fancy house, they had to borrow a stable. Jesus said He had no home of His own, and no place to rest His head, Later, Jesus was even buried in a borrowed tomb.

Why did the Creator of the Earth put Himself in a position where He had to borrow what belonged to others? Well, in the first place, everything does belong to Him. The donkey did not belong to men, but to God. They were only stewards of things. Thus, for the Son of God to “borrow” what belongs to others is really for Him to possess what is His.

Second, as the Creator of the Earth, and as the Creator of man, our Lord also possesses man. Man is not free. We are either slaves to Christ or slaves to sin. Only God is truly free, free to do with His creation as He chooses. Jesus could claim the donkey because He owned the donkey, and He owned the owners. We are His, and we belong to Him.

Today, we are far less inclined to let go of things we own. We say Jesus is Lord but withhold that which we idolize. Jesus continues this challenge to us, even today. He carries out His earthly work through the hands and feet of His disciples. It is when we release our idols, and give freely to Him that we are a testimony that He is Lord.

One day, Jesus will return and claim His kingdom and all that is in it. Nothing is exempt. Every knee will bow and profess Jesus is Lord. Our ability to do this freely of our own will is limited, and He will eventually claim His own.

III. In Service to Our Lord

Luke 19:35-40 –

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

At the birth of Jesus, wise men had searched for the One who was born King of the Jews. Now, the messianic expectations of the people appeared to be at hand. They shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This echoes the praise Psalms, like Psalm 118:24-26 –

This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let’s rejoice and be glad in it.
Please, O Lord, do save us;
Please, O Lord, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;

The people believed the Messiah would come in the name and power of God to restore the kingdom to Israel. They did not understand Jesus’ kingdom was a different sort than they desired, yet they still shouted praise.
The second part of their praise also reflects aspects of Jesus’ birth. While the baby lay in a manger, shepherds were confronted with an angelic host that proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14).

The crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem praised God for His peace and glory. The peace and glory of God who reigns in heaven. The peace between God and humankind made possible by the Prince of Peace. The people offered praise for Jesus because they believed He was the Messiah.

Believers rightly worship Jesus for the works of God we have seen. Jesus’ miracles today continues to transform sinners into saints. Believers have every reason to enjoy His work and join in the chorus of praise for the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.

Interestingly, in verses 39-40 Luke tells us that some of the Pharisees in the crowd admonished Jesus to rebuke His disciples for their worship. They were not merely saying to quiet them, they were demanding that He literally reject their assertions that He was the Messiah King. They believe He is not worthy of their praise. Jesus replies with a paraphrase of Habakkuk 2:11,

“For the stones will cry out from the wall, and the rafters will answer them from the woodwork.”

The Messiah was publicly presenting Himself to the nation, and even inanimate objects would be called upon to testify that He was the Messiah King, He was worthy of praise.

There were those in the crowd who got it and those who did not. What was expressive for some was offensive to others. The Pharisees were seeing the crowds grow in their support of Jesus. They apparently thought Jesus would agree with them that the crowd had gone too far. But Jesus knew what they did not know, though these crowds were now cheering, in a few days, the crowds would be taunting.

Though crowds were saying Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, by the end of the week the crowds would be shouting Crucify Him. This celebration of adoration would be short-lived. But for the moment, there was praise and adoration for the King entering on a donkey. The road to the cross was always going to be taken by riding a donkey, a sign of humility and obedience. It was not the entrance that was heralded from the mountain tops; it was an entrance that was embraced by those on the side of a road who had open hearts and minds to the Savior riding into town on a donkey.

IV. Jesus Wept

Jesus understood all this, and recognized that, while the crowds were rejoicing now, the same crowd would soon reject Him. Luke 19:41-44 –

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known on this day, even you, the conditions for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will put up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground, and throw down your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

What an amazing contrast there is here between the joyful reception of Jesus by the crowds with our Lord’s tears. They thought they had received Him in a way that was appropriate and fitting; Jesus viewed the event as a disaster, and as leading to disaster, for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem failed to grasp “the things which make for peace.” The majority of the people thought that this peace would be accomplished by a sword, and by force. They supposed that when the Messiah came, He would utilize military might, and that He would throw off the shackles of Rome. When Jesus wept because Jerusalem did not know what would bring about peace, He wept because He knew what lay ahead for this wayward, wrong-thinking nation. Instead of Messiah’s coming bringing about the demise of Rome, the rejection of Jesus as Messiah meant the destruction of Jerusalem, at the hand of Roman soldiers. Jesus therefore spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D.

It was not by the Messiah’s use of force and power, nor by the death of the Messiah’s enemies that the kingdom was to be brought about, but by the Messiah’s death at the hand of His enemies. It was not triumph which would bring in the kingdom, but the tragedy of the cross. God’s ways are never man’s ways. Man would have brought about the kingdom in many ways, but man would never have conceived of doing so by a cross, by apparent defeat, by the suffering of Messiah Himself, for the sins of His people.

V. Conclusion

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not only Jesus’ claim to be Israel’s Messiah, but also a clear declaration of His deity. He was Israel’s Lord. But Jesus is about to be rejected by His own people, handed over to the Gentiles, persecuted, abused, and crucified. To some, it may have seemed that Jesus had failed to militarily declare victory. To others, the cross may have seemed a disaster and a defeat. But just prior to His death, Jesus declared His deity, demonstrated His right to possess, to receive man’s praise, and to determine how the kingdom would be established. Jesus’ death on the cross was not an evidence of Jesus being overrun or overpowered by His opponents, but of His laying down His life voluntarily, for the sins of His people, as God’s means of establishing the kingdom.

We are not like Israel, for if we have truly received Jesus as our Savior, we have also received Him as Lord. We acknowledge Him as the King whose kingdom will soon be established on the earth.

Revelation 19:11-16,

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Worship the One, the True King, whose Triumphal Entry will usher in His Kingdom for 1000 years.

To God be the Glory.

Amen

Acts 3-4, The Power to Stand

  I.      Introduction

Interesting lesson for me to study this week.  This month, we’re in the book of Acts, and we’re up to Acts 3 & 4.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the church usually assigns a range of scripture and a suggested title for the lesson. This week’s lesson from Acts 3 & 4 is called, “The Power to Stand,” and when I first read the scripture, I didn’t see a message that spoke to me.  It’s about Peter healing a lame beggar.   Let’s get our first scene, Acts 3:1-8,

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Now, I believe in miracles.  In fact, I did an entire lesson once on the miracles that God still provides for His people.  But I think in Old Testament times, God did his miracles primarily to demonstrate his power and to pave the way for his Son appearing and fulfill His prophecy.

Today God still does miracles, but he seems a lot more selective about when and where He does those miracles. I know Pastor Samara when he has taught here at the church has story after story of miracles that God still does today in the Middle East.  Here in America, I hear many stories of miracles of God healing cancer.  Saving people from certain death in an automobile accident.  I myself have personal miracles I’ve seen in my life that can only be contributed to God.  I believe in miracles.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

But God doesn’t provide miracles on demand.  I know we all prayed for a miracle for our sister Teresa, but as we know, God did not answer our prayers with a miracle so that we could still have Teresa with us today.  Instead, we will have to wait to see our sister Teresa someday in the future.  Nothing focuses our prayers more than when we are powerless against overwhelming obstacles. 

As y’all know, I’ve been asking for prayers for my mom.  She’s been in physical pain as well as a significant decrease in her mental faculties recently.  Two weeks ago I had planned to get a Power of Attorney from her and had a meeting with her lawyer setup, but her decline was so rapid, we lost the opportunity to get a power of attorney while she had the competency to sign it.  We may yet get a miracle and Mom’s mental state improve, but for now, we’re just muddling along without it.

She has another issue that seems attached to our lesson today.  Her ability to walk has been impaired for some time; she has curled toes.  Some curl up, others down, two of her toes crossed over.  She even had a toe surgically removed because it was difficult getting shoes on.  She had a cane and then a walker.  Now that she’s transitioned to a memory care facility, she’s in a wheelchair. 

Like the lame man at the temple gate, I’d love to give hope to my mother that she can walk normally.  So as I’m studying, I see Peter say,

“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk.

Wouldn’t I love to be able to say that to my mom?  “In the name of Jesus, walk?”

This man in our scripture was born lame.  Never played freeze tag or kick-the-can as a boy.  Never ran a race.  And in those days, he really had no occupation available to him except… begging.  But then one day, God stepped in, in the form of John and Peter who gave him more than he needed.  More than physical healing, but spiritual healing.

Do you know how we know God loves us?  Because God sent His only Son to take the place of our punishment.  Belief in this sacrifice brings salvation from eternal punishment for the sin nature we all know we have. 

But what is this salvation?  Salvation is a rescue and it’s ongoing.  Imagine a lifeguard jumping in to save a drowning swimmer, and then says, “I saved you!”  And then tosses him back in.  “Now you try!”  That doesn’t make any sense.  Either you are saved, or you are not.

There are actually two different words used for salvation in the bible.  In the Old Testament, the word salvation is “yesha.”  It means freedom from what binds or restricts and thus effects deliverance.  It is the root word for the very name of Jesus, Yeshua.

In the Greek, in the New Testament, the word translated as salvation is “soteria.”  It means to provide recovery, to rescue, to provide for one’s welfare.  The word for “salvation” is used 45 times in the New Testament.

Salvation is the work of God whereby He transforms a soul from the grip of eternal wrath and condemnation to one of eternal life. God provided this option from His great mercy and provided everything necessary to make it possible.  Scripture says that salvation is of the Lord.  And salvation is only from the Lord. 

II.      Salvation is from the Lord

This concept is important to understand.  Salvation as a gift from the Lord is part of the Five Solas that define the Protestant faith –

  • Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.  It is in the holy word that we find the basis for the remaining solas.
  • Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  • Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  • Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone, and this is the complete summary of all five solas.

All of these are completed by Christ.  Man contributes nothing.  All main branches of Christianity – Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant – all agree that Jesus is central to our salvation.  But what separates us is that little Latin word, “sola.”  Alone.

Catholics would say that our salvation is in Christ “and.”  Baptism, the sacraments, confession, attendance at mass, penance, and other good works are necessary to salvation.  Catholic theology places equal weight on church and tradition which are contributed by man.  Human additions to the five solas which are all accomplished by God, in Christ alone.

Jesus + nothing = everything.

So in Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer – three in the afternoon.  There was a man who had been lame from birth that begged at the gate called Beautiful.  When we asked Peter and John for money, they responded in a way that changed his life.  “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Lots of things happened suddenly.  All the people were astounded and rushed to Solomon’s colonnade, a porch on the east side of the Jerusalem temple.  Peter began to explain the Gospel to them.  Members of the ruling council, the same ruling council that had Jesus flogged and crucified, were there and became highly agitated.  They had Peter and John arrested and thrown in jail.

The next day, Peter and John were brought before the religious rulers and asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?”  And Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said in Acts 4:7-12,

“Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,  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.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Peter tells the Pharisees that it is in the name of Jesus, whom you crucified but God raised from the dead, that this man was healed.  Then he quotes Psalm 118:22 to let the religious leaders know they fulfilled prophecy, “the stone you builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.”

And then, the fourth sola,

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

The Priority of Salvation

Peter is an uneducated fisherman, but he stands fearlessly in front of the most important religious leaders of his day and says that salvation is the greatest need of their soul.

In many ways, man hasn’t changed over the centuries.  We seek self-esteem or money or popularity or power.  But our greatest need is salvation.

We are dead in our sins, we are defiant in our souls, and we are doomed to hell.  Romans 3:22b-23 says

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We are separated.  We are hopeless.  We are helpless.  We are lame and we cannot walk.  And our holy God will not tolerate our sin in His presence.  The perfect good will destroy evil, no matter how slight in our eyes.

God gave the Israelites a sacrificial system to atone for these sins, to atone for their evil.  When they sinned, an innocent lamb would die in their place.  But was temporary and had to be renewed every year.

The prophet Isaiah declared that one day a Messiah would come, to take away the sins of the world as a final sacrifice.  Centuries later, John the Baptist paved the way with his announcement in John 1:29,

“Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

Our debt of sin was so great that only God could pay it.  And Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying on the cross.  For us, forever.  Romans 5:9-11,

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  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!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

So how much does God love us?  1 John 4:9-10,

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

And Hebrews 9:11-15 elaborates,

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Our sins separates us – we cannot stand before a Holy God that will destroy sin in His presence.  We needed a mediator – someone to step in between us and God.  1 Timothy 2:5-6,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

How many mediators qualify for this position?  Who can identify with our sins * and* identify with a Holy God?  There is only one mediator.  Not two, or three.  Just one.  Mother Mary is not a mediator.  The catholic saints are not mediators.  Solus Christus.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

By His death on the cross, He reconciled us to God completely. Our sins, past, present, and future were paid for.

By his perfect life, keeping the Law perfectly, His righteousness was given to us.  2 Corinthians 5:21,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Solus Christus.

The Exclusivity of Salvation

So how many other ways are there to salvation?

I’ve tried to sign up for websites the promote Christianity, but a lot of times I get religiosity instead.  The site tries to appear to appeal to many beliefs and not offend anybody, and call all these beliefs “Christian.”  They are not.  Sometimes, God is described as being at the top of a mountain, with many paths leading to the top.  Other times, it’s described as a wheel with God at the center, and different beliefs are the spokes.  In the end, they say, as long as we are sincere, we all get to the same place, regardless of what we believe.

That’s a terrible misunderstanding of what Christ teaches.

First, we can be sincerely wrong.  I sincerely believed 2020 would be anything other than what 2020 turned out to be.  Hurricane Delta because we finished the alphabet and had to start over at the beginning.  Day 225 of 24 days to flatten the curve.  And what happened to the murder hornets, anyway?  I think I missed the attack of the murder hornets.  So I sincerely believed 2020 would be something awesome, but I was wrong.  We can be sincere and we can be wrong.

And second, Jesus didn’t leave us any other option.   He said that His way is the only way and all the other ways are wrong.  If His way is the truth, then everything else is false.  Peter emphatically says in Acts 4:12,

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

Salvation is found in “no one else.”  Peter says our salvation is through a single person that was crucified and raised from the dead.  Jesus and only Jesus bore our sins, and by his wounds we are healed.

Last month when we were working through the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus, at the end of the book of John, Jesus starts talking about His death.  Jesus reassured His disciples that Jesus would prepare a place for them.  But then John 14:5, Thomas spoke up and said what everyone was thinking,

“We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’ answer to this question removes all other options  Jesus’ answer gives an answer that points the disciples along the correct path.  John 14:6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus didn’t say, “I know a way.”  He didn’t say, “There are lots of ways.”  He said He was THE way.

Imagine you wanted to go to a World Series baseball game.  To get in, you need a ticket.  You can’t just walk up and say, “I’m a good guy, let me in.”  They would look at you like you’d lost your marbles.  But then a guy walks up and says, “I bought a ticket for you.”  Then can you enter? 

Others may say, that doesn’t seem fair.  That seems so exclusive.  Heaven should be a place for everyone.  Everyone is welcome, right?  Well yes, everyone is welcome… as long as you have a ticket.

God doesn’t send anyone to hell.  The most favorite verse in the bible is John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in shall not perish but have eternal life.

The entire world is welcome, but they must accept this gift of the Son.  But not choosing Christ or rejecting Christ outright, most people choose hell.  In saying, “that’s not fair,” or saying “that can’t be the only way” or even “what about all those non-Christians, are they going to hell?” that is a choice * not * to accept Christ as the only way, which is the same as choosing hell.  Matthew 7:13-14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

It is only through Christ alone, our only Savior, our only Hope, our only Mediator, that we are saved.

The Necessity of Salvation

What if I don’t want to be saved?  Is it really necessary?  Don’t good people go to heaven somehow?  That seems fair, doesn’t it?  Acts 4:12 –

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

It’s interesting to me that this verse doesn’t end with “by which we can be saved.”  The verse says “by which we * must * be saved.”  Is the bible translation correct?  Let’s look at the Greek word for “must,” “dei”.

necessary, in need of, behooves, right and proper, necessity brought on by circumstances or by the conduct of others toward us.

It doesn’t matter where you live.  Europe.  Africa.  China.  California. New York City.  Austin.  Houston.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or red or yellow or purple.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, or even if you don’t know if you’re male or female.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re capitalist or communist.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat.  You must be saved.

We cannot do it on our own.  In fact, I believe that’s one of the biggest obstacles to accepting the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, is believing somehow we can work our way to heaven, using our earthly efforts.  We cannot save ourselves.  Drowning people drown without a lifesaver.  Or as Hebrews 2:3 puts it,

“how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”

III.      Conclusion

Returning to more personal experiences, in our sister Theresa’s last days, everybody prayed for a miracle.  She’s too young to be taken from us, that’s what I was thinking.  But we were unable to save her.  Doctors were unable to save her.  Theresa was unable to save herself.  She needed a lifesaver.

My mom cannot walk without assistance.  I wrote that sentence two weeks ago, she cannot walk without assistance, and revised it twice, but now she cannot walk at all.  She wants to.  But she can’t.  And I can’t help her.   Doctors cannot restore her ability to walk.  She needs a lifesaver.

Our verse started with Peter saying,

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

My whole lesson came together in my head with the direction of the Holy Spirit this week in an unconventional matter.  His miracle is still true today when we are seeking hope.  It’s like Peter said, “Theresa, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  It’s like Peter said to my mom, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

Philippians 3:20-21,

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Revelation 21:4,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Our scripture today should resonate with us and give us hope.  Peter said,

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

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

The power to walk, to have new resurrected bodies, to live in eternity with no more tears and no more pain, awaits all those that accept Jesus Christ.  And this salvation is found nowhere else.  Sola Christus.  Scripture alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone.

To God be the glory.

Kingdom Liberty

Introduction

 

We’ve been progressing through the Chronological Bible this year. We spent a long time in the Old Testament and I feel like we just arrived in the New Testament, and there are only 6 weeks left to wrap up our one-year journey.

The Old Testament had many rules, and until this year it never struck me how much man deserved all those rules. The rules God put in place were to prevent man from self-destructing. In the Garden of Eden, there was only one rule.   Of course, we broke it. There was no need for Ten Commandments when we couldn’t follow One Commandment.

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Soon after, Cain slew Abel. Abel didn’t last very long. He was first mentioned in Genesis 4:2 and by verse 8 he was gone. He only lasted 6 verses. The sanctity of life through the ages is clear in our studies, and God said that Abel’s blood called out to Him from the ground.

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So God gave us more rules to protect us. The Ten Commandments included, “Thou shalt not murder.” And then ten commandments grew into hundreds of rules and laws as we read in the book of Leviticus.

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And then came the New Testament. And many feel that the New Testament rules on top of all the Old Testament rules are overwhelming.

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I used to think that #1 rule for Christians was to attend church every week. You know what I learned after I started going to church every week? The church meets throughout the week, too. Many churches have bible study on Wednesday nights. If you want to be a good Christian, you must go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday. Sometimes there are bible studies on Tuesdays and Thursdays.   Friday nights often have church sponsored socials, those are mandatory, and don’t forget Saturday evening service.

There never seems to be anything scheduled on Mondays, though. Weird.

And different churches have different rules, so if you want to be saved, you must follow all the rules. If you go to a Pentecostal church, you must speak in tongues. If you go to a Baptist church, no dancing or drinking is allowed. And if you go to a Catholic Church, you can drink and dance but you can’t speak in tongues. It’s complicated, being a devout Christian.

 

Paul & Peter, Gentile & Jew

 

We are in Galatians 2 and we are going to focus on verse 11 following. Paul is in Jerusalem and writing to the church of Galatia and he’s dealing with the “Judaizers”. These were former Jews who claimed now to be Christians, and these Jews wanted the gentiles that converted from Paganism to Christianity to also submit to Jewish law. After all, there are a lot of rules if you want to be a Christian. These Jews were essentially proclaiming a “Jesus Plus Moses” doctrine. Yes, believe in Christ, plus do all these things Moses taught.

I’m going to read verses 11-13 from The Living Bible. Paul is telling the Galatians about a discussion Paul had with Peter at Antioch:

But when Peter came to Antioch I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong. For when he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who don’t bother with circumcision and the many other Jewish laws. But afterwards, when some Jewish friends of James came, he wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore because he was afraid of what these Jewish legalists, who insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation, would say; and then all the other Jewish Christians and even Barnabas became hypocrites too, following Peter’s example, though they certainly knew better.

These “Judaizers,” these “Jesus plus Moses” Jews in the Christian Church were so persuasive that the apostle Peter changed his behavior, then Barnabas, then apparently many others in the church. There are rules for being a Christian, you know. Apparently even who you eat with will determine your salvation!

Paul both confronts Peter and identifies with Pater. After all, they are both Jews by birth and for their entire lives followed Jewish Law. They heard Jesus admonish the Pharisees for all their strict rules and regulations that not even the Pharisees could follow. And both Paul and Peter know that, even if they could follow the Law perfectly – which they could not, nobody can – obedience to the Law would not save them from their sins. Here is Paul’s message to Peter in verses 14-15 –

When I saw what was happening and that they weren’t being honest about what they really believed and weren’t following the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Though you are a Jew by birth, you have long since discarded the Jewish laws; so why, all of a sudden, are you trying to make these Gentiles obey them? You and I are Jews by birth, not mere Gentile sinners, and yet we Jewish Christians know very well that we cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish laws but only by faith in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.”

Paul calls Peter a hypocrite because Peter feared men more than he feared God. In the first century the Greek word for hypocrite, “hypokritḗs” was used to describe an actor’s mask. Off stage he was one person, but when he stepped on stage to be seen by others, he would put on a mask and be another person.

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The word for hypocrisy reaches back even further, though, to 400BC. Hippocrates was one of the most influential men in medical history. Doctors today who practice medicine swear in by the Hippocratic Oath.   Hippocrates is famous for practicing medicine in the ancient world under what is now known as the tree of Hippocrates in Kos, Greece.

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The tree is massive, with branches that reach far out. All around the tree there is scaffolding used to uphold its branches.   On the outside we see the structure of the tree but here is the strange thing: the tree is hollow. On the inside, there is no substance. The tree appears healthy, but underneath the surface there is nothing.

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Slide11.JPGThe Apostle Paul is telling us, that those who are hypocritical may have an outward appearance of godliness but inwardly they have hollow faith. They have the structural appearance of being healthy, but they lack the substance.

Peter presented himself as an adopted Gentile to one group and as a Law-keeping Jew to another group. If we are honest, we are all guilty of the same sort of hypocrisy. We present ourselves one way at church but can act another way at work. We sing loud praises to God in Sunday Worship, but as soon as we get in our car after Church and get in Houston traffic, what comes out of our mouth is most certainly not praising God. We read scripture about how to love one another, then we ignore or insult people than annoy us. We believe Jesus loves the whole world, but we refuse to love those who are different than us.

Then Paul tells Peter that the very Jewish Law that Peter is pretending to follow wouldn’t save him anyway. It’s not the Law that saves. Paul says in Galatians 2:16,

“And so we, too, have trusted Jesus Christ, that we might be accepted by God because of faith—and not because we have obeyed the Jewish laws. For no one will ever be saved by obeying them.”

Paul’s argument throughout the book of Galatians can be summarized by this one verse. He tells us repeatedly we are not saved by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, there were false teachers in the church in Galatia with the view that they were justified with God because they both believed in Jesus and kept the Law. They were teaching a “Jesus Plus Moses” doctrine so that their works under the Law would give them salvation.

Paul’s emphasis is that we are not declared righteous by keeping the Law. Our level of righteousness in God’s eyes is not upheld by our good works. Instead, our righteousness in God’s eyes is upheld by Jesus’ work: Jesus’ death on the cross for us.

We do not need to uphold the dietary restrictions that the Old Testament prescribes in order to be declared righteous. We will not be deemed unclean if we wear clothes with mixed fabrics as declared in Leviticus 19:19. And even if you boiled a baby goat in its mother’s milk in the past month or so as prohibited by Exodus 23:19, you are still saved.

Remember, this letter was to the Church, to believers. It is a reminder that we cannot earn our way into God’s presence by being at every Bible Study and small group. We do not earn favor with God because we prayed today. We do not earn favor with God because we memorized three Bible verses this week.   We do not even earn favor with God by listening to Christian radio, although KJIC 90.5 Country Christian Radio comes pretty close.

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’   Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

This is obviously true, because Jesus said it. “Only the one who does the will of my Father.” So is Jesus saying that works can save us? But then the rest of the verse says that even people doing the will of Jesus will be told to leave because Jesus didn’t know them.

What is the will of the Father? It is for all of His children to place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He doesn’t ask us to drive out demons.   He just asks us to trust in Jesus. By faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

Nothing we do, except for our faith, saves us, and even the faith we have has been given to us.   Two verses in Ephesians 2 makes it clear, verses 4-9,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. It’s all about Jesus and it’s never about what we do or don’t do. God made us alive when we were dead. We have nothing to do with raising ourselves to life.

And that’s exactly what Paul is pointing out to Peter in his letter to the Galatians:

You and I are Jews by birth, not mere Gentile sinners, and yet we Jewish Christians know very well that we cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish laws but only by faith in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.

What does it take to be saved? Faith alone, and that faith has been given to us by God’s grace. We have been freed from the bondage of performance slavery.   Jesus liberated us from believing that religious practices and rites save us. As a Pharisee and member of the straight-edge religious elite of Judaism Paul knew what it was like to struggle with trying to earn God’s approval with his behavior. He found rest in the Gospel that the only thing that makes us righteous is faith in God. Whether you are a son or daughter with good behavior or bad, nevertheless you are still a son or daughter of God.

 

Misconceptions About Salvation

 

There are many misconceptions about what it means to be saved. As Christians, we probably cause that confusion. We might have heard the phrase “Jesus Plus Nothing” but we have such a hard time practicing it. Let’s discuss a few of them.

      • Ask Jesus into your heart.

Do you have to do this to be saved? I read a testimony from an evangelist who had shared the gospel and told his student he would be saved if he invited Jesus into their heart. But later the student was mad when he found out scripture said Jesus was the only way to God. The student was a follower of eastern religions that believed there were many prophets that could point to God, and to cover his bases, he had invited Jesus into his heart along with all the other prophets. This phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart,” is confusing and incomplete.

It’s usually based on this scripture from Revelation 3:19-20 –

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The key to understanding scripture is location, location, location. In this verse, Jesus isn’t speaking to nonbelievers.   These are not instructions on how to be saved. Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea, and He is speaking to followers of Christ who already believe. He is instructing believers how to have a closer relationship with Him.

Likewise from Ephesians 3:16-17,

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

Is this teaching that you must ask Jesus into your heart? Again, Paul is teaching believers here. Christ does indeed dwell in the hearts of believers, but it is a result *of* salvation, not a requirement *for* salvation. “Ask Jesus into your heart” is not anti-biblical, it’s just naturally what happens when you believe. It is the belief, it is the faith through God’s grace, that saves.

      • Be sorry for your sins.

Should we Christians beat ourselves up for all the bad things we did before we became Christian, and to be honest, for all the things we continue to do? Do we have to have regret to be saved? Let’s look at a couple of pieces of scripture. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul says,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

But again, Paul is talking to believers that sin against the Lord. Such Godly sorrow leads one to turn from sin and leaves no regret. In other words, every Christian has a past. So just leave it there. There’s no reason to drag it around with you everywhere you go.

What about non-Christians? Should they feel sorry in order to be saved? This verse says “Godly sorrow.” How in the world are non-believers supposed to have Godly sorrow when they do not have the Holy Spirit inside them? No, feeling sorry for your sins doesn’t save us. If it did, this corrupted version of John 3:16 would read this way–

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever feels really bad about what they’ve done should not perish, but have everlasting life.

That certainly isn’t right. It’s whosoever *believes* in Him. I am saved by faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone.

      • Give up your sins.

This is probably one of the most difficult misconceptions to explain. We just covered a little while ago that bible studies and church attendance doesn’t save us. But what about repenting of our sins? After all, the bible is full of calls to repentance, isn’t it?

“Repentance” is indeed required for salvation. But I’ve discovered that the definition of “repentance” has been distorted through the years. Sometimes we define it as “turning away from evil and toward God.” Those are indeed things Christians should do, but are they required for salvation?

Well, let’s look at the word translated as “repent,” the Greek word is “metanoeō,” and it is defined as “to change one’s mind, to think differently, to reconsider.”

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In other words, change your mind about Jesus. Change your mind about God. That sort of repentance leads to salvation, a trust in faith through Christ that He died for our sins. The gospel of John mentions the word “believe” 85 times in order to be saved without ever mentioning the word “repent” a single time. The word “repent” does not mean “change your behavior,” though that often follows from changing one’s mind first.

So, is giving up our sins a sign we are a believer? If we are a follower of Christ and we are listening to the Holy Spirit dwelling within, repenting of sins is important for spiritual growth.   In this case, we are repenting, we are changing our mind, we are saying, “I am going to stop arguing with God.   I am going to agree with God about my sins,” and then giving up your sins and winning the spiritual battle over the flesh is what we are called to do. But that is after we are saved, not before. Jesus accepts us for who we are, where we are, in all of our filthy clothes. Thank the Lord we don’t have to clean up our act first before we are saved. Jesus cleans up our act after. Romans 5:6-8,

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We do not have to clean up our act before accepting Christ or to be saved. We are saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

      • Pray a prayer.

All we have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and be saved, right?       After all, Romans 10:13 says,

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Let me put it this way: Can you say a prayer out loud while silently not placing your faith in Jesus? You’re thinking to yourself, I’m saying this but I’m not going to do it. The prayer itself has no power.

But can you place your faith in Jesus silently, without a prayer? Of course you can. There’s nothing wrong with the prayer itself, but it can lead one to a false sense of security that if they prayed correctly, then they are saved.   It is not the prayer that saves, is it the faith behind the prayer. I am saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

      • Give your life to Jesus.

Do you have to give your life to Jesus to be saved?       I can give you one major example of somebody who gave their life to Christ and yet was not saved:       Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Devoting your life to Jesus clearly doesn’t save you.

What does save you?   Acts 16:31,

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

What all of these misconceptions have in common is that they are works of man. And we know that we can never be good enough, to work hard enough, to assure our place in heaven. How would we ever know it’s been enough? No, to be saved, we have to change our mind about who Jesus is, to place our faith in Christ. By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. Nothing else.

 

Christ Did It All

 

Let’s turn back to our scripture in Galatians 2 and see what Paul says to Peter next, verse 17-21,

But what if we trust Christ to save us and then find that we are wrong and that we cannot be saved without being circumcised and obeying all the other Jewish laws? Wouldn’t we need to say that faith in Christ had ruined us? God forbid that anyone should dare to think such things about our Lord.   Rather, we are sinners if we start rebuilding the old systems I have been destroying of trying to be saved by keeping Jewish laws, for it was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treats Christ’s death as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping Jewish laws, then there was no need for Christ to die.

What Paul is saying is that we keep trying to add things to Christ in order to be saved.   The Jews were promoting Jesus plus Moses. In effect, they were saying, Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law, but *we* still have to fulfill the law, too.

That is not trusting in Christ. Paul says that if we could obey the law and be saved, then what was the purpose of Jesus?   What are we putting our trust in?   Our own ability to be good, or the sacrifice of God? Or maybe we’re hedging our bets. Sure, let’s trust in Christ, but to be on the safe side, let’s do all these other things, too. Circumcision, abstain from unclean animals like pork, mixing different types of fabrics in our clothes. Why don’t we obey all of those rules with a “Jesus Plus Moses” attitude?

Perhaps I should ask instead what “Jesus Plus” attitude is still prevalent today. We impose a great many rules for others – not for us, really, rules are for other people. Attending church once, twice, or even three times a week. Or attending church at Christmas and Easter.   Attending bible study. Walking the aisle when giving one’s life to Christ.

Let’s consider baptism. Is it required to be saved? Some Pentecostal churches believe that not only baptism is required, but when you come out of the water, you must speak in tongues. If you don’t speak in tongues, back into the water you go. I suppose this is repeated over and over again like some sort of loving Christian waterboarding.

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Let’s be clear about this distinction: I believe baptism is mandatory for believers. I believe it is a demonstration of our willingness to follow the Lord and it is almost always our first act of obedience… *after* we are saved. It is not a requirement *to* be saved. It is not required for salvation, it *is* required for spiritual growth. If you are Christian and haven’t been baptized, I think it’s time to put aside your resistance, call Jesus Christ your Lord and ask him to lead you to baptism.

But we are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works.

Let’s consider a light bulb. It’s wired up, and when the switch is flipped, it brings light to the room.   If we don’t flip the switch, though, is it still a light bulb? Of course it is. It’s just not a useful lightbulb. And if we have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us power, and we are asked to shine the light of Christ for others to see. We can refuse and stay dark, but we’re still saved. We’re just not useful.

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But are we saved?   Remember: By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. There is nothing we can add to that without taking it away from Christ.

 

The Simplicity of Christ

 

I know first-hand that living as a Christian has challenges. I also know those challenges have purposes ordained by God to train me in His way, to increase my faith and trust in Him, to encourage my spiritual gifts to be developed. There are a great many things I must do to grow as a man of God.

But there’s nothing that I must do to be saved. Christ did that for me, because I could not do it for myself. And my response to His sacrifice is to worship and praise a mighty God that loves me enough to die for me so that I may live.

While there are many challenges to living as a Christian, becoming a Christian is the easiest thing in the world. All we have to do is accept what has been done, and our eternal salvation is secure, firmly held in the palm of His hand, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and no one can snatch us out of His hand. It’s not that some of the work has been done for us, or most of the work has been done for us. All of the work has been done for us. We don’t have to say, “Hey, thanks for picking up dinner, let me pay for the tip.”

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There is simplicity in being in Christ. I know, because the bible says so in 2nd Corinthians 11:3,

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The story of the bible is not what we do for God. It is what God has done for us.

 

Conclusion

 

It’s not “Jesus Plus Moses.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Church Attendance.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Feeling Guilty.” It’s not “Jesus Plus Anything.”

It’s just Jesus.   By faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone.

That is the simplicity of being in Christ.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.