We Christians talk a lot about our being saved, don’t we? But have you ever noticed that it always seems to be in the past tense? ‘Have you been saved?’ ‘When were you saved?’ I think the more appropriate, and perhaps the most accurate way of asking about one’s salvation would be, ‘Are you being saved today?’
Let me explain so that you won’t think I am just splitting hairs for argument’s sake. Our salvation is not something that happened to us once and then it was over. Our salvation is something that is actively happening to us every moment of our lives. It isn’t something we have done; it is something we are doing.
To ask when we were saved, would denote that it is over and done with. It renders our salvation nothing more than an equation that pretty much omits the need for any personal relationship with God.
Today, I would like to talk about, not when we were saved, but how we continue to be saved. And I am going to do that using the analogy of a set of instructions.
When I first bought my mandolin, I had never played one before. With that mandolin, I bought a couple of ‘how to play the mandolin’ books. They were very specific and gave detail instructions and a lot of pictures as to where I put my fingers. I studied those books and tried my best to get proficient on this instrument.
But there was a disconnect there. I knew what the book said, but just couldn’t seem to understand how to do it. Finally, I cornered one guy at the music store and he sat down with me and stepped me through it, explaining the details as he went. And then he had me do it while he watched and corrected me. And then he told me something very valuable. He told me that unless I practiced it every day, I would never get it down pat, and I would eventually lose everything I had learned about it. In other words, use it or lose it.
There are many people who have learned the rules of salvation, but are not experiencing salvation as an ongoing event. They have read the Bible, have a basic knowledge of what salvation is, but they have never learned how to have a personal relationship with Jesus in their salvation. And when there is no personal relationship with Jesus, all we have left is religiosity.
I spoke last week about how we react when a problem comes into our lives. The first thing we should do is run to God and fully rely on His help, but the first thing we tend to do is jump on it ourselves and try to take care of the problem.
We have a natural tendency to control everything in our lives, including our own salvation. We have been saved – in the past. Now, we depend on our own choices to make our lives what we want them to be. If we are involved in sin, and happen to like what we are doing, we think God is fine with it because we are fine with it. That is not working out our own salvation, but paving our own road to hell.
Paul warns us about this in PHILIPPIANS 2:12;
‘My Christian friends, you have obeyed me when I was with you. You have obeyed even more when I have been away. You must keep on working to show you have been saved from the punishment of sin. Be afraid that you may not please God.’
Paul is telling us that just because we received Jesus once in the past does not mean we are automatically kept safe from sin today. He is telling us that we must continually strive to please God in all we do and in how we live.
Let me use another analogy to make this point clear. If you eat breakfast on Monday, you have energy that carries you to about noon. But if you do not eat lunch, you will be run down, tired, and famished by dinnertime. To keep your body running at peak performance, you must need a continual intake of food, which provides energy to your body.
You cannot receive Jesus ‘back then’ and never again pursue more of Him in your daily life. You must have a continual intake of Christ into your heart, and that continual intake is the only thing that provides us with the personal relationship we need with Jesus.
One of my biggest pet peeves is to see people claiming to be Christian, going to church every time the doors are open, but instead of reading and studying the Bible, they choose to read every book they can get their hands on that is ‘about’ the Bible.
The problem with this is simple. God wrote the Bible. Man wrote all the other books ‘about’ the Bible. God’s book is absolute truth and divine. Man’s books are nothing more than man’s opinions. Now, that being said, there are many books out there that help us understand the Bible better, and if we use them in conjunction with our Bible studies, we can enhance our understanding of the Bible. But we must be very careful which books we choose to read, and we should never just read other books and forget about having the Bible as our main reference of reading.
And another problem many Christians have is they do not read their Bibles with any particular interest on their own, but demand to be able to come to church for one hour on Sunday and have the preacher give them everything they need to be Christians the rest of the week. There is no preacher alive who can do that for anyone. He provides the leadership and guidance, but you must also be willing to do the work if you expect the payday.
And it is with this in mind that I want to talk to you today about your own personal salvation. It is not a concept. It is not something we just read about or hear about. Your own personal salvation actually determines where you will spend your own personal eternity.
Let’s begin by fully understanding;
1. WE CANNOT BE SAVED WITHOUT GOD
This may not be the most popular sermon I have ever given, because people today do not like hearing about their sin or the consequences of their sin. People today want to hear messages that tell them how to be happy Christians and how to deal with the anxieties in their lives. And they need to hear these messages, too, but these messages by themselves will never help anyone enter into the gates of heaven, cloaked with the salvation of Jesus Christ. And preachers need to start paying attention to that fact.
God wants us to walk with Him and use the principles in the Bible to live according to His will. The devil takes those same principles, and then offers them to you through the world, so you can discover how to be a happier person. One way is to use those principles as you focus on Jesus, and the other way is to take those principles and use them to focus on yourself.
God’s plan for us is not some recipe or formula that happens to make our life better if we follow it to the letter. His plan is personal to each one of us, developed from a love that He carries for us. It is a plan that allows us to let Him be in control of our lives as we learn to depend on Him more and more each day.
As a matter of fact, our lives cannot work without God. Look at every example in history, beginning with Adam and Eve. You will find that when a person walks without having a personal relationship with God, their life is a spiritual failure, and their permanent eternity is spent in hell.
Cain’s sinful descendants all died in the flood, but Seth’s God-obeying descendants were saved in the flood. After the flood, Noah’s descendants tried to build a tower to heaven so they could get there by their own means, but they failed and became confused and scattered to other areas. In short, they became babbling fools.
One thing that I find amazing in the Old Testament is that Satan seems to be in charge of almost every circumstance, but God is in charge of those who believe in Him. And He uses those circumstances to direct the lives of believers to obtain the best possible outcome in any situation they are involved in.
The book of GENESIS deals mostly with four men in one family; Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph. I think the most tender and heartwarming story is that of young Joseph.
His father loved him, and that made his brothers hate him. They finally conspired to do away with him, but instead of killing him, they sold him to slave traders from another nation, then took his favorite jacket and put blood on it and told their father that a wild animal had eaten the boy.
Joseph was eventually sold as a slave in Egypt to a powerful man, and this man’s wife accused Joseph of attacking her when he hadn’t. He was sent to prison for years, but God let him end up as the head trustee in prison. The story ends with Joseph being the second most powerful man in Egypt, and because of his status, he was able to save his family from famine years later.
What is the lesson that we can learn from? God is all-sovereign. He is in control all the time, and all we have to do is trust him fully to control our lives. And He does all through the form of offering us His personal salvation. And if we look at our salvation as ‘we were saved back then’, that would be the same thing as saying, ‘God helped us once.’ We work at being saved every day, and God works at helping us every day.
So we are to continue to work every day to make sure we are saved and living the life of a real Christian. And to do that, we must rely on our personal relationship with God – every single day of our lives.
But we must also understand something else;
2. WE CANNOT BE SAVED WITHOUT JESUS
The Old Testament was written primarily for the Jews. It is a book of God’s Laws. The New Testament was written primarily for the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish. It is a book about God’s grace, as found through His Son, Jesus the Christ.
But those two Testaments are tied together by a single ribbon. The first five books of the New Testament open using stories in the Old Testament as their foundation.
MATTHEW opens by tracing Christ back to Abraham, and the book of MARK opens showing Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy as found in,
‘Listen, there is a person shouting! ‘Prepare a way in the desert for the coming of the Lord! Make the road in the desert level for our God!’
LUKE opens up with the story of salvation from the book of MALACHI and in chapter 3, he traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam.
The book of JOHN opens his book saying how Christ was involved in the creation, and LUKE opens his book of ACTS with Christ sitting on the throne of David, which is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
And my personal favorite is how the Apostle Paul opens the book of ROMANS by declaring that the written Gospel is God’s personal message of salvation.
The writers of the New Testament wanted us to know who is in charge. It is the same One who has always been in charge; it is Jesus Christ, the living Son of the living God. He has the power to save our souls.
As the Apostles travelled through the New Testament world performing their miracles and healings, they gave all credit to Jesus Christ. They understood that people must not only know about Jesus but they also had to know Him, personally. They knew that to be saved, we must be recreated in the image of Jesus.
I read somewhere that you can barely read 20 verses of Paul’s text without reading about the ability of Christ to save those who surrender to Him. In fact, that message about Jesus is spread throughout the New Testament.
MATTHEW 28:18-19 says,
‘Jesus came and said to them, ‘All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go and make followers in all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
ACTS 2:36-38 reiterates the sovereignty of Christ.
‘The whole Jewish nation must know for sure that God has made this Jesus, both Lord and Christ. He is the One you nailed to a cross!’
‘When the Jews heard this, their hearts were troubled. They said to Peter and to the other missionaries, ‘Brothers, what should we do to be saved?’
‘Peter said to them, "Be sorry for your sins and turn from them and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
And notice the power and position God has bestowed upon Christ in this passage.
‘With the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which the Lord has offered you; which are the riches of his inheritance and the greatness of his power for those who believe.
‘God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every other rule and authority and power, and above every other name, not only in this day, but also in the future days to come.
‘And God has put all things under Jesus’ feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is the fullness of his glory.’
What we are talking about is how God has given all power and authority to Jesus Christ to be the head of our salvation. And we must take that salvation seriously, which too often, we don’t.
It is all there for the taking. What we find is that humans will generally do everything they can to make up hard-to-believe stories, or stories that just don’t make sense, and devote ourselves to them rather than just accept what has already been given.
When we receive salvation, we are God’s new creation, but to receive that salvation in the first place, we must receive it through a very personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the One with all the wisdom and power in our lives, and it is only He who can correctly lead us home.
But just how is it that allows us to be saved in the first place?
EPHESIANS 2:8-10 explains that for us.
‘It is by God’s grace you have been saved, through faith in Jesus. It is not from anything you have done, it is a gift from God. It cannot be received through your works, or you could boast about what you have done rather than boasting about what God has done for you. We are God’s special work, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the things God has prepared in advance for us to do.’
Everything we have originates from God the Father. And God has given that power to Jesus Christ. For us to receive God’s generous gifts, we must first go through Christ, believing in Him and relying upon Him as our Savior.
But here comes the hard part. To have Jesus as our Savior, we must let Him be in full and complete charge of our lives. May I ask who is in charge of your life? Before you say that Jesus is, go back and look over your recent lifestyle. Do you live your life each day trying to get closer to Jesus, or do you go through the motions and then on Sunday go to church and claim to be a Christian?
3. WHO IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE?
I was raised in church. I heard every sermon my pastor ever preached. But I did not understand most of what was said. Why? Because there was much said about God’s Laws and what we should and should not be doing, but there was very little said about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
And I will tell you this right now; you can have all the knowledge about Jesus in the world, and you can know the Bible backwards and forwards, but unless you have surrendered your life to Him, unless you have chosen to let Him be the One who leads your life, you do not know Him. You must decide to let Jesus be your very Master or you haven’t let Him be anything to you. It isn’t good enough to give Him a little of you and you keep control of the rest. With Jesus and His offer of salvation, you give Him all of you, or you have refused to give Him any of you.
And if you are willing to devote your life to Jesus, you must be willing to follow that up by renewing your decision every day for the rest of your life. That way, you will always be ‘being saved’; present tense. It will never be in the past tense as if it happened a long time ago and now it is forgotten.
‘Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’
I want you to notice two things in these verses. The first thing is that the writer refers to our continual ‘receiving’ a nation of God’s power, and the second thing is that our God is a ‘consuming’ fire. Both references are in the continual and present tense. Neither one is in the past tense.
The point of today’s message is simple. Salvation is not a thing that happened to you once. It is not a thing of the past. It is a thing that is happening to you with every breath you take. But if you are not aware of that, it will not do you any good.
God is a consuming fire. What does the word ‘consume’ mean? The dictionary defines it as;
‘To engage in with absolute fullness,’ or ‘To wholly use to the fullest extent.’
Is that how we let God into our lives? Do we engage Jesus with absolute fullness, or wholly use Him to the fullest possible extent i our lives? Or do we acknowledge Him while doing the things in life that we choose to do?
I am distressed at how the church has become so religious. It tells us we need to join a church and get involved doing things within the church. We offer more entertainment today than we do Gospel truth. Some churches don’t even have biblical messages any more, but rely on skits and plays and secular testimonies.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Churches can utilize all the above to the benefit of Christians, but not when they do these things and exclude the true Word of God as they do these things. After all, it isn’t the plays and skits that offer you salvation.
Ask yourself these questions:
··· Where do I want to go when I die? Heaven or hell?
··· Am I serious about going there?
··· Considering how I choose to live my life, where am I headed?
··· What am I willing to change so I can have a relationship with Jesus?
It is your choice where you are headed. It is my duty to tell you that you can go to hell without really knowing Jesus personally, but you cannot go to heaven unless you do know Him personally.
‘If you think it is too uncomfortable to serve the Lord, then choose whom you will serve; the old gods that are still alive in this land today, or the God of heaven? As for me and my family, we choose to serve the Lord in Heaven.’
There is an old hymn that has one line in it that pretty much says it all. The name of that song is, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’
Do you have a close enough relationship with Jesus to call Him your dear friend? If not, you have an opportunity this morning to do just that.