Summary: This message shows that believing in Jesus must be accompanied with repentance, which is not giving up a list of sins others tell us to do but being willing to do what God tells us to do.
Twelve Inches from Heaven (Presenting the Gospel - My Story)
“Call his name, Jesus (The Lord saves), because He will save His people from their sins.” -Matt. 1:21
“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
– Acts 2:4
The word “save” means, “to rescue or “deliver” to a place of safety. When Peter was drowning he cried out to Jesus, “Lord save me!” (Matthew 14:30) We speak of firemen “saving” people from a burning building. When we turn to Christ he “rescues” us from the penalty of sin in forgiveness; the controlling power of sin by changing our character and from the presence of sin when we get to heaven. First is forgiveness.
“The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. The immoral / the idol worshippers / the adulterers /the homosexuals /the thieves / the drunkards / the slanderers. And some of you were like that. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord.”
Paul’s favorite word for forgiveness was “justify” which means to “be declared righteous, innocent of all charges.” When we become Christians we are innocent in the sight of God. To Him it is like we never sinned.
We will sin until the day we die, so how can God, who knows all about us (Psalm 139) say we are innocent. It is because He came to earth in Jesus (John 1:1,14) and was punished in our place. Romans 3:24-27 says
“We are justified through the redemption (a price paid to buy something) in Christ Jesus, through faith in His blood. God put Him forward as an atoning sacrifice. He did this to demonstrate His justice because in His patience with us he had let our sins committed beforehand go unpunished.”
Second Corinthians five says “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin so we in Him can become righteous.” God “laid our sins on Jesus” (Isaiah 53) and sees Him as guilty so He can see us as innocent.
In a tract written for “911” workers who pulled broken bodies from the rubble, Max Lucado said:
“Jesus looked at the cross and saw hell. But He went there anyway because He did not want to go to heaven without you.”
The Bible uses many different pictures and illustrations of forgiveness. It says: God remembers our sins no more (Heb. 10:17) / He covers them (Ps. 32:1) / He blots them out (Isa. 44:22) /He will never mention them again (Ezek. 33:16). Our sins are behind God’s back (Isa. 38:34) / thrown into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19) / purged like a wound (Heb. 1:3); cleansed (1 Jn. 1:7) and erased (Acts 3:19).
God empties the dictionary to show us that in His sight, when we accept Christ, as far as He is concerned, our sins are gone. It is, to Him, as though we never sinned.
When Jesus first comes to us He does not just talk about the nice things we have done, but also about the mean and selfish things we have done - not just about the people we have helped but about the people we have hurt and the many people we have failed to help. And He comes not to condemn but to forgive (Jn. 3:17)
The door of forgiveness is OPEN TO EVERYONE. First Corinthians five says homosexuals, drunkard, adulterers, etc. will not go to heaven. And then it adds, “and some of you were like that but you were washed and justified.”
Our hymn book says:
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives
There is no sin you and I can commit that Jesus will not forgive if we ask Him to.
The “unpardonable sin” (Matthew 12:22-32) Jesus talked about was addressed to religious people who knew and taught the Bible and looked at Him, the God of the Bible, who came to earth and called Him Satan. Their hearts were so hard - calloused (Psalm 95:8-9 / Hebrews 3:7-8) that they saw no need of being forgiven and would never ask for it.
The “unpardonable” sin is rejecting God’s offer of salvation through the Holy Spirit’s witness so much that we no longer hear it or feel like doing it. As long as anyone has a desire to be forgiven and changed, he has not committed this sin and can come to God and receive it.
A CHANGE OF CHARACTER AND LIFE
“A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you…I will put my Spirit within you to cause you to walk in my statutes….I will save you from all your uncleanness.” (Ezek. 36:26)
Jesus saves us from the controlling power of wrongdoing. He told Nicodemas, a Jewish religious leader who was trusting in Jewish circumcision and good works to get him into heaven, “Unless a person is born again he will never see the kingdom of God - heaven (John 3).