Why We Believe What We Believe: Salvation (Ep 10)

Justification is not “just as if I’d” never sinned. It’s much more than that. Justification is the work of Jesus Christ to declare you righteous. Let’s learn together in episode 10 of Why We Believe What We Believe.

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INTRODUCTION: Justification is not “just as if I’d” never sinned. Never say that definition out loud around me. That’s a horrible definition of justification. Justification is the work of Jesus Christ to declare you righteous.

EASLEY: I doubt any of us have been untouched by cancer. It seems we all have a friend, a family member, we know someone who’s battling cancer. When cancer strikes, it strikes our hearts with fear and before long we are looking at a myriad of traditional options. Traditional medicines, alternative approaches, on and on it goes. Imagine for a moment there is one definitive cure for all cancer. It works. Every patient who goes to this treatment is guaranteed to come out cancer free. Would we try it? Would we accept it? Would we embrace it? When it comes to the spiritual cancer that we all have- death, there is a cure. There is a cure for our sin condition and it comes through a gift, by way of grace, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let’s join the program in process, the message given at the Moody Bible Institute.

MESSAGE: Ephesians 2:8 and 9 are very common to all of us. We know it well. We can quote it backwards and forwards in the King James and the NIV. But often we forget verse 10. Let me read it and you try to listen from a fresh set of ears. For by grace you have been saved, through faith-and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one may boast. For we are HIs workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Let me give you a quick definition. Grace of course is the means by which we are saved. Grace is not simply undeserved favor. Grace is undeserved favor in the face of deserved wrath. It’s not just that God decided to overlook our sins like we overlook a childs minor disciplinary issue. God by His grace didn’t just overlook it and say, “Ok,I give you a walk. I give you a by; I give you a do over.”  Grace is His inherited favor in face of deserved wrath. How do we embrace this? How do we get this? Faith! For by grace you’ve been saved through faith. Faith is the means by which we might say the embracing, the connecting, the way we appropriate grace and salvation. I put my trust in someone. I believe in someone. I believe in them to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I shared with you before, many times in my postgraduate degree, I had to have help. I had to find people who were smarter than me, who were better than me and say, “Will you help me?” And they’d say, “Sure, I’d be happy to help you.” I trusted them to do for me, what I could not do for myself. I’ve had a few minor surgeries in my life. When I tell that doctor, “Will you fix me?” He says, “Sure, I can fix you. It won’t be a problem.” They always say that by the way. You go under. Have you ever thought about when they put that IV in you and you go to sleep what could possibly happen to you? I mean they could draw pictures on you. They could make fun of you. They could videotape you and make you do funny things under the influence of anesthesia. They could take the wrong organ. It happens. They can also make a mistake and kill you. There’s a morbidity rate at almost every surgery. They tell you, “Ok, there’s a one percent morbidity,” meaning one out of a hundred people who get this surgery, one dies. When I say, “Yes” to this doc and he puts me out, I am trusting him to do for me what I cannot do for myself. When you trust someone, you are saying, “I believe in you. I put my faith in you. I put my mental, my heart, my kind of whole in you to say, “You know what? I trust you to do this thing.” You’re going to do for me what I cannot do for myself. Grace through faith. It’s a gift of God and the word is so profound. It’s something God gives. We can’t fix it. We can’t appropriate. We can’t earn it. It’s a gift! I don’t know about you but the last time someone gave me a birthday present, I did not pull out my wallet and say, “Can I reimburse you?” How silly. Now being Americans and humans, we say, “Oh, they gave me something for my birthday, I better get them something for their birthday.” That’s what Christmas cards are all about by the way. It’s sort of sickness we do. “They didn’t send us one this year, they’re off the list.” (laughter) Who cares? Right? Somebody cares somewhere. But it’s this tit for tat thing. NO, no, no, a gift is a gift. I gave it to you. When we were adopting our first child, a neighbor that I barely knew walked across the street and handed me a check for a thousand dollars. It was the largest gift anyone had ever given me in my life. I was stupefied. I said, “Charlie, why are you doing this?” He said, “ Martha and I love you.” I said, “You don’t even know us.” He said, “Oh, we’ve been watching you for about a year.” “Why would you do this?” “We just love you.” “What can I do for you?” “Not a thing. We want to help you.It’s a gift.” Still blows me away to think about it. You’ve had gifts given to you and you’re overwhelmed by them. Gift! No good work earns a gift. Good works gain no attention before God, before a person knows Jesus Christ. Let me say it again. No good work will gain God’s attention before you know Christ.

I remember talking to a friend years ago thinking, how do we communicate this in a clever way and he had a great illustration. He said, “Imagine that California is earth, and Hawaii is heaven. That’s not hard to imagine, right?” And imagine you got to swim from California to get to Hawaii to be saved. Your ability to swim is not your physical prowess like some world class swimmer like Esther Williams or someone, your ability to swim or your good works, so when the Chicago Marathon went “pow” everybody started down the street. We have this big kkkk(noise) from God. Go! And all humanity on the edge of the California coastline starts to swim like crazy to go to Hawaii. Those who have the best works win. So, it’s probably politically incorrect to say this, but let’s just say it. I’m among friends. People like Hitler and Mussolini were just stomping them on the beach as we go in the water, because they’re evil wicked folpa kind of people. Just kill them and go, right? I know it’s incorrect. Just erase it from the tape, it’ll be fine.(laughter)So then as you’re swimming along, you’re swimming like crazy  because you’ve got a few good works and there goes Mother Teresa (Michael making noise with mouth and there’s’ laughter). Nobody can swim faster than Mother Teresa. Can you see that blue and white thing?  Head above the water smiling, you know. Maybe DL Moody’s out there swimming like crazy. Maybe Billy Graham’s walking on the water. (laughter) Maybe Florence Nightingale’s floating over the water. I don’t know. If good works gets you to Hawaii, that’s whose’ coattails I’d want to be on, but good works get no attention from God prior to a person’s salvation. Paul knew this when he wrote these words, men and women. He said,” It’s not a result of works.” We all say, “Yeah, it’s a gift,” but look at verse 10. For we are His workmanship. You are God’s work. Why? You were made to do a work. That’s what the verse says, keep reading. Which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. He’s separating works from salvation so clearly and we missed the verse entirely. You can’t do it. You are a product of work and by the way, your works are what God designed you to do. Not for salvation. Just to serve Him. The best way I can articulate it is your good works and mine are the way we say thank you to God for a salvation so rich and so free. Your good works and mine are a small way we say thank you to God for our salvation so rich and so free.

I have four children you know. Two of them are very grateful creatures. One of them still delights my heart to this day. They just say thank you for every little thing. They say thank you all the time. I remember getting this child a bike when she was four years of age and like for a week she said, “Thank you daddy. Thank you daddy.” The first day we showed it to her on her birthday she goes, this is her birthday, “Is this mine?” She was stunned. She looked at it; she sat on it; she hugged it; she kissed; she looked at it; she sat on it; she said, “Thank you. Thank you for my bike. Thank you for my bike.” Do you know what it does to a father’s heart when their child says, “Thank you?” There’s no greater joy. Then you say, “What else would you like?” (laughter) I have two other children that I remind them often how grateful they should be. “You should be grateful.” And you know what in the flesh, in the sinful soul of my center, I get frustrated when my children are ungrateful. I get frustrated when they compare their lives with other people who seem to have more. I am the only father in the universe who will not have an x-box or an intendo in the house. There’s no other father ever born, it doesn’t matter. It’s not some big thing. I just find it interesting that everyone else in the world has at least six and we have none. I say, “Read a book.” They say, “I hate reading.” I say, “Well learn to love it. Next subject.” They complain about all the things they don’t have. Put some shoe leather on this. Your father in heaven who loved you when you were unlovely, who by grace through faith you appropriate salvation so rich and so free, He said, “You can’t do anything that gets my attention, but here’s a gift.” You welcome that gift and you say for the rest of your life, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. What do I do to show my thanks?” “ Do the good works I gave you to do.” “How do I show you thankfulness?” “Do the good works I gave you to do.” Not a thing wrong with good works, men and women. In fact, they’re downright Biblical. Christ Jesus, He made you for good works that you should walk in them.

Now the Reformation was really about this issue. The Reformation was about, “Ok, what do I have to do to get saved? Do I have to do some set of works so I can swim like Mother Teresa? Or do I understand that it is by grace alone, by faith alone.” This of course is what separated the largest schism in so called Christianity historically. The law only proves wrong. The law of the one prohibition in Adam. Do this. It’s all over. Anything else you can do. So what do we do? We do the one thing we can’t do. I’ll give you ten commandments and see if you can’t manage those. Can’t manage those. Alright we’ll give you three hundred as the prophets continue to egg on and glam on. How do you manage those? Very poorly. Law only shows what I do wrong. Law never awards for doing right. Now mingled in our blood streams, we have this right when we’re caught. First of all let’s back up. When you and I sin and we know we’re guilty after we move from the blame casting and the defense mechanism because we typically do when we sin and we’re found out, we defend ourselves and we blame cast. Once we move beyond that there’s something in our conscience, our minds, our hearts that says, you know what? I’ve got to do something right to fix this. Right? Don’t look at me like that. There’s something in your soul that when you know you’re busted you say, “What do I need to do now?” That proves the law is incapable of producing good. All the law can do is show you how bad, it can’t show you what to do for good. Luther said,“We’re beggars all” Right? I remember one of my professors in grad school said, “Every year students would come back and confessed they cheated on an exam.” I shared with you last year a person who wrote a letter to me, an octogenarian, a person in his eighties, who cheated when they were at Moody. With tears wrote this long letter, I called him and talked to him on the phone. It was one of those moments I slipped off my shoes, talking to this man. It had broken his heart. How stupid could he have been? He loved the school so much. He felt he betrayed the school and he betrayed the Lord and we had a wonderful, wonderful talk. My professor back at grad school said, “Every year someone comes back and says, “You know I lied; I cheated; I stole; I did wrong.”  Now this professor was very interesting. He sort of liked to let people squirm a little. Sort of a sick guy. And as this person would squirm in the office, cry and confess, the professor always said this, “You know that’s the problem with sin. It makes a big mess and you can’t ever clean it up. Then he said, “The school has no policy on these things. We don’t hold it over your head. We don’t pull your diploma and the fact that God’s been working you over, that means more to me than anything. For my part you’re forgiven, God bless you, stay strong, keep short accounts. The next time you sin, just admit it right away and don’t let it eat your lunch.” I was witness to  a Restoration service where two people had egregiously offended God and the church through some sordid affairs, divorces and remarriages, and come back to ask for forgiveness. I heard a woman standing in front of a completely packed meeting room of two thousand standing along side say, “I have not had a decent nights rest in seven years because of my sin. I will walk over glass to get rid of the guilt.” I’ll never forget it as long as I live. Because when we sin, there’s something inside us that says,”What do I do to get rid of the sin?” The person and work of Jesus Christ is the only sufficient means for our sin condition. If there was another way to get saved, why would He have sent His son? I have a friend in another religious traditions with all the ritual and all the merits and all the things you have to do and they say with clenched hands and broken hearts, “I know Jesus died for my sins, but I must do all that I can to atone for them.” It breaks my heart they just can’t see beyond the foolishness of good works before they trusted Jesus Christ and the inefficiency of good works to secure, or ensure their salvation. Justification, redemption, other terms become wet stones for how we understand this. How is a person made righteous? Romans 3 is a chocked full chapter you should know inside and out. It’s the whetstone of sharpening, the concept of how we are made righteous, what justification by faith means. Justification is not just as if I never sinned. Never say that definition out loud around me. That’s a horrible definition of justification. Justification is the work of Jesus Christ to declare you righteous. It’s not just as if you never sinned. Jesus Christ sacrificed life,death, burial, resurrection, on the cross, on Calvary, overcoming the grave, new life, able to say to His Father, “I paid for that. I justified them. I declared them righteous. They can’t do a thing to get your attention apart from me.” It’s all about Christ and the Beginning and the End. He’s the only one who can provide our salvation so rich, and so free.

A good compression of a number of these ideas is in First Peter, Chapter one. I’ll read verses 3,4, and 5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again. God’s mercy caused you to be born again to a Living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. You think about your inheritance waiting for you? I’ve studied kleronomia, and kleronomos, and Kleron (Greek words translated to English) and all the tangent words about inheritance. I don’t know what it means guys. But I will tell you this somehow sewed into your salvation is this inheritance that is imperishable that awaits you. And it’s waiting for you in heaven. I almost look at it this way, when you go into a really nice hotel, there’s a gift waiting there with your name on it. There’s some spiritual inheritance waiting those in Christ. Verse 5, those who are protected by the power of God,through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last times. So there’s a current reality to our salvation and an ultimate reality to our future. Let me give you four final observations and then I want to read a very long quote that hopefully you will indulge me in.

  1. Salvation is only through innocent blood. Hebrews 9:22
  2. Salvation is only through a person. We have all kinds of illustrations whether it’s an advocate in a courtroom, whether it’s a transplant operation for someone who is going to give an organ for you to live and die. There has to be substitution. There has to be a person.
  3. Salvation is only by grace. It’s the means by which we are saved that God was gracious towards us.
  4. Salvation is only through faith. Only we appropriate it, the only way we embrace it, in Christ Jesus by faith to put your trust in Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. That’s what it means to believe, to trust, have faith.

I came across this accidentally, this 1945 quotation from Lewis Sperry Chafer.  It breaks all the homiletical rules to read this long of a quote. I know that so the professors won’t have to tell me later. I’ve tried to edit it. I tried to shorten it up and I said, “You know what? I’ll just ask you all to listen and I’ll try to read well.” The preacher is an important link in the chain which connects the heart of God with the souls of lost men. Concerning all other links in this chain, it may be remarked that there is no deficiency in the provision of redemption through the sacrifice of Christ. There is no flaw in the record of that redemption revealed in the oracles of God. There is no weakness or failure on the part of the Spirit. There should be no omissions, defects, derelictions in the preachers presentation of redemption to those for whom it is provided. When seriously contemplating the responsibility of gospel preaching, cannot but solemnize the heart and be the cause of an ever increasing dependence upon God. It is not to be wondered at that the apostle speaking for the Holy Spirit declares with that unique emphasis, a twofold repetition, but though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than which has already been preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say again, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that you have received let him be accursed.Galatians 1:8 and 9. This Anathema has never been revoked, nor could it be so long as the saving grace of God is to be proclaimed to a lost world. From the human point of view, a misrepresentation of the gospel might be so misguided that a soul might lose his way forever. It behooves the doctor of souls to know the precise remedy for which he is appointed to administer. A medical doctor may by error terminate what is at best only a brief life. But the doctor of souls is dealing with an eternal destiny. Having giving His Son to die for lost men, God cannot but be exacting as to the great benefit it is presenting. Nor should He be deemed unjust if He pronounces an Anathema on those who pervert the one and only way of salvation. A sensitive man realizing these eternal issues might shrink from the responsibility so great, but God is not called His messengers to such failure. He enjoins them “Preach the Word” and assures them of His unfailing presence and enabling power. Probably at no point in the whole field of theological truth is the injunction more applicable when Scriptures says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.

You and I have the very gospel of Jesus Christ, the One, the only means of salvation. How will you handle it?

PRAYER: Father in heaven, we marvel at salvation, so rich so free, so great, so hard to grasp. We wonder why you would love the likes of us? But we sure thank you! Enlarge our vision of your salvation. Encourage us to be the best representatives of Christ, by your Spirit’s power we ask. Amen.

CONCLUSION: I would like nothing better than to hear from you; where you are on your spiritual journey. We would love for you to come by MichaelEasleyinContext.com. Leave me a voicemail, send me a message. I would love to know where you are on your spiritual journey. If you have some good questions, I’d like to have an opportunity to answer them. My greatest hope, my greatest prayer, my greatest concern, is that everyone who hears this, or shares it with a friend, that you know, that you know, where you stand with Christ. He loves you. He made a way for you and the greatest gift He’s given in the person and work of His Son is salvation. This is Michael Easley inContext.

  • John Sams

    Awesome message Michael as always!

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