Salvation title
©Douglas Beyer 2000

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THE GIFT OF SALVATION
Romans 6:23

Isaiah says God is "mighty to save" (Isaiah 63:1). That's a good thing because some of us are harder to save than others. Do you know who the hardest cases are? Not thieves, not adulterers, not murderers, not homosexuals, not even blasphemers. The hardest cases for God to save are the good people who are so self-righteous they will not confess themselves to be sinners in need of a Savior (See Matthew 9:13).

We are all sinners. The Bible says it (Romans 3:23) and experience confirms it. Everyone is a sinner, but some sins are worse than others. The sins of the flesh are bad — murder, adultery, theft. But the sins of the spirit are worse — hate, lust, envy, pride, jealousy, revenge. Jesus said to the self-righteous Pharisees who were guilty of the sins of spirit: "Prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Matthew 21:31). C. S. Lewis said, "A self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither." (Mere Christianity, Chapter 5, para. 14).

All sin has its consequences. In the words of Paul, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Sin Pays Its Earned Wages: Death

People suffer the fatal consequences of their sins not because God gets so angry with them that he kills them, but because sin causes death the same way shouting causes noise. Sin always pays off. Through inflation and depression, the wages of sin remain the same. A clever criminal might successfully evade punishment by a human judge, but nobody is cunning enough to bribe the Heavenly Judge.

If you live wrong, you cannot die right. "It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So then, each of us will be accountable to God" (Romans 14:10-12). "For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

As a tree falls so must it lie,
As a man lives so must he die,
As a man dies so must he be
Through all the days of eternity.
  (author unknown)

Death does not reverse the direction of your life. Death confirms and even accelerates the speed with which you travel to your chosen destiny. Where you go hereafter depends on what you go after here. What you weave in time you will wear in eternity.

Sin pays its earned wages. When? Sometimes now, but always later. "Those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18). Every time you sin your response to good atrophies and something in you dies. Physical death confirms the present state of your soul — either in eternal life or eternal death (Matthew 25:26; Revelation 22:11).

The one thing that sin and death have in common is separation. Sin separates. It separates you from yourself. It kicks off an inner conflict putting you at war with yourself (Romans 7:14-25). Rebecca McCann's poem, "Inconsistency" speaks for most of us:

"I'm sure I have a noble mind and honesty and tact
And no one is more surprised than I to see the way I act."

Sin separates you from others. James asks in his epistle, "Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from?" Then he answers saying, "They come from your desires for pleasure which are constantly fighting within you" (James 4:1-6). Disoriented from yourself, alienated from others, and finally separated from God.

Sin separates you from God. The first response of the first man to the first sin was to hide himself from God. Adam tried to put distance between himself and the Lord (Genesis 3:8-10). The last word spoken to the unrepentant sinner is, "Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire…." (Matthew 25:41). Sin is the creature saying to the Creator, "My will be done." Damnation is the Creator finally saying to the creature, "Have it your way." And that way is always a no-exit hell of eternal separation from God.

"The wages of sin is death." Both separate. Sin separates you from yourself, from others and from God. Death separates your soul from your body (Matthew 10:28). Doctors and lawyers argue over the definition of death. Does it occur when the breath stops, the heart stops or the brain stops? More important than any of these events, however, is when the soul leaves the body. At that point the body is both empty and dead.

Death separates your soul from your body and may separate your soul from God. John's Revelation calls this the "second death" (Revelation 20:12-15). The separation from God which began in this age is made final in the age to come. Sin pays its earned wages — death. That's bad news. But I also have good news.

God Gives His Free Gift — Eternal Life

A Gift for you.God doesn't owe us anything. He is always our creditor, never our debtor. Religious fools try to place God under obligation so that they can approach him demanding justice instead of pleading for mercy. But God will have none of it! Did you hear about the pastor who died and when he arrived at the gates of heaven an angel asked him for his credentials? He said, "I was a faithful pastor for thirty-five years."
"That's good," said the angel. "That gives you five points."
I tithed my income and volunteered my time in community service."
"That's good," said the angel. "That gives you another five points."
"How many do I need to get into heaven?" implored the pastor.
"Five thousand," said the angel.
"At that rate," said the pastor, "I'm not going to make it, except by the grace
of God."
"Welcome!" said the angel. "That's the only way!"

Before God we are all welfare cases receiving something for nothing (Isaiah 55:1-2). There is no way we can earn God's free grace — any more than we could deserve the taste of strawberries, or earn good looks, or bring about our own birth. All of life is a gift — including eternal life!

Grace is a gift. That means you don't have to work your tail off to be loved by God. And if you do, you may have trouble being loved by your wife or your husband or your friends.

Whatever good things you do, you do not to obligate God, but to thank God for what has given. Do you see the difference?

"I would not work my soul to save
For that the Lord hath done.
But I would work like any slave
For the love of God's dear son."
(author unknown)

Wouldn't you?

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm, you must stand by the fire. If you want to get wet, you have to come to the water. If you want peace, joy, and eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, him who is the Fount of every blessing.

Richard Foster talks about the "gospel of sin management." It comes in two versions. The liberal version says "give God a hand in the issues of social justice." The conservative version says, "Jesus died for your sins so that when you die they will be forgiven." Neither version completely understands that the free gift of God is eternal life now and forever.

Eternal life is not a prize God could, if he chose, hand out to just anyone. It is a spring of living water within you flowing out from the center of your being (John 4:14; 7:38-39). If God the Holy Spirit lives within you, how could you not live forever? On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit does not live within you, what can you do except wither and die?

God is saying to you now what he said to ancient Israel through the Prophet Ezekiel: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:11)?

 

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