Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salvation; is it easier than you think?

Do you believe in God?  Are you destined to spend eternity in heaven? If so, how will you respond if you stand before the Throne and are asked, “Why should you be allowed to enter Heaven?”

A while back I began to concentrate on evangelizing in public areas by talking with random strangers. This effort, which I call “cold contacting”, taught me about an issue I was surprised to learn was so common. The majority of people I talk with profess to believe in God but when asked about Heaven, they gave a disturbing answer. The dialogue will generally go something like this:

Me: So, you believe that God exists?
Respondent: Yes.
Me: Are you going to Heaven when you pass from this life?
Respondent: I think so. (which usually follows a short pause)
Me: How do you know?
Respondent: Well, I’m a good person.  I try to live a good life; I don’t cheat or steal or anything like that...(these answers are given with some tension -- it's clearly not a welcome topic).

To further my surprise, I perceived aggravation when attempting to explain the good news that one doesn't get to Heaven by trying to “live a good life” or working hard to “be a good person.” No, it's actually much easier and has nothing to do with our own merit. Anyone I know who has received the gift of salvation in Christ will usually respond to questions about their salvation with joy and none of the aforementioned tension. All this lead me to the frightening reality that there are a whole lot of people who call themselves “Christian” but are unwittingly heading straight for Hell.

I recently had the honor of walking with a friend of mine as he put his relationship with Jesus in motion. He was raised in church, attended services throughout his life, and is married to a wife with a strong understanding of the faith, but he missed the main thing. For the first couple of weeks following his transformation he struggled with the truth of God’s grace being given to us and not earned by us. Why is this?

We have been raised up in a society that is predominately built on a system of getting out what you put in. “Eat your meat; get your pudding.” “Clean your room; spend the night at your friend’s house.” “Work your hours; get your pay check.”  This becomes the backbone of our life in certain ways. Then, we examine the most important topic of life and what do we see? The complete opposite. It seems strange and perhaps a bit confusing that salvation and spending eternity in the presence of God in heaven is not something we can earn, but is imputed to those who receive Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf.

We want to make it out to be a lot more complicated but it's really quite simple:  God is perfect and holy and must therefore be distanced from imperfection. His creation was originally pure. Sin entered the world by the choices of man and things changed. In order to live with God in Heaven we must be pure and sinless. We can not do this (Romans 3:23.) God then made a way that man could be reconciled and the curse of separation defeated.  God humbled Himself and became a man -- God incarnate.  Jesus then lived a pure and sinless life.  We killed Him in the same way the Levitical Priest sacrificed the spotless lamb for the forgiveness of sins and thus, He is called the Lamb of God.

When He was sacrificed on the cross He became the last sacrifice for sin, as only He could, taking our place in judgement (Hebrews 10:12-18, Romans 5:8.) When the believer receives this substitution, its as if Jesus stands in that person's place and it is His sinless life that is judged. He paid for our salvation with His own blood and then offers it to us as a free gift of grace. All you need to do is believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:13, John 5:24.)  So when you stand in judgment before God and He ask why you should be allowed into Heaven, you can simply say, “Not because of anything I have done, but because Christ was sacrificed for me and I believe.”

"God saves believers by imputing to them the merit of Christ's perfect righteousness - not in any sense because of their own righteousness. God accepts believers in Christ. He declares them perfectly righteous because of Christ. Their sins have been imputed to Christ, who has paid the full penalty. 
His righteousness is now imputed to them, and they receive the full merit for it."  ~ John MacArthur 

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