for the Faith
The greatest tragedy that can befall someone is to think they’re saved, only to discover immediately after death they are not. We’d all like to believe the claims of those who say they’re Christians, but Jesus gives a harsh warning because He knows many will be deceived. They’ll sit in churches week after week, professing that Jesus is the Son of God, but will never really enter into a personal relationship with Him. Intellectual faith isn’t the same as saving faith. It’s not enough to know facts about Jesus or to believe He died and rose again. Even demons believe that (James 2:19). Salvation involves more than knowing: it requires trusting that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin, receiving His forgiveness, turning away from old sinful ways, and entering into a relationship with Him. What matters is not what we say with our mouths, but what we mean in our hearts. See Matthew 7:13-29 . . . The Narrow and Wide Gates . . . “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” . . . And A Tree and Its Fruit . . . "Beware of the false prophets" . . . and “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter".
Although you probably won’t understand all that happens at the moment of salvation, when Christ becomes your Savior, He also becomes your Lord. As the Master of your life, He then has a right to govern what you do. His Holy Spirit (3rd person of the Trinity) takes up residence within you when you are saved, and that means you will change. He continually works to remove sinful attitudes and behaviors, replacing them with His spiritual fruit. (Gal. 5:22-23)
We recognize a person’s salvation not by profession but by his/her fruit. If you’re truly saved, your character will become more Christlike over time, and your desire will be to obey Him. This does not mean you’ll never sin or stumble, but the overall direction of your life will be one of obedience.
Now, let’s consider God’s grace in the process of Salvation. We can do nothing to earn a right standing in His eyes. Our Heavenly Father freely gave and poured out His love when He sent His son Jesus; “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
You can never add anything to the finished work of the cross. Christ saved us, “… not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)
God graciously gave us His Son and said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). We are allowed into an eternal relationship with God because of His grace and are strongly exhorted to live each day knowing our relationship is maintained by the same grace in which it began, not by anything we do or accomplish.
If you are a Christian, you have been "adopted" by God, and He is therefore your new adopted Father “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5)
But being adopted doesn't negate the fact that your original father was Satan. Nor did you discard your sin nature when you became saved.
There are many things we are called to do as an adopted Child of God, many ways to serve and honor our Heavenly Father, many ways to be obedient and seek after holiness.
But we can NEVER fall into the trap of thinking, even for a moment, that what we do adds to our Salvation by grace. As much as faith in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for our Salvation, faith in Jesus Christ (2nd person of our Triune Godhead) is also absolutely sufficient.
Paul delivered this message in many of his letters, but nowhere as strong as in his letter to the Galatian churches. He had preached the message of Salvation by grace, but they had been led into a false teaching which said they must earn their Salvation by first submitting to the Old Testament Law. In James 2:10, we learn “…”Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
We cannot be justified on the basis of our good works. In order to be justified before God on the basis of what we do for God, we would have to live our entire life without one sinful act or thought, which is, of course, impossible. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Fortunately, God HAS justified us through Jesus' death, for all our sins—past, present, and future. “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us . . . and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)
Therefore, justification is faith plus nothing: “. . . man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” (Romans 3:28) Paul warned that if we fall into this same trap, “Christ will be of no value to you at all” (Galatians 5:2). There is value in the things we do, but the value is not in the religious activity or product we produce; rather, the value is in the true faith in our heart which ought to motivate ALL we seek to accomplish.
The only thing that counts is “faith working itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
We show our love for God through worship, thanksgiving, prayer, study, obedience, and faithful service; and we acknowledge His saving grace with a humble spirit which does not allow us to become puffed up or feel deserving of our Salvation.
We demonstrate our love for others as we refuse to cause harm, in word or deed, refuse to harbor unforgiveness, and actively look for opportunities to serve. And we show an understanding of God’s grace as we express our love to others without requiring them to earn our love or even love us in return.
Let’s receive His grace with a thankful heart, knowing we bring nothing to the cross besides our sin which He then takes away. Let’s trust only in His grace, given to us through faith, and express our faith with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength as we love Him and love one another. Let’s begin to live this life like we truly understand His amazing grace.
As Christians we are charged with learning Scripture. And, we have a great responsibility to learn correct doctrine. We are to know our Bibles well enough to be able to accurately answer both Christians and non-Christians in questions of doctrine or application of doctrine: “. . . always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you . . .” (1 Peter 3:15)
God holds us personally accountable to the doctrinal positions we hold. On Judgment Day we can't point fingers and say, "my pastor said . . ." or "my denomination believes . . ." or "my Bible teacher said . . ." (or Uncle Pete said …) as an excuse for incorrect doctrine.
The Bible says it is up to the individual to determine if they are being taught truth: “… they (the Bereans) received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
So don't take everything you hear for granted, regardless of who's teaching you. Compare what you're being taught to other Scriptures. Take the time to understand what you believe and why you believe it. Our Triune God wants you to get it right because you are representing Him!
“in all things show yourself to be an example . . . with purity in doctrine, dignified,” (Titus 2:7)
"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." 1 Corinthians 16:13
Call or email me if you have questions.
"Saint Pete", Sr.
Author & Webmaster: Preston
H. Hazzard, Sr.