| Salvation Through Jesus-Redemption
Salvation is described in Enoch Hanson's book, To Grow In Jesus, A Guide to Christian Gowth.Profecting or working out Salvation is the place to start in the growth process. Salvation comes when we realize God and his Son love us. John wrote,"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perist but have eternal life"(Jn3:16).The psalmist said, "Thy steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, thy faithfulness to the clouds,... man and beast thou savest, O Lord" (Ps 36:5-6).Salvation comes when we recognize our sins and confess them before God. Jesus said"...repent and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15). Paul wrote in Romans 10:9,"...if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Then we profess our beliefs before others and seek baptism. Baptism symbolizes the washing away of the old life of sin and ushering in a new life in Christ. Belief and faith go hand in hand. Jesus said to the woman with a hemorrhage, "your faith has made you well"(or whole KJV)(Mt 9:22). Faith is trusting belief in Jesus Christ. It is confidence in Jesus even when we cannot clearly see the way. John said," If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just , and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1Jn 1:9). How do we know we are saved? We feel that our sins have been forgiven.We feel revitalized and energized by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Pray for this.
One needs to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus said, " the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand (near); repent and believe in the gospel." The kingdom is God's rule. Repenting is turning away from sin. Believing is accepting and internalizing the truth about Jesus. Paul teaches we are babes in Christ in the beginning. We need to grow in Jesus. We become more and more like Jesus as we worship and practive our new found faith. Our goal is to achieve a higher level of perfection. Bible study, worship and service are part of this process. An active prayer life recruites the aid of the Holy Spirit which is promised to all Christians.
| Is your salvation leading to Christiian growth in your life? Do you claim Jesus Christ as the central focus in your life? Are you bearing the fruits of the Christian life? Jesus said, " Bear fruit
that befits repentance..."(Mt 3:8).He also said, "Go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you" (Jn 15:16).
Paul told the Corinthians they were "babes in Christ"(1Cor 3-1).How do we move from babes in Christ to mature Christians? Initial growth comes with receiving the gift of salvation which is a free gift from God and his Son Jesus Christ. One needs to perfect or work out one's salvation. Each person is responsible for doing this. We need to recognize the love of God for us and to acknowledge our own sins and imperfections. Upon confessing these sins and our belief in Jesus Christ, we are in a position to move ahead to a greater growth and discipleship. Bible study and prayer help facilitate this. Fellowship with other Christians also helps us grow. People in isolation can grow because Jesus said,'...with God all things are possible"(Mt19:26). However, the support of fellow believers is uplifting.
| In moving ahead we strive for a greater degree of Christian maturity. Jesus taught this when he said, " But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt:6:33). How do we effectively do this? Jesus was shown a Roman coin that had a picture of the emperor on it.He was asked was it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Jesus' reply indicated where our priorities should be. He said, " Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's (Mk 12:17).Jesus taught on numerous occasions the importance of setting correct priorities.This is the Christian maturity process. What then are some of these priorities in seeking his kingdom and his righteousness? The Bible, particularly the new Testament, reveals many of these priorities. It is up to us to identify them and make them our own. The Apostle Paul dealt with this in his discussion of spiritual gifts in 1Cor12. Paul concludes this wonderful chapter by writing, " But earnestly desire the higher gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way" (V31).
Maturity is moving from our basic profession of faith to a higher degree of spiritual maturity. The degree to which we are seeking, praying, studying, worshiping, and helping others, could be a measure of where we stand. It should be emphasized that Jesus and the Father wants us to be saved, to be part of their kingdom and to have eternal life in heaven.
| Jesus said, " You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Jesus said this after his discussion of the higher righteousness found in Mt5;48. This passage, sometimes referred to as the Sermon on the Mount describes behavior that is pleasing to God. These teachings along with others describe the righteousness of the kingdom of God. Jesus said, " Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteounness for they shall be safisfied."(Mt 5:6) Jesus taught that this righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharasees. He taught that kingdom righteousness was more than mere observing religious laws and regulations. Kingdon righreousness involves, faith, hope, love, and service to others. This righteousness is not self-serving. Jesus said, " Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..., but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..."(Mt 6:19-20). He concluded by saying, " For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"(v2l).
So,what is kingdom life like according to Jesus? To begin with, it is a present reality. It is here and now. It is something close at hand or near by us(Mt3:2,Mk12:34). It is something we ask for in the Lord's prayer (Mt 6:10).It is an everlasting kingdom as we see in Luke 1:33. Jesus frequently spoke of the everlasting life he offered.This life is under the rule and power of God, past, present and future. It is something in which we can have an active part according to Jesus. The following words were revealed by John about Jesus:".. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Rev 1:5-6). Jesus is pictured as one who is coming again(v7).
The second thing Jesus taught about the kingdom is that it is something coming in the future. Jesus prayed, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done"(Mt 6:10). During the last supper when Jesus presented the cup, he said, " Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God"(Mk 14:25).
We see that the kingdom is not only now(within us), but it is something coming in the future with the Lord. Much can be said and taught about the kingdom of God. In conclusion, God promised the children of Israel that they would be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). The conditional provision was that they obey his voice and keep his covenant(v5). This makes Revelation 1:6 very significant in the total scheme of things. This verse states that Jesus has freed us from our sins and has "made us a kingdon of priests to his God and Father..." Our priestly role will be one of serving and praising God with others who are saved.
In the final analysis the kingdom of God is worth any sacrifice to gain or acquire. It is vast and can accomodate a great multitude(Rev19:1).It grows from a simple beginning like a small plant from a mustard seed to a giant plant that can accomodate many nesting birds. This is symbolic of many souls(Mt13:32). It is God's pleasure to give it to us(Lk 12:32). It is what we refer to as heaven. See Revelation 21:22--22:5 to explore the symbolic joys of the kingdom of God and heaven.
| We know from John's gospel that Jesus gives eternal life. Jesus said, " and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (Jn 3:14-15). John follows this by writing, " for God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him"(v17). Yes, Jesus was lifted up on the cross and shed his blood on Calvery for us.
What is the nature of this life that Jesus gives? It is a life of restoration and healing. When Jesus was criticised for eating with tax collectors and sinners he said"... For I came not to call the righteous but sinners" (Mt 9:13) The woman with a cronic hemorrhage came up to Jesus to be healed. She touched the fringe of his garment and was healed. He said to her, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well" (Mt 9:22).
Jesus spoke of himself as the door and the good shepherd of the sheep. He concluded by saying, "... I came that they may have life, and have it abundanty"(Jn 10:10). Jesus adds more quality to our life. What are some of these qualities? First, we have freedom from anxiety and fear. He said,"Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows"(Lk12:7). He also said,"... do not be anxious about your life...(Mt6:25). Jesus said life will be less burdensome to those who follow him. He said, "come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest"(Mt 11:28). Next, the Christian life will be richer and more meaningful. Jesus said, "but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst; the water I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"(Jn 4:14).
So, where do we stand with Jesus and God the Father? What is the quality of our life? Do you feel inadequate, sinful,anxious,afraid, uncertain, doubtful, confused, unguided, or even depressed? Are you imperfect in contrast to what Jesus challenged you to be? Most likely you have answered "yes" to one or more of these questions. As we grow closer and closer to Jesus we deminish these problems. Our ultimate goal is a more abundant, everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
| Jesus frequently used the word "blessed" in his teachings. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "Rejoice and be glad...", even when we are persecuted and having hard times. He also said our reward will be great in heaven (Mt 5:12). The word blessed means happy or contented. How then do we find joy, happiness and contentment in our Christian experience?
Just as we have to work out or perfect our salvation, we also have to work out our joy. When we become assured of our salvation, we have a bases of joy. When saved, we conquer several things--fear of death, the weight or burden of unforgiven sins, and the feeling we are not in a right relationship with God the Father. Being saved gives us a reason for hope. Being saved also allows us to love and get beyond ourselves. If you do not feel joyful take a serious look at your salvation. Do you know that God loves you(It is a fact,see Psm 51:1)Jesus Christ can "blot out our transgressions". Then the psalmist ask, "Fill me with joy and gladness..." v 8. Secondly, have you acknowledged your sins?Have you repented of your sins?Fourthly have you confessed your sins to God. Finally, Have you professed your belief in Jesus to others? Some persons would add one additional thing. Have you been baptised which symbolizes the washing away of the old life and putting on the new life in Jesus?
After working out your salvation you need to be in fellowship with other Christians. Even though Jesus had been crucified the disciples stayed together. What a joy it must have been when Mary Magdalene went to the disciples and said," I have seen the Lord"(Jn 20:18) Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is a basic part of our hope and joy. A survey by the Atlanta Journel and Constitution on March 31, 2002 revealed an astonishing number of Christians poled did not believe in the resurrection. Paul said, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain"(1Cor 15:13). Paul reassures us when he said, " But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (v 20).How did Paul know? He had a personal encounter with the risen Christ(Acts 9:3-6). Apart form the Bible, we have another proof of the resurrection. Every true Christian has or should have had a personal encounter with the risen Lord. Every Christian who is truly living in Jesus has many personal experiences which affirm the existance of the living Christ.It may not be a brilliant light or the voice of Jesus like Paul experienced, but the experience is there just the same. One thing that enables us to have the experience is receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit of God. Regarding the Holy Spirit, Jesus said,"He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you...,A little while , and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me." (Jn 16:14-16,).Jesus reassured his disciples on numerous occasions of the validity of his resurrection.
So, how do we have "koinonia" with other Christians? This interesting Greek word used in the Greek New Testament means fellowship, benefaction, participation and communion. Many people experience this in their immediate family. They are fortunate. It is a real joy to worship and learn with members of our own family and with our friends. Even those without close family ties can find this joy in a Christian fellowship. This is ofter found in worship services, Sunday School, mission activities and in church related social events.The word Church(ekklesia) means to meet together.
Another source of joy for a Christian is in Bible study and devotion. The Bible is our primary source of information about Jesus, his disciples and his church. Bible study can be on an individual basis or it can be done in a group setting like Sunday School and chruch. Bible studies are sometines done outside of the immediate Chruch but in association with a church.There is no real substitute for personal, private Bible study. There are aides to Bible study such as commentaries,concordances, Bible dictionaries, and books on Biblical subjests.
Another source of joy is prayer. The psalmist wrote, "Hear my prayer O Lord, and give ear to my cry..." (Psm 39:12). Jesus' disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus' prayer, known as the Lord's prayer, gives us the fundamentals of prayer (Mt 6:9-15).To start with, we give proper homage to God. We pray, "Hallowed(Holy)be thy name." Then we pray for God's kingdom and the doing of his will. Jesus began his ministry by saying, "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 4:17).The will of God covers much. Basically, it is God's righteousness and God's ways. In saying, " thy will be done" we are praying for this! God wants his will to be done on earth, just as it is done in heaven. Next, pray for daily subsistence by saying, " give us this day our daily bread." The resourceful Christian usually has what is needed for daily subsistence. It is our responsibility to help others in need. The remaining part of Jesus' prayer was a prayer of forgiveness and reconciliation. We must be willing to forgive others. We conclude the Lord's prayer by saying, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, amen."
When teaching about the power of faith and positive thinking, Jesus said,"and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith"(Mt 21:22).Prayer is an important part of acquiring the joy offered by Jesus.
Another way to have meaningful relationships is through Christian outreach and missions. Reaching out to others is important in achieving joy in Jesus. The extent to which we reach out to others is a good measure of our being in Jesus and being matured in our faith.
What are some of the deterrents to joy in Jesus? Mental illness is perhaps one of the worse. There may be a remedy. Jesus healed many mentally ill and disturbed people. Today, God has enabled doctors to help those with these problems. Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to take advantage of their care. Failing health in other areas also can be treated by qualified physicians. Cronic or terminal illnesses present the greatest challenge to joyfulness.Many people with cronic,potentially fatal illnesses continue to express joy in the Lord. None of us were promised eternal life on this earth or in this life.This comes only with eternal salvation in heaven through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Salvation should result in positive thinking. How often have we stopped and thanked God for each day? How often do we thank God for our family and loved ones? How often do we thank God for the sunshine and the rain? We as Christians have so much to be thankful for!