Biblical salvation isn’t what you think. It’s much greater!
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
There’s more to our salvation than most of us have realized. I’ve been taught by some great teachers, but I’ve never heard what I’m sharing with you today and next week. Please don’t think you don’t need to read this. What I have just recently come to realize has drastically altered my understanding of my salvation. I knew the facts and the verses, but the enormity of the truth of God’s righteousness had remained hidden…until about a month ago. I know I’m not alone. Please spend some time on this and next week’s post. As you read, you will be thinking I know all this then all of a sudden, the truth will knock you over. I’ve taken the big picture approach so you’ll see that this has been God’s plan from the beginning. We have simply failed to believe it.
Ever since sin entered the picture when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been cursed with a sin nature. Consequently, we all sin because we’re born with this sin nature. In short, we’re born as sinners. Sin is part of who we are, and it’s our sin that has separated us from God. God’s plan of salvation is His remedy to remove our sin so all of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, could be restored to an intimate, loving relationship with Him. His plan also included restoring the righteousness that was lost. This plan would take time, a lot of time. The Bible is an account of how God implemented His solution through human history in a way that revealed His endless love for man, even while he was deep in his sin.
Man, being the sinner that he was, enjoyed his sin and wanted no part of any deity claiming authority over him. God’s plan was to form a new nation, one ruled by Him. Through this nation He would show the world what righteousness looked like and would display the wisdom of living according to God’s standards. God would reveal His love for all people through this unique nation called Israel. It began with a man named Abram. God promised to make Abram’s name great and to make him into a great nation in the land which he would show him. Through one of Abram’s descendants, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Abram (Abraham) didn’t realize it at the time, but that descendant would represent God’s ultimate solution. Through Him would come the salvation the world needed. God’s only requirement of Abram was that he simply believe God and trust Him to keep His promise.
When the time was right, God established the Law (for His new nation, Israel) which set forth God’s standards for righteous living. He explained the consequences of disobedience, but the people vowed to live according to everything outlined in the Law. God knew they would fail miserably because they were powerless to overcome the sin within them. The whole point of the Law was to reveal their inability to live according to God’s standards. Despite their failures, the Jews refused to believe they were as bad as God said they were. They had convinced themselves that they were actually respectable and upright, and that God would save them because of their special status as recipients of God’s Law. They were determined to prove that their own righteousness would be sufficient to overcome their sin problem.
Even though God had singled out the Jewish people as His own, His plan had always been the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. Having proven that man’s own righteousness could never overcome the power of sin, it was time to implement the final phase of His plan. Since righteousness and sin couldn’t coexist, sin had to be removed and righteousness restored. Because of God’s own righteousness and justice, He had to punish sin, but He loved His people so much that He couldn’t bear the thought of putting them through the punishment their sins deserved. His solution was to send His own beloved Son in the form of a human baby. He would be fully man and yet fully God. Because of His sinless life, He would become the perfect sacrifice that met all the requirements of His Law. He would serve as a substitute for the people. He would suffer in their place. He would not only bear their sins, He would become their sins. When He died, their sins would die. The sin problem would be solved and His people would be spared. His own Son would pay the price. To show the world that God had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, He raised Him from the dead.
With the sin problem solved, the thing that had separated God and man (sin) had been removed. The remaining issue was the restoration of righteousness, but whose righteousness? To God, the righteousness of the people always had been and always would be like filthy rags, forever tainted by the remnants of sin (Isaiah 64:6). There was only one solution. God would supply His own righteousness. The effects and benefits of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross were now available to anyone, Jew or Gentile. The Law had served its purpose in showing man’s inability to meet God’s standards. His efforts to attain an acceptable righteousness of his own had been a pathetic exercise in futility. The Law was abolished. God’s solution had been displayed on a cross. The stage was now set for God to transfer His own righteousness to the people.
AS I SEE IT
So, how does a person today receive God’s salvation and His righteousness? Jesus made it very clear when He said, “He who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Everyone in the world wasn’t automatically saved when Jesus died and was raised, only those who believed. But what must the seeker believe? He must believe that Jesus, the infinite, eternal God-man, became his substitute, paid his sin debt with His own life on the cross, and was raised from the dead on the third day after His death. Jesus also said that He would give the right to become a child of God to anyone who received Him, that is, anyone who believed in His name—everything about Him and His character (John 1:12). But just what does it mean to receive Jesus?
This is where the “Christian community” has done a great disservice to those who are seeking the real God. We have failed miserably to explain (or to believe) the depth of the “transaction” that takes place when a person receives Jesus. To say that we are born again (saved) when we “receive Jesus into our hearts” gives the wrong idea. It suggests that we are adding Jesus to us, welcoming Him into our life. It suggests that now we have Jesus to help us on our journey to be a better “Christian.” It suggests that we have decided to let Him in because in Him, we have found what we have been looking for. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bible makes it clear that no one seeks God (Rom. 3:11). People come to Jesus only because the Father has drawn them (John 6:44). God takes the initiative, not us. No one becomes a seeker unless God has already drawn him. It’s all God’s doing. It’s all God’s grace. God does the giving because we’ve got nothing worthwhile to contribute. In fact, we’re hopelessly worthless and useless (Rom. 3:12).
We present “receiving Jesus” as if it means that His presence in our hearts begins a supernatural makeover to shape us up, to make us presentable, acceptable, and mature. We ask for His help because we know He’s got a lot of work to do, and the process may take a lifetime. We see ourselves as a work in progress. One day we’ll have been made right. One day we will finally become completely righteous. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!
This must bring tears of sadness to our Lord. This doesn’t even come close to revealing the real transaction of “receiving Jesus.” This belief (receiving Jesus into our hearts) reveals that we are just like the Jews who sought a righteousness of their own (Rom. 10:3). We think we can attain an acceptable righteousness with some help from Jesus.
God’s plan of salvation was not about making the most of who we were through a God-assisted spiritual makeover. It was about annihilation! God’s plan was that when we receive Christ, we receive His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). At the moment we receive Him and are born again, we are transferred from the line of Adam (the life we were born into) and placed into the line (life) of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). We have now entered into His eternal life (John 17:3) which extends to eternity past and eternity future. We are now sharing His life. What happened to Him happened to us. What will happen to Him will happen to us. Therefore, when He died on the cross, we (our old self) died with Him. When He was buried, so were we. And when Jesus was raised to newness of life, so were we (Rom. 6:4).
For true believers in Jesus Christ, the old person we used to be no longer exists. Our old self was annihilated. Therefore, it can’t be fixed, helped, or matured. The only life in us is the life of Jesus, including His righteousness (Gal. 2:20). What a solution! Not only did God, through Christ, save us from our sins, but He replaced the old person we used to be with the life of His Son, who would live His life through our bodies and our personalities. The righteousness within us now is Christ’s. It wasn’t bestowed on us or given to us. It’s not a thing at all. It’s now part of who we are. Our new identity is Christ’s righteousness. Do you get it? Do you see the magnitude of this wonderful truth?
Next week we’ll see if you really get it. For me, it was like I had just won the lottery. I finally understood that I had no righteousness of my own. I wasn’t improving. I wasn’t becoming more righteous. I wasn’t becoming more mature as I absorbed more truth. The only truth that mattered was that I no longer existed. I had died with Christ. The only life in me now is Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
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