Larry Kirkpatrick

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I Want to Give My Heart to Jesus, part 4

Salvation in the Gospels

Glad you have joined us this morning. Today we move to the fourth installment of a multi-part series titled "I Want to Give My Heart to Jesus." In our first presentation (What Is My Heart That I Would Give to Jesus?), we began with both God's original intention for us, and the nature of humankind after the fall. In the second (Who is Jesus to Whom I Would Give?), we took those findings and said, what about Jesus to whom we would give our heart? In last week's message (Salvation in the Old Testament), we began a rapid-transit journey through the Bible toward our own day surveying the its teaching about salvation.

As we've been advancing over this ground, we've noticed that fallen humankind is born into this world, not guilty, but broken. The effects of the fall are upon him, changing him, preparing him to seek what is evil rather than what is good. In the second message we thought about just what this all meant for Jesus who came "with just such an humanity." We discovered that He became as human as we are so that we might become as obedient as He is. We were very interested last Sabbath as we saw many things about the gospel as particularly shared from Seventh-day Adventism, and there it all was, before our very eyes in the Old Testament! Today we keep moving from the beginning of the New Testament. In the small time that we have, we'll look at something about salvation in each of the gospels.

Salvation From Sin: Matthew 1:21

The New Testament opens with the powerful reality of Matthew 1:21. The angel instructed that the Messiah be named Jesus, "for He shall save His people from their sins." The first chapter of the New Testament also connects the coming of this Savior from sin with the deliverance of Israel from captivity (Matthew 1:17). So we continue to see the themes we saw in the Old Testament.

Here, it is important to point out that the very foundation of the New Testament has deliverance, not in sins, but from sins. It is important right here to stop and think. When we understand that Jesus' role in the plan of salvation is to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), and that He does this by applying the power of His merits to us both inwardly and outwardly, Jesus becomes a name meaning salvation indeed. Never could you say of a gospel stating God's plan and His power is that we stop sinning altogether here, now, in this life about salvation that that was salvation in sin; of such a gospel you could only say that is proposes salvation from sin.

On the other hand, a gospel claiming that we are saved while still sinning, but that we are counted sinless anyway because of Jesus' life put to our account while we sin still, could never rightly be called salvation from sin, but be a form of salvation in sin.

Let's be clear brothers and sisters. Not only, as we saw last week, does the Old Testament lay down a foundation of victory over sin in its gospel teaching; but here, at the very start of the New Testament, we see, indisputably, even as it builds its own foundation, that we are dealing with something the likes of which scarcely have been grasped or preached for 2000 years, even today in our own beloved Adventism. The gospel, the good news we'll find stretched out all the way through the New Testament, is a Jesus-centered gospel giving power to overcome, providing "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3).

No Mere Paper Righteousness: Matthew Chapter Three

Now John comes preaching in the wilderness. And his cry is, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight" (Matthew ch. 3). When those came to him who said within themselves "we have Abraham to our father," he recognized their problem. Quickly he sought to disabuse them of their error, just as heaven today would disabuse those insisting on a completely external, forensic gospel, all -- utterly all -- happening outside of themselves. They thought that because their DNA was Abrahamic they were automatically participants in salvation. He pled with them to "bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8). According to John the Baptist the Messiah was coming with a fan in His hand and was going to thoroughly process the wheat! (Matthew 3:12).

This raises the question for us, how much difference does Jesus really make when we let Him operate in our lives? Some difference? Or all the difference? Is He a just God and a Savior or not? Will He thoroughly purge His barn of all the chaff, and can He really find any wheat in His barn? Let's be sober -- much of Christendom today says no, He can't! To Paul's rhetorical question asks in Romans nine, "Is there unrighteousness with God?" their answer would have to be, "well, there is a little bit." But Paul answered his own question: "God forbid!" And that's how God's people with their lives will answer it. God forbid that we should have so little of Jesus that people will look at us and shake their heads and say "if they are His people, there is unrighteousness with God."

Those Who Thirst Filled: Matthew 5:6

Let's turn to Matthew 5:6, where we read, "blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be filled." Notice that the salvation contemplated in the New Testament is one in which there is a hungering and a thirsting -- not for assurance, not for social strokes, not for a place of acceptance among the fallen churches -- but for righteousness. And notice this also: in this gospel there is a fulfillment of that thirst. The Greek word means that he who hungers and thirsts shall be "satisfied."

For many the predominant view of the gospel is that its key purpose is assurance. Real satisfaction comes later, some day, after the end, while here and now we are limited to a Christian experience built on consistent failure with a few victories thrown in for us along the way just to keep us interested. But salvation as the Bible teaches it says we hunger, we thirst for righteousness. And that we are satisfied. And you know, as we increase spiritually, as we begin to become more and more like Jesus, we begin to feel less and less like boasting of any achievements of our own. I believe along with Ellen White that

The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan's delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you. No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ. (Steps to Christ, p. 64-65).

Here in Matthew five a continuous experience of Christian growth is spoken of. Satisfaction comes both now as we hunger and thirst, and as we also are filled with righteousness. The ultimate filling of righteousness always lingers on the horizon because we are always growing. But God is not stingy about handing over to us what we long for and need. Remember the pleading question of the leper in Matthew eight: "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." What was Jesus' answer? "Well, let me think about this awhile. Maybe I'll heal you of your leprosy part way. Hmm." No. Our Lord, without hesitation reached out, and touched that man, and instantly said, "I will; be thou clean." And that was that. The leper was satisfied. He was made clean. Jesus didn't give the man a coupon to redeem at the gate of heaven someday. He didn't give him a pass that said, "admit one, and give him the righteousness we've inexplicably withheld from him for all this time." Jesus is named Jesus because He saves His people from their sins. He is a just God and a Savior.

Can Jesus Do It?

In the next chapter of Matthew we discover the woman who snuck-up behind Jesus and touched His garment. When she did that she was healed. The Bible says she was "made whole" (Matthew 9:21-22). Do you remember what we said last week? We read the verse from Jeremiah that said "heal me and I shall be healed, save me and I shall be saved." We noticed that the two can't be separated; that healing and salvation go together. Well, here it is again, now in the New Testament. Now look in your Bible there. See where it says she was "made whole"? That word in the Greek is sodzo. This word is translated back and forth throughout the New Testament, sometimes like this, "whole," other times as "healed," and often as "saved." This passage could have been translated that this woman had been made "saved" as she exercised her faith.

Why is this all so important? Sometimes brothers and sisters we don't believe it. We begin to doubt with the doubters out there who turn their eyes to their failing experience and say that Jesus doesn't truly save. But we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him by faith. We must take Him at His word. Because you see, He asks us the question found in Matthew 9:28: "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" But for so long we've been slogging through the swamp of a wimpy, faithless Christianity that refuses to say that Jesus can do this for us. It refuses His salvation until a more convenient time. And that more convenient time is always the moment of glorification.

It is more convenient because that means we don't really have to believe the New Testament, we don't really have to take God at His word. We can limp along with one hand in sin and another hand in righteousness and get the conscience-salving band-aide kind of Christianity. You know. The one where we go home after church and rejoice that we went to church. Then we keep on as before. We still don't read our Bibles, we still don't pray. We still don't really believe that any of this spiritual stuff matters. And we get back just what Jesus said we would. "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29).

Can Jesus do it? Is He a just God and a Savior? Does He heal His people? Is His name Jesus because He saves us from sin? Every one of us must decide deep in our hearts. We want to give our hearts to Jesus, but you see, there's an exchange to be made. "What do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love" (Steps to Christ, p. 46). Have you really given Him yours? have I?

Salvation in Mark

I hate to do this, but I am only going to take us to one text in Mark. At the end of this book, when Jesus dies on the cross, we have the testimony of the centurion found in Mark 15:39. Surrounded by the vengeful Jews -- a crowd which earlier that day basically been demon possessed in their insistence that Jesus be crucified -- when Jesus breathes His last, the centurion stands, eyes locked on the motionless figure on the cross. Finally He pronounces the conviction that has filled his mind, "Truly this Man was the Son of God."

Right when those who were supposed to get it weren't getting it, this Roman soldier reflected on what he had seen that day, and pronounced his own verdict, that this Man who was crucified was indeed the Son of God! A warning my brothers and sisters; we had better get it: Jesus is the Son of God. His gospel is the gospel of the Son of God. It is the power of God unto salvation. It is not the coupon of God unto some future relief. Oh yes, there is future relief, but there is relief here and now. We have major opportunities to see Jesus. Will we go on though with these narrow views of what salvation is and pass up the blessing of understanding what our Lord would do for us?

There is Jesus, Mr. Salvation, as if He were lying on the side of the road like the mugged fellow. And will you or I be like the priest or the Levite who saw something of the depths of what salvation cost Jesus but passed on by on the other side? Will we leave the blessing of knowing and sharing the truth about Jesus and His awesome salvation to someone else, all because to speak of salvation as we speak of it here is too dangerous, too fanatical, too much? When will we see the light? When will we let Jesus heal us? When will we say with the centurion "Truly this Man was the Son of God" by embracing Him as our Savior unto wholeness here and now?

Salvation in Luke

Again just one text; but O what a text. Consider Luke 12:23, 31-32:

The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment . . . Seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The life is more than food and the body is more than clothes. To live is more than self-fulfillment or self-satiation. Life is more than we take in from this world. It is what we return to God's creation, not just material return, but spiritual. Think of it this way: if you or I fail to fill ourselves with Scripture, we are like empty containers. We then have no wisdom from beyond, no counsel that is spiritual, no forgiveness or grace or justice to freely pass to others. We are just cold and dark and unloving. God gives us what we need to fill the needs of others. We have a part to play in giving to others what we have received and processed from Him. If we have nothing from Him, we have nothing from Him to give.

We are urged to seek God's kingdom, yet we cannot seek it apart from His promptings to seek it. But the Bible told us that "all things pertaining to life and godliness" have been given to us. And now here we read "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Our heavenly Father not only gives us the kingdom, but it is His "good pleasure" to give us the kingdom. He desires to give us salvation. Salvation is not something meted out in small measure, miserly and bitterly and just barely. Salvation is ready to be granted to us overflowingly, above and beyond what we could ask or think. It comes to us not on our terms but heaven's. My plea to you here is to realize how reasonable are heaven's terms! The Bible calls living for God our "reasonable service" (Romans 12:1-2). If God's terms seem harsh to us today, could it be that it is not because they are, but because we want to perceive them as hard so that we can reject them in favor of the much more congenial terms made by men? It is our Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom. This is very good news. His terms are that He would save us entirely or not at all. He does nothing in half-measures. Consider:

Do you ask, 'How am I to abide in Christ?' In the same way as you received Him at first. 'As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.' 'The just shall live by faith.' Colossians 2:6; Hebrews 10:38. You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christ's sake did all this for you. By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you are to grow up in Him -- by giving and taking. You are to give all, -- your heart, your will, your service, -- give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all, -- Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper, -- to give you power to obey. (Steps to Christ, p. 69).

Did you hear it?! This is God's way. When you take all of Christ He gets all of you, and that means your cherished sins. Let Him remove them. Or do you not really want all of Jesus?

Salvation in John

Well now, everyone loves John 3:16. I've got good news; I love it too. But I study it too. You know what it says. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In this tightly packed verse then we have God giving because He loves, and He gives something to the lost, that whoever will exercise faith in His Son would have everlasting life. In the next verse we have "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." His mission is the opposite of condemnation -- salvation.

But what does John mean by salvation? Does He mean legal salvation? He boils it all down in verses 20-21: "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." You see, there is nothing merely legal here, nothing merely forensic. Nothing! John is talking about what people do. Those that do evil hate the light (Jesus sent into the world to destroy the works of the devil). They refuse the light so that what they are doing will remain unreproved. But the person who is doing the truth comes to Jesus (who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil). He comes so that what he is doing, i.e. what he is, will be made known.

John 3:16 is about God changing people. The salvation in John 3:17 is a salvation from a faith that works (Galatians 5:6). The focus is indeed on Jesus, not on any works done by us apart from Him. Nevertheless where there is faith there are positive deeds. And as we considered last week, neither faith nor obedience precedes the other; but both occur together and in the same moment. One legitimately cannot be put before the other.

Those who want to apply this in a strictly forensic way need to realize that for John to talk about the law is a very rare thing. He uses the word for "commandments" frequently, and always in a positive light. But he uses the word "law" infrequently -- so much so that out of his five New Testament books, the gospel has the word a few times (mostly referring to the law in terms of the books called the law and the prophets) and First John has it once. It doesn't even occur in Revelation or the other Johannine epistles! I don't want to make too much of this, but it is interesting -- particularly so when theologians try to make this passage a strictly legal issue. They can't get that from the text; it's an imposition. Then, they will try to go around that by saying that obedience is a fruit of the gospel but it is not interior to it. Obedience is, by them, placed outside of the gospel. Watch for that fine-print. The end result of it is "another gospel which is not another" (Galatians 1:6-7).

Conversion and Healing

Now here's a most interesting one. John 12:37-40: "But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."

Notice what's in these verses: seeing with eyes, understanding with heart, conversion, and healing! -- comprehension, acceptance of God's way of salvation and the conversion that goes with it, and then healing. There they all are, laid out like a train. God initiates everything, makes possible the change of our hearts, we willingly choose to follow Jesus and thus cooperate with Him, and next there is salvation -- healing -- judgment -- victory.

Now the interesting thing here is that God says He doesn't want them to see and understand and be converted. Why would that be? Because they resolved to refuse to believe. They refused Christ; and the Father refused their conversion and healing. To believe is to exercise faith, and to exercise faith is to obey, and vice versa. So again, here is more evidence that you can't have one without the other. And if you can't have one without the other, then how can you draw an arbitrary chalk-line in the sky and say that believing is inside the gospel and obeying is outside of it? Do I dare to say this --its all done in the name of legalism?

If so, then who's the legalist?

In some of these computer graphics programs you have the capacity to create an image with several layers in it. Then you can do a lot of things with the image and turn on and off the appearance of the various layers. Well, when you get down to saving your image on disk a box will come up on your screen and say that in order to save it you need to "flatten the image" -- that is, to merge all the layers into one picture. Then you can't work with the various layers after that, because the image is as flat as a pancake; it has been reduced to one layer only. The Bible is somewhat like that. You have all these important Spirit-inspired truths recorded in it but a certain way of thinking wants to flatten all of the layers down into one -- legal salvation. Obedience, healing, etc., those other layers of the overall picture are not allowed to be visible.

There are those who want to strip healing out of the gospel, perhaps even conversion. Friends, this is why God gave you a Bible. You have it in your hand. You can double-check anything that I say, anything that you read anywhere, anything that you hear. God has given you all the layers. Don't let us with our pretty theologies take them away from you. They're your layers, not the preacher's.

By the way, you'll find this same saying back in Matthew 13:15-17 and he took it from Isaiah 6. So again, we have convergence between the Old Testament and the New. Thank you Lord.

Today's message would be an opportunity to speak very directly of the suffering of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and of the crucifixion. What careful treatment those closing hours must have! We are engaged here in an attempt to get an overview of what the New Testament teaches of salvation. All we are doing is taking a few core-samples. We'll work through the crucifixion at a future time, but we'll do it carefully and reverently. I will not treat it here in a few too-quick lines. We are taking helpful snapshots here. We are letting the Bible dispel the mists of layer-reduction imposed upon it by teachers. May He grant us clear minds as we go forward.

Conclusion and Preview

These salvation vignettes are stretching out, strongly laying-out before us the gospel we know and love. It makes our heart leap to hear the Word of God.

How rich is the truth then that Jesus came to save us, to change us, to destroy the works of the devil for us, even to grant us a place in the redemption plan. No, we do not save ourselves; we never could. Without Jesus our hearts are only cold and dark and unloving. But with Him my brothers and sisters -- with Him is salvation. I want to give my heart to Jesus, so I want to know what He has to say about salvation. And what He says is that He came to destroy the works of the devil. He came to unravel the thinking that said that because of Abraham's Jewish DNA his descendents were automatically saved. And He came also to disabuse us of any idea that salvation is merely in sin. Not at all. Always, always, always the Bible rings loud and clear:

And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21).

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