For the last two weeks we have been looking at what it means to follow Jesus and we have seen that at its core following Jesus means sacrifice. The disciples left the security of their jobs, the comfort of their homes and the control of their futures to follow Jesus and many times we have to sacrifice those same things. But following Jesus doesn’t just call for sacrifice it also calls for service. Following Jesus means we stop living for ourselves and start reaching out to others. But is this all there is in following Jesus? Is following Jesus just about giving up all that we may want and need and meeting the needs of others or is there something more? The good news is that there is definitely something more because following Jesus also brings salvation.
As we talk this morning I want us to think about salvation as something more than eternal life after we die, that is a big part of salvation but I want us to think about salvation as a new life and full life starting right here and now. Salvation is really the fullness and abundance of the life God wants us to experience. In John 10:10 Jesus said, I have come so that you may have life and life abundantand it is this abundant life that I want us to call salvation and it starts when we start following Jesus. Before we can understand this salvation, however, we first have to understand sin.
If you remember from past sermons where we talked about sin, the word sin really means missing the mark. There is a way that God wants us to live our lives and when we wander from that path, when we miss the mark, we call that sin and the consequence of that sin is separation from God. In Isaiah 59:2 it says, your iniquities have separated you from your God; you sins have hidden his face from you. So sin breaks our relationship with God but it also breaks our relationship with one another. According to the book of Galatians, the effects of sin are seen in emotions like hatred, jealousy, selfish ambition and envy and in actions that lead to immorality, impurity, discord, factions and fits of rage. As you look at that list you begin to see that all of these things destroy our personal relationships with others and that is what sin does – it destroys all relationships.
Sin not only destroys our relationship with God and with those around us but it also creates pain and brokenness in our own lives because we aren’t living the way we want to. Paul talks about this inner pain when he says, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do but what I hate, I do. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. What a wretched man I am. (Romans 7:15, 18b-19, 24) Paul is experiencing the brokenness of sin and this is what sin does within us, it causes pain because we know we aren’t who we want to be and who God created us to be and the problem with sin is that we can’t overcome it on our own which is why Paul says, Who will rescue you from this life of death? (Romans 7:24)
Paul knew he couldn’t overcome sin on his own but that he needed a savior so he asks, who will save me? Who will bring me salvation from sin? But the salvation Paul is talking about isn’t eternal life in heaven but a new and faithful life right now. Paul doesn’t want to experience this inner struggle between good and evil, he wants to live the life God has for him – he wants to experience salvation or abundant life and Paul knows that this salvation and life is found in only one place – Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:25.)
So sin is missing the mark which means we do not experience the fullness of life God wants for us but following Jesus helps us experience this life by working to restore all those broken relationships by first bringing us back into a right relationship with God. God forgives our sin which brings us closer to him which in turn brings us closer to others. So salvation is abundant life here and eternal life to come and all of this is found in following Jesus.
But unlike sacrifice and service where following Jesus means living the way Jesus lived or embracing his attitudes and actions here following Jesus means believing in him. Jesus says in John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. So salvation comes when we believe in Jesus but let’s be clear that believing in Jesus is not intellectual assent; it’s not believing that Jesus was a man who lived in Galilee 2000 years ago and died on a cross and rose again. It’s not a matter of what we believe about Jesus it is a matter of believing in Jesus. The word believe here means to place our confidence in Jesus and to trust and rely upon him to forgive our sin.
Following Jesus here is fundamentally different than what we have talked about the last two weeks because sacrificing and serving are things we can go out and do, but believing is something to receive and trust. We don’t “do” anything here, we just have to receive God’s grace and forgiveness and love. Salvation and the life God wants for us to experience are a gift. Romans 6:23 saysthe wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 2:8-9 says For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. We don’t earn salvation through our sacrifice and service and we don’t deserve them because we have been good or faithful, salvation and life are a gift given to us when we turn and believe in Jesus.
There are some wonderful expressions of this salvation and life that we find in the gospel stories of Jesus. There was the woman who was caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus and instead of condemning her he forgave her. The penalty of her sin could have brought her death and there was nothing she could do to change that, but Jesus saved her and gave her life. A man who was paralyzed was lowered through the roof of a house so that Jesus could heal him and what Jesus did instead was to forgive his sin and then prove he could forgive sin by telling the man to get up and walk which he did. Jesus saved him and brought him life.
As Jesus was walking into a village one day he saw a funeral procession for a young man who was a woman’s only son. Jesus had compassion on this mother and brought her son back to life. Jesus also raised Lazarus from the dead and he raised a little girl from the dead. Jesus brings life after death and then on the cross Jesus turned to the thief next to him and said, today you will be with me in paradise. This man followed Jesus not by doing anything – he couldn’t do anything – but he was saved because he believed in Jesus. He trusted Jesus to forgive him and save him and give him the gift of eternal life. All these people experienced life and salvation in different ways and they show us that following Jesus brings salvation and life and eternal life.
These stories also show us what following Jesus and believing in him looks like for us. It looks like turning to Jesus and accepting the love and grace He offers. Now I’ll be honest, this kind of acceptance is not easy. I don’t know about you, but receiving the love and care of others can be difficult because we don’t feel worthy or we feel like we need to repay them, so following Jesus here is hard, maybe even harder than sacrifice and service – but it is the only way to experience salvation.
Believing in Jesus is also not a once and done moment in time it really is following Jesus every day, it is a way of life. Just as sacrifice and service need to be a way of life for us, so is salvation. Every day we need to open our hands and hearts to receive God’s grace. Every day we need to accept the forgiveness God offers because every day we fail God and miss the mark. Salvation isn’t something we receive once it is something we need to experience every day as we give our lives to God and open our hearts to him.
Some of the moments we experience salvation and forgiveness might be more significant and memorable than others and I think that is a good thing because those moments reminds us that God is with us in every moment. One such moment for me was in the fall of 1982 when I sat on a cement bench beneath Beaumont Tower on the Campus of MSU. I heard in my heart God say, “Andy, with me there is life and without me there is death, that death might come today or tomorrow or 80 years from now, but without me there is death. The choice is yours.” I chose that day to accept salvation. I chose to accept the forgiveness Jesus offered me and I chose to allow the spirit of God to enter into my life and bring with it real forgiveness and a peace which filled me with a joy that I had not previously known. While there are days I struggle to follow Jesus and accept his grace and experience God’s peace and joy, remembering that day back in 1982 helps remind me that salvation and life is possible not just in the days to come or at the end of life, but today.
Salvation is possible for you today. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been or where you are heading, salvation is possible today if we will simply chose to turn and follow Jesus. Let us open our hearts to him and allow his love and grace to forgive us and heal us and bring us salvation – abundant life here and eternal life to come.
Following Jesus ~ Salvation
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
Salvation is a gift that is ours when we believe in Jesus.
Believing in Jesus is not a matter of our head but heart. It is accepting the grace God offers us through Jesus Christ.
1. Acknowledge that you are a sinner:
Romans 3:10-18, 23
2. Accept God’s grace and love which forgives:
3. Allow God’s Spirit to fill you with life:
2 Corinthians 5:16-18
In prayer, ask God to forgive your sin and then accept the forgiveness and grace God offers. As you do this, the Spirit of God will fill you with life and life eternal – Salvation.