March 30, 2019 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments
Romans 1:16 – “FOR I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL FOR IT IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION FOR EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES.”
Last month we had a baptism service where nine individuals wore shirts with the above bible verse, and each shared their story about how he or she came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
I love baptism services. I love hearing about their stories. How men and women from all different backgrounds, different cultures, and different upbringings all ultimately have the same story. They were all once blind to the glory of God in Jesus Christ and dead in their trespasses and sins. Yet in God’s timing according to the riches of his grace they each shared how God opened their eyes to see their need for a Redeemer, a Savior, a King. Their stories all pointed to the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At our baptism services, we make it a point for those entering the waters of baptism to share their Christian testimonies because it’s a great reminder to each of us about how the gospel transforms lives, gives hope, redeems, sanctifies, justifies, and glorifies a people who were once enemies of God and makes them beloved children of God.
We each have a story like our nine brothers and sisters. We each have a story about how God according to the riches of his mercy and grace breathed new life into our dead, distorted and depraved souls, and each one of us rejoices that we no longer need to fear death but we rejoice in the hope of glory. Amen!
Yet, the salvation that the gospel brings is more – so much more - than a ticket to heaven and freedom from hell. The salvation Paul refers to in Romans 1:16 is a salvation that encompasses our past, our present and our future.
By faith in the gospel, we have been saved from God’s wrath. [2 Timothy 1:9] By faith in this same gospel, we are being saved [1 Corinthians 1:18] now by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and through the renewal of our minds, we shed the old man and put on the new man. [Ephesians 4:22-24] By faith in the hope of the gospel, we will be saved [Romans 5:9, 10]4 from the sting of death as the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, and we spend eternity with our Lord and Savior. [1 Corinthians 15:53-54] Amen!
If we’re honest, I think for most of us, we tend to reflect upon the first and third aspects of salvation – saved from wrath and therefore spending eternity with Christ in Heaven. I think far too many of us miss the here, now and very present transforming power of the gospel that causes inward and consequently outward change as we meditate, reflect upon, and renew our minds with the riches of the gospel’s assurance that we are forever united together with Christ, and therefore all that Christ did for us at Calvary and is doing in us now through the power of the Holy Spirit compels us towards Christlikeness.
Paul would exhort the church at Philippi with these words:
Philippians 2:12,13 – “Therefore, my beloved, as you always obeyed so now not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Brothers and sisters, we are called here and now to walk in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. [Philippians 1:27] We are called here in this life to reckon ourselves dead to sin’s reign and rule in our lives. [Romans 6:11] We are called to make no provision for it [Romans 13:14] and to be continually working out our salvation – our progressive and continual growth in Christlikeness – with fear and trembling. [Philippians 2:12-13]
In sum, it has been said that we are to work out what God has put in us.
Mark Altrogge, pastor, and musician, shared this familiar illustration about what it means to live a life with our thoughts fixed upon the implications of Christ’s work on our behalf.
“In the movie, Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) and several other men are ordered to find Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him home to his mother who had lost two other sons in the war. Along the way, they endure incredible hardships and most of them lose their lives to save this one man. Near the end, mission accomplished, Captain Miller lies dying. He pulls Ryan close to him and with his last dying breath gasps, “James, earn this. Earn it.” In other words, go back and live in such a way that shows you appreciated the sacrifices we made for you.
Believers in Jesus have been rescued from eternal destruction by his life, death, and resurrection. We can never earn what he did for us, but he calls us to live a life that shows our appreciation. We are to seek to become like the One who saved us, to walk out and work out the salvation he freely gave us.
That implies that we cannot and we must not make allowance and provision for sin as if God turns a blind eye to it because our sins are forgiven and we have peace with God.”
Saving Private Ryan was a powerful movie of sacrifice by men who willingly set aside their own wants, desires and lives in order to find and deliver Private Ryan from the destruction of war to the safety of home. At the end of that movie, James Ryan visits the shores of Normandy. While looking at the grave of Captain Miller, he says, “I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what you all did for me.” It was Ryan’s gratitude and appreciation for what was done for him that led him to live a life that reflected the sacrifices made for him.
In a similar kind of way, we are called ‘to walk worthy of our calling’. [Ephesians 4:1] We are called to live in such a way that proclaims to a watching world, “I no longer live for myself, but for the one who loved me and gave himself for me!” [Galatians 2:20]
So how do we do this? How do we walk by faith in the grace of the gospel as we confidently pursue Christlikeness? How do we ‘work out our salvation’? It begins by remembering the promise of the gospel.
Let us not forget that the promise of the gospel is that we are forever united together with Christ – All that is His is ours. As Adam was our representative head in our rebellion against God, Christ is now our representative head as beloved children of God. [Romans 5:15-17] By faith, our union with Christ is the entire basis of our salvation, our motivation to pursue godliness and our assurance that we will spend eternity with Him.
The gospel declares that by faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have a new position before God and new potential and power for pursuing godliness.
By faith in the gospel we are assured that our standing, our position, before God is based not upon our works of righteousness, rather it is based upon what Christ did FOR us, outside of us.
He lived a perfect life for us. He went to the cross, and suffered the wrath of God for us. He died and paid the penalty of sin for us. He rose from the dead whereby he conquered sin and death for us.
By extension, the gospel declares that He adopted us. [Romans 8:15] Placed His Spirit within us. [Ephesians 1:14] Gave us new hearts [Ezekiel 36:26] and new minds, [Philippians 2:5] which free us to reject sin and to pursue righteousness. [Romans 6:15-18] Our union with Christ, therefore, provides us also with new potential and new power to live in a manner that is worthy of our calling.
The new potential we possess is that we are no longer slaves to sin. We, as new creatures, are now slaves to righteousness. [IBID] We no longer have to say yes to lust. We no longer have to say yes to covetousness. We no longer have to give in to temptation to be angry with our children. We no longer have to feel hopeless. We no longer need to feel alone. We have new potential to say yes to purity, and yes to contentment. We can now fight to be patient with our children, and we can live in the hope and assurance that God is for us and with us even when it doesn’t seem like it. We have new potential to walk in manner that is consistent with who God made us to be – One who worships God and loves Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We not only have new potential but we possess new power. Philippians 2:13 reads that God is at work in you causing you to will and to do. The very power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is the very power at work in every Christian. Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus might “know the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. [Ephesians 1:19]” Paul urged the church at Ephesus “to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. [Ephesians 6:10]”
That is in our pursuit to reject sin and to pursue righteousness, we can be confident and trust that God is at work in us! He is causing us to will and to do. He is causing us to think rightly and to do rightly. As we pursue godliness, we can be confident that the Spirit of God Himself is at work in us invigorating and energizing our believing activity to turn away from sin and turn toward righteousness.
Don’t miss that last point – He invigorates our believing activity. We must believe and reckon truths about the gospel that compel us to think rightly about our lives, our wants, our desires, our circumstances in light of the gospel, so that we might respond rightly in light of that same gospel.
We therefore must continually renew our minds with what is right and true about all that we possess in the gospel. We must also continually be renewing our minds about specific truths of the gospel that help us moment by moment reject lust, covetousness, fear, worry, anger, etc. as we seek to put on purity, contentment, joy, peace and patience, etc.
Why is renewing our minds so important? Because we become what we behold. We are called to behold the glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in doing so we are assured that we will be transformed by God’s Spirit from one degree of glory to another. [2 Corinthians 3:18] As we are transformed, we begin thinking and acting more like our Savior, which testifies of His glorious grace and the glory of the gospel. May the love of Christ compel us all to walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling as we behold our glorious Savior.
Scott Denny is an Elder at Grace Bible Church
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