Salvation

The Plain Truth

Five hundred years ago, a Catholic monk came across the book of Galatians and took the time to actually really read and study it.

It changed his life. And it changed your life, too. For Martin Luther changed the whole landscape of the Christian Faith.

I’ve been studying this book for the past few weeks and have been stunned at how much I had missed in my former read-throughs. It really isn’t until you study a book that you begin to understand it.

And as we do so, the things that are muddy often grow clear. And the things that didn’t make sense begin to make sense.

While we will never understand everything, of course, we can be sure that our study of the scriptures will lead us to have much greater understanding regarding the hard concepts and puzzles we’ve struggled through.

I’d like to take some time to give an example of this very thing from my study of Galatians. I finally understand why it was Galatians that opened Martin Luther’s eyes. The main theme of this book is: We are justified by faith in Christ alone.

Not by a little faith and a lot of works.

Not by a lot of faith and a few works.

Not by an equal share of faith and works.

NO, NO, NO.

We are saved by faith alone. Paul puts it like this in Galatians 2:16–

 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

As Martin Luther read these words he was steeped in the false religion of Catholicism. A religion that required faith and works in order to be saved. He recognized his own depravity. He knew he was unable to do enough good works to be reconciled to God. He had felt an utter hopelessness about this. Until he read Galatians.

Galatians makes it clear that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. It is all of God’s grace and of no merit of our own.

This goes against the grain for most of us. We want to think there is something we can do to be right with God.

This truth from Galatians makes it clear that any religion (no matter its breakdown of faith and works, it use of biblical names, or its claim to the Bible) is a false religion, ensnaring people in a works-based, pointless religion.

What the culture has made muddy and confusing, the Bible clarifies.

Not only are we not saved by our works, we are not kept by our works. Galatians tells us it is all of grace. As we study the Bible in its entirety and compare passages, we begin to understand that works are evidence of faith. They are never, ever to gain or to keep our salvation. 

This is a great relief, is it not? Yes, we want to live lives that please God. But, wow, do we mess up. Well, I’ll speak for myself, anyway. I mess up! (A nice way to say I sin…) Just way too often. I am so grateful that my salvation doesn’t rely on me or I’d be in trouble!

Instead Galatians tells us it is fully based on Christ’s work on the cross. Stop and consider this glorious truth for just a moment. The God of the universe loves us and sent His Son to die for us so that we can be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him.

Isn’t that amazing?

So I’m going to get real for a moment. I’ve been struggling through some challenges recently. Nothing major but just feels like too many for one time. And yet, I have been amazed—truly amazed—at God’s loving kindness and faithfulness to me as He stretches and grows me.

You see, once we are God’s own child we are so well-cared for. This is not some “pie in the sky”, imagined notion but a truth that you can’t really understand until you are saved.

Salvation isn’t a prayer. True salvation changes our whole life. We relate to God in a whole new way and experience His personal care for us in ways hard to comprehend. Our purpose, goals, hopes, and even our dreams change to reflect God’s will instead of our own. Everything changes because the Holy Spirit changes us. We don’t mourn that change because our hearts are changed. We are the great winner in this trade-off!

And it’s a free gift!

Galatians can be confusing to study, with some of its strong language and references to the Old Testament. I have much more to study myself and it won’t be exhaustive, for certain. But there is one thing anyone reading it will take away: We are saved by Christ’s work on the cross alone. No works required.

If you don’t know Christ, I’d love to talk to you about this. If you think you know Christ, but aren’t sure, pick up your Bible and start studying it. If you’ve known Christ and His work in your life, I hope you are filled with a passion to spread the Good News of the marvelous Gospel to those who don’t. For this is truly the best news in the world!

 

 

Saved From What?

This is a guest post by Jess*. She posted this yesterday on her social media sites but I wanted to post here, both for easy reference and for ease of sharing. I believe this is worth consideration for all of us but particularly for us Americans as we watch two opposite sides wage war with each other here in our country.

As a bit of background: The other day, Jess and I were sitting by a playground watching her three busy boys and grabbing a few moments of conversation when we could. During this time, she mentioned how both sides are really after the same goal: To fix this world. A light bulb went off in my head. Yes, of course. How did I not see this before?

“Are you going to write about that? Because if you don’t, I probably will,” I said. She said she thought she’d find some time to write. I am glad she did. I think you will be, too.

It is my hope and prayer that this will help you clarify what’s happening around us in the culture today and to refocus your eyes on Christ, who is not only our only hope for salvation from sin, but is truly our only anchor and hope for the future in these days of confusion and chaos.

Here’s what Jess wrote—

I’m reading an Easter devotional with my boys and every day tells a part of the story, starting with the triumphal entry and leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The story explained how the crowd who was shouting “Hosanna!” or “Save us!” were hoping that Jesus was going to save them from their oppressors. They thought He had come to set up His kingdom right then and there. They wanted temporal, worldly saving rather than the eternal, spiritual saving He really came to accomplish. (Luke 19:11) I was struck by a thought as I read that. Aren’t Christians doing the same thing today as the Jews who were waving palm branches and shouting “save us!” hundreds of years ago?

Dominion theology is becoming more and more popular in the Christian world. It’s the idea that the church is bringing the kingdom of God to Earth. They think that the church will take control over the seven major spheres of influence in society, claiming it’s their duty to create a worldwide kingdom for the glory of Christ. This theology works hand in hand with Christian nationalism. They claim “America will come back!” as they fight against cultural evils and attempt to return to morality and conservative values.

On the other side of the fence, liberal Christianity claims social justice as an essential mandate of our faith. They encourage joining up with groups like BLM to bring equality and justice for everyone. We must pursue social justice for the oppressed, poor, and marginalized by tearing down the current systems and building new ones.

Both groups are doing the exact the same thing but on opposite sides. Both are seeking to make this world a better place and to create God’s kingdom here on earth. The conservative, dominionist side does it by fighting against evil and promoting morality. The liberal, social-justice-loving side does it by fighting against all forms of injustice and enforcing equity for all people. The goal for both for them? A better world here and now.

Both groups miss the point. Both miss the Gospel. Both are shouting “save us!” without realizing that Jesus came to save His people from sin and death and not from the evil and oppression of this world. They’re just like the ignorant crowd of Jews cheering as Jesus paraded through on a donkey.

The kingdom of God is spiritual. It’s not of this world. Jesus came to die in our place and for our sins so that we might enter His heavenly kingdom. He came to save us, not from the temporary suffering of this world, but from the eternal suffering of hell. He will bring His kingdom to Earth when He returns and reigns. (Revelation 11:15) It is our job to share the Gospel and build God’s spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.

The Gospel is the only thing that changes hearts and transforms lives. Fighting against evil, seeking social justice, advancing so-called morality. It’s all worthless apart from the Gospel. What does it matter if we made the world a little better for people who are still headed straight for hell? Jesus did nothing to change the very corrupt world He was living in. He came to save those who are His and bring them into His kingdom through the power of His death and resurrection. We are called to be lights in this world so that others can see the transforming power of the Gospel and seek Salvation for themselves.

We should never expect to “transform the world” because we know that true Christianity is a narrow way that will always remain unpopular. We’re promised that sin will always reign on this earth. It will only get worse and worse as the last days approach. (2 Timothy 3:1, 13, 2 Peter 3:3)

It’s tempting, even as followers of Christ, to want God to fix things for us here and now. To heal us, mend our relationships, restore our country, remove our hardships and trials. But He never promised He’d save us from those things here on earth. Our hope is not in this world. It’s not in America and a comeback of conservative values, in obtaining social justice, or in having all our problems fixed. Our hope is the heavenly kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. A kingdom we could only enter because of His death on the cross for our sins. Let us not forget on this Good Friday why He came and what He died to save us from. And let us proclaim it from the rooftops!

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Colossians 1:13-15 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

*Jess is my oldest daughter and wife to Seth and busy mom to three adorable sons–who are also my three favorite grandsons! (Seth and Jess have provided us with our only grandsons!). You can find Jess at Anchor for the Soul on Facebook and on Instagram.

 

 

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