This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

     It’s going to be a little intense. Are you ready? First of all, I need each of you to come at this topic in a way that makes these matters personal to you. I need to you to hear the love and care behind these statements. I need you to truly and intentionally process what is being shared right here and right now.

     Today is not about a simple what you should or should not do. Today is about your salvation. Today we are going to address whether or not you have eternal life, not simply life today.

     More to the point for those of us in Christ, I need something more from you. I need you to remember your passion for Christ, not simply the passion of Christ. I need you to remember what it felt like when you first grasped the greatness of God, if you have. I need you to focus on the excitement and zeal you had when you burst open realizing the depth of your brokenness, sin, and desperate need for Christ.

     If you have not had this moment and do not regularly think on God with awe, than think carefully about who God is to you and who you are to God.

     Paul simply wrote to a church in a city called Ephesus and said in part this profound and regularly repeated statement,

     For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

     This is essential for you to know. You have a hope of salvation from Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Jesus, the God of the universe in human flesh, died a gruesome death on the cross to pay a sacrificial price that you and I could never pay. That is what Paul is explaining here.

     Yes, it is a sacrificial system that is foreign to us. And, the idea of having to bring goats, lamb, wheat, and numerous other offerings to the temple to be destroyed is odd. Really, when you bring your tithes and offerings into the church, they are utilized in the church or abroad for the Gospel. The offerings brought to the temple were often destroyed. They were burnt up. They were given to the Lord. Imagine giving money to the church to only see it burned.

     But, this text points us to something so much more familiar to us. We can be so easily seduced to believe that a God that gives moral commands to actions and lifestyles can be impressed by our “goodness” and actions. The concept of our goodness earning God’s favor is as foreign to God and His Word as the sacrificial system is to us. Furthermore, how cheap is eternity if we could earn it with our good deeds.

Our God saves us through faith.

     We cannot earn our salvation. No action we can take no matter how large, how magnificent, or even constant and small can save us. We are not given salvation because we are good. We do not have an eternal hope with God simply because we are good or good enough. Rather, we have the hope of eternity because Jesus was more than enough for an infinite price that needed to be paid for us. Our faith is reliant on Him more than it is on our action of trust.

     Okay, the message of salvation has now caused those who have heard it or shared it a thousand times to glaze over. In so many ways it can become mundane and we can lose sight of the grandeur of being called the God of the universes handiwork, but that is what you are. You are precious and immensely valuable.

     These truths should be a relief. This truth should bring you hope. And, this truth should bring about a gratefulness that honors the Lord. Really, it is amazing that it is through Jesus’ actions that you are saved. Your actions are not what saves you. It is not even the measure of your faith that saves you. Jesus talks about having faith the size of a mustard seed. In discussing an amazing missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, we can read this about faith.

     “We do not put faith in our faith or in our feelings because they will change and fail. We put our faith in Christ. The great missionary, J. Hudson Taylor, often said, ‘It is not by trying to be faithful, but in looking to the Faithful One, that we win the victory.’”[1]

     Our salvation is not even found soli in our faith. Jesus Christ is where our salvation is found. King David after being broken and disgraced wrote this in his tragic plea for hope, forgiveness, and salvation to the Lord wrote, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12) It is the Lord’s salvation that we look to. We believe in Jesus and so we know we have the hope of salvation.

We are Created in Jesus Christ to do good works!

     This moves us to another verse in the Bible that is often paired with this one as a contrasting perspective. This is essential as we understand we are saved by faith and not by works, but that God has prepared good works for us to do. He has created us for action not for passivity.

     What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

     Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

     You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? – James 2:14-20

     The starting quarterback for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz put it this way to his church when he went home to North Dakota. Check it out on ESPN type, “Wentz North Dakota Roots.”

Faith + Works ≠ Salvation

Faith = Salvation + Works

     I don’t know if you caught the very inflammatory comment in this passage of James’s letter. If you believe in Jesus, then you can have the hope of salvation. But, even the demons believe that Jesus is God and they believe that He is the God of the universe in human flesh. And, they are fearful of Him, they shutter. They know their reckoning is at hand.

Side Note: Do you know how frustrating it is. as someone who studies God’s word, to hear that people think Satan and the demons run Hell? Hell is a punishment and a torment for them as well. They have no power and no rule there. Hell is a terrifying and disturbing place for them to go to. Please do not base your understanding of God, eternity, and spiritual issues on your TV shows and pop culture. Please.

     Instead we must understand that if we believe in Jesus we will live in a way that honors him. We are going to another passage in 1 John next which talks about our lives lived for the Lord. That letter definitively and repeatedly states that if you love God you will obey His commands. Implying that if obeying the Lord is not a priority you may not truly love Him. It is not through works that we are saved. But, by knowing Jesus and being known by Him, through faith, doing acts of love toward others for God is a natural outcome.

     And, if you do not love God do you truly have faith and peace in and from what He has done? Or, do you simply believe that He has done something and not truly care? Has your faith effectually transformed you and your life?

     Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1-2

     And so, Paul goes on to talk about the grace that we are so freely and abundantly given. The passages that proceed here should be some of the most relieving and encouraging passages in all of scripture. If Ephesians 2:8-10 speak of our free grace that we receive than Romans 5 defines the magnitude and unrelenting and infinite amount of grace we have access to in Christ. The grace is not simply for us when we come to Christ instead the grace that we receive from Grace overflows even after we come to Christ.

     But, he addresses the abuse that some may be tempted to take. “Well, if Jesus is going to forgive me, then why not do what I want and just be forgiven for it.” 

     What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? – Romans 6:1-2)

     How can someone who says they believe in, love, and have faith in the God of the Bible, and not obey they Bible with complete joy! Even in the letter to the Ephesians Paul states that people who live opposed to the lifestyle that God desires for us does not have the hope of eternity (Ephesians 5:4-5).

     How does your life match your faith? How does your life impact someone else’s for Christ? What does it look like tangibly in your life to have faith in Jesus?

Living in the light is a life lived lovingly and truthfully.

     There was this guy that Jesus loved, really, Jesus loved this dude. He was like a little brother to Him. He took John under His wing. He was not simply one of Jesus 12 closest disciples, or even the three that were super close with Him. This guy was different. He was the guy that Jesus was closest with. Well, John had something to say about what it looks like to love Jesus.

     This description is really personal to me. There is a young man named Thomas Martin. And, when I read that Jesus had a beloved disciple that is Thomas. He became my little brother, I was brought into his entire family. We even shared a bathroom. I made it smell a lot. He is dear to me. I love him so much I named my son after him. I treasure him and our friendship, our relationship as brothers, and how God has enabled me to be a part of his life and speak into it.

     John was this to Jesus He was treasured by Jesus. John’s opening point to the believers is dramatic. John writes as someone close to, treasured by, and intensely as well as intentionally known by the God of the universe. He both knew and was known by God in human flesh. And so, he challenges those who claim to be the same. Those who claim to known by and close to the God of the universe.

     This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

     If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10

     See he makes somethings abundantly clear. If you say you are close with Jesus, and don’t live like it than you are not close with Jesus. And, if you are not close with Jesus than why do you think that you will spend eternity with Him in heaven. I mean heaven is all about Jesus. It isn’t about your dog, cat, or poor goldfish your parents flushed down the yellow pearly throne.

     Heaven is about God. Do we grasp that? Are we excited about enjoying the God of the creation that we enjoy so much? Yes, we enjoy the creation God gave us! If anyone tries to convince you that God is opposed to enjoying the creation God gave, you don’t understand that God who of creation. He has given us perspective on the priority though.

     God has shown repeatedly that He is the center of everything. God is the purpose of our very existence. But, in that existence we are called to not only to value God we are also commanded to value what He values.

How we love others displays how we love God.

     That command to value what He values is also found in our imitation of Him. We value others like He values them. Remember that first verse we started with. It is the free gift of God that we have salvation. How much more should we display and give abundant, abuse taking, unrelenting, constant, and costly grace to others.

     We must look past what someone has done and who they have been and see who God could transform them to be. That is the living Gospel!

     I bring up those in the church intentionally. We as believers can accept that someone far from God lives in sin. We are not happy with it, often we are appalled by it. But, we see the need to give grace. It is more difficult to give grace to those who should or do know better, but part of being the Living Gospel is remembering that grace is also for those inside of Christ’s Body the church.

     Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

     Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! … The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. – James 5:9, 11b

     We are called to be more than understanding, we are commanded to not grumble about each other. Instead, we are called to be full of compassion, by being understanding, and mercy, not treating them according to their wrong. Instead, we are to be able to confess our sins to one another in order to be healed.

     In many ways our church is in a fantastic place. We know each other so well, and for many of us, if we are going through a trying time we could go to a brother and sister and seek help. But, that is a culture that takes work. Having a community that can be healthy and broken together takes purpose and intentionality.

     Paul said it like this, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2

     Our salvation is free, but what God has prepared for those who believe in Him is costly. We have all had a friend, a brother or sister in Christ, hurt us or someone we love, but we are called to carry their burden. We are commanded to restore them in gentleness not with frustration, anger, or indignation as righteous as any of those may be. How we lovingly restore them and show grace is what displays our love for God.

     We already acknowledged that we sin, right? 1 John 1:8 so instead of only celebrating the grace we receive, we instead celebrate that we can give grace to others like Jesus has given to us. We have the opportunity to be like the God of the universe.

     Yes, if you want to be like God you will give grace in such a costly way that it may demand even your life.

     We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. – 1 John 4:19-21

     John, James, and Paul are unanimous about some major issues. Sin is an issue. Being continually and willfully disobedient to the Lord without repentance proves you do not love and do not have faith in God, and have shown you do not have the hope of eternity. If like darkness rather than light, how can you impact someone’s life with the light of Christ?

     They are also unanimous about displaying and bring grace both to those far from God and those who claim to be close to God! Your actions of kindness, speaking truth with compassion, grace, and love display the actions of God.

     Be the Living Gospel this week. Love God by intentionally and sacrificially loving the people you meet especially those closest to you!

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 245.