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Returning the Favor or Saved By God?

So my Pastor has been doing a Facebook live everyday using a book as a guide to teach through the evidences or characteristics of salvation. It's been wonderful. I have listened to, or watched many of the Facebook lives. Then I thought, you know I should get the book. So I did. And I started reading it. The book is a great short little book, I believe written in 1813 by a man named Gardiner Springs called, “Essays on the Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character” Today I came across a section that really struck me. I mean the whole book is profound. And what I mean by profound is it is a real help towards the Bible and the oh so great salvation expressed and explained therein. But there was a little section that I was going to quote and post on Facebook. The quote is, “Wicked men are apt to consider God altogether such as one as themselves. “They clothe the Divine Being with such attributes, and such only, “as suit their depraved taste; and then it is no “difficult thing to fall down and worship Him." But it is not God that they worship; it is not God that they love. It is an image that bears no resemblance to that Glorious Being whom all heaven adores; it is a mere idol of their own imagination. Genuine complacency in God, therefore, is delight in His true character. The love which arises from delight in the character of a false god, is enmity toward the true God. The enemies of God may love Him for what they imagine Him to be; none but the real friends of God love Him for what He is.” (pg. 72) Man, does not that hit hard. Reminds me of another thing I heard a while back. Can’t remember if it is from Oswald Chambers or C.S Lewis, maybe neither, but it is this: “God has made man in his own image. And man has been returning the favor to God ever since.” Friends, it is of no great difficulty to worship God as we have imagined him to be.

But it is of an extreme difficulty, yes, even an impossibility to worship the one true God as he truly is. So impossible is it to truly worship God that unless God intervenes it will never happen.

There is a reason the Bible says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

What has man ever done of any eternal significance on his own? Man has sinned. Man has rebelled. Man has puffed himself up and made his own rules, contriving and ever contriving how things out to be. We so often talk of the real problem being lack of education or the need to improve our environments. Well I say, the history of the world says, and most importantly the Bible says…. so what if we improve our surroundings or become more educated! What do we have then but better educated and more capable sinners who now have better resources and more abilities to sin.

Now maybe I exaggerate and maybe this is not true. Maybe people do pretty good at sinning just as they are and do not need improved education and more resources to sin better.

The point is, anything less than God’s interposing intervention is vain, worthless and without hope. Why? Because sinners sin. And what is man apart from God’s grace but sinful. Man apart from Gods grace will only and ever, sin, including the most sinful thing, and that is, sinfully loving and worshipping God. As if there is such a thing. But I think there is. Do you know what it's called? It's call idolatry. Sinfully loving and worshiping God is called idolatry.

We need God to call us, to regenerate, to justify us, to sanctify us and to continue to sanctify us by His grace or we will always only remain idolaters, crafting God into an image created in our own imaginations that suits us. All throughout the Bible the salvific truths of God’s wonder working power to save a people from himself, for himself, and by himself, are intermixed. Oh I love how another author, A.W Pink put it; when God saves us, He saves us from the pleasure of sin, the penalty of sin, the power of sin and one day, finally and fully, the presence of sin. Regenerated, given a new heart that loves God and hates sin. Justified, to be declared right because of Jesus. Sanctified, set apart for God in Christ. And sanctification, growing in our love for God and our hatred of sin, moving forward into ever increasing Christ likeness (saved from the pleasure of sin).

Friends, unless the one true God, who exist eternally in three persons, made a plan and a pact amongst themselves, before the foundation of the world, for the Son to come and live a perfect life and die a perfect death in the place of sinners, so as those same sinners might be forgiven and counted as righteous, rising again and ascending to the right hand of Father declaring it it to be so.

And unless God the Holy Spirit, also came to apply that work to the very sinners Jesus died for, through the preaching of His gospel, by which He circumcises hearts, so as to give new hearts with new desires; desires that love God as he has revealed himself to be. Resulting in the sinner, turning (repenting) from their former way of thinking and embracing (faith) Christ finished work on their behalf, so that the sinner is judiciously saved from the due penalty of their sins (saved from the penalty of sin). A sinner in Christ, which happens through faith, has a new position before God. That is, his sins are no longer counted against. They are counted as being nailed to cross and Jesus paying the penalty for them. And even more than that, he is now considered right, that is, not only forgiven of his wrongs but is also considered as having kept all of God’s righteous requirements for living because of Jesus’ perfect life credited to his account. This is the sinner’s new position in Christ. In Christ, through faith that flows from a new heart, our sins are given to Jesus, which he paid for, and his obedience is given to us, which we did not pay for or earn. We who are not obedient are declared obedient and we who are sinful are declared not sinful. “ That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 4:22 - 5:1) But even more than that, out of that new position comes also a new movement of life (saved from the power of sin). “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2) You could say, from out of the receiving of new life comes new life. Or, new life begats new living.

Being in Christ, and Him in us, united by the power of the Spirit through faith, so that who Christ is and who we are in Christ is not only our new position but becomes also our new identity. Out of our new identity we live our life. Whereas before our identity was sinner, in which we only ever sinned. Our new identity in Christ, is “saint” (sanctified). Though those in Christ still sin, it is no longer their identity. God does not count us, or identify us as sinner any longer, and we no longer identify with sin, but instead are at war with sin and are not ok with it. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ….. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:1-2, 22)

Who we are, always forms the trajectory of our life. And for those, new in Christ, it is not any different. The trajectory of a Christian is to be fully in the presence of God. Some call it heaven, if that helps, so be it. But really it is to be fully and completely without any hindrance, in the presence of God in all of his majesty. That’s the goal of the Christian life. Not to arrive at the image of God of whom we made up. But to arrive into the presence of God as he really is. People who have been converted and changed by God really want God. This trajectory starts when we come to Christ and are declared right and keeps going all the way to glory to when what we were only declared will most ultimately, fully, and finally become a complete reality forever. Oh yes, we will grow in Christlikeness in between those two times. We will actually become more and more Christlike and less and less sinful. The Bible put it this ways, “Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) So yeah, until we get to glory, that is, until we die or Jesus returns, we still sin and are not perfect, even though we are declared sinless and perfect. Yet, we are moving in a direction of becoming more and more like what God has already declared us to be. Not only is this an objective reality. If you are in Christ. Heaven is your eternal home. What God has declared is what really is. But it is also a subjective reality. We also experience this. It doesn’t alway feel this way. But it is true. For those headed to heaven, they always begin to and never cease to, despite wanderings, live like they are really headed there. We begin to even smell heaven and smell like heaven as we track it down. Oh dear friends, much more could be said, but anything less than this will not do.

Daily repenting, daily embracing, daily being conformed to and transformed into the image of Christ. There is no greater thing.

Very simply put, unless God intervenes and is intervening on your behalf, you will only ever worship and love vain imaginations of who God is or is not. You must be saved by God. Only God can save, not the gods we make up. You must be saved from God. God is the one who you have rebelled against and whose wrath you are under. And you must be saved for God. Living to glorify Him and not created things.

Unless God intervenes you will always only be, worshipping the idols of your heart, even fashioning those imaginations into who you wish God to be. Without God’s interposing grace, we are darkness. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14) It has been said that darkness, that evil, is just the absence of light. There is some truth to that. For we really do need to be brought out of darkness by God into his marvelous light to worship Him in the real splendor of His majesty.

The Bible ask the question through Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 19 when talking about how difficult it is for a person who trust in their own riches (self sufficiency) to enter the kingdom of God. “Who then can be saved?” (vs. 25) And Jesus answers the question with this, “What is impossible with man is possible with God!” (vs. 26) God can save any person, even those who seemingly have it altogether. But again it’s even more than that. With God it is always more. Always overflowing abundance. For what is possible with God is even way beyond the imaginable. “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) The real God. The true God, is better than we could ever imagine him to be. Even the best idols, lamborghinis and all riches, pail in comparison.

Oh that by His grace we would see that. And by his grace, the more we see the riches of who God is in his grace, the more and more we would long to be like Him and to one day for surely see Him face to face.

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