God offers release from the obligation of sin strictly by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the remediation of our sin. We are pardoned, end of story. What often fails to be taught to new believers is that this is the establishment of a relationship with God. In establishing this relationship there are strings attached which demand action if this relationship is going to have its full potential.
Sadly there are far too many pulpits from which the message of salvation is watered down to the point that lives are not being transformed.
Instead, in order to be more appealing to a greater number of people, the message has been narrowed to only ‘God is Love’ or ‘Ticket Punching’.
Let’s expand on these just a bit.
God is Love
It’s true! Love is something God created from Himself. This is so true that both God and Love are synonymous. They are the same. The problem with substituting ‘God is Love’ in place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that Love is an attribute of God that He personifies in the Precious Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate demonstration of that Love.
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
John 3:16-18 (CSB)
The ultimate expression of God’s love for us was to send His Son Jesus to be our replacement on the Cross of Calvary. Substitutional Atonement it is referred to as. In other words, He took our place. What we are guilty of, He was punished for the judgment that should have fallen on us, was imparted to Him. We are in His debt for the freedom we possess from our sin, we’ve established Him as our champion.
With pardon, there are typically conditions set forth that dictate the conduct of the condemned from witch their freedom is based.
The problem with the entire focus being placed on ‘God is Love’ is that the obligation to repent, to change, to follow, and to be transformed isn’t conveyed as absolutes. These are left to some box in the corner where we don’t have to pay attention to them.
Now, before you get all offended and stuff, let me assure you that if you don’t put them in the box then your not guilty of doing that. God never is going to hold us accountable for something we didn’t do.
The problem is that without these being part of the Gospel message then people don’t even realize that they have an obligation to fulfill certain things.
We do, and we must!
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:13 (CSB)
Tickets! Get your tickets!
No, it doesn’t work that way.
This is perhaps one of the most misused verses in the Bible. God doesn’t pop us on the forehead with a “Been Saved” stamp and we go on about our business. There are no magical words that save us. It isn’t the sinner’s prayer that redeems us.
It is the prayer of the sinner confessings guilt, surrendering themselves to Jesus and in full earnest sincerity asking Him for the forgiveness of their sin; having committed their outcome by Faith and Trust in Jesus that He not only is able but will pardon them of their sin.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB)
Saved by the Grace of Jesus, we don’t earn it, He gives it to us, upon the condition that we place our faith in Him for that Grace and its ability to free us from Sin and Death. To put this another way that may provide a bit more of a connection for us, that faith is the ‘reliance’ that Christ Jesus, provides for us a way out of sin and it’s consequences.
The sinner’s prayer shouldn’t ever be considered a point of completion, but always a beginning point from which there is a constant motivation to become closer to this savior and more like Him every day.
So, you see, this is far from getting your ticket punched for Heaven and going about your business. His forgiveness makes your conduct His business, and your life is no longer your own, you’ve entrusted it to HIm.
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CSB)
There was more to that sinner’s prayer than what the ticket punching preachers want to make you aware of.
Christ bought our salvation with His blood! By His sacrifice, He has secured our lives. Surrender to Him and placing our faith in him, results in several things that take place simultaneously.
A. We no longer have the condemnation of a death sentence upon us.
B. We have given our lives to Jesus in exchange for this pardon.
C. Jesus puts His Spirit in us, who is there to guide us and intercede for us.
D. We are to repent from our sin and strive to be obedient to Jesus.
E. We are adopted into the family of God.
F. As adopted children, we are accepted into a loving family with the unity which is the Body of Christ, His Church.
G. All of this while abiding in the Trust and Hope that with this Grace that Jesus has imparted on us, we will continue to flourish in Love and Grace as we seek to grow more and more like our Savior.
There is a lot more than ticket punching and it takes more than just saying the ‘magic words’ to make it happen. It is an act of surrender to Jesus, the one who has paid our debt so that we might be free.
Strings may not be the most analogist representation of our responsibility resulting from our forgiveness. Jesus gives that forgiveness freely to us strictly by placing our faith in HIm for His grace.
The grace given us by Jesus is done so based completely on our faith in Him being established. What does get lost in the message that needs to be focused upon fully is that this isn’t an event where we are set free to do whatever we choose. Instead, salvation is a transfer of ownership.
In this transaction, we deed what little we have of our physical life over to Jesus. In return, Jesus plants in us eternal life that secures our redemption to Him.
This sets us on a course that encompasses all of those items listed earlier and more as we progress along that course to our ultimate destination to live with God in Glory forever.
The life of a Christian is often contrasted with the term ‘traveler’. Not that believers in Jesus are nomadic, but we all are progressing on a journey from this life filled with sin and death, to our eternal home with Jesus.
This is more than a reward. It is our destination and the fulfillment of the relationship that started with our surrender to Jesus. It is the consummation of the wedding between the Lamb of God and His Bride the Church, which is the entire Body of Christ, those faithful to Him.
It is so much more than the assurance that we will not be relinquished to eternal death and it’s all that Love that is God with all the trimmings that mean that we can not just share in that love as of now but live in that love with Him forevermore.
So yes, this relationship we entered into has ‘strings’ attached. We have surrendered to Jesus and as part of that surrender, we are expected to comply with some things.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to Love God with all our being. Then He said the second greatest commandment was similar, to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).
Wow, no small task.
He went on to tell us that we need to especially love our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus because they are part of our own body within the body of Christ (John 15:17).
Then He took it a step further and compels us to love even those that hate us, despise us, and plot against us (Matthew 5:44).
Very simply we are to love EVERYONE!
This is quite a string.
Even more difficult than loving everyone is to forgive everyone in the manner that Jesus has us. This is even a taller order because you see, He forgave us before we were ever ‘us’. We had done nothing at the time, but because He isn’t limited in scope to being aware of the immediate and only the past, He’s cognizant of the future as well.
Knowing that we would commit atrocities against Him, He loved and forgave us in advance.
Christ Jesus forgives immediately and completely.
And we need to follow suit!
“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.”
Matthew 6:14-15 (CSB)
“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
John 14:15-16 (CSB)
Tied in with that love string is obedience. It’s inescapable. Akin to this is repentance as well. Of course, we can quickly through in the renewing of our minds by submission to His will as well.
He wants us to be obedient. Period!
You saw this coming, didn’t you?
Of course, you did! One of the very last things that Jesus gave us before ascending into heaven was the ‘Great Commission’.
It’s very popular for missionaries and pastors being ordained into service. The thing is, Jesus said this not to a pastors association, nor was He addressing Church leadership, for that matter the concept of missions was just being introduced by Jesus in this dictate.
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (CSB)
All authority, Jesus tells us, “Has been given to me”. Then it charges us to take that authority and run with it.
Jesus had completed His work on earth, but His mission had only begun and He was leaving that for each and every believer to take up and run with it.
His expectation was that we would be His Disciples, then we are to go out into the world and spread the Good News that people do not have to die in their sins, make Disciples of them. Teach them to be disciple-makers and to spread the Good News as well, obeying the teaching of Jesus.
Let’s ‘Wrap it up’
Okay, maybe I’m having a bit too much fun with this analogy of string. Not sorry!
What we really need to take away from this is that we as believers in Jesus Christ as our savior, have obligations to Him as the indentured servants of the Lord Most High.
God Loves us so, He gave us Jesus. Jesus loves us so that he gave himself for us. His hope is that our response to that Love is that we will surrender our lives to Him so that what He paid for with His life’s blood might be applied to our lives.
And by doing so, we die to sin, live through Him, knitting those strings of grace into a wonderful sweater that covers us and keeps us ever closer to Him.
There are strings attached. I’m so thankful there are!