Can I Be Good Enough to be Saved?

Next month I will be teaching three classes at Copper Basin Family Encampment.  The topic I will be dealing with is, “So you think you’re good enough to be saved?”  I am excited about this subject.  So much of what we have taught in the past centered around living “good enough” to please God.  If you have no plans consider attending the encampment.  It will run from July 18-21.

Can I be good enough to be saved?  This is an important question.  If we answer the question with our lips in most cases we say no.  If we answer the question by the implication of our lives and the things we teach we probably say yes.

If I am saved at judgement why will I be saved?  This is a question that demands to be answered.  Will I be saved because I have understood doctrine correctly?  Is it my ability to understand which will be judged?  Will I be saved at judgment because I have correctly applied all that I have correctly understood?  Is it my application of understanding which will stand before God at the judgement?  If I am saved at the judgment it will because of my faith and trust in God.  Standing before God at judgment will be my heart.

So that I am not misunderstood let me make this statement as plainly as I can.  I can not understand God’s Word well enough nor obey those things I understand well enough to be saved by my actions!  Let me put this another way, I cannot be good enough to be saved!

Romans 4:7-8 says, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven,whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” This passage is taken from Psalms 32:1-2.  David was the writer of this Psalm. This is the same David who committed adultery, lied, and finally murdered the husband of Bathsheba.  What right did David have to pen these words?  With his sin how could he possibly speak of having sins covered and having sin the Lord would never count against him?

We miss the point of David.  David was a sinner.  Some of the things David did were grievous sins.  Yet, we find him called a man after God’s own heart.  God’s favor was with David, the sinner.  How can this be?  David was righteous for the same reason Abraham was righteous.  They had hearts that sought and trusted God.  Because of the great faith of their hearts God counted that faith as righteousness.

Does this have application to us?  Scripture teaches we are righteous because we are declared righteous by God.  My righteousness rests on God’s declaration.  If God can name sin, He can also choose not to count it against me.  Just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, God will also declare us righteous if will place the trust of our hearts fully in Him.

Salvation and righteousness is not a formula.  If I do the right things or say the right words I am not automatically good enough to be saved.  I am only good enough to be saved when God says I am good enough.

On God’s Time

God is so good!  If we  put matters in God’s hand He will take care of the things that need to be done.  In the last couple of weeks we have seen one baptized and a young couple announce that they wanted to worship and work with the church family in Payson.  We had an awesome prayer service last evening! God is building a spirit of unity and peace in this family. God is so good!

So often I want things to happen now.  It may be that it isn’t time.  One of the most difficult things for me to do is wait on God.  The really good things don’t happen when I want them to happen.  The really good things happen on God’s time!

God is doing good things with Payson.  I wanted to see the kind of things that are beginning to take place happen years ago.  God said not yet.  The pieces weren’t in place.  The timing wasn’t right.  When we wait on God good things happen.  I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for His servants. Praise the name of God!

Living Through Tough Times

All of us have had tough times in our lives.  When you are living the difficult days do you ever wonder why you are dealing with the difficulties?   Often we hear someone speak of having a “streak of bad luck.”  Do you think Job would have attributed his difficulties to bad luck?  When Paul was in a Roman prison do you think he would have said, “That’s just how it goes sometimes.”  We know this is not the case.

Job went through the things he faced for a reason.  Paul was in a Roman prison because of God working in his life.  God works in the lives of those who seek to walk with Him.

Examining the life of Joseph can be a faith building experience.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers.  He was then falsely accused because he refused to allow sin in his life.  As he waited in prison he was forgotten.  If anyone had the right to complain, it was Joseph.  Through it all he continued to trust God.

When times are tough there is a reason.  God could be preparing us for something better in the future.  This was the case with Joseph.  God could be allowing us to touch someone else’s life.  Maybe God is allowing difficulties to bring us back to Him.  Whatever the reason God remains in control.

The following are a list of principles that will allow us to deal with tough times:

  • God is with us through tough times. Psalms 23:1-4 gives us knowledge that no matter how tough or who caused it, God is with us.
  • God has a purpose for allowing the tough times. Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  This doesn’t mean only good things happen to God’s people.  What it does mean is that God will use all that happens to us for our good.
  • The darkness will last only as long as is necessary for God to prepare you. All darkness is preparation if we respond appropriately. Joseph did not understand, yet he remained faithful.  God is often working to prepare us for something better.  How long do times remain tough?  The remain difficult as long as we fight God’s purpose.
  • We learn more in hard times than in the easy. We become what God wants when we are in difficult circumstances.  Metal is tempered when the heat is applied.  We mature when we are tested.
  • Even in dark times we are walking toward the light if we continue to walk in the light. Take Joseph as an example.  God was preparing him to save his family and nation.  Don’t underestimate what god has in mind.  Continue to focus on God because the best is yet to come.  Even in the darkest night there is a ray of hope.

The next time you are dealing with tough times rather than complain ask this question, “What is God preparing me to do?”  Remember this, “What we learn in darkness we can share in the light.”

A Formula or a Pledge?

 

Do we really grasp the full meaning of being in Christ?  To be a Christian is much more than a responsibility.  To be a Christian is a privilege made possible by the grace of God.  When God created man He created man in His image.  Man was created to have fellowship and relationship with God.  Sadly, man sinned and because of that sin separated himself from God.  Isaiah 59:1-2 tells us that it wasn’t the fault of God that man separated himself from the Lord.  In fact it was the sin of man that brought this separation to pass.

If God wanted man to be lost God could have done nothing and man would have remained in a lost state.  God wanted man to be reconciled unto Him.  God loved the world so much that He was willing that Jesus be our sin payment.  Jesus, the innocent Son of God, died so we might be reconciled to God.  Jesus paid for the sins of all man.  It is up to man to accept the sin payment provided by God.  Man has no part in salvation except his acceptance of the gift given by God’s grace.  God has provided complete payment for sin, our responsibility is to accept by faith what God has done.  It is up to man to either accept or reject the gift.

In Acts 2:37 the Jews asked the question, “Men and brethren what shall we do?”  This wasn’t a question about providing restitution.  They weren’t asking about church membership.  At this point they weren’t concerned about blueprints or patterns. This was a question about what could be done concerning the mess they had made of their lives.  This was a totally selfish question.  By their own merit they were hopeless.  Correction of their terrible mistakes was totally out of their hands.  Today, we have made similar messes in our lives.  Making things right is not in our hands.  Correcting the mess in our lives rests in the hand of God.

In answering the question Peter told them they needed to repent and be baptized.  Peter wasn’t telling them that repentance and baptism could be traded for salvation.  Peter was telling them that repentance would be changing the direction of their lives.  He was assuring them that their only hope was to give their hearts to the very one they had crucified.  In order for them to accept the sin payment brought about by the death of the Christ they had to submit to baptism.  Baptism was acknowledging publicly the pledge they were making that would change direction of  their lives.  No longer were they going to be followers of Moses law, now they were submitting to the very one they had crucified.  The mess they had made of their lives could stand corrected.  This mess in their lives wasn’t corrected because they followed a magic formula.  Their lives were changed because by faith they had given their hearts to the one called Jesus.  Their faith was strong enough that they admitted their pledge in the public confession of baptism. I Peter 3:21 tells us, “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Baptism was a public  admission of the pledge they had made by faith to follow the one called Jesus. 

Do you have the faith today to publicly pledge to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?

Because You Said So I Will

Peter and his co-workers had been fishing all night.  They were now cleaning their nets.  By this time they were certainly tired.  fishingJesus had asked for the use of one of the boats that he might speak to the crowd that was gathered.  He put the boat into the water and spoke to the crowd from the boat.  After he finished speaking he told Peter, “Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
   Peter and his friends were  tired.  They had fished all night and had caught nothing.  These men were professional fishermen.  Now the carpenter was telling them how to do their jobs! 
   The time of day was wrong, the place was wrong, none of the usual necessities were in place to catch fish.  How easy it would have been for Peter to have said, “How about another time?”  He didn’t.  What he did say was, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
   If you are familiar with the text you know the rest of the story.  Peter and his friends caught such a large number of fish that the nets began to break.  They filled the boats so full with fish the boats began to sink.  Peter realized his lack of faith and asked the Lord’s forgiveness.  Jesus said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid;  from now on you will catch men.”  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
   How many of us could leave our profession when we were at the top and follow Christ?  So often we see little need for God when things are going well.  We only feel the need when things are out of our control.  Peter was at the top of his profession, yet, he walked away in order to follow Jesus. We need an attitude that says to the Lord, “Because you say so I will.”  It doesn’t matter if we know the reason. Regardless of  cost or direction we must be willing to follow the Lord. 
   We want everything in a neat logical pile.  We even invent rules to produce those neat logical piles.  God doesn’t necessarily fit our logic.  We can’t always make sense of what God requires.  The sooner we learn that God’s ways are superior to our ways and His thinking to our thinking the better.  Sometimes instead of trying to make God fit our rules we just need to say, “because you say so I will.” 

Do You Know Who Holds the Water Back?

     God had led His children out of Egypt.  They were now standing before the Red Sea with mountains on either side.  Behind them was the entire Egyptian army.  There was no visible way of escape.  From man’s viewpoint their death was eminent. In Exodus 14 we are told Moses stretched forth his hand and the waters were parted.  This was a feat impossible according to the understanding of man.  It was an event  that could not take place. Not possible in man’s eyes, yet it happened!  This was an event that the intellect of man cannot grasp.

     Two groups walked the same path.  The children of Israel walked across the path between the walls of the sea to safety.  The Egyptian army walked between the walls of the sea to certain death.  Both walked the same path.  One walk led to deliverance and the other to death, why the difference?  Actually it was quite simple.  The Israelites understood and respected the power holding the water back.  They were walking by faith in the power of God.  The Egyptians were going through the same motions.  Yet, there was no faith in the power.  They had no concern for or knowledge of the power holding the water back.  Salvation was not in the steps  made.  In the same path was salvation and death.  The difference,  faith in the power of God.

     Today many are religious.  They may walk similar paths.   The paths may even be parallel in many instances.   The truth is the two groups are not the same. One seeks salvation by moral purity or by man’s intellect.   The second understands that salvation isn’t by man’s ability but by God’s declaration.

     It isn’t enough to go through the motions.  We can get all the works right but God requires more.  God wants us to understand the power that brings our salvation.  The power of salvation isn’t in the hands of man.  The power of salvation is in Christ.  God seeks acknowledgement of that power.

     At times we think it  is in our hands to direct our steps.  We miss the point.  If we are depending on our own morality and understanding to please God we become like the Egyptians.  We may chase the righteous but we will never catch up to righteousness.  Our deeds alone do not please God.  God wants our hearts.  We must have faith in the one who holds the power. If we are going to be declared righteous, we must understand who holds the water back.

     One of the most difficult times in my life was when I learned that success was not in my own hands.  From salvation to my success as a citizen it all lies in His hands.  I only wish I had learned earlier in life to trust in the power that holds the water back.