Salvation from Death to Life

In 6th grade, I was part of an elite group of safety conscious protectors of children: the Lincoln Elementary School Crossing Guard Patrol. Each day at the end of school we would get into our uniform, draping the bright orange belt around our chest. It was a badge of honor. We were required to leave school 10 minutes
early in order to be in position when the rest of the children needed to be escorted to safety through the busy streets of Palatine, IL. I served my role as a crossing guard faithfully for two years, never missing a day to protect the lives of my fellow classmates… that is, until the day that I skipped my patrol duty. I had friends coming over after school and figured this would be a great opportunity to skip patrol and prepare my house for my friends. I lived directly behind my elementary school, so I had to be careful not to be seen by my teachers. I remember walking up to the deck on the side of the house and as I reached for the door I looked back at my school. As I looked back I could see one of my teachers staring at me as I entered the house. Busted!!

I received a detention for skipping my patrol duties that day. And it just so happened that a few days earlier, there was an announcement from the principal that any 6th grader who received a detention would not be allowed to go on the 6th grade bowling trip. Well, I got a detention and missed the 6th grade bowling trip, and instead had to write a 5 page paper on the history of bowling with our librarian. It was an awful experience, and to make matters worse, during our graduation a few weeks later, the slideshow that was presented to the families were all of pictures taken during the 6th grade bowling trip. As you can tell, this was a big deal in the life of a twelve year old. I made a decision that affected my life. Now, if you were to tell me before I made the decision to skip crossing guard patrol that I would have missed the 6th grade bowling trip and had to write a 5-page paper on the history of bowling and that I would not be shown in our graduation slide show, I would not have skipped patrol. This event taught me a valuable lesson in that you need to consider the consequences of your decisions. You must think before you act because after you make your decision, you cannot take it back. You have to live with the consequences.

This idea should shape our evangelism. There are eternal consequences for the decisions we make in this life. God gives the unbeliever opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to turn in faith to Jesus Christ, but there will be a day when it will be too late. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 that there, “is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” If people do not turn from their sin and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will be responsible to pay for their own sins. Jesus illustrates this principle when he shares the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man was begging for mercy from Abraham and this is Abraham’s response in Luke 16:25,

Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he (the rich man) said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have 5 brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

Jesus shows that after death there is no hope of salvation without faith in Christ. The rich man realized that, as he was in anguish and begged that someone would go and tell his family the truth of the life to come. At that moment, in hindsight, the man regretted his decision not to repent and did not want others to make the same mistake that he did. But the story goes on,

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but it someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’

We must think of the consequences of our decisions before we make them. Even more so, we must consider the reasons we make decisions. We must examine our beliefs. We must help others examine their beliefs, for we want people to experience salvation.

God has given his people a mission to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. This means that we must make disciples of people who do not have a faith in Jesus. We must tell them the way of salvation. This morning we are going to look at three different aspects of salvation, in hopes that we would be encouraged to fulfill our mission to make disciples by going into the world to reach the lost. First, we must understand the problem of salvation.

The Problem of Salvation

Problem of Salvation? How could there be a problem with salvation? The problem of salvation is for the people that do not have it. Salvation is a beautiful and incredible gift, because of what salvation saves us from. Read Ephesians 4:17, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you…” Paul is speaking to believers here. The “you” is referring to the people who have been lavished with the grace of God and the forgiveness from sin through the shed blood of Jesus. The “you” means that salvation is now possible for the Gentiles, who were once far off. He makes the point in Ephesians 2,

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh….remember that you were at one time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one…so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Eph. 2:11;13-14;19)

The Gentiles that Paul is writing to are Gentiles that have been saved. They have experienced salvation, but there are still Gentiles outside of the faith.

Paul says, “that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” He is now going to unpack the problem of those who have not yet experienced salvation in how the Gentiles walk without God. Hear the problem of those without salvation in verse 17 again, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” The unbeliever is in a very dangerous state. Their minds are subject to futility, darkened understanding, and ignorance resulting in alienation from God due to their hardness of heart. Let’s look more closely at each of Paul’s description.

First, Paul says that unbelievers walk in the futility of their minds. Futility means empty, useless, fruitless, or ineffective. Imagine I wanted to dunk a basketball and I tell you that I would be able to dunk a basketball if I changed out of my suit and into gym shorts and brand new Nikes. Would my new clothes have any impact on whether I would be able to dunk a basketball? No. It would not matter what I am wearing or how well I stretch, it would be useless or futile for me to attempt to dunk a basketball. Likewise, the minds of unbelievers are useless and ineffective in their ability to be saved without Jesus Christ. The end of their thinking will get them nothing, but separation from God.

Secondly, Paul says that believers are darkened in their understanding. This does not mean that unbelievers are unintelligent. Many unbelievers are actually quite intelligent and brilliant, even. Although they may be extremely intelligent, they do not understand the world. They are walking in deep darkness. They may appear enlightened as is the claim of modernity, but the Bible says that without Christ, people do not understand rightly. Thirdly and closely related, unbelievers are in ignorance. Before coming to Christ, there was no way for me to understand the nature of the universe. We were created in the image of God to know him, to love him, to live with him, and to glorify him. Therefore, if we are ignorant of our purpose, how can we understand anything else? Ignorance is blinding. And the danger of ignorance is that people are not aware that they do not know the truth.

Fourthly, Paul says that a mind is futile, darkened in understanding, and ignorance will lead to moral degradation. He says that unbelievers give themselves up to sensuality and impurity. Notice how the way one thinks affects how he lives. When people think wrongly, it will result in them living wrongly. I hear a lot of Christians ask, “How can people live like that?” If you ask that question, then you do not fully understand the state of someone who is spiritually lost. “But what about their conscience? Don’t they feel bad for doing wrong?” Paul answers that question for us when he gives the reason for their state at the end of verse 18, “due to the hardness of their heart.” He says it similarly at the end of Romans 1:18 in saying, “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” They may feel guilt or shame, but they hold down those feelings. They do not allow those feelings to invoke change. This will lead to a calloused conscience, which results in more sin. Verse 19, “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” The longer one suppresses the truth, the more callous his conscience becomes. Sin spirals farther and farther out of control. This is why when you talk to people who struggle with grievous sin; they never expected it to get so far. Sin begets sin. And what is the end result? a life that is alienated from God.

A life that is alienated from God is a life that is destined for destruction in a literal place called Hell. I recently spoke with a high school student from one of our local high schools. During her religious studies class, her teacher said that the Bible never mentions Hell, but it was an invention of the Church to scare people into good behavior. However this teacher is very wrong, for Jesus repeatedly says that those who reject him will be thrown into Hell. Listen to the words of Jesus,

Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:30, “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Mark 9:43, “And if your hand cause you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 13:49-50, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Hell is a very real place and is the destination for everyone who does not have faith Jesus Christ. It may not be an enjoyable topic to discuss, but we must think of the consequences of our beliefs. If we don’t understand the end of the unbeliever, we will never be motivated to share. The problem with salvation is for those who don’t have it. Have you experienced this salvation?

Next, let us look at the process of salvation.

The Process of Salvation

Remember Paul is speaking to Christians. After telling of the state of the unbeliever, Paul goes on in verse 20-21, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Christians had to learn about Christ. They had to hear of him and be taught of him so they would know the truth of Jesus. There is a way out of futility, darkened understanding, ignorance, a life alienated from God due to hardness of heart. It is the way of gospel. It is hearing and believing the good news of Jesus Christ. What is this good news? There is forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:1-3,

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and he appeared to Cephas, then the twelve.

This is what we share to others. We share what Paul shared: that Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised. One of the reasons people give for not sharing the gospel is that they are concerned they will be unprepared. Ten words. That is it. Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised. The gospel. But is sharing the gospel enough? No. We must call people to respond to it. Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The key word for us is baptizing. People need to come and be baptized. They need to repent and be baptized. Baptism is the public profession of one’s faith, a symbol of their repentance and acceptance of the gospel.

Go back to verse 20, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, TO , (listen to the call to repentance) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Knowledge is not enough. People must repent. They must put off the old manner of life and put on the new self in true righteousness and holiness. Any gospel presentation without the call to repentance of sin is not a faithful presentation of the gospel. We must call people to respond to the truth that without Jesus Christ you are alienated from God, but only through his shed blood are you, who was once far off, brought near to God.

Beloved, do you see the importance of the speaking the gospel? Romans 10:13, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” Unbelievers are only saved if they call on him and believe in him. This is the mission of the church. We invite people to call on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and for the hope of eternal life through His resurrection from the dead. We cannot be silent. We must not be silent.

We can all admit that sometimes it is difficult to bring up the gospel in conversations. There are a plethora of reasons that we can all give for not sharing the gospel, but are those reasons more important than someone going to hell? We have to remember that this is good news. The Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news (Romans 10:15).”

Lastly, we cannot forget that God has not called us to simply share the gospel, but to picture it.

The Picture of Salvation

How we interact as a congregation pictures the gospel to the watching world!!! Paul unpacks what the life of a believer of Jesus Christ will look like in relationship with other believers. Listen to verse 4:25 to the end of the chapter,

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Paul describes how Christians are supposed to interact together in the local church. Speaking truth to one another, showing mercy towards each other, working to give to one another, letting go of bitterness towards one another, not allowing slander to be spoken by each other, and forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ. People may refute our beliefs, they may mock our creeds, but they cannot dismiss our love for one another. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another (John13:34-35).”

Let me close with a story that illustrates this principle from someone’s personal experience, Jason Helopolous writes about how the Lord used the “strange love” of the church to draw him to Christ:

As a freshman college student and self-declared atheist, I attended a campus Christian fellowship to fulfill a promise to a Christian friend. I only had the intention to go once. It was merely duty and upholding my word, nothing more. I went begrudgingly, but I went. My life was never the same.

I walked into a room full of Christians and was struck by what I observed. Here was a diverse group. They were from every walk of life. I remember scanning the room and labeling people in my mind, “There is a jock, over there is a geek, and walking in the door is a boy scout.” But what struck me was that they were together. They weren’t just together in the same room, they were together in every sense of the word. They were actually talking with each other and genuinely seemed happy to be together. There didn’t seem to be division. Even in my atheist mind, I knew what I was seeing: they loved one another.

I had no categories for this, so I kept returning to find out why they had love like this for one another. Over the course of a few months I found the answer, or more accurately stated, the answer found me.

 One of the best evangelism programs you can start at your church is to pursue loving one another well. At some point they will have to hear the gospel proclaimed from your lips or the pulpit, but that “strange love” will set the table before them. People will know that you are His disciples, because it is a shocking love. It has a gravitational attraction, because it is a love that is foreign to this world. A love that the inquirer, if seeking an answer, will find comes from heaven[1].

Beloved, God has given us a mission to make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God uses many means to draw people to Christ, but two primary ways are the gospel proclamation and the gospel life of a local church. Beloved, let us be a church that lives out a faithful gospel witness in word and deed.