Freely We Receive

Back in September, Franklin taught about salvation in our junior high/high school Sunday school. I was extremely encouraged, not only from the teaching, but also to have had the privilege to see how God has changed his life over these past two years, and how He continues to refine him as he starts off his freshmen year of college.

Franklin had a very appropriate title for his lesson, which was the “symptoms of salvation”, or in other words, what the life of the one who has experienced God’s grace and mercy in our lives through accepting the gift of salvation should look like. Just as one who is sick exhibits symptoms of that sickness, one whose life has been truly changed from the inside out should also exhibit something that is visible. As always, we need to keep our order of operations in check. It isn’t because a person coughs that makes him sick, but rather his sickness that results in coughing. Following that train of thought, we then sought out to identify some “symptoms of salvation”. This brought to mind a slew of thoughts, which will now follow in rapid succession.

This past Friday we watched the movie Fireproof with our junior high and high schoolers, and there is one scene where the father is consoling his son, who is going through difficulties in his marriage. He is venting to his father about how difficult and almost unreasonable it is for him to love someone who does not respect him, does not love him back, does not acknowledge him, and so forth. What blows my mind is if we take that comparison, but instead “move it up a level” to God and mankind. By a worldly standard, He has every right to say the exact same thing about us. Yet He doesn’t. In fact He does the very opposite, and extends that grace, that unmerited and unearned favor upon utter sinners like ourselves. That sort of love, true love, was one of the many symptoms we identified. Not a love that this world has defined, as a feeling, but instead a selfless and sacrificial love. A love demonstrated on the cross.

It is this very love that leaves me in awe time and time again. It is a beautiful reminder of the assurance we have in what was done for each and everyone one of us on that cross. In Ephesians 2:8-10 it reads:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

We are reminded that at the end of the day, there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn salvation, our works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is a gift, extended to us through the grace of the Father, in sending His Son to live a perfect life, and pay the penalty for our sins, so that we can stand justified in light of a perfectly just God, if we choose to accept this gift. Yes, at the end of the day the hands and feet of the church will produce good works, but as we have already stated, let us remember that it isn’t our works or good deeds that make us a follower of Christ, but rather the fact that Christ lives in us, that these things flow outwardly into the world around us.

We also can be confident in this gift of salvation. The word “saved” in verse 8 is translated from the Greek word sozo, and is in the perfect tense, which in the Koine Greek expresses an action completed in the past with continuing results. I remember a sister sharing in our Youth Group a few weeks back about how she lost her wallet, and how God taught her a number of things through that experience. After our time of sharing, another sister prayed for her thanking Him for what He had taught her through this, but more importantly thanked God for what He had given us, His Son, and salvation, something which could not be lost. It is this assurance and confidence that we can hold onto, knowing that this “saving” that is mentioned is completed, and the effects of us being saved continue on forever.

Let us also never forget that this gift is not free. Yes, we freely receive it, and as we receive it we realize we could not have earned it in any way, and we stand confident in it, however it was not free. This gift which we freely receive came at a cost. It came at the cost of Jesus. Through His death on the cross, we stand justified in light of a perfectly just God, if we choose to accept this gift. Just as if someone laid out a plate of <<insert favorite food item here>> with a sign that said, “Please take one”, doesn’t mean that it was free of cost. Someone else bore that cost, so that you could have it. Likewise, it isn’t being forced upon against your will, but you have the opportunity to approach the plate, and pick it up.

Romans 3:23 reminds us that “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. It continues in verse 24 to remind us however that we are “…justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” We also recognize in Romans 6:23 that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And as we have just studied, in Ephesians 2:8-10, that it is “…by grace you have been saved, through faith; and it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”. If we accept this gift we can be confident in its permanence and what is promised, for in Philippians 1:6 we read that “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Any one who has “walked this walk” can assure you that it isn’t easy sailing. But I know from what God has taught me, especially these past few years of my life, that He who began that work in my heart continues to refine it day after day. For those who have accepted this gift, take comfort in that. We have a confidence in what is promised, and that He who began that very good work in your heart will continue to perfect it. And for those who may have been looking at the plate from afar, or who may have seen it for the first time and would like to know more, feel free to leave a comment with a means for us to get back to you. Out of the many contributors to this blog site, there is more than likely someone in a neighboring city throughout California, and even a brother in Texas, all of whom I’m more than certain would love to meet up with you and share more.

And so ends what was supposed to be a quick post before bed about what God revealed to me through Franklin’s lesson today (er…yesterday now I suppose). Do you show the “symptoms of salvation” as one who has experienced God’s grace? I think I heard you sniffling your nose.

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