The salvation of Jesus Christ is explained explicitly in Scripture. Yet, people have many questions about salvation. For example, can we lose our salvation? Or, how can we know for sure that we are saved?
We might think in the information age, all the questions will find answers. We do, but the answers differ. Countless resources add confusion, not clarity. We can find books on the same store shelf contradicting one another. Blog posts, memes, sermons, and even worship songs present opposing viewpoints.
How may we get answers? Who can we trust?
We can trust God, and we can find the answers in the Bible. In the upcoming weeks, we will look for the answers and allow the Holy Word of God to be our guide as we seek the truth of our precious faith.
We will seek answers to questions such as: What is salvation? What is it not? What is righteousness by faith? What is James talking about when he writes about “saving faith”? How can we have the assurance of salvation? Can salvation be lost? What if there is no evidence of fruit in a person’s life, are they saved? Is sanctification necessary? Are there different rewards in heaven? And other questions as well.
It is vitally important to stand firm in our faith. The year 2020 has forced each of us to evaluate life. We are witnessing culture and societal norms change before our eyes. Despite the changes, we need to stand firm on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. Our goal is to lay a foundation of truth upon which we may stand as Christians. There is not a more important topic or study.
We begin the Perfect Salvation series by asking the question, where is our hope? The Bible says hope helps us to persevere in days of unrest and difficult challenges.
Let us first understand the importance of hope.
If we are stranded on a deserted island, and we have high hopes of being rescued, we will not despair but instead, we will make the best of our time. Our hope will keep us in an upbeat mood. Our mantra will be, “maybe today is the day of our rescue.”
But, if we know the situation is desperate, that the island is far outside of the shipping lanes, and nobody knows our whereabouts, our hope of rescue will be minimal. The lack of hope will bring despair, worry, and anxiety. Our mantra will be, “why not just end it all right now?”
Information enlightens our “tomorrow will be good hope meter.” If we have reliable information to bear upon our situation that we know increases our chances for a positive outcome, our tomorrow will be good hope meter points to “perfect.” But, if we know information that will not help our situation and is likely to make things worse, our hope meter will point to “horrible.”
Hope has a strong effect on our outlook. Hope can be the difference that brings a smile or a frown. People with no hope are miserable. Having no hope can make us feel defeated and give up. We have seen times when the situation is hopeless. We need to have high hopes to give us strength in times of difficulty.
As we contemplate the past few years, our tomorrow will be good hope meter has fluctuated wildly. We have come to witness much of what we took for granted in life is not as reliable as we once thought. Our once healthy lifestyle is being torn to pieces by a pandemic. Our trust in the stability of government is collapsing as we watch citizens burn cities and storm the Capitol. Industries are failing, and unemployment is high as the economy rides a roller-coaster. Scientists cannot agree on climate change or pandemic solutions. People slaughter innocent babies for the sake of reproductive rights. Colleges and universities ban dissenting voices who do not toe the politically correct line of thinking. Even the traditional family is being torn apart and redefined.
In the past decade, every institution and structure is being broken apart and recast by a godless culture that appears to openly hate Christianity. If we place our hope in this world, our hope will dissipate and become nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The life we knew yesterday will not be the same tomorrow. Many Christians are full of anger and despair. There is a cry for justice when there seems to be no justice.
Many Christians are asking, “What is God doing?” Know that everything God does points us to Jesus. God will not share His glory. Our hope in Christ should not be tarnished by events and circumstances, but needs to shine brightly.
This morning, we will learn from Scripture that, of all people, the Christian’s hope meter should always be pointing to the highest level. We have much reason for supreme hope because of our salvation in Christ. We need to put “all of our eggs in the ‘Christ is my hope’ basket.”
Scripture reveals three reasons for us to put our hope in Christ.
I pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, so that we will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18)
We put our hope in the salvation of Christ alone because there is no other way of salvation. There are not many roads leading to heaven, only one. Our culture rejects the exclusivity of Jesus. But, we can trust our culture or God’s Word. The Bible repeatedly claims Jesus is the only way.
Listen to the truth of Scripture.
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6).
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)
Our hope is not in a government, institution, an idea, or a principle. Our hope is in a person. Our hope is not in an earthly king but the heavenly King of kings. Our hope is not in modern medicine to cure death and disease, but our hope is in Jesus who has victory over death. Our hope is not in psychology or motivational speakers, but our hope is in the Prince of Peace and His Spirit of comfort. Our hope is not in educational institutions, but the truth of God’s word. Jesus is the Word and the embodiment of Truth.
Jesus is our Protector, strong tower, Great Shepherd, and Lover of our souls. Our hope is in Christ because He is our all in all.
Hope in Jesus Christ, for there is no other hope for salvation.
We put our hope in Christ for the sake of eternity. This world is passing away. Every molecule of this world will one day disappear. This world will come to an end. It is finite. Everything is marching to the grave.
Only salvation in Christ promises eternal life. There is one event in history that assures us that the eternal life that Jesus promises is 100% true. The event is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus promises His disciples eternal life. He tells Nicodemus that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16). He said to the woman at the well in Samaria that everyone who drinks of the water in Jacob’s well will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water He gives has eternal life (John 4:13-14).
Perhaps the most audacious statement ever uttered is the statement Jesus makes to a man crucified next to Him on a cross. There they are, with no escape from death. Roman soldiers stand guard with swords to ensure their execution is complete. Jesus and the man hang nailed and bleeding on a cross. Jesus says to the man, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Jesus proclaims the existence of a glorious afterlife even at the point of death.
God raises Jesus from the dead and proves Jesus true. The resurrection is the most significant event in human history. The historical account of the resurrection is undeniable. Non-Christian historians attest to the resurrection. Listen to the Apostle Paul speak about the witnesses to the resurrection.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which 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 according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
Paul says he delivers to the Corinthians that which is of first importance.
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
The Scriptures Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus died for sin, was buried, and rose again. This truth is of first importance, more important than anything else in this life. It is more important than riches, power, fame, health, comfort, or anything. It is of first importance.
To verify his claim, Paul then tells the Corinthians that most of the eyewitnesses are still alive. In other words, if you people in Corinth do not believe, talk to them yourself. It is not difficult; there are over five hundred.
Paul continues …
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:9-19)
We are to be pitied? Why? Because Christians have all their hope eggs in one basket. Christians do not hope in this world—just the opposite. We deny the world. We pick up our cross daily. Christians forsake the world because we belong to another. This world is not our home. We are aliens who are just passing through. We are not filling our pockets because it weighs us down on our journey.
The Apostle Paul sums it up in the last half of verse 32.
If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. (1 Corinthians 15:32)
The teaching of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is shockingly apparent. We have a choice. We can hope for the most out of this life, or we can put our hope in the life to come.
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are pitiful if there is no resurrection. But, if there is a resurrection, we ought not to be pitied because we know we sit with Christ in the heavenly places.
Hope in Christ for the sake of eternity.
Third, hope in Christ as a testimony to a lost world.
Listen to what Peter tells the church in his first letter.
… always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).
If we walk around in despair because the events of this world give us no hope, there is no reason for us to appear any different than people in this world. A miserable, grumbling, unhappy, complaining Christian gives no reason for people of this world to ask, “why do you have hope?”
The way we help people know of our hope is to not complain or grumble about politics, pandemics, economies, or a deteriorating culture. Let me be clear, I am not happy with the direction of our culture. It has all the signs that we are moving toward the persecution of Christianity. There is no joy knowing Jesus is not being glorified by the nations.
A great example of showing hope took place this past year when the Biebel family gave glory to God when we lost our beloved sister in Christ, Kathie Biebel. Yes, her loss is profoundly sad. Nobody was giving one another high-fives. We cried and mourned. But, amid the loss, our hope in her salvation was shining bright. We did not mourn as others mourn. The family and the church gave an account for the hope that is in us.
We put our hope in the salvation of Christ as faithful and wise ambassadors of God. We proclaim the gospel, which is the hope of salvation for this loss and dying world.
We need to help others find genuine hope and not the false hopes of this world.
Think about the testimony of the early church. At that time, the world is full of barbarians. War and strife are everywhere. Poverty is real as most people strive for their daily bread. Disease is more rampant than today. The early church did not preach hope in education, government, relationships, or health. Instead, they made it their life to proclaim the hope of perfect salvation, a salvation that is the only answer for a lost and dying world.
Africa is a continent with the highest levels of poverty, disease, conflict, crime, and government corruption. The events and circumstances in Africa make our living in America look like paradise in comparison. Listen to the testimony of an atheist, Matthew Paris, who works in Africa. His words are from an article originally published by the London Times on Dec. 27, 2008. He seeks to help people, but he helps from a secular perspective. His work places him alongside Christians. After years of observation, he draws an interesting conclusion. He says that the faith of the salvation found in Christ makes the Christians stand out.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
Matthew Paris closes his article with this conclusion.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted. And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
An atheist recognizes that just fixing the economy, government, or health-care is not enough. What Africa needs is a belief system. He concludes the only answer is for people to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The answer for Africa is the same for every continent. It is needed in the America’s, Australia, Antarctica, Asia, and Europe.
MAIN IDEA: Give testimony of your hope in the salvation of Christ for the sake of a lost and dying world.
As we study the perfect salvation of Jesus Christ, let’s endeavor to become experts in every truth Scripture proclaims. Let’s become gospel experts for the sake of our neighbors, coworkers, and loved ones. Let’s be a people who have as our first priority the glorious hope of Christ and His salvation.