This morning I would like to speak with you about Jesus. My wife and I had a spectacular vacation in Europe not long ago. I remember standing in Atlanta at the airport surrounded by all of our luggage. And they said, "May I see your ticket?" "Yes, here it is." "May I see your passport?" We had to have a passport, and we did. You know, no passport: no trip. It was as simple as that. I will tell you that salvation is just as simple. Unless you have Jesus Christ you have no trip to heaven.
Heaven is the destination for our eternal vacation, isn't it? What is the Christians passport to heaven? Jesus is our passport. All other documentation is counterfeit. Only Jesus can get you through. No Jesus..... No Eternal Vacation!
Many Adventists do not understand the concept of just what the passport is. It's Jesus that guarantees our salvation. The passport is not I but Christ. That's the passport. Not my works but His perfect works. There was a time when I did not understand it either.
Come and look with me at Romans 3. Texts like this made no sense to me at all. Romans 3:28, For we maintain that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. For years I never preached on that verse because I did not understand it. I mean, you could be a law-breaker. You've got to get your act together, don't you, to be saved. Just the opposite seemed to be true to me. To be saved I thought I did indeed have to perform the good deeds that the law said I must do. I mean, how can anybody be saved unless he gets his act together. But eventually I learned that what Jesus did is the main thing. What we do is a cheap copy.
It's sort of like this: Imagine a man, a builder, experienced, building his dream home. He's using great materials, doing a great job, and each day his little boy comes out to watch the construction project. And his little boy plays there in the dirt pile and he also is building a house. His little boy is building a house of dirt and sticks and stones and that type of stuff. At one point his daddy comes over and looks at his son's project. And he says, "Son, Good job! It looks perfect to me." You know, is that house built with mud and sticks perfectly impeccable? No. not at all.
And our works might be cute but our works aren't going to save us. Actuality only Jesus' works will amount to anything. Revelation 3:17 says that we are ... wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Now, that's pretty bad. Only Jesus' works are perfect. Our works are but sticks and mud. And what more are children capable of? We are all children, aren't we? We call God our Father. That means that we are his little children. Our Heavenly Father is billions of years old, even at the age of 70 we are mere kids. Little kids are not capable of the same perfection as their experienced mature Heavenly Father.
The important thing is that we love our Father so much that we want to be near Him and want to try in our feeble childish way to copy what He is doing. We want to try. Yes we do. When we proudly display our works of sticks and stones, He accepts them. Because, in His sight, our feeble works are perfect because of Jesus Christ, our Brother. My loving Father accepts me right now and in His sight my feeble works are perfect.
That fine little book Steps to Christ by EG White says it this way: "Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God." Steps to Christ, p. 62. That's pretty clear, isn't it. How much righteousness do we have? None at all.
Come over here to Isaiah 64 in the Old Testament and I would like for you to look at verse 6. I'm going to read this according to the New Living Translation. Isaiah 64:6 NLT. We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.
So, no matter how hard we try we cannot replicate what God is doing. We can never be totally, exactly like Him. Do you have perfect love? Do you have perfect patience? Never will our structure equal His structure because we're building with sticks and stones and He is building with jewels and gold and maturity. It would be like me going out and trying to build a piano with no tools hardly and with no experience. We can't do it. Paul correctly says in Romans 3:28 KJV, Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Now I can understand that verse. We are not justified by our deeds. Now this verse is precious to me.
The perfect Law of God demands perfect obedience. I cannot do anything perfectly. But wait! Jesus did perfectly keep the law. Here is another quotation from Mrs. White: Vol 1, Selected Messages, p. 395. "By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law."
You see Jesus is my Substitute. Jesus stands in my place. Jesus' Righteousness meets all the demands of God's perfect Law.
Justification does not mean that I produce flawless works which will make me worthy, but justification is when God "Accounts me Worthy" because of Jesus Christ. God says I am worthy despite my sins. Do you know what sin is? Yes it is the transgression of the law, but in a wider sense it is Falling short of the mark. He saves us despite our shortcomings. See the definition in Romans 3:23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God All have sinned. And then it defines sin: fall short. That's what sin is. Falling short. How many have sinned? All have sinned. How many fall short? All. And now it does not say we fell short in the past. It says we fall short. In the Greek it means that they continue to fall short. Now, today, we continue to fall short. We never achieve the sinless life that we're striving to do. Not at all. We keep striving, we keep putting forth effort, but we keep falling. Thankfully, Jesus did not fall.
This does not mean we quit trying. No not at all. We keep striving and keep putting forth hard effort. But we keep falling.
Now, I read in Testimonies, Vol 2, p. 86, "We should strive to be perfect in our sphere... as He was perfect in His sphere..." What does that mean? What is our sphere? Ours are the sticks and the stones and the mud. In other words, yes, go ahead and try your best to build after the divine model. Do a good job. But when you stand back and look at your little homemade shack of sticks and mud, don't ever be tempted to think that thing will pay the ticket to heaven. Don't ever think that the life you live will merit you eternal life. That is never going to pay your ticket to heaven. Your ticket to heaven is Jesus Christ, and nothing short of Him. Christ and only Christ. Only Jesus' perfect works will do the job.
We continue reading in Testimonies, Vol. 8: "(We) are to form characters that are a reflection of the divine character." What does that mean? Is it saying that we must have enough will power to match His perfect character? Let me re-read it. "(We) are to form characters that are a reflection of the divine character." I think this is simply saying that our Character should reflect His Character. What does that mean?
One beautiful summer day when I was a little boy, I remember it had just rained. I was out in the yard and was standing in front of a pretty rose bush with its attractive red blooms. My mother always loved roses. This bush was in bloom and it was beautiful. I happened to look down at some water at my feet and I saw in that water a perfect reflection of that beautiful rose bush. It was wonderful. Do you know what it was that perfectly reproduced the reflection of that lovely rose bush?... Nothing more than a humble mud puddle at my feet. An imperfect impure pool of water. That's all it was. But it perfectly reflected that rose bush.
Now, there's a vast difference between the rose bush and the mud puddle. We lowly mud puddles can never be rose bushes, but we can try our best to perfectly reflect them. We mortal human beings can never become exactly like Christ, but we can and must strive to perfectly reflect Him in our character.
Our weak works have zero to do with acquiring our salvation. The truth is that eternal life is an outright gift. In fact, it isn't even for sale. It's a gift. It's a gift that a loving Father gives to His little son or daughter because of their love for Him. The proof of that love is in our attempts to please and copy Him, and to be with Him.
Did you ever make a mud pie when you were a kid? I did. I would borrow an old tin pie pan from my mother and take it outdoors. Our yard always had mud puddles, we had dirt everywhere. Soon the mud filled the pie pan and we would arrange it just right. My sister and I would put pretty pebbles all the way around it. And I tell you what, we had mud everywhere on us, on our clothes, on our shoes. We would wipe our feet. I remember coming in many times and saying, "Mother, look at this!" And she would say, "Good job! That looks great! Thank you." And she would take it and would put it someplace, I don't know where. She must have dumped them back in the mud puddle later, I suppose. She never failed to o-o-h and a-a-h over my mud pies. My best efforts were accepted. She never sampled my mud pies or even took one bite. Neither did I. We both knew that my creation was worthless. But the effort counted for everything.
So, do you see how salvation works? Our efforts aren't going to save us. No! But should we quite trying? No! God loves the effort. Don't ever think that your good life will qualify you to receive salvation. Your righteousness is as filthy rags. So, does this mean you should quit trying? By no means! So what good are our works? Your efforts prove your love. The loving relationship itself is actually what makes the difference.
Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 382 says, "When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man's best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit. But He will not accept those who claim to have faith in Him, and yet are disloyal to His Father's commandment." So keep trying, but keep trusting in Jesus' merits.
Be as loyal as you possibly can to God's will for your life. But never think that your loyalty will earn an inch toward getting you to heaven. Colossians 2:10. Ye are complete in Him. Not on your own. You are complete in Christ. Only when we are in Christ are we complete or perfect.
On our own human efforts are nothing. Our nature is corrupt.
Now, eternal life is not for sale. It's free. Look at Ephesians 2. Look at verse 8,9. It says, For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works so that no one can boast. In other words, salvation is free. It is unearnable. You can't earn it. It's an outright gift. God hands out gifts and not rewards.
Come over here to Matthew 20 in your Bible. There's a tremendous parable here. I want you to look at verse 1 of chapter 20. And here Jesus says in Matthew 20:1,2, For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (The King James called the money a "penny.") A penny for working from six a.m. to 6 p.m. That was a fair wage in those times.
At lunch time the farmer happened to be down town and he saw some men leaning against the wall. Are men that you see leaning against the wall in the middle of harvest time in the middle of the day... are these some of the best employees? They aren't. But the farmer hired these loitering loafers. At three p.m. he happened to be back in town and he hired some more shiftless sluggards. And just an hour before closing time at five o'clock he happened to be back in town and he saw some more moochers leaning against the wall. And he hired them. He said, "I'll pay you whatever is fair."
At sundown, that owner paid all the men for their work. Each man received and identical amount: one penny. The sweaty twelve-hour workers had worked so hard and they were livid. "This is unfair. This is not right!" they said.
But, do you know what? Grace is not fair. It's absurd. God doesn't pay wages. Salvation is an outright gift. It's unearnable. Nobody gets rewarded for perfect performance. Not one human being in history ever came close to satisfying the perfect demands of God's law. We keep trying. The truth is that if we're really paid what we deserve, we would go to the hot place and be burned up in the eternal fire. But that is not what happens. God does not pay according to what we deserve but according to the rich unfair grace of His love. And, you ought to respond to that with even more feeble mud pies and stick and stone houses. Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Don't forget what Jesus did for you. Jesus is your passport. He's the only way you're going to get to heaven. And that passport cannot be purchased. It is not for sale. You can't buy it with your good deeds. You're totally unable to add even one inch to your spiritual stature. We can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We are given high standing because Jesus came to this little world. He was born here on this planet. He lived the perfect life that we cannot live. He died the death that paid for our sins. He rose again with salvation in His pocket. And He is coming again to receive you unto Himself. And that salvation that Jesus has is available to everyone of us today. It's free if you accept Him as your Savior. And, that's the gospel.
A pastor sat next to an skeptic on a train. He tried to convince the man that character and good works do not save anybody. The pastor was not having much success. Then the conductor came questioning "Tickets Please." The skeptic offered his ticket and it was punched and the ticket agent went on. Then the minister said: You know, all the conductor looked at was your ticket. He did not ask about your character or who you were or if you were a moral man or a criminal. Your ticket was the only criteria.
Jesus is the ticket to eternal life. John 14:6, Jesus said, I am the way. We aren't the way, are we? Jesus is the way. He's the passport. He is your ticket. If you have Jesus, you have eternal life. If you're depending on yourself, you're going to go the other direction. So, depend on Jesus. Keep trying, yes, don't forget those efforts, but don't look at them with any amount of pride. Our pride ought to be in Jesus Christ.
Hymn of Praise: #244, My Song Shal Be of Jesus Scripture: Ephesians 2:8,9 Hymn of Response: #221, Rejoice, the Lord is King 030308#529
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last updated 3/9/2003 by Bob Beckett.