I would like to speak with you this morning about how we are saved. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Heaven is where God lives, and God is holy. He lives in a holy place, and heaven is prepared for holy people. So the question is, "Am I holy yet?" How many of you are perfect? Raise your hand. So if you were to die tonight, would you be saved? Would you?
Romans, chapter 3 was read this morning. “There is none righteous,” in verse 10, “no not one.” Not one. Verse 11. “There is none that understandeth. None that seeketh after God. All are gone astray.” Romans 3, verse 23 says, "all have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God.” Everybody falls short. Nobody's going to heaven, apparently, by being good enough, because none of us are good. We've all fallen short. So we don't meet the qualification. According to the Bible, none of us are perfect enough. If you gave a double tithe, if you paid 20% into the store house, which is God's church, would that entitle you to heaven? If you read your Bible two hours every day, would that gain entrance to heaven? If you volunteered the church work and washed all the windows every week, would that guarantee your entrance to heaven?
You know, every major religion I've ever heard of teaches that good people will go to heaven and bad people will go, uh, to the hot place. Moslems, Roman Catholics, all believe that good people go to heaven. If you make a pilgrimage, if you pray enough, if you spin your prayer wheel enough, if you say your rosary enough, if you count every bead, if you go through enough reincarnations, you will be there. If you do enough good you’ll be saved.
But look very carefully at Romans, chapter 3 and verse 23. It says, “For all have sinned and fall short.” We have sinned in the past and we currently are falling short of the glory of God and are being justified freely by His grace. That's how you're going to be saved, is by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. So there are three grounds of our salvation, in verse 24. We’re saved by grace, that redemption is in Jesus, and it's entirely free. No quantity of prayer or zealous works can save you. You can't save yourself. You are saved by God's kindness.
Gary Paul is an older man. He lives out in California and he has given, over 400 times, he's given blood. Anybody here given blood more than 400 times? I think he has a world record, and let's suppose that Gary dies and he goes to heaven and he meets St. Peter at the gate and Peter says, “Why should I allow you in this place?” and he says, “Well I gave over 50 gallons of blood to help people.” If Gary really believed that that would gain him an entrance to heaven then I will tell you he's trusting in the wrong blood, because it's only the blood of Jesus that saves us, right? Your best efforts will not save you. Acts 4, verse 12 speaks of Jesus. It says, “Neither is there salvation in any other, there’s no other name under heaven given among men, whereby you must be saved.” No other name. And that includes your name. You're not saved by yourself. Don Gettys can’t save Don Gettys. You can’t save yourself. Only Jesus is the Savior. You're not the savior, and you know, salvation is a gift. You can't earn a gift. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He did” what?
Reader’s Digest interviewed Mohammed Ali. They did this on 9/11. September 11, 2001, they came to Berrien Springs, and that 88 acre farm there in Berrien Springs Michigan, right outside of Andrews University. You’ve seen where he lives, and this boxer, this three-time world heavyweight champion said this. Mohammed Ali. “One day we’re all going to die and God is going to judge us. Our good deeds and our bad deeds,” and Mohammed says, “if the bad outweighs the good, you go to hell. If the good outweighs the bad you go to heaven.” Was he right? That's not how we’re saved. The truth is, it isn’t good people who go to heaven anyway. The rich young ruler thought like Mohammed Ali. Matthew 13, verse 19. He said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to be saved?” You can't do anything. That's the wrong question. Good deeds don't save you. Your good deeds don't save you. Jesus’ good deeds save you.
One day the crowd asked a similar question. John 6, verse 28. “What good work, must we do to be saved?” and Jesus said, “The work of God is to believe.” That's what we must do to be saved, is believe. Our salvation is not achieved by a set of hard working muscles. Our salvation is achieved by a believing heart. That's how we’re saved. If you say, “Well God will let me in because I'm a nice person,” then you're on the wrong track. Our work is to believe, not achieve. His work is to achieve, and He did.
Romans 3, verse 26. Look at that. “And He,” God, “is entirely fair and just in this present time when He declares sinners to be right in His sight because they believe in Jesus.” Why does He declare them, right? Because they do what? They believe. They believe.
Back in the 1940s, New York's mayor, Mayor LaGuardia, LaGuardia Airport is named after him. He often officiated at Municipal Court, and one cold, bitter winter night they drug a man in, and the police said he’s guilty of stealing, and LaGuardia said, “What did he steal?” “He stole a loaf of bread,” and so he brought the man before his court. “Why did you steal bread?” and the man said, “To feed my starving family.” And so LaGuardia felt sorry for the man but he said, “You know, justice has to be met. I fine you 10 dollars.” 10 dollars, and that was big money back there, and then he took out his own billfold and pulled out a 10 dollar bill and gave it to the man, “Here, pay your fine,” and then he turned around and he said, “You know, I fine all the rest of the people here today, I fine every one of you 50 cents. You are fined for living in a city where a man has to beg to feed his starving family.” And so the man walked out with 47 dollars and 50 cents. Now that's grace. That's grace.
Jesus gives His unconditional love to us. Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 8 says, “It is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that nobody can boast.”
One of our members here at McDonald Road invited us over to their house, and they have a flight simulator upstairs in their home, and he said, “Would you like to fly an airplane?” I said, “I sure would,” so I sat down there and got acquainted and he showed me how to use it. He took off and oh, it’s such a beautiful flight and he landed, and he said, “Now you do it.” “Okay.” So I chose a jet and it was on the airport on the runway, and I moved those controls back and we took off so nicely and I thought, “This is great,” but the problem was landing. No matter how careful I was the end result every time was a terrible crash. Sometimes a ball of fire, and I thought, “You know I'm a pastor. I've never paid a speeding ticket in my life. I've never caused a wreck, that I know of, at all.” My ego was suffering badly, but you know, there’s a beautiful thing about that game. All I had to do was push another button and the system completely restored me. There was a fresh, brand-new airplane sitting on the runway and I was at the controls again. What a great thing. The computer always put the restored aircraft back on the runway with me at the controls and gave me another chance, and that's the way it is with Jesus Christ. His Grace gives you another chance.
Look at this. First Peter chapter 5 and verse 10. “The God of all grace Who called you to His eternal glory in Christ after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong and firm and steadfast.” You're not saved by your works. You’re saved by the works of Jesus.
I read in Selected Messages. “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 makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit.” Your life is going to have deficiencies. None of us are perfect. First John 2, verse 1. If you do sin, what do we have? We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. You know, we’re studying atonement in our Sabbath School. We have Jesus. We have Jesus.
Let's suppose that the requirement for salvation is that somebody here in this church has to jump and touch that top board, that peak of that roof up there. That's the requirement to be saved in heaven, and we all try, and those who are the tallest probably jump the furthest. Maybe it’s the kids that jump the, I don't know. How many of us are actually able to jump up there and touch that board? None of us. So how are we ever going to be saved? Well fortunately in our congregation there is a champion jumper. Everybody falls way short of it. None of us can satisfy God's high standard. Is there any hope for us? Yes, there is a Champion in our congregation, and His name is Jesus. And only Jesus can satisfy God's high standard. Only Jesus reached the goal. In fact Jesus went through the roof. His works are perfect. It's His works that save us. Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8, it says, “By grace you have been saved.” That was accomplished 2 thousand years ago. You have been saved through faith. Your faith. It’s a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.
You know, we make mistakes. We all do. Baseball players only get on base about what, every three times at bat, out of 10. 3 out of 10, they’ll maybe get on base, and they strike out more than they get a home run, and we Christians, we strike out occasionally. Every Christian needs grace every day. Our works are way short of perfection, so am I preaching cheap grace today? No! Will saved Christians have good works? Yes! Do their works save them? No! Then what are works? Works are byproduct of faith. If you have faith, that faith will work.
You know, old uncle Arthur had it right. There's a bedtime story. Do you remember reading this? It's about that black man, a big strong black man who was on the slave block, and he was being auctioned off, and the white man came by and bid and bought him and became his owner and off they went, and the black man said, “I'm not going to work. You wasted your money, master. I will not work.” They continued on and traveled many miles. The new owner said, “That's okay.” He said, “I won’t work.” When they got to the plantation, the black man was shown a beautiful cottage. It would be his home. There was a beautiful shade tree there. Nice garden spot. He said, “I won’t work.” The owner said, “You know, I didn't buy you to work. I bought to you to set you free. Enjoy your new home and I'll see you later.” Off he went. After a moment the big black man looked around and came running after the buggy and he said, “I will work. I will. I'll do whatever to make you happy,” and because of his great love for his master he became the best worker his master ever had.
Love is the motivation. That produces good works. You're going to have good works if you love Jesus. “If you love me keep my commandments.” The love comes first and then the works come, and if you get it in the opposite order it doesn't work. These works will be a byproduct. I want to be filled with good works, don't you? I do. I want to be victorious, and I can be if my love for Jesus is there, then He, His robe will cover me and His power will empower me and I will be in his kingdom, gratis of Jesus Christ.
Let's sing our closing hymn. Amazing Grace. Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.
Hymn of Praise: #43 When Morning Guilds the Skies Scripture: Romans 3:21-24 Hymn of Response: #108 Amazing Grace
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 11/3/08