In America we are pretty well totally dependent on the ships with the big cargo containers coming over here from India and China for everything we buy. We used to make things in America. We used to have a lot of factories, manufacture a lot of things, but now we don't do so much of that. We are more and more consumers than we ever were.
In olden days there were some rough times. 3000 years ago, the residents of Alexandria in northern Africa were totally dependent for their food on those great grain ships that used to come from the eastern Mediterranean area of Phoniecia. They would see those ships coming on the horizon and they had a special word. The food is coming. I've got good news for you. Look out there. We've got food on the horizon. It's almost here. The Greeks who were living there in northern Africa at that time coined a very special word for that event, and that word is in your Bible. It's called "the gospel". A Greek word meaning good tidings. This is good. Look at what's coming. Joyful. Makes us glad.
So that's what the word gospel that you find in the Bible means. What this means is that Jesus came. He lived a perfect life for our sins. He paid the price for our sins. He lived a life that we're all trying to live. He did it. He lived it exactly right. He died and he completely paid for our sins, and now he's coming again. He's going to come and take us back to heaven. It won't be long.
Mark 16:15 says go into all the world and preach the what? Preach the good news to all of creation. Jesus, like those great grain ships, is coming. It won't be long. He's bringing life to a dying race. Without Jesus, we're all doomed. Would you agree with that? We are doomed. It's no wonder that Paul says in Romans 1:16, the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who does what? Believes.
Do Seventh-day Adventists believe the gospel? Well yes, we do. In fact, on many of our church signs, out in front of our churches, you see three Angels they're on our signs. It's even in our lobby. We believe in the three Angels, and the three Angels messages are being brought to the world in these last days, and the heart of them, in Revelation 14, is in verse 6. The everlasting gospel which will be proclaimed to every nation and kindred and tongue and people. The everlasting gospel. Yes, we do believe in the gospel. We believe that when the gospel is preached to the entire world, then Jesus will come. We believe that that is happening even now. It's not long.
So before we can preach the gospel, we have to know what the gospel is. Now there's a lot of gobbledygook about what the gospel is. In the Seventh-day Adventist church, some people will tell you, well, here's how we're saved; and other people will say, well, actually we're saved this way. There's a lot of questions about this. So let me ask you, just what is the gospel according to you?
There are two views about how we are saved. Number one. A lot of people in the Seventh-day Adventist church believe that we are saved by believing in Jesus and that works do not have anything to do with our salvation. Therefore, we can live however we wish. It doesn't matter what kind of food is in your refrigerator. It has nothing to do with your salvation. Some call this the new theology.
Number two. Some Seventh-day Adventists believe this. Well, we're saved by faith plus personal works. You've got to have works. Without those works, you can't be saved. You've got to have faith. So it's faith plus my works. Jesus saves, but we must manifest good works. We must grow more and more like Jesus and eventually achieve perfection. We're saved by a combination of Jesus' works and our work.
Do you like either one of those views? There is a third view. I really don't like either one of those first two. In fact, the first one, you would call cheap grace, and the second one you would actually call legalism. Because we're not saved by our works.
So this third view is balanced. So what is the good news? What is the gospel? It is the good news that Jesus completely pays for my sins and I will be saved if I believe in him and his grace saves me, and when he comes into my life he brings power to live the Christian life, and that power produces fruit in my life. The fruit does not save me. I am saved by Jesus' works, but the fruit is my response to his love. Does that make sense? That's sort of the way I see it.
John 3:16. Whosoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. It doesn't say, he who believes and pays tithe and reads the Review and Herald and goes ingathering and all that stuff is going to have eternal life. There's only one qualification in John 3:16. You've got to believe. Really, that's just about it. If you believe, which means you trust in Jesus, and the works will come, but they don't have anything to do with paying for your salvation. They are your response to his love in your life.
Now we are saved by works. Don't get me wrong. Not our works, but his works. We're saved by Jesus' perfect works. During one of my sermons I preached this and somebody whispered, we don't believe that. What? If we don't, we're legalists.
Do Seventh-day Adventist believe in the true gospel? Did Sister White believe in the true gospel. Absolutely. Should you have good works? Yes. But your works don't save you. We get all confused about our works. They are the result of our relationship with Christ. If I have a relationship with my wife, I'm going to help her. Do you know what I did yesterday? I dusted the house. Because I love my wife I want to do something to help her. Does that make sense? And because I love Jesus, I want to do something to please him. That's all works are, anyway. Each of us should say, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I'm not what I was. I'm growing. We will be growing until that moment when we're changed, and I think even when we get to heaven we're going to keep growing.
So the way that I think of this, we are basically saved by gift certificate. Years ago, somebody went down to the salvation store. They totally paid for your redemption, and now you can go to God and trade your gift certificate for eternal life. You see, heaven sort of goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in, because the dog is always happy, always friendly, always glad to see you, and we have an attitude sometimes.
Look at Ephesians 2:8. Here the Bible tells us how we are saved. It doesn't even say what some people think it says. Ephesians 2:8. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is a what? It's a gift. You are saved by gift certificate.
Look at First Timothy 4:14. You are saved by a gift. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. First Timothy 4:14 says, do not neglect your gift. It is a gift. You see, we are God's tenants and he is our landlord. Every month the bill comes due. You've got to pay your rent, but he pays our bills. Not yearly, not weekly, but every minute. Every minute there are fresh supplies of grace being given to our lives. There is a flow coming into my life from God every moment.
This past summer, we went to Niagara Falls. As we stood there at the falls on the Canadian side, you could hear the thunder. The mist was like rain. There were people standing there with umbrellas. It was windy. You get away from the falls several hundreds of feet and there's no wind at all, but you get near the falls, there's tremendous wind. 500,000 tons of water roar over that falls every minute. There's a lot of water there.
But on March 29, 1948, Niagara Falls stopped. It was just gone. No water coming over the falls. The local residents woke up. Oh no. What's happening? When you're used to a sound all the time and then the sound stops, you are wide awake. Something's wrong here. 30 hours later the ice packs upstream unjammed and the mighty Niagara River resumed. If the flow of God's grace into your life were to suddenly stop, the result would be stunning. We have no idea the multitude of times that we have been the recipients of God's grace. His mighty, wondrous grace.
Has God always been so gracious. Many people, many Christians even, wonder out loud if God did not experience a personality change somewhere between the Old Testament and the New Testament, because the Old Testament is pretty well blood and war and fighting all the time, and the New Testament is about the love of God. It just seems like God has mellowed with age, they think. God was harsh in the Old Testament, loving in the New Testament, but actually, and I want to say this real reverently, but Jesus is simply a chip off the old block. They're the same. Jesus is full of love and grace because his father is full of love and grace. They're both the same.
Adam found grace when he did not die the moment he ate that fruit. He lived on for 930 more years. Noah, in Genesis 6:8, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God shows love, it says in Exodus 20:4, the second commandment, God shows love to thousands who love him and keep his commandments. He is a God of love. His rain falls on the just and on the unjust. God is a God of fairness and love, so he's not changed.
So we receive salvation by gift certificate. We win it. I've always wanted something for nothing. My wife shops for good bargains and I must say that I always look for the best price too. We mail in our coupons for their drawings. Folks spend a fortune trying to win the lottery, but only twice does the word 'win' appear in the Bible. Do we win salvation? Well Paul, in Philippians 3:8, speaks of gaining or winning Christ. Look at Philippians 3:8. It says, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I have suffered the loss of all things, and then he concludes, that I may win Christ. We're going to win Jesus. That's how we do it. Paul says that salvation is gained by winning it. If you choose Jesus, you're an instant winner. Like rubbing off that strip on the lottery ticket. I hope you won't buy a lottery ticket, but I hope you will come to Jesus Christ, because salvation is free.
That doesn't mean that it's cheap. It's extremely valuable. Jesus achieved my eternal life through sweat and tears and blood, and today, Jesus simply gives it away to his friends. Then they possess perfect righteousness, as a gift. Because of their faith. We can transfer faith, and receive righteousness.
Turn to John 19:30. Jesus made three simple words in a statement. John 19:30. Jesus said, when he received the drink, it is finished. What was finished? Well the word that Jesus uses here is a Greek word. In our version of the Scriptures it is translated 'it is finished'. Archaeologists have repeatedly found this word engraved on manuscripts and clay tablets that they dig up. It is scrawled across tax receipts. What it means is, 'paid in full'. The account is settled. Jesus paid it. He paid it at the cross. Our debt, our guilt, was wiped out and you can't add to it. When it's paid, it's already paid. You can't add to that. You obtain salvation by gift certificate that has been paid in full by somebody else. You can't purchase eternal life, but it's a gift. Jesus gives you eternal life.
Look at the last page of the Bible. Revelation 22:17. It makes a statement here. It says, the spirit and the bride say come, and let him who hears say come and whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. It's free. All you have to do is come and take it. Jesus gives you eternal life. He not only gives it to you, he comes with the gift himself and gives you the power to apply it.
Years ago, I bought a gizmo for my small children. It came in a box and it said, some assembly required. Well an hour later, fooling with all that plastic junk, I finally got the wretched thing put together. The instructions were written by some foreign person who probably had a one-hour correspondence course in the English language. The thing finally worked. Well let me tell you that Jesus not only provides salvation, he comes with the gift. He helps us assemble it. He gives us the power and the patience to deal with it and then he makes it work.
The truth is that we are saved totally by Jesus' blood, and that blood also has power. It erases our sin and has power to keep us from sin. Power to enable us to live a changed life. It is through the blood of his cross, Colossians 1:20 - 23. That's how we're saved. So the wonderful truth is that Jesus sets us free. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our source of life. We don't earn heaven. It's un-earnable.
Romans 6:23. You know this verse very well. The wages of sin is what? death, but the gift of God is what? Eternal life. How do you get a gift? By knowing the giver. You've got to know the giver. So let me ask you a question. Have you ever received a really nice gift at Christmas time by a complete, unknown stranger? It just doesn't happen. The gift is from grandma or grandpa or some family member. Mom, dad. The gospel is just one loving friend standing with a gift to give to another friend who he loves. That's all it is. We are saved by our relationship with Jesus. John 3:36. Whoever believes in the son has eternal life. It doesn't say whoever works, whoever achieves perfection. No, it's whoever believes.
You see, legalism is like a body without a soul. It's a corpse. And cheap grace is like a soul without a body. It's a ghost. Only Jesus could live a perfect life in both body and soul. He became the Savior. He lived a perfect life. He paid the entire price. So what is our part of this process? We just joyfully come to him and accept it and live in loving response to it for the rest of our lives. We could never pay for it. We're poor and blind and miserable and naked.
A man was at an old grocery store in Idaho getting some potatoes. This was his town. He says this. I noticed a small frail boy, hungry. He was a looking at a basket of freshly picked green peas. The man goes on. He says, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller, who was the owner of the little grocery store, and the ragged, hungry boy next to me. Hello Barry. How are you today? Okay Mr. Miller, I'm fine, thank you. Just admiring them peas. They sure look good. How is your ma. Well she's fine. She's getting stronger all the time. Anything I can help you with? No sir, just admiring them peas. Would you like to take some home, says Mr. Miller. No sir, got nothing to pay for 'em with. Well, do you have anything you would trade me for some of those peas? Well, all I've got is my prize marble down here in my pocket, and he brought out a marble. Mr. Miller said, well let me see it. So he held it up and said, here it is. She's a dandy. He said, well the only thing is this is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one at home? The store owner asks. Not exactly, but almost. I'll tell you what. You take this sack of peas home with you, and the next trip by you let me have a look at that red marble. So Mr. Miller sent the boy away and the boy promised. I'll bring the red marble.
Mrs. Miller who had been standing nearby came over to me and she said, you know, there are two other boys like him in our community. All three are in very poor circumstances, and Jim just loves to bargain with them, and they come back with their red marbles, which they always do, and then he decides that he doesn't like red after all. He likes green marbles. So he gives them more food and then they bring a green marble or maybe an orange one.
The man goes on. He said, a short time later we moved away from Idaho. We moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man and those three boys and the bartering for those marbles. Years later I came back to Idaho to visit some old friends in my hometown. I learned that Mr. Miller had just died.
I went to his visitation that evening, and upon arrival in the mortuary we stood in a long line. Just ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform. The other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits, white shirts. All very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller by her husband's casket. Each of the young man hugged her and kissed her on the cheek and spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold, pale hand in the casket. Then they left the mortuary and wiped their eyes.
Then our turn came and we met Mrs. Miller, my wife and I, and I told her that I was the one who was there in the store one day and reminded her of that day many years ago when she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. Those three young man who just left were the boys that I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things that Jim traded them and they came to pay their debt. Jim and I were never wealthy but right now, if Jim were alive, I think he would consider himself the wealthiest man in Idaho. Then with loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her that deceased husband and resting underneath his hand were three exquisitely shined, red marbles.
You know, we're all poor, hungry, and frail. We're all beggars. Our best marbles mean nothing. They don't mean anything to Jesus, but he's willing to trade us our love for his wealth. His beautiful wealth. His righteousness is ours. We have nothing to give him except our love. Please give him your love. Second Corinthians 9:15. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.
Dear father in heaven. We're part of your family. You are our loving father. If we're willing to give you what we have, we can forever appreciate your salvation, so bless us, dismiss us with your joy and your salvation in our lives. Thank you for your gift of Jesus, We pray in his name, Amen.
Hymn of Praise: #230, All Glory, Laud, and Honor Scripture: Romans 1:16-17 Hymn of Response: #, Special Music Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 10/31/11