7-27-14 Salvation Now and Later
?The Gifts to the Church- Salvation in this Life and the Next? Rom. 10:9-13; Heb. 7:25; Jn. 17:3; Lk. 19:1-9
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In our confessions- which speak of what we believe- Knox speaks of salvation as a gift to the church. He divides the gift of salvation into two parts- what we receive in this life, and the gifts of salvation we receive in the next life.
One of my favorite kinds of candy was something called ?Now and Later.? It was a kind of taffy that was wrapped so it wouldn?t all melt now. It was also something that would take a while to chew on. Salvation is meant to have two time elements to it. It is meant to give you some help now, but lasting forever. If we doubt that God can do anything for us- if we doubt He can answer a specific prayer, if we doubt He can help us right now, or if we doubt He makes any difference for eternity- then I want to challenge you to ask if you have lost belief in a God who really loves you. The Good News Jesus preached is not that there is a god. But that God loves you- you can call Him Father, He knows you by name- like He knew Zaccheus and Nathanael. He knows your failures. He knows your pride. He knows your sin- but the good news is He loves you- personally and really. This is amazing, miraculous- and it is salvation. He can help you love your enemies and turn the other cheek, be a better person, but also help you bring the kingdom come to earth and bring you to the kingdom come.
I. GOD IS ABLE TO SAVE HIS CHILDREN-If you think about it, we are designed to need help. We are born needing help. The human species stays dependent longer than any other. Older adults at the end of life need help. In the middle we need help too. No one knows everything- we should collaborate to know as much as we can, and we need teachers. No one succeeds perfectly at love- we need to be forgiven and we all need a good deal of grace in love. No one is always in perfect health- when we are in pain, when we cannot do something on our own, we need help. Humans are finite, limited creatures. We are designed to need help- and we are designed to need someone to help us, rescue us, and save us. Marx used to say that Christianity is just a crutch, but what he failed to realize, at some time we all will need help walking. The ultimate help is found in the Lord who made the heaven and earth. ? ?? We all reach a point where we realize we cannot save ourselves. We realize our weakness. The question is do we realize that the Maker of the Universe cares enough for us to help us. I have met a few people who always believe the sky is falling and they focus only on the wrong- they need Christ?s peace. But there are others who never believe that they have offended God, and they do not believe anyone needs saving. Perhaps the ultimate pride is to think we deserve salvation just because we exist. But perhaps the ultimate naiivite is to believe that there is never any danger. When the Titanic sank some felt that there was never any danger of the ship sinking because someone proclaimed it ?unsinkable.? Some didn?t think they needed saving. In 1938 a terrible hurricane hit New York. One man had just bought a barometer, opened it up the day before the storm and it read ?29- pressure indicating tornadoes and hurricanes.? It wouldn?t move off of that all day- so the man took it to the Post Office to send it back. While he was gone to the post office his house washed away in the hurricane. When Hurricane Hugo came, I was in the mountains. My friend told me to come on to Hartsville because the Hurricane would probably stay off the coast- though all the warnings said it was coming. Perhaps we thought jet liners could not be shot down or used as weapons on 911. There just is a huge part of us that wants to believe that nothing will go wrong. Jesus said that of the ten bridesmaids only half were prepared and all fell asleep. Jesus spoke of how people were not prepared to meet God in Noah?s day and many are not prepared today. Zacchaeus was commended because he not only recognized his trouble, but he recognized that Jesus could help him. ??? ?? The question of salvation is always a question of trust and faith. It doesn?t matter if you even knew Jesus personally like Judas and the High Priest did. Martin Luther said that Christianity is all about personal pronouns. It is one thing to say Jesus saves. It is another to say Jesus is my savior. It is one thing to say Jesus loves. It is another to believe that Jesus loves me.
II. GOD IS ABLE TO SAVE HIS CHILDREN IN THE PRESENT- Salvation does not begin after you die. Too many try to restrict God to only working in the distant past- maybe Bible days- and the distant future when they die. But God wants to be God of you now. When Zaccheus repented of his sin, Jesus didn?t say- you will be saved when you die. He said, ?Today salvation has come to this house.? (Lk. 19) KNOWING GOD- This is eternal life- that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ. If you know God- it gives you hope, it gives you purpose, this knowledge helps you to trust that God will see you through even the toughest of times. DIRECTION- God Is able to give us purpose and direction in life. Without that we are in effect wandering- lost. We no longer live just for ourselves- trying to get the most toys or things. It is not all about being a consumer. It is about a great good- the Creator of all- God. I saw a movie about some soldiers in World War II in the Saharan desert. They lost their compass and their map and were only hoping to go in the right direction. They didn?t know whether just to sit still or to hurry off not knowing if they were going away from water and their salvation or toward it. Airplane came and dropped a note to give them direction. Jesus is our airplane, our north star. He is the voice of our GPS- telling us which direction to go. He offers us freedom from fear and from feeling we have to earn our way to God. He offers us forgiveness, His peace, and the abundant life- right now. ???? One of the great lines of the hymn that we will sing in a minute, ?Now Thank We All Our God? is ?And free us from all ills in this life and the next.? The writer of this song, Martin Rinkhart, lived in the time of the plague. If you watched that show ?The Ship? it was a factual similar time in the history of mankind. From 1347 to 1350 30-60% of the population of Europe was wiped out about 75 million died in Europe those three years- 200 million worldwide. No one knew the cure. It looked like we would go the way of the dinosaurs. Rinkhart lived toward the end of the plague- but the Thirty Years War was going on too. It was said that Rinkhart, as pastor in that time did 40 funerals a day for several years- 4,500 in all including the other two pastors in town and his own wife. That is depressing work. Instead of giving up on God, he tried to be positive- giving thanks that God would save him- if not now- then later. But also he was not afraid to pray that God would stop the plague- the ?us? of salvation. He focused on the countless gifts of love in the midst of his hurting, and prayed for freedom now and later. ???? Today we are plagued with violence- in Israel/Gaza; in South Sudan; in Nigeria; In Syria and Iraq. Some of our cities are like war zones. So many families are like war zones- and people are walking on egg shells afraid of abuse, of violence, of drugs, of gangs. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to pray- even if God says ?No? or ?Not yet.? Our passage says that Jesus is praying for us.
III. GOD IS ABLE TO SAVE HIS CHILDREN IN THE FUTURE- The now is not all there is. But to simply say we are dust and to dust we shall return- and that is it is very, very sad. The shortened lives of children and the super- long lives of the elderly lose their meaning if this life is all there is. Calvin said that God doesn?t give us a lot of details about heaven but He gives us just enough. He said ?God doesn?t tell us about the furniture in heaven.? I like that line. Yet to ignore that there is a life to come- a better life- where there is no sickness, no war, no gang violence, no airplane crashes, no terrorism, no fear, no cancer, no Alzheimer?s, no aches and pains but instead there is a place full of peace, love, grace, forgiveness realized, hope fulfilled, where tears are wiped away and we become what we were made to be. I want that place. Do you? In a few weeks we will be encouraged to read the little book by Bonhoeffer called, ?Life Together? about Christian fellowship. Bonhoeffer was arrested by Hitler for preaching the gospel and sentenced to death three weeks before Hitler committed suicide. As he walked to the gallows he said, ?This is the end?for me the beginning of life.??? There is hope beyond the grave, and having this hope gives us courage in this life.
Because there are many in our culture who are rejecting the message of hope in order to live a life in pride or sin, it is important for us to hear that there is another side. A man came to me, his wife had kicked him out he had been an alcoholic and was fooling around with more than one other woman. He had lost his bearings for his family was a good. He had a college education, a good job- but he lost it all in his alcohol. He had been homeless and it seemed he had not showered in weeks. He approached me after the service was over and said he wanted some help. I had some money, and I was tired so I gave him a few bucks. But he stopped me. He said, ?I want you to help me more than that.? He said, ?I want you to pray for me- and I want you to help me find Jesus again.? So we prayed, and he asked Jesus to come into his heart. We talked each week for several weeks. He is not a preacher, but he is married again- to another person who also has gone through a similar story. He has a good job and is in church about every week still today after fifteen years. For this man, salvation came not in the bye and bye- but in the here and now. Salvation is both now and later.