Friday, December 23, 2011

What is Salvation, Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the reality that salvation has a past element and that for those who have received salvation, they have been saved from the wrath of God, the penalty of Adam's rebellion (enslavement to the Devil) and the penalty for their own personal sin.

In Part 2 we will now turn to the facet of salvation that deals with the present. God does not offer salvation simply to save us from the penalty and power of sin, but also for something else: His glory. If the past element of salvation can be summarized as a being rescued from the penalty of sin, then the present element can be summarized as being set free from the power of sin.

Understanding that Adam's rebellion against God sold humanity into slavery to death and the Devil should lead us to understand that the Enemy of our souls was given great power over us to deceive and lead us towards destruction. Jesus explicitly taught that the Devil is a liar and had strong words for the "religious" of His day, who did not believe He was the promised Messiah and King:

44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NASB)

The unfortunate reality is that people are often and easily deceived. It is especially easy to believe things that we want to be true, when someone speaks to us in a way that we want to hear it ("God has a wonderful plan for your life!" "Happiness is just a phone call away!" "It really is that easy!"). Beyond simply being a good liar, the Devil has incredible power to influence our minds and keep us blinded to the truth:

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NASB)

Human beings are prisoners of an extremely powerful enemy whom they cannot see. This is terrible news.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus is that He has disarmed our spiritual enemy and set us free from his power and influence in our lives. Consider the following verses:

18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:18-21, NASB)

Jesus considered it His mission to set free those who are oppressed. Some take this to mean that Jesus came as a liberator of oppressed peoples in the physical, but this is a mistake. Jesus was not a revolutionary who sought to overthrow Roman oppression. Jesus came to release spiritual captives from a far worse enemy than Rome -- from the Devil himself.

15 When He [Jesus] had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Colossians 2:15, NASB)

Jesus accomplished this mission through the cross and disarmed these spiritual adversaries.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NASB)

Paul encouraged believers to realize the truth of their freedom from bondage to a works based mentality (which is deadly) and to walk in the freedom of the grace of God. It was for freedom that Christ set us free! Freedom from the power of sin in the present!

This freedom is not simply imagined. It is real:

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, NASB)

A dangerous misunderstanding exists within the Church that this "freedom in Christ" means that Christians are able to do as they please. This is a deception, since it was slavery to the various lusts and impulses of our flesh that was part of what Christ died to free us from (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:11, 4:1-2; 1 John 2:16)! Instead, we have been given this freedom so that we may live, not as we please, but as God pleases. The giver of life knows what it truly means to live, and this is the abundant life that Christ speaks of (John 10:10) -- not living in spiritual death under the power of the Devil, but living in communion with the living God (John 17:3). (For a more detailed exposition of freedom in Christ through Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians, see this post).

It is the desire of humanity to be their own god ("the master of their own destiny") that led us into rebellion in the first place (Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 53:6). We are deceived if we think that we can operate autonomously, without being led by various influences. We are slaves to much more than we realize (just ask people who make New Year's resolutions!).

The good news is that we can be released from bondage to the enemy of our souls and can use that freedom to serve the God who loves us and has our best interest in mind (Romans 5:8, 8:28-32).

Look at how Paul urges believers to use their "freedom":

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23, NASB, underline added for emphasis)

Because of Christ, the one who turns from rebellion against God (repentance) and puts their faith (trust) in Jesus as their Lord and Savior receives pardon for their rebellion and release from their captivity to an evil, spiritual dictator. They are then set free inside of the Kingdom of God, under the Lordship of Christ, to walk in a way that is pleasing and honoring to the King who set them free (Galatians 5:13-26).

Although God has empowered His children (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26) by the Holy Spirit to have the ability to resist all sin and to live in purity before Him (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 John 2:1a), this does not mean that we always walk in that freedom. Instead, we often fall (1 John 2:1b; James 3:2) and the good news is that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us who are in Christ (1 John 1:9). Christians make many mistakes and continue to sin against God in word, thought and deed.

Many warnings are given to Christians to not grieve the Holy Spirit through living as if we were not set free (Ephesians 4:17-5:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and of the dangers of submitting ourselves to the power and influence of the Devil after being set free (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 4:27).

What is salvation? In the present, salvation is freedom from the power of sin in the life of the believer and of the bondage to the lusts of the flesh, the will of the Devil and the negative influence of the world. Thank God for His grace and mercy!

God saved us from sin for Him, so that we would be free to live for Him and His glory (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 6:20).

In part 3 we'll turn our attention to what salvation is as it pertains to the future.

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