4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.
8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
One of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us is our minds and our intellect. We’re able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. We have an incredible capacity for learning and applying the knowledge we gain over the years. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” Of course faith and trust in God is vital for the Christian, but we’re also encouraged to apply our minds and to learn more about God and His plan of salvation. Christianity is not only about faith. It is something we’re able to understand on an intellectual level as well. And this is why it’s also good for us to get back to the basics of our faith. The Christian faith is often over-complicated to the extent that we end up being so confused by the details that we easily lose focus of the fundamentals of what we believe.
Christianity is about one main thing and that is Jesus Christ. The fact is that Jesus Christ died so that we would be reconciled to God. Jesus did not die so that we would have good health, wealth, and prosperity. The primary objective of salvation is to restore our relationship with God.
So today we’re going to spend some time going back to the basics of the Christian faith by looking at the cost of our salvation. What did salvation cost? We say it is a gift from God and therefore we pay nothing. However, that doesn’t mean that it is absolutely free. Salvation cost and it cost a lot.
Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All human beings are sinners because of the sin that Adam and Eve passed down to us all. We are born in opposition to God and His ways. This is why we have to learn to do right. We naturally do wrong. Think about it: you don’t need to teach a child to be naughty. We are born with an instinct to do wrong. We naturally do things our own way, which is contrary to God’s way.
And the penalty of this sin nature of ours is death. Romans 6:23 tells us very simply that the wages of sin is death. The death that it speaks of is a spiritual death - eternal separation from God and His Kingdom. God created us for eternal fellowship with Him. His original plan that was destroyed by our sin was to spend eternity with Him, so our spiritual death now means eternal damnation and eternal separation from Him.
This is why we need salvation. It is said that when we are saved that we receive forgiveness for our sins. We believe that God forgives us of our sins when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. What is sin though?
1 John 5:17 says “All unrighteousness is sin.”
So if all unrighteousness is sin, we need to have an understanding of what righteousness is.
Righteousness is holy upright living, in accordance with God’s ways and standards. It comes from a Hebrew word that means ‘straightness.’ It refers to a state of conforming to an authoritative standard. The problem we have is that because of our natural tendency to do wrong, we’re incapable of obeying God’s perfect, authoritative standards. We fall short of the mark. However, to be righteous also means to be justified, and here we are given a glimpse of what Jesus has done for us. Justification means to be opposed to condemnation. Being justified is the act of God of pardoning or forgiving our sins and declaring us to be righteous. We can then stand before the Lord as if we had not sinned. When we are justified He sees us ‘just as if’ we had never sinned, and this justification is secured by our faith in Jesus Christ.
What this means is that we cannot measure sin against rules and regulations of a society or culture. Sin is measured against God’s standards of purity and holiness, and this presents us with our biggest problem – we cannot and do not measure up to the standards God requires of us. We are sinners and as sinners we are doomed to eternal damnation. On our own we are on a straight path to hell. So how do we change this? How can we possibly be with God in our sinful state? How can unrighteousness and unholiness come into the presence of righteousness and holiness?
Many people make the mistake of thinking they can save themselves. They try various forms of legalism to save themselves. They think that they can appease God by various rituals such as going to Church, paying tithes, abstaining from various things and more. However, the fact remains that we cannot pull ourselves out of the hole that we are in. We cannot save ourselves. We need to be saved, but we can’t do it ourselves.
The fact is that our righteousness is meaningless. Isaiah 64:6 again: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” There is no real righteousness apart from the righteousness of God. In Matthew 5:20 Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The scribes and Pharisees were known to be self-righteous. The problem though was that their righteousness was based on works. They developed many different types of legalistic and ritualistic practices to justify themselves, but this was nothing more than empty ritual. Their feeble attempts to impress God by keeping to the rules meant nothing.
What this means is that we need a righteousness that is not our own given or imputed to us if we are to be righteous and escape the damnation that we’re heading for. But how can we receive righteousness? How can we be saved? How can we be justified?
We receive this righteousness, this justification through Jesus when we put our faith in Him. Our faith is our belief in the saving act of Christ for us. So by faith we receive the righteousness of Christ and therefore have eternal life. And so we now escape the second death, because we have been reconciled with God. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
But of course, there is a tremendous cost of this gift of salvation.
Remember that the wages of sin is death, and we can escape that death by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. However, that leaves the question of the death. If the penalty for sin is death then who died? Who paid the price?
Jesus paid the price of sin for us. Jesus died and suffered for us. He took our sins upon Himself and paid for our sins. God will not forgive you because He loves you. It’s vital that we understand this point. He will forgive you because of the blood of His Son, providing you believe in the atoning power of His blood. The prophecy in Isaiah 53 explains it like this: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to His own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
That is the entire Gospel summed up in just a few verses. This is what makes our salvation a free gift to us, but a gift that came at a tremendous cost to God.
Why doesn’t God just forgive us because He loves us? If He loves us as much as the Bible says He does, then why can’t He just welcome us all into Heaven? Because that would go against His very nature. Yes, He loves us – more than we will ever know, but He is also a just God. There is a price to pay for our sin, and justice demands that the price be paid – either by ourselves or by Jesus.
The bottom line is that Jesus took the punishment that we should have had. Our sins have been dealt with by God. Because of His grace and love for us, salvation is made available to us. All we have to do is accept the sacrifice of Jesus for our own selves by faith in Christ and we will be saved, that is, justified.
When we believe then we become reborn and spiritually alive. We have the righteousness of Christ transferred or imputed to us. We’re told in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God wants us all to be saved. He doesn’t want anyone to be condemned to hell, but the reality is that because so many reject Jesus and the sacrifice He made for them, there will be many who will spend eternity separated from God. One of the most common objections you hear to the Christian faith is that some people refuse to believe that a loving God would send anyone to hell. They’re actually 100% correct. God will not send anyone to hell. Every person in hell will be there because they have chosen to be there. Many people don’t want God in their lives, and hell is a place where that wish will be granted to them forever.
This is why we must never forget the cost of our salvation. We deserve nothing from God except eternal separation from Him, but because of His love for us He has done what was necessary in order to rescue us from that fate. He sent His Son into the world to be condemned and to die so that we don’t have to. This is one of the reasons we celebrate Holy Communion regularly. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In other words, “don’t forget what I did for you and how much your salvation has cost me.”
The salvation that we have has cost Jesus Christ His life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Salvation is a gift to us, but it cost the life of an innocent man.
We must never forget the basics of our Christian faith. It’s a good thing to plumb the depths of Scripture and to learn as much as we can about the ways of God, but we must never forget the Cross. We must never forget that Jesus Christ died for us. He gave His life for us so that we would live. He took the penalty for our sins upon Himself. He died for us and because of us. This is why attempts at appeasing God by being good people are futile. We cannot earn our way into Heaven. The only means of salvation available to us is by believing in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for us. He said it Himself in John 14:6 - “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Our eternity with the Father is a gift granted to us by God. We did nothing to earn it and we certainly do not deserve it. Romans 5:6-8 summarises it very well: “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
All I’ve said today you’ve heard before, and hopefully many times, but I make no apology for that. It is absolutely crucial that we have a clear understanding of the fundamental basics of the Christian faith. Come to the Table once more today and remember His love for you. Come and remember the cost of your salvation.
For some of you here today life is good and your faith is strong. We thank and praise God for that, but there are many others who are struggling today. These may be mere words, but take courage. Remember that nothing can separate you from the love of God because of Jesus Christ. Peter opens his first letter with these words of encouragement: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 3:16-21
On Sunday we considered the importance of grounding our lives in the basic principles of the Christian faith.
Why do you believe it is necessary to be reminded of the fundamentals of our faith on a regular basis?
Discuss some of these basics in your group:
· We are born into sin, and separate from God.
· The cost of our sin is death.
· We cannot save ourselves.
· The sacrifice of Jesus is the only means of salvation.
Many people say that the Christian faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is very complicated, yet when we analyse it step by step as above, it really is much easier to understand than we might think.
Why do you think so many people (including many Christians) struggle to understand some of the basics of the Christian faith?
How would you answer someone who says the Gospel and God’s plan of salvation is too complicated for us to understand it?
How does Holy Communion help us to get back to the basics of the Gospel?
The Bible consistently teaches that we cannot earn our salvation through good works, yet so many people fall into the trap of thinking there must be something we have to do (apart from believing in Jesus) in order to please God, and in so doing earn their salvation.
Why do you think this mistake is so common?
Close by praying that the Lord would impress on us once more the simplicity of the Gospel, and that in and through Jesus, our salvation is secure and complete.