Sermon Sept 3, 2021
Today we are going to begin talking about the Basics of the Christian Faith. If you are a Christian or if you are not, this series entitled Faith Basics is for you. If you don’t know anything about the Christian faith, I assume you are open to learning more about it since you are listening to (reading) this message today. Perhaps you come from a background where religious groups have distorted the message of the bible. Maybe you came from a family or church that preached things that it didn’t live out. My hope is that at Viroqua Nazarene you will find that not only do we understand and believe what the bible says about God, Jesus, Sin, and salvation…but you see it reflected in the love and fellowship of believers who gather regularly here.
If you are a Christian, these messages are still for you as well! I find the toughest thing that most Christians deal with is being bogged down by discouragement when it comes to sharing their faith. So the methods I’ll use each week to share the message about the Faith, you can use them as well.
I’ll try not to over complicate things with big words, but know that if I do use these words I will define them for easy use. I went through numerous courses in college and kept forgetting what the meaning of this one word ment. The word was “Soteriology.” Any time you hear the ending “ology” it means “to talk about or the study of.” But what does Soteri mean? (Bible.org source)
It comes from the Greek word “sorteia” which comes from another Greek word “soter” (σότερ) meaning savior. So Soteriology is the study or the talk about Salvation or the work of salvation.
Whether you grew up in church or this is your first time, you’ve probably heard Christians talking about the need to “get saved.” Today, that’s what we are going to talk about and I hope to illustrate it in a way that this act of God (Salvation) is clear enough that we could easily share it with someone else.
Mankind’s main problem in Life is SIN.
Sin separates us from a relationship with God. Sin says, “I want what I want…even if it’s not what God wants.” Sin Says, “I know what is right, but I’m doing otherwise because It’s convenient.”
Around here, our beliefs and teachings are guided by God’s word, the bible. So don’t be surprised if I quote it to support each week’s Faith Basic. We look to The Bible because we believe it is the authoritative Word of God and the only perfect guide for all things concerning salvation. We’ll talk in more detail about the Bible in a different week, but I think you need to know this…before we go any further today: Christians believe in the authority of God’s Word. In God’s word we find all the details for God’s perfect plan of salvation.
And God’s word tells us that mankind has a problem and it’s called SIN.
James, Jesus’ brother once wrote:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”James 4:17 NIV
Former persecutor of Christians, Paul of Tarsus wrote about how all mankind has had to deal with this sin problem.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—”Romans 5:12 NIV
So not only do we have a sinful condition because one man (Adam) sinned…it leads us to make sinful choices which ultimately lead to death.
One day, Jesus was trying to explain to some people that what comes out of a person, their words and actions – that’s what defiles them and makes them unclean…rather than eating or drinking the wrong thing. Gospel of Mark chapter 7:20-23 NIV
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”Mark 7:20-23 NIV
Jesus spells it out for us, just in case we didn’t know what some prime examples of sin were. So we’ve all got this sin problem. We have desires to live in ways opposite of what God’s best is for us. But that’s not the worst part about sin.
Sin Separates us from God
I know, forgive this very rudimentary drawing. We’ve got a cliff on either side. God’s on one side and we are on the other. I’m going to tell you right now, no illustrations are 100% perfect. So go with me on this one, if you will.
Sin gets between us and God.
A very good example of this comes from Isaiah 59. Isaiah was a prophet of God. God would tell him what to say to the Israelites and he would tell them. What he said wasn’t always pretty or even encouraging. He tells them:
“But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.”Isaiah 59:2-3 NIV
You might say, “I didn’t do anything wrong!” “My mama says I’m perfect! My Granny says I’m perfect.” Maybe you just say, “Well I’m a good person, I don’t know anything about this ‘sin’ stuff of which you speak…”
I’ve got news for you. Romans 3:23 makes it very clear:
“23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”Romans 3:23 NIV
Not only are we born with the desire to put our desires before others’, especially before God’s desires, but we practice it regularly!
It’s that sin that creates a chasm…between us and God. Our Sin…His holiness. And the thing we dislike most about this situation is that…
We can’t fix this problem ourselves.
Are you an Olympian or a track and field star? No? Awesome. No one can call me out for not knowing what I’m talking about.
So, in Track and Field there are various events with similar goals:
With the Long jump it’s all about who can go the farthest. With the High Jump and Pole vault, the goal is to get over the bar without knocking it over. They keep raising the bar to see who can get the highest jump or vault.
With our illustration here, we try things to get to God. We try “being good” or being a nice person. We back up really far, we take off in a dead sprint, we jump forward with all our might and all our goodness and niceness…and we fall short. We can’t get over that Sin pitfall by being nice or “good.”
What if we jumped and put an extra little flourish to our jump, jumping higher. What if we said this was going to church…maybe saying “I’m religious” or even “I believe in God.” These are things we might say that look like we are putting in a bit more effort to reach God…But just like before, we fall short. The pitfall of sin is what we can’t get past through being religious or being a church-goer.
What if we used a tool like pole vaulters use a pole to get over that super high bar? This might be doing good things: “I volunteer at a (fill in the blank). I DO lots of good and nice things. I teach Sunday school.” What about “I’ve dedicated my life to being a missionary” or “given it to religious service? I always recycle. I help clean trash on the side of the road. I encourage others to do good and nice things. I don’t just say I’m good or nice, I do nice things!”
This is that Pole in Pole vaulting. Have you ever seen a vaulter who fails to cleanly get over the bar? It’s disheartening. It’s sad. It’s embarrassing. It is the same with people who equate good works with a way over or past Sin. If that is their method, rather than the fruit of a tight relationship with God, they will knock that bar off everytime. They will not make it.
So believing we’re good enough isn’t enough. Being religious isn’t good enough. Doing “good” things isn’t enough. What’s it going to take to get over sin and to God?
Fixing our sin problem takes an act of God
God wants us to be close to Him. He wanted it so much that he took steps to help us cross that ravine. In the middle of the night, Jesus is teaching a religious leader, Nicodemus, about the Kingdom of God and the extent that God has gone to get us to him. He tell Nicodemus in John’s gospel, chapter 3 verse 16-17:
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.John 3:16-17 NIV
Jesus was of course talking about himself. What was the Son supposed to do to save the world?
He was to lay down his life as a sacrifice to fix the sin problem in our lives. That pesky thing that drives a relational wedge between us and God.
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Cor 5:12 NIV
Peter, an early leader in the Christian faith proclaimed this boldly:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:12 NIV
This is one of the most challenging pieces for some folks.
- I want to be saved, but I’m going to get it by being good
- Or I’m all good for the “afterlife” because I believe in this god or that god. I pray three times a day to that god.
- Oh my salvation is found at the bottom of a bottle.
- I’m part of a secret society that does good stuff for the community. I can’t tell you anything about it, but I’m sure that’s enough to get wherever I’m going.
There are countless other examples.
So fixing our sin problem takes an act of God. God sends his Son, Jesus…
And Jesus lays down his life as a sacrifice for you and me. He makes a way for us to get to God. That bridge comes by his sacrifice on the cross.
John 14:6 paints a clear description of what we see here today in this illustration.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 NIV
The Key point to this message of salvation is this: JESUS is the only way. This is an essential basic piece to the Christian Faith. If someone believes or acts as though they believe something other than Jesus fixes the sin problem and restores our relationship with God, they are incorrect.
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.John 3:36 NIV
Jesus also describes himself as the gate in John 10:9
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.John 10:9 NIV
There is only one way to:
That is through Jesus Christ.
The question is, where do you see yourself in this illustration? Firmly planted on your side? Trying to run and jump over the chasm? A couple inches onto the bridge? Half way? All the way?