GOD BLESS YOU.
By Joseph Ametepe
• God has a deep passion for saving lost sinners. This is clearly seen in the stories recorded in the Bible. God's purpose for giving us the Bible is to let people know that He loves them and wants them to be in a personal saving and loving relationship with Him. Consequently, He preserved countless stories of saving lost sinners in His Word. Also, He presented teachings in the Scripture to highlight His strong desire to save lost sinners from their sins. Our sin separates us from God. God could have left us in the state of separation from Him. But He didn't. Why? He really loves us and longs to be in a relationship with us. He created us for relationship with Him. Even before man was created to dwell on earth, God had a plan in place to be in fellowship and communion with him. God didn't need our fellowship to make Him complete. Neither did He need our relationship with Him to become fulfilled in life. He was already complete and fulfilled. He was sufficient and satisfied in Himself. Yet, He yearns to be in relationship with us in order to display His glory and grace in our lives.
• The purpose of this article is to help believers in Jesus Christ discover God's heart for seeking lost sinners. We need the Holy Spirit to stir up a fresh passion within our hearts to work with God in reaching the lost with a new sense of urgency. The Bible clearly states that believers are to be careful how they walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of our time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Certainly, the days are evil. Many are perishing without Christ. Many are dying in their sins. Of course, God is sovereign in all this. But His sovereignty does not relieve us of our responsibility to share His Good News to a lost and dying world. God will hold us accountable before the judgment seat of Christ as to how we used the opportunities He had given us to reach out to unbelievers with His message of love, life, and hope in Jesus Christ. We must therefore make sure that we are making the best use of the time God gives us now, for living and serving Him. What better way to live and serve God than to have His heart for the lost and make the most of the opportunities He gives us to reach non-Christians for Christ!
• It is my prayer that God will use this study to draw us closer to Him and make us more effective in sharing the Gospel in such a time as this.
The Definition of the Gospel
• What then is the Gospel? In its simplest form, the Good News or the Gospel is the saving message of life and redemption in Jesus Christ. It is therefore always centered on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He has done for the salvation of sinners in every nation. The Gospel is the joyous proclamation of God's redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of sinners enslaved by sin.
• In other words, the Gospel is the presentation of the life of the Person of Jesus to show His saving significance for all people and to call them to faith in Him.
• It is the saving work of God in His Son, Jesus Christ, and a call to faith in Him. Faith is more than intellectual agreement to a theoretical truth. Faith is trust placed in a living person, Jesus Christ.
The Definition of Salvation
• The term salvation is familiar to most of us. Yet its true meaning is not familiar to us. It is therefore necessary to give a clear definition of salvation at this point. In its simplest form, salvation is deliverance from the punishment, penalty, power, pollution and finally from the presence of sin.
• It is an eternal gift, bestowed on those who personally place their complete trust in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross for their sins. This wholehearted personal trust results in entering into a saving relationship with God and complete forgiveness of one’s sins against a holy, loving, and righteous God who is from everlasting to everlasting.
• To state it in another way, salvation is simply an application of Christ’s victorious work over sin to the life of the individual. It pertains to the most crucial need of the human person – the need to be freed from sin, which separates us from a loving, gracious, holy, and just God.
• In the Old Testament, the term “salvation” sometimes refers to deliverance from danger (see Jeremiah 15:20), deliverance of the weak from an oppressor (see Psalm 35:9-10), the healing of sickness (see Isaiah 38:20), and deliverance from blood guiltiness and its consequences (see Psalm 51:14). It may also refer to national deliverance from military threat (see Exodus 13:14) or release from captivity (see Psalm 14:7). But salvation finds its deepest meaning in the spiritual realm of life. It is this deepest meaning of salvation that has been defined above and about which I am concerned in this article. The absolute necessity of salvation, that is, deliverance from the penalty and power of sin is indeed one of the clearest teachings of the Bible. The need for salvation is a universal need. Everyone desperately needs it, but unfortunately, not everyone desires it or seeks it.
God's passion for saving sinners is seen the:
A. Sending of His Son (John 3:16-17; Gal. 4:4-5)
• God's passion for saving sinners is best shown in the sending of His One and Only Son into our world. The Bible clearly and convincingly speaks of this in John 3:16-17.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" John 3:16-17 (NASB).
• God could have kept His unique Son with Him. Their relationship was rich and fulfilling. Their love for one another was deep and satisfying. They were thoroughly enjoying each other's presence. However, instead of continuing in their enjoyment of each other, God the Father decided to send His Son to earth. Of course, the Son was in full in agreement with the Father's plan. Jesus, God's Son, was sent to our sin-infested world. God sent, as it were, His very heart to a world of lost sinners. This reminds me of Paul. Through the providence of God, he led a runaway slave named Onesimus, to the Lord while in prison in Rome. He had come to love Onesimus dearly. But following the leading of God, Paul decided to send him back to his owner, Philemon. This is how the Spirit led Paul to express his genuine feelings about sending Onesimus back. "I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel" Philemon 1:12-13 (NASB). The point I want to stress here is that, just as Paul sent Onesimus, his very heart, back to his owner, so also, God sent to us in person, His Son, Jesus Christ, His very heart. He did this to demonstrate His sincere, selfless, and sacrificial love for us. By sending Jesus Christ, God the Father makes it clear to us that He is a God who seeks the very best for the people He created in His own image. Amazing love indeed! Although we were not deserving of God's selfless and sacrificial love, He lavished it upon us in the sending of His Son.
• Please understand that God's sending of His Son didn't just happened out of the blue. It was not something that just came upon God. He didn't just see the mess and misery in which humanity had plunged themselves and suddenly came up with a plan to send His Son. No. Not at all. The sending of the Son of God and the Savior of mankind was carefully planned in eternity past and carried out at God's appointed time. God knew what He was doing. And He knew exactly when to do it. How wonderful it is to know that God does all things beautiful in His time. So it was in the sending of Jesus Christ. This is how the Bible speaks of God's sending of His Son at His appointed time:
"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that the He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" Galatians 4:4-5 (NASB).
• When the appointed time came for God to send Jesus Christ into our sin-ravaged world, He did not change His mind. He did not waver. He did not vacillate. He knew what it would cost Him as well as cost His Son. Yet, God did not hold back. God could have changed His mind and we would never have known it. But He didn't. He kept His word. All this is to stress the point that God has a passionate desire for saving lost sinners. This passion is best seen in sending His Son into a world of lost sinners.
• Most of us have memorized John 3:16. But are we passionate about sharing its message to a lost and dying world? Remember, God didn't hold back in sending His Son. But are we holding back from sharing the Good News of His Son? God didn't waver in His decision to send Jesus when the appointed time came for Him to do so? But do we waver when God gives us an opportunity to speak of Jesus and His saving work? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we held back and wavered in sharing the Gospel at opportune times. May God forgive us and may His Spirit renew a fresh passion in us to reach the lost with the Good News!
B. Seeking the lost by His Son (Luke 19:10; Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15)
• God's passion for saving lost sinners is also seen in the seeking of the lost by Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When God's One and Only Son came to earth, He was driven by a single-minded purpose, that is, seeking lost sinners. This was Jesus' supreme passion on His mission to planet earth. He traveled from village to village, from one town to another, from one city to another, and from one country to another seeking the lost. His whole life was dedicated to this purpose of seeking lost sinners.
• The most memorable declaration of Jesus' own passion for seeking the lost was made in the house of Zaccheus, a rich Jewish chief tax collector for the ruling Roman government. Zaccheus whose name means pure, wanted to see Jesus who was passing through Jericho on His final journey to Jerusalem. Being very short, Zaccheus could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he decided to ran on ahead of Jesus and His party. Having succeeded in running ahead, Zaccheus climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Zaccheus was seeking to see Jesus. But Jesus was seeking Zaccheus in order to save him. Being the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep by name, Jesus called him by name and invited Himself into Zaccheus's house. While there, Zaccheus was convicted of his sins and need for a Savior. He made a sincere confession and was genuinely converted. Certainly, Jesus knew Zaccheus was now a saved and a changed man. This led to this statement that has motivated and continues to motivate me in reaching out to the lost.
"Today salvation has come to this house, because he [Zaccheus], too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" Luke 19:9-10 (NASB).
• Before Jesus made this powerful statement, He had for three years reached out to outcasts, prostitutes, publicans, and rejects of society. For reaching out to lost sinners, Jesus was accused by the religious leaders and called all kinds of names, including, "a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 11:19). Yet, Jesus did not give up on seeking and saving the lost. Again, this demonstrates God's deep passion for saving sinners like us. God sent His Son to seek and save that which was lost.
• Jesus not only personally sought the lost, He also presented parables to His disciples revealing the seeking heart of the Father. One of these parables is found in Matthew 18:12-14. There we read:
"What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish" Matthew 18:12-14 (NASB).
• Clearly, this parable shows that God is passionate about saving lost sinners. It is not His desire that any should perish. He wants them home with Him where they will be safe and secure. His heart longs to reach out even to one lost soul. That's how much He loves and cares for each individual sinner. Luke 15 is "the lost and found" session of the Bible. For there, Jesus vividly presented three parables to illustrate the Father heart of God that yearns for a single lost sinner. Jesus masterfully related the parables of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost silver coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the lost son (Luke 15:11-31). Please take time to read these stories and discover God's heart for reaching and saving the lost. I believe that, as we discover God's heart for reaching and saving the lost, the Holy Spirit can motivate us to new heights of passion for reaching out to the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is able to renew our passion for taking the Great Commission seriously. Also, He is able to create a sense of urgency in our hearts to spread His message of love, grace, forgiveness and hope to a lost and dying world.
C. Service of His Son (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45)
• God's passion for saving lost sinners is vividly put on display in the service of His Son. Remember that when Jesus came to earth He was God in the flesh. He was the God-Man. Though Jesus was fully God and fully Man, He did not come to be served by us. Rather, He came to serve us. He made this clear in one of His profound declarations in a critical time in His life. On His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus made a bold prediction of His death and subsequent resurrection on the third day. He spoke plainly about this to His disciples (see Matthew 20:17-19). Not long after this, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (that is, James and John) approached Jesus to make a request of Him. Being a mother who wanted the best for her sons, she boldly asked Jesus to command that in His kingdom her two sons be privileged to sit on Jesus' right and left. In other words, she was seeking places of honor for her two sons. The Lord Jesus gave her a definitive response stating that this was not His "to give, but to those for whom it has been prepared by His Father" (Matthew 20:23).
• Hearing this, the ten disciples who felt they were being left out, were incensed about the two brothers. Knowing that this was a teachable moment for all His disciples, Jesus taught them about humble service in His kingdom using Himself as an example. Unlike the Gentile rulers who lord it over their subjects, Jesus taught them this principle: greatness in God's kingdom is rooted in humble service. Emphasizing this principle, the Lord Jesus declared: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The Holy Spirit directed the author of the Gospel of Mark also to record this powerful saying. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The repetition of this profound saying is for emphasis. It is to stress that God's desire for saving sinners is such that He sent His One and Only Begotten Son to serve them in an area they needed Him most, that is, in the service of saving them.
• If the Lord Jesus Himself came to serve sinners in order to save them, should we do less? Should we not be moved to serve a lost and dying world by sharing the saving message of Jesus with them? Should we not give ourselves no rest in spreading the Good News? Oh that God would stir within our hearts a renewed passion for sharing the Gospel to those He brings our way! May the Spirit help us lay aside our excuses for not sharing the Best News He's ever given mankind!
D. Suffering of His Sinless Son (Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 16:21; 17:12, 22-23; 20:17-19)
• Perhaps the greatest display of God's passion for saving wretched and wayward sinners is the suffering of His Sinless Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The sufferings of God's Son were predicted before His coming into our world as the God-Man. The Holy Spirit led Peter to summarize the predictions of Christ's sufferings in 1 Peter 1: 10-11.
"As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB).
• Notable among the prophets who predicted the sufferings of the Messiah is Isaiah. Isaiah 53 is the greatest chapter in the Bible which detailed the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. This prophecy was made 700 years before Christ's incarnation. Actually, it is the most graphic prophecy of our Lord's sufferings. In that prophecy, Isaiah, led by the Holy Spirit, declared the sinlessness of Christ (see Isaiah 53:9, 11). The language of Isaiah 53 is strong and vivid as it detailed the indescribable sufferings of Jesus. It spoke of Jesus being despised and forsaken by men (v. 3). It spoke of Jesus being smitten of God, and afflicted (v. 4). It stated that Jesus was pierced through for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (v. 5). As if these were not enough depiction of the sufferings of Christ, the Spirit spoke of Jesus being oppressed, led to the slaughter like a lamb, and cut off out of the land of the living (vv. 7-8). Furthermore, in predicting the sufferings of Christ, He was uniquely described as "a man of sorrows" who carried our sorrows and poured out Himself to death (vv. 3, 4, 12). Why did the Sinless Son of God suffer all these? The Spirit led Isaiah to give us God's own answer. It was so that Jesus would justify the many and bear their iniquities (v. 11), thus setting us free from the slavery of sin. This once again, demonstrates God's earnest desire to save wayward sinners, who have turned to their own way and therefore have gone astray from the path of life and righteousness. Please take time to read and reflect on Isaiah 53.
• The prophets were not the only one who predicted the sufferings of Christ. The Person of the Lord Himself prophesied about His own sufferings. On several occasions, Jesus Himself, privately spoke to His disciples about His own sufferings to come. The first time Jesus made this known to His disciples was after Peter's confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, at Caesarea Philippi. Having warned His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ, the Lord Jesus proceeded to predict His coming suffering. Matthew, the evangelist, recorded these solemn words of our Lord's own prediction of His sufferings:
"From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day" Matthew 16:21(NASB).
• Of course, Peter who had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, did not like the talk of the suffering of the Christ, the Son of the living God. Consequently, he took it upon himself to correct Christ. But Christ confronted Peter and sharply rebuked him for setting his mind on man's interests, rather than on God's interests (see Matthew 16:22-23).
• After this confrontation of Peter, the Lord Jesus predicted His sufferings on three other occasions to His disciples in Matthew's Gospel. After His transfiguration, having explained to His disciples that Elijah had already come in the spirit of John the Baptist, and had been mistreated by the religious leaders of Israel, He stated: "So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands" (Matthew 17:12).
• Then on another occasion, Matthew reports:
'And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." And they were deeply grieved"' Matthew 17:22-23 (NASB).
• Finally, we are told:
"As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up" Matthew 20:17-19 (NASB).
• Mark and Luke were also led to record Jesus' own prediction of His sufferings (see Mark 8:31-33; 10: 32-34; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 18:31-33). These repetitions of our Lord's sufferings were given to burn this truth into our hearts:- God is passionate about saving lost sinners.
• Reflecting on the suffering of Jesus Christ, John Stott wrote these practical and insightful words:
"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as "God on the cross." In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his." John Stott: The Cross of Christ!
• Similarly, our reflections on the sufferings of Jesus Christ should not only help deepen our faith in Him, but also motivate us to be about our Father's business of sharing the hope and love that are in Jesus Christ. How are you doing in this my brother and my sister in Christ? We will never suffer like Christ. He suffered as the Sinless Son of God. However, our obedience to His call to spread His Good News to a lost and dying world may lead us to share in His sufferings as did His disciples of old. But like them, we should count it as a privilege, an honor to suffer for His name (see Acts 5:40-42) and continue to spread His message of grace and redemption.
E. Sacrifice of His Son (Hebrews 7:26-27; 9:11-14, 22-26; 10:10-14; John 10:17-18)
• God's passionate desire for saving sinners is clearly revealed in the sacrifice of His Son as the perfect sin offering for them. God knew we could not save ourselves. He knew that there was no sacrifice or works we could do to redeem ourselves from our predicament. Our best sacrifice would not suffice for our redemption. There was only one way for us to be purchased from the slave market of sin. The perfect sacrifice of His Son.
• This perfect sacrifice was uniquely different from the sacrifices made according to the Law. It is different because it is a sacrifice that doesn't need to be repeated. It is different because Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God did not have to sacrifice for His own sins before offering a sacrifice for our sins as the levitical high priest did. Christ had no sin. He did no sin. He was without sin. No sin was found in Him. He was the perfect Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. Also, His sacrifice is different because it was made in the true temple of God. He made this sacrifice by entering the greater and more perfect tabernacle. Furthermore, His sacrifice is different because it involved the shedding of His own precious blood. The levitical high priests sacrificed the blood of goats and bulls. Christ's sacrifice is different from all others because it has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
• The Bible vividly and repeatedly speaks about the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and its uniqueness, especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let's take note of some of the passages that highlight the differences of our Savior's sacrifice.
"For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because He did this once for all when He offered up Himself" Hebrews 7:26-27 (NASB).
"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" Hebrews 9:11-14 (NASB).
"And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" Hebrews 9:22-26 (NASB).
"By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered once sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" Hebrews 10:10-14 (NASB).
• Jesus, the one and only perfect sacrifice was not spared. He was sacrificed. God did not spare Him from suffering and shedding His own precious blood for sinners (see Romans 8:32). Why did God do this? He did it to demonstrate His passion for saving lost sinners.
• The Bible is very careful to explain that this sacrifice was not forced upon Jesus Christ. He willingly offered Himself as God's perfect sacrifice for sinners. Speaking at a historic moment in His life, the Lord Jesus revealed that the sacrifice of Himself for sinners was His own voluntary choice. In other words, He was not a victim of His Father's coercion.
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father" John 10:17-18 (NASB).
• If the Lord Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for our sins, what are we willing to sacrifice in sharing His Gospel? Please listen, all our sacrifices put together, pale in comparison with Christ's. Any sacrifice He leads us to make in order to spread the Good News to those who do not know Him, should not seem too hard or difficult for us. The amazing thing is that, our "puny little sacrifices" will not go unnoticed. God will even reward them when we stand before Him at the Bema Seat of Christ.
F. Shedding of His Son's Blood (Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4)
• God's deep desire for saving lost sinners is graphically portrayed in the shedding of His Son's precious blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that blood is life. As such, He prohibited His people from shedding and eating blood (see Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23; 15:23; 1 Samuel 14:34; Acts 15:20, 29). Therefore, it is important to understand that the shedding of the blood of Jesus is essentially equivalent to the giving of His very life. Do you want to know how passionate God is about saving sinners? That passion is seen in the immeasurable value of His Son's life giving blood. The price for saving sinners was astronomical. It cost God the very life of His One and Only Son. What love is this! It is indeed a selfless and sacrificial love.
• The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of the shedding of His blood at a historic juncture in His life. This historic moment was His Last Supper with His disciples. Matthew writes:
"While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many"" Matthew 26:26-28 (NASB).
• Jesus' life blood is precious. It is the blood that sealed the New Covenant God made with us. This New Covenant was established on better promises (see Hebrews 8:6). The New Covenant was never to fail like the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant failed not because God failed to keep His word, but because the people failed in keeping it (see Hebrews 8:7-9). The New Covenant is a covenant that will never fail. It is a covenant of "I will," not "if." (see Hebrews 8:10-12). It is not a covenant based on conditions that we fulfill. It is based on conditions which God and His Son fulfilled. Jesus willingly poured out or shed His life blood to seal this covenant, guaranteeing forgiveness of our sins. One of our greatest needs is forgiveness. Sin has separated us from God. It has broken our relationship with God. The only way this broken relationship can be restored is through the shedding of blood. In fact, the Bible is clear about this. It declares authoritatively, "According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" Hebrews 9:22 (NASB).
• Much blood of goats and bulls had been shed before the shedding of Christ's precious blood. The "rivers" of blood resulting from animal sacrifice which were sacrificed according to the Law were unable to cleanse the conscience of sinners, let alone take away their sins (see Hebrews 10:1-3, 11). The Bible emphatically says, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Only the shedding of the blood of Jesus makes us perfect and acceptable before God. Knowing this, God sent His Son to shed His life blood for sinners. What great love!
• Should this love not motivate us to be about our Father's business of sharing the Good News of His love and grace to all those He directs our way? What else should God do to motivate us to spread the love of Christ with a sense of urgency? Is the shedding of His Son's blood not enough motivation for us? He has not asked us to shed our blood but to share and spread the Gospel.
G. Submission of His Son (Matthew 26:39-44)
• One of the sublime ways in which God's passion for sinners is displayed is in the submission of His Son to His will. This will is perfect because it seeks God's very best for lost sinners. While submission is a concept that is not readily embraced in today's society, it was reverently embraced by the Lord Jesus. He chose to submit to His Father's will of going to the cross. Earlier on in His ministry on earth, Satan aggressively tempted the Lord Jesus to take a short-cut and completely avoid the way of the cross (see Matthew 4:1-11). Taking the short-cut provided by Satan would have meant a defeat for Jesus' mission on earth. It would have been a complete disaster of God's plan for our salvation. Israel failed to submit to God in their wilderness experience. But the Lord Jesus did not fail to submit to His Father's will in His wilderness trials. Even, the powerful enticement from a powerful foe, the devil, did not detract Him. His submission to His Father's will meant that God's plan of saving sinners stayed on course. It is therefore important for us to see in Jesus' surrender to His Father's will, God's passion for saving and redeeming lost humanity.
• Nowhere is Jesus' submission to His Father's will vividly demonstrated than in Gethsemane. After the Last Supper with His disciples and a singing of the Great Hallel (that is, Psalms 113-118), the Lord Jesus and His eleven disciples proceeded to the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Lord had predicted that His disciples would all fall away because of Him that very night. But Peter, full of self-confidence, declared that he would never fall away. Jesus was not impressed by Peter's self-confidence. He told Peter that he would deny Him three times in the night before a rooster crowed (see Matthew 26:30-35).
• Upon arrival at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus instructed eight of His disciples to sit at a certain spot while He went to another spot to pray. However, Jesus took the remaining three, Peter, James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, His closest friends, and began to open up to them. He candidly spoke to them of being distressed and deeply grieved and urged them to keep watch with Him (see Matthew 26:36-38). Falling on His face, a few feet away from His three closest friends, Jesus prayed the greatest and the most reverential prayer of submission to God's will. "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will" Matthew 26:39 (NASB).
• After His prayer, Matthew tells us that Jesus came to check on the condition of His disciples. Remember, He is the Good Shepherd. Though He was deeply grieved and distressed, the care of His flock was deeply on His heart. What a tender Shepherd is the Son of God and our Savior! He found His disciples sleeping. Gently, He questioned them and exhorted them to keep watching and praying that they might not enter into temptation. He knew temptation was soon to come upon them. After His gentle admonition and exhortation, our Lord surrendered once more to His Father's will. Matthew reports, "He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done"" Matthew 26:42 (NASB).
• Concerned about the condition of His flock, the Lord Jesus came once again to check on them. He found them deep in sleep. This time He left them and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once once (Matthew 26:43-44).
• Jesus fully submitted to His Father's will for their plan of our salvation to succeed. Shall we not also submit to Jesus' will of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Shall we not obey Jesus' command to spread His message? If we are not submitting to Him in this area, then we are sinning against Him. May the Holy Spirit help each one of us who is a believer in Jesus Christ to submit and surrender to God's clear mandate of sharing His Gospel to the lost!
H. Setting free of sinners from captivity by His Son (John 8:31-36)
• One of the most practical ways in which God's passion for saving sinners is expressed is His Son's work of setting sinners free from their bondage to sin. Slavery of sin is the worst kind of slavery man has ever experienced and is still experiencing. Sure, human slavery has wounded and left deep scars in the hearts of many. But those wounds and scars pale in comparison to those left on our lives by the slavery of sin. The sad part is that, while man was able to fight for the abolition of human slavery, there is nothing we can do in our power to free ourselves from our slavery to sin. Reforms cannot set us free from our bondage to sin. Neither can religion liberate us from our slavery of sin. Nor can rules, rituals, and regulations of men. This is our predicament. Whether we admit or not, when it comes to freeing ourselves from the slavery of sin, we are completely helpless. We cannot liberate ourselves. We need help. We need someone else who has the ability and the willingness to release us from our slavery to sin. Who is willing and ready to free us from this kind of slavery? Who has taken it upon Himself to liberate helpless sinners from their bondage to sin?
• The Lord Jesus boldly declared that He is the One who sets sinners free from their slavery to sin. Speaking at a time when Jewish hostility against Him was increasing, Jesus revealed that His desire, and for that matter God's desire, is to free sinners. John reports:
"So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'? Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" John 8:31-36 (NASB).
• The word "free" is used four times in the above passage. The Lord Jesus used it three times and the Jews who were fiercely opposing Him used it once. When they heard Jesus' reference to being made free, they instantly resented and rejected it. They boasted of their Abrahamic heritage and descent and told the Lord Jesus that they had never been in bondage to anyone. But was that really the case? No, it wasn't! Why? History clearly shows that Israel had been in bondage to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome. But even more than that, they were in bondage to sin and Satan. They were in double bondage, physical and spiritual. But our Lord's concern was about the latter. And that is why He reminded His listeners that everyone who practices sin is the slave of sin. The Bible makes it clear that there is no man who does not sin (2 Chronicles 6:36; Job 15:14-16; 1 John 1:8-10). Furthermore, it asserts that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). It is therefore obvious that these Jews were living in deception. They were denying the reality of their slavery to sin. This is why the Lord Jesus stated that they were not sons, but slaves who could be put out at any time. However, if they would listen to Him, He would indeed set them free from their slavery of sin. Only He could do it (see Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). There is no other person who can release us from our bondage to sin. There is no other way to be freed from the worst kind of slavery in human history except by the truth. Jesus, who is the truth, sets sinners free from their captivity to sin. Indeed, the Lord Jesus committed Himself to setting captives free so as to demonstrate God's deep desire for saving sinners.
• If our Lord is committed to setting sinners free from their slavery of sin, shouldn't we be willing and ready to point others to Him? Shouldn't we let people know that Jesus is waiting to liberate them from their bondage to sin? Sure, some will deny being in bondage to sin. But just as our Lord stood firm and lovingly reminded His listeners of their need to be set free, so should we stand firm and tenderly tell them to seek freedom in Jesus for their slavery of sin.
I. Sending of His Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11; Acts 1:8; 2:1-)
• God not only sent His Son, He sent His Spirit. In other words, another way in which God reveals His consuming passion for saving sinners is the sending of His Holy Spirit. Salvation of wretched sinners who are enslaved to sin and Satan is never accomplished in the strength and power of feeble and frail man. Salvation of sinners is a divine work. Therefore it requires divine power. It is a supernatural work that requires supernatural power. This supernatural or divine power comes from the Holy Spirit. The Scripture speaks of the Lord Jesus Himself working in the power of the Holy Spirit in releasing sinners from their bondage to sin and Satan. Speaking of the summary work of the Lord Jesus, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made this declaration about our Lord in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea:
“God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38 (NASB).
• Since divine power, unleashed through the Person of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the saving work of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit on several occasions just before He went to the cross.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you" John 14:16-17 (NASB).
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" John 14:26 (NASB).
"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning" John 15:26-27 (NASB).
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged" John 16:7-11 (NASB).
• Also, after His glorious resurrection and prior to His ascension, the Risen Lord reminded His disciples of the sending and coming of the Spirit.
"And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" Luke 24:49 (NASB).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” Acts 1:8 (NASB).
• In both of these declarations, made after our Lord's victorious resurrection, the Lord Jesus Himself established the connection between divine power and the divine Person of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Spirit's presence and power is necessary for the work of saving lost sinners. God knew that. And that's exactly why He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers and empower them to share the Good News which calls sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible's report of God's sending of the Spirit and His work in and through the once fearful and cowering disciples is nothing short of spectacular. On the Day of Pentecost, the one hundred and twenty disciples were all filled with the presence and power of the Person of the Holy Spirit. As a result, they were given the ability to speak languages they had not learned before as they declared the praises of God. But that was not all. Peter led the disciples in explaining what they had witnessed and in exalting the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the Spirit, Peter earnestly exhorted his hearers to turn to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. We are told after Peter's explanation, exaltation of Jesus Christ, and exhortation of the crowd, "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three hundred souls" Acts 2:41 (NASB).
• This powerful result has been the envy of many preachers. But this could not have been possible had the Holy Spirit not come in power. The Spirit is still with believers and in us today. Why? His presence with us and His personal dwelling in us today is God's powerful reminder to us that He is deeply committed to saving sinners. Shouldn't we be motivated by this powerful reminder to avail ourselves to God to use us in the work of saving lost sinners? Shouldn't we be encouraged by the presence and power of the Person of the Spirit to abandon our apathy and complacency? Oh may God help us rediscover His passion for reaching lost sinners in such a time as this! And may His powerful reminder daily challenge us to be about His business of spreading His Good News of life and love to all He brings our way!
J. Sending of His Servants into a lost world with His life giving message of love and forgiveness (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21)
• God did not only send His Son and His Spirit as a way of revealing His all consuming passion for saving wretched and wayward sinners. He also demonstrated His passion by the sending of His servants into a lost and dying world with His message of love and forgiveness. This is amazing. God would choose to partner with redeemed sinners in the work of reaching the lost. My heart is often flooded with gratitude to God for bestowing such an honor on a saved sinner like myself. Indeed, I count it a great privilege to be made a fellow-worker with God. His partner. God could have chosen to do without us. He could have used His holy angels. In fact, Revelation tells us that during the Great Tribulation yet to come, an angel having an eternal gospel, will preach to those living on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people (Revelation 14:6-7). In the Tribulation, this angel will be able to reach all people without using modern technology. Every tribe will hear him preach the eternal gospel. Certainly, angels would do a better job than us in sharing and spreading the gospel. Yet, God chose to involve believers. It's truly an awesome privilege. Perhaps God chose to involve such weak vessels as ourselves in order to develop in us His strong commitment to the great work of saving sinners.
• Before our Lord ascended into heaven, He spoke in plain and simple terms to let His disciples and us know that God has chosen to include us in His privileged work of reaching and saving lost sinners. In other words, we are commissioned into God's service of sharing the Good News to bring sinners to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It seems each of the four Gospel writers had something to say about our being sent into the world to spread the Good News. The most popular of the statements the Risen Lord made of sending us with His message of salvation and forgiveness is found in Matthew 28:18-20, which is usually referred to as the Great Commission.
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB).
• Mark's account of our being sent to spread the Good News records our Lord's command to them in these words:
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" Mark 16:15 (NASB).
• Luke's account reads:
"And He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things'" Luke 24:46-48 (NASB).
• Speaking to His disciples on resurrection evening, John reports:
"So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you'" John 20:21 (NASB). See also John 17:18.
• For all the four Gospel writers to preserve Jesus' words of our being sent into the world to spread the Good News, means that God is in indeed passionate about saving sinners. We learn from these declarations of our Lord that He is not merely interested in getting people to fill "decision forms and cards," but in making disciples, learners or followers of Him, who will obey and submit to His Word of truth and life. Let's be reminded again, we are not sent to collect "decision cards," but to make disciples of Christ. We also learn that our Lord's goal is to use us to reach all people. No one is excluded from hearing the Gospel and having the opportunity to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We also learn that we are to begin sharing God's message of hope and forgiveness right where we are. We must begin in our "Jerusalem." Finally, we learn that we are given a promise of the precious presence of Christ with us. We are not sent to go out into the world alone or unaided. In all our service of sharing and spreading the Gospel, Christ Himself is with us. Isn't that motivation enough to make us passionate about letting others know of God's love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ? What are we doing to carry out our Lord's command to preach to all the nations?
• Do we know that we are a people sent on a special mission by a God whose desire is to reconcile sinners to Himself? Do we live with a sense of urgency that we have a charge to keep and a calling to fulfill? I am reminded of the hymn writer, Charles Wesley, a man who understood God's passionate heart for saving sinners and actually lived out that passion in his life. With a burning passion for the lost, he wrote the hymn, "A Charge to keep I Have."
A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify, A never dying soul to save, And fit it for the sky.
To serve in the present age, My calling to fulfill; O may it all my pow'rs engage To do my Master's will.
Arm me with watchful care As in Thy sight to live, And now Thy servant, Lord prepare A strict account to give!
• Are we prepared for the day of giving a strict account for the investment God has made in us to share His saving message? Are we prepared to give an account of the many opportunities God has presented to us to make Him known? My brother, my sister, a day of strict accounting is awaiting before the Judgment Seat of Christ. If we fail to keep our charge and fulfill our calling, it will be a day of shame and sadness for us. For those who fulfill this charge and calling, there will be great rejoicing in the presence of Christ. They will hear these refreshing words from the Savior:
"Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master" Matthew 25:21 (NASB).
K. Spelling out of His plan of salvation (Acts 2:38; 15:11; 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)
• Perhaps one of the most powerful and practical ways in which God's all consuming passion for redeeming sinners is shown, is making sure His plan of salvation is clearly spelt out for them to understand and embrace. His strong desire for saving sinners is seen in His careful spelling out of His great plan of salvation. What use would salvation be to us, if God did not lay out in simple and plain terms how sinners are to be saved? It would have been useless and unproductive. Futile and fruitless. But thanks be to God! He is not a God of futility! He is a God of fruitfulness. He is a God whose purposes and plans are practical and profitable.
• Knowing that sinners need an understandable plan of salvation, God took His time to spell it out for them. The plan is so simple that a child can understand it. It is clear. It is concise. It is convincing as well. God's plan of salvation is not complicated. It is not complex. It is not confusing. It's simple. It's clear. It's straightforward. Everyone can comprehend it. In fact, the plan is so simple that it has tripped up many. Its simplicity and clarity have made it difficult for some to embrace. The difficulty is not in the plan but in the hearts of people. What is at the root of that difficulty? Pride. Pride would not allow these people to embrace the simplicity of God's plan. These would have easily embraced a plan that contributes to or boosts their egos. They would love to be "shareholders" in God's plan of salvation. But God gave a plan in which He alone is the "shareholder." He completely eliminated any and all possibilities for sharing the glory with Him in His work of saving sinners.
• So what's God simple plan of salvation that makes it impossible for man to be a "shareholder" with God in His work of saving sinners? Several passages carefully preserve God's simple and clear plan of salvation.
• While speaking to Nicodemus, the Lord Jesus Himself clearly and convincingly spelt out God's simple plan of salvation in these well-known words, memorized by many:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" John 3:16 (NASB).
• Speaking to the multitudes on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit spelt out God's plan of salvation through Apostle Peter in these words:
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" Acts 2:38 (NASB).
• Defending God's simple plan of salvation which came under attack by the circumcision party [they taught that unless Gentiles were circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved (see Acts 15:2)] at the Jerusalem Council, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit declared:
"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are" Acts 15:11 (NASB).
• When the fearful and frightened Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas the most important question in life:
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" Acts 16:30-31 (NASB).
• If there was ever a time to make God's plan of salvation complicated and confusing, it was in the Philippian jail. But God's messengers knew that God's plan of salvation is simple and straightforward. They therefore kept it so. Simple and straightforward. The fearful jailer didn't have to go through complicated loops to be saved. All he needed to do was to believe, that is, trust wholeheartedly, have an absolute personal reliance on the Lord Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, whose sacrifice on the cross paid for all his sin debt, past, present and future.
• Even in the deeply theological Letter to the Roman Christians, the plan of salvation was spelt out in a simple and clear manner.
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with a heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" Romans 10:9-10 (NASB).
• Expounding God's plan of salvation to the believers in Ephesus, the Spirit declared through Paul:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB).
• To the believers at Crete, where Titus was left to set things in order and appoint elders in the churches, the Holy Spirit set forth again God's simple plan of salvation.
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5 (NASB).
• From these passages, we learn that God is truly committed to saving sinners. We also learn about the certainty of experiencing salvation. Throughout the passages cited, the language of certainty is used. "You will be saved." "We are saved." "You have been saved." This is important because God wants the believer to have the assurance of salvation. If a person is genuinely saved, he will be convinced of his salvation.
• We also learn the ABCs of salvation from these passages.
A person must Admit that he is a sinner in need of a Savior, who is Jesus Christ and turn to Him from his sins.
A person must Believe, that is, wholeheartedly trust, fully place his confidence in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, whose death and sacrifice on the cross fully paid for the penalty and forgiveness of his sins.
A person must Confess Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of his life.
A person must not Depend on deeds or good works as the basis of his salvation.
A person must know that he now has Eternal life.
• In His passion to save lost sinners, God has given a simple, straightforward, clear and concise plan of salvation, easy to understand by all, young and old alike. In this plan, God has given us not only the certainty of experiencing salvation, but also of entering into eternal relationship with Him. The story is told of four leprous men who discovered abundant food and wealth left behind by the fleeing Syrian army. They had besieged Israel (the northern kingdom) in the time of Elisha the prophet. The siege took a great toll on the disobedient people of Israel. People ate whatever they could find, yes, even human flesh. In His care and compassion for His people, God directed Elisha to prophesy that a swift change was coming. There would be an abundance of food in just a day. And so it was according to the word of Elisha, the prophet of God. When the four lepers discovered the abundance of food left behind, they had their fill and hid gold and silver and clothes for themselves. Meanwhile, the rest of Israel didn't know about this abundance. They didn't hear the good news. They were still starving. Someone must tell them of this good news. Thank God, the lepers came to their senses and said to one another, "We are not doing right. This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household" 2 Kings 7:9 (NASB).
• Christians have the Good News which is far better than the one the lepers had. Are we keeping silent from telling it to others? Are we doing right by still excusing ourselves? Do we not have the sense of urgency the lepers had after coming to their senses? Are we not living in an age of grace and soon that age will end? Are we waiting until the morning light when it would have been too late to share the Good News? The Good News of salvation is simple. The plan of salvation is clear. We must rely on the Spirit to share it in this age of grace before it's too late. We must adopt the motto of the four lepers: "Let us go and tell."
L. Saving of sinners (Luke 23:39-43; Luke 19:9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16)
• God's passion for reconciling sinners to Himself through Jesus Christ is seen in the actual saving of sinners. God doesn't give empty promises. He always makes good on His promises. He always keeps His word. He promised to save sinners. That's exactly what He does. God always performs what He has promised to do. That's His character. His word does not fail. It does not fall to the ground. God fulfills His word. He actually saves sinners.
• Perhaps, the most powerful story that perfectly illustrates God's passionate desire for saving sinners is revealed at the Cross. The four Gospel writers all report that Christ was crucified with two criminals, also referred to as robbers (see Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27; Luke 23:32; John 19:18). However, only Luke was led by the Spirit to give us a special insight into one of the most powerful ministries Christ did before dying for our sins. The two criminals had earlier joined the crowds in insulting Jesus while hanging on the cross on His right and His left. Literally, our Savior was engulfed in insults on every side. From below the crowds hurled insults at Him. And on His right and left, the criminals lashed out at Him. However, one of them had a change of heart. He would no longer join in hurling verbal abuse at Christ. He knew they deserved their punishment. They had done wrong and were suffering justly for their wrong. Therefore he gently but firmly rebuked his friend whose mouth was still spewing out insults at Christ. Finally, in all humility of heart, he turned to Jesus and sought forgiveness for his sins. The repentant robber was not disappointed. This is Luke's account of this heart-moving story of salvation of a sinner by Christ at His last hour on earth as the God-Man.
"One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He [Jesus] said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" Luke 23:39-43 (NASB).
• Great was Christ's agony and anguish on the Cross. Though Christ could have been so consumed with His own agony and suffering for our sins and rightly ignore the repentant robber, He didn't. He didn't even criticize the criminal for waiting till the last minute of his life before seeking God. He didn't turn a deaf ear to his cry for salvation. He didn't disappoint him. In fact, Jesus even gave him more than he had asked for. The criminal who confessed his need of Christ was not only saved but was promised personal communion with Christ Himself in the best of all places-Paradise. What company! What bliss! The repentant robber didn't have to wait! That very day, he was ushered into eternal bliss and glory. He may have been the most wretched sinner on earth. But his sincere trust in Christ changed all that. He was saved without any formal rites or religious rituals, proving that salvation is not dependent on good works.
• Earlier on, Dr. Luke, the inspired writer of the Gospel of Luke, recorded the salvation of Zaccheus. Zaccheus was a chief tax collector. He was rich. But he was a sinner who needed to be saved. When he encountered Jesus and came face to face with his own sins, he genuinely repented and was saved by the Lord Jesus. Our Lord's comment on His salvation of Zaccheus are found in these memorable words: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham" Luke 19:9 (NASB).
• Apostle Paul was a sinner and a persecutor of the church. But he too was saved. When he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was radically saved and transformed. Please read Acts 9:1-19 to refresh your memory of how the Risen Lord personally saved Paul. Paul himself was later inspired by the Spirit to affirm the saving work of Jesus Christ in his life.
"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NASB).
• In fact, Acts can be summarized as the book of salvation. On the Day of Pentecost, through the Spirit-filled preaching of Peter, 3,000 sinners were saved (see Acts 2:1-41). That number increased to 5,000 after Peter's second sermon which came as a result of healing a crippled beggar (see Acts 3:1-4:4). Many souls were saved through the preaching of Philip in Samaria (see Acts 8:4-12). Acts 8:25-38 is a record of the salvation of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Many souls turned to the Lord at Lydda and Sharon and Joppa through the message and miracles performed by Peter (see Acts 9:32-42). Cornelius and his relatives and close friends were saved at Caesarea through the preaching of Peter (see Acts 10). The list goes on. Sinners were saved at Antioch, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, even at Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus. God has a passion for saving sinners. He actually saves sinners wherever they are found on this piece of His earth. I thank God He has continued His work of saving sinners. He has not gone on retirement. He is still actually saving sinners, making them a new creation in Christ, reconciling them to Himself through Jesus Christ, and restoring them into a loving personal relationship with Him.
• Are we not saved? Have we not been brought into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Shall we not share our personal testimonies of God's saving grace and power so that others can know that God actually saves sinners? He really does. Therefore, let's tell it to those in our families who don't know Jesus! Let's tell it to our friends, neighbors, schoolmates, and co-workers! Let's tell it to all and let God do the saving!
M. Sanctifying saved sinners to become like His Son (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 10:10, 14; John 17:17, 19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23)
• God also displays His passion for redeeming and reconciling sinful rebels to Himself through Jesus Christ by sanctifying them to become more like His Son. In other words, God doesn't save sinners and leave them in their former state of sin. He begins a process of setting them apart to take on the image of His Son. He changes them more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
• In fact, the Bible reveals God's commitment to changing repentant sinners into Christlikeness. It says:
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren" Romans 8:29 (NASB).
• I cannot thank God enough for His single-minded purpose and determination to change me more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Why? Left to myself, becoming like Jesus will never happen. It will never be a reality in my life. It's a truth I know all too well. But because God had planned it, purposed it, and promised it in His word, I know being conformed into the image of Jesus will indeed become a reality in my life. Please understand that the change or the conformity spoken of here is not about having attributes of deity, or even physically resembling Christ. The change God is effecting in those He saves has to do with our moral character becoming more and more like that of Jesus Christ. This is awesome! May I say to us, if you are genuinely born again, saved, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, then God is currently and continuously at work in you to transform your character into that of Jesus Christ. Why? He wants you to reflect Christ. He wants Jesus to increase in you while you decrease (see John 3:30). What use would it be for God to save sinners only to leave them in their wretched, wayward, and wicked state of sinfulness! It would be like cleaning up a pig from its filth and letting it go return to the mire to wallow in it. No. God has a greater purpose for saving sinners than that. He has committed Himself to the work of changing, conforming, and transforming each and everyone of them to become like His Son, to more and more reflect the character of Christ, their Lord and Savior.
• The Bible speaks of the certainty of God's work of setting apart, or sanctifying or making saved sinners holy (Greek: hagiazo) only on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, God's work of setting apart sinners to become more like Christ is fully dependent on the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for their sins. This means the believer cannot take any credit for his or her sanctification.
"By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all... For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified"Hebrews 10:10, 14 (NASB).
• Our sanctification was so dear to the heart of Jesus that He specifically prayed for it before sacrificing Himself.
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth... For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth" John 17:17, 19 (NASB).
• Following in the footsteps of Christ, Apostle Paul also prayed for the sanctification of the believers in the first century church of Thessalonica.
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NASB)
• Yes, God saves sinners. But that's not all. He also sets them apart. He sanctifies them to become like His Son. This is good news to share with others. No matter how wretched, wayward, wicked we are, when God saves us, He begins a work of changing us into the likeness of Jesus. He will not leave us in our old rotten ways. This a message of hope. There are many who are without hope. Satan continually heaps guilt upon them. He deceives them. He tells them lies that God will never accept them. Of course, God will accept them on the basis of Christ's sacrifice. There is acceptance for them on the merit of Jesus, not on their merit. Moreover, God will make them a brand new creation in Christ, changing them into Christlikeness. We must depend on the Spirit of God to share this message of hope and redemption.
N. Sharing of His eternal glory and presence with them (John 14:1-3; 17:24; Luke 23:43)
• God's passion for saving sinners goes beyond His commitment to sanctify them. His passion is also manifested in His willingness to share His eternal glory and presence with redeemed sinners. Imagine this! God saves us and leaves us to go through life till death lays its icy cold hands on us. And that's all! Nothing at all after the grave! Actually, many people do believe there is nothing after the grave. At best, we enter into a state of meaningless existence. This has been the belief of many throughout the ages. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. And that's it folks! I've actually spoken with a few of the people who hold tenaciously to this belief. One of them was even bold to tell me, "This is all there is. So I'm living it up to the full." Nothing I said at the time changed his mind, but I still pray for him because I believe that God can do a lot through faith-filled prayer.
• No. There is more beyond the grave. For the believer, it is sharing in the eternal glory and presence of the Lord Jesus. But for the unbeliever, it is a separation from the loving and comforting presence of God.
• Before going to the cross, our Lord promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for us.
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places, if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" John 14:1-3 (NASB).
Please notice the repetition of the phrase, "a place for you." This speaks of the blessed future of believers. Notice also the emphatic expression, "I will...receive you to Myself." This reveals that believers will have personal communion with Jesus, the Lord of glory. The glorious future of saved sinners is not only about a "place," but more importantly about a "person," that is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Wherever that place is, one thing we can be certain of is that, the Person of the Lord Jesus is the One who will make it glorious and great. Blessed and blissful.
• Before going to the cross, the Lord Jesus also prayed to His Father that those the Father had given Him would see His glory and share it with Him.
"Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" John 17:24 (NASB).
• Since Jesus is always heard by the Father (see John 11:41-42), we know that this prayer will be fully answered. Nothing that Jesus requested the Father in His High Priestly prayer on our behalf will be left unanswered. All will be answered. Thanks be to God! Please notice that Jesus not only requested that we be with Him, but for us to see His glory. The word translated "see" (Greek:theoreo) also means "look at," "look on," "observe," "perceive," "watch," "behold." We are going to behold the glory of Jesus Christ. To behold it means, we will be sharing in it. We will experience it. Folks, the best is yet to come for believers! There is more after the grave for the believer. It is sharing in the eternal glory and presence of Jesus Christ and the Father.
• Even when the repentant robber was saved on the cross, Jesus promised him personal communion with Himself. If there was nothing at all beyond the grave, this man would have hoped in vain. He would have turned to Jesus in vain. He would have been deceived and deluded. He would have experienced the greatest disappointment in life. But was he disappointed? Was he deceived? Was he deluded? Did he turn to Jesus in vain? Did he hope in vain? No. Not at all. Never. The repentant robber became the first fruit of Christ who beheld the glory of Christ, sharing in it, experiencing it, and observing it in great wonder. This is the promise he received. Speaking with great confidence and certainty, Jesus promised the dying thief: "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" Luke 23:43 (NASB). Notice again the dual theme of place and person. Paradise is Paradise because of the Person of Christ. Heaven is heaven because of the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ.
• The future of believers is indescribably bright, brighter than anything we would ever experience here on earth. Not only that, it is going to be blissful beyond description. It will be eternally glorious. Jesus Himself assures us of that. We can count on His word. It's a guarantee. If God has given us such a guarantee about a blessed future for all those who believe in Jesus, shouldn't we let others know? Especially, in such a time as this, in which things are falling apart before our own eyes? Shouldn't we tell people about a blissful future with God, far better than the best the world is promising them? Even if some stubbornly believe that there is nothing beyond the grave, shouldn't our hearts break for them, even as our Lord wept over Jerusalem?
O. Satisfying of our deepest longings of serving and seeing His face (Revelation 22:1-4)
• Finally, God's passion for saving sinners is seen in the satisfying of our deepest longings of serving and seeing His face. Every single saved sinner yearns, longs, and looks forward to the day he or she will see God's face, and forever be in His presence, serving Him with singleness of heart and mind. Redeemed sinners will have the indescribable joy of experiencing God in the fullest sense. Yes, some believers have had mountain top experiences with God here on earth. But those experiences pale in comparison to what is awaiting Christians in their glorified state. God could have saved sinners and kept them at a safe distance from Him. If He did that, He would still be God. He would still be righteous. Keeping saved sinners from coming close to Him would have been a justifiable act. Why? He is a holy God. He is a righteous God. He does not have to share His presence and glory with people who have been badly tainted with sin. Moreover, keeping redeemed rebels at a safe distance from Him would have meant God would have less to invest in them. He would not have to invest Himself in making new and glorified bodies for them to qualify them to share in His glorious, holy and eternal presence. Life would have been far more easier for God. He has already invested so much in redeemed sinners for which He has not gained much return. Moreover, many of His redeemed believers do not acknowledge His investment in their lives let alone appreciate them. Why invest more in these ungrateful and unappreciating redeemed rebels? Has He not already done enough for them? Yes, indeed! He's done so much for us. Yet, He is willing to demonstrate His deep desire for saving sinners by investing more in them to fit them in His holy presence and to satisfy their deepest longings of seeing His face and serving Him for all eternity. This is what Revelation is all about. The final chapter of Revelation sums up God's passion for saving sinners as seen in His commitment to satisfying their deepest and heartfelt desires. Apostle John was given a glorious vision of what awaits all of God's redeemed throughout the ages. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John writes:
"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads" Revelation 22:1-4 (NASB).
• Please notice the repeated use of the language of certainty! "There will no longer be any curse." "Will be in it." "Will serve Him." Will see His face." We will see God and serve Him. This is only possible because of God's final investment in us to make us fit for His holy and majestic presence. Believers will be in their glorified state at this time. In other words, the perishable would have put on the imperishable, and the mortal would have put on immortality (see 1 Corinthians 15:53-54).
• Please also notice that the throne described in this vision is "the throne of God and of the Lamb." This teaches that God the Father and God the Son, the Lamb, share a common throne. This speaks of their equality, though they are distinct in their personality. Please, also notice that the Bible didn't say, "we will see their face." Rather, it says, "we will see His face." This also speaks of their oneness, their unity.
• To demonstrate His passion for saving sinners, God went to great lengths not only share His eternal glory with them, but also to satisfy their deepest longings of actually serving Him with undivided attention and seeing His face for all eternity. Perfect service and perfect communion. What a glorious prospect awaiting every single believer! Paying millions of dollars to travel into space for a few days cannot compare to this. Nor does landing on the moon! Nothing on earth comes close to the blessed experience of seeing God's face and serving Him in a sinless environment and in a sinless state. Oh what glorious things God has in store for believers! "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him" 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NASB).
• If such is the glory awaiting us, shall we not live as people of destiny? Shall we not be excited about our future? Shall we not let others know what God has in store for those who believe in Jesus Christ and in His saving work on the Cross? Shall we not share this message of life and hope to a lost and dying world? What more are waiting for God to do before we give testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus? The apostles and early disciples gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all (Acts 4:33). It is now our turn to testify to His resurrection by telling others of a glorious future awaiting all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. We must not fail in this!
• We have seen that God has an all consuming passion for saving wayward sinners. He demonstrated this passion in several ways. It is seen in the sending of His Son, His Spirit, and His servants. It is also displayed in the suffering, service, sacrifice, submission, and the shedding of His Son's blood. It is also revealed in the seeking, setting free of captives, and in the actual saving of the lost by His Son. It is also shown in the spelling out of His plan of salvation, sanctifying of saved sinners, sharing His eternal glory with redeemed sinners, and in the satisfying of their deepest longings of seeing His face and serving Him with wholehearted devotion for all eternity.
• Personally, I believe God revealed His passion to us in His Word so that we might gain His heart for seeking lost sinners, especially in such a time as this. We need a fresh passion for reaching unbelievers. Only the God of passion can accomplish this work in each of our hearts. For some of us, this work begins with confessing our apathy, complacency, lack of zeal for reaching the lost with the Good News, giving excuses, and busyness with the things of this world. For others, this work begins with a fresh consecration of our lives to God. Still for others, this work begins with realizing that life is too short to waste on trivialities. However this work begins in each of our lives to generate a fresh passion in our hearts, we also need to rediscover a sense of urgency in reaching the lost. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will generate a fresh passion in our hearts to be about God's business of reaching the lost with a sense of urgency.
• If you are not a believer in Jesus and have read this article, I want you to know that God loves you and wants to save you. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for your sins. All you have to do is to acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, who is Jesus Christ. Believe, that is, trust in Jesus with all your heart that He is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners. Confess Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life today. Depending on your good works will never save you. Depend only on Jesus' death on the Cross for the forgiveness of all your sins, past, present, and future and He will save you. Eternal life, that is, living for all eternity and experiencing life at its fullest in the presence of Jesus will be yours today.
• Simply pray to Jesus:
Lord Jesus, I admit to You today that I am a sinner. I need You to save me from my sins and forgive me of my sins. I believe that You are the Son of God and the Savior of sinners who died on the Cross to pay the full penalty for my sins. I sincerely confess You as the Lord and Savior of my life from this very moment and for the rest of my life. I am depending on Your work on the Cross for the forgiveness of my sins and salvation, not my works. Thank You for saving me and giving me eternal life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit to love You, know You, live by Your Word, and serve You for the rest of my life. In Your name, Dear Jesus, I pray! Amen.
• If God's Spirit has sincerely moved you to pray this prayer, I want to rejoice with you. On the authority of God's Word, you are saved. You are now a child of God. Jesus has made you a new creation. You have entered a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus has begun the work of changing you and conforming you into His image. If you need assistance in understanding your new found faith, please contact us at PraiseHim@yesuli.org and we would be happy to assist you to develop and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Thank you and God bless you.
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