Sunday, 9 October 2016

Faith in Christ for Salvation

Faith in Christ for Salvation

Here are the sermon notes for a sermon preached on 9th October 2016 at Underhill Methodist Church, Portland, Dorset on the theme of "Faith in Christ for Salvation" as part of a series on FAITH.
It is based on Ephesians 2:2-10 and John 14:1- (full readings at the bottom).

Ephesians 2:8-9a For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 

The Problem of Sin
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins 
We have a problem Houston! My daughter has not along returned from the World Methodist Conference and Council in Houston.  Accurately I believe the words were “Houston, we’ve had a problem” uttered from the Apollo 13 flight which went wrong although thankfully the crew made it back alive.

There are some problems which are killers. We have a problem.   
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins 

We’re going to define a number of words that we use as we go through this.
Sin = both moral and ethical failure and putting ourselves at the centre of the world instead of God.

The problem with sin is it cuts us off from a Holy God and it does that not just now but for eternity.   It would be like trying to pour some dirty water into a bowl of strong bleach.  The dirty water could not exist in an environment of powerful cleansing and so would be consumed by it.

Sin/transgressions have a devastating effect on our relationship with God and our spiritual life now and for eternity.

What contributes to that sin, what helps to cause it?
3 things mentioned in this reading from Ephesians.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts.

The World – which lives to different priorities.

The Devil – Fighting against us.

The Flesh – our own desires that well up from within.

We have a problem.  It makes us dead!
Also, in the words of the reading, we were by nature deserving of wrath

That’s the bit about God not being able to tolerate sin – like the powerful bleach cannot allow dirt to live alongside it.

So that’s a mess.
We decide we don’t need God.
We decide we know better.
We end up apart from God.
We face that state for eternity.
We deserve the wrath of God.

That’s what we deserve, but….
In the same way that a loving parent would try to find a way to help their children if they were in trouble; in the same that a loving parent might try to reach out to their children if there was a broken relationship; in the same way that a loving parent might try to help clear up the mess of a broken wounded life, so God reaches out to us, to try to help us in trouble, to heal a broken relationship, to clean up the mess.

we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved

We may have deserved the wrath of God for the way we have turned from him and made a mess of life and the world but God has this difficulty.  The difficulty is this – that although God hates the sin he loves the sinner.  And he does reach out to us. He acts out of grace – it is by grace you have been saved

Definition of Grace = the unmerited favour of God towards people.  His grace arises out of his mercy.  Mercy = compassion or forbearance shown towards an offender.

This is a doctrine which goes to the heart of the Protestant Church and has been a touchstone since the Reformation. The main tenets of the Reformation have been gathered into five "Solas£ (meaning "alone" or "only" in Latin).
 - By Faith alone
-  By Scripture alone
-  Through Christ alone
-  By Grace alone
-Glory to God alone.

These were not written down as a list at the time but have been used since to summarise those things central to teh Reformation. 


And so moving forward to verses 8 & 9 of Epehsians 2, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  This says it is by God’s unmerited favour that we have been saved through faith and this is all because of God – nothing to do with what we have done.  It is the gift of God.   And it is the only way to be reunited with God and to be assured of eternal life with him.

What are we “saved” from?  Sin and death.

And so we have the Problem of Sin but we also have
The Promise of Salvation
Salvation by grace, through faith – all from God, and nothing to do with our works.  We cannot earn salvation and eternal life, we can only receive it.
Billy Graham said “Salvation is an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God, and sustained by God.” And that is accomplished though Jesus and him alone.    The Christian faith says there is a problem (of sin) that cannot be overcome by anybody except God.  The way he does that is through Jesus who in his life stands against sin and conquers death and when he lives in us he plants the seed that enables us to live life for him and to reject sin.  he also brings the seed of resurrection life so we can know God’s love in eternity.  That is why we have the reading from John 14 today – because Jesus challenges to hear these words:
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

All of this through faith in God whom we see and encounter in Christ.

Definition of Faith = complete trust.  Complete trust in Jesus who died for us, who wants to live within us, who wants to lead us in this life and into the next life.  Your life in his hands.

In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape his punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding his rescue.
Unknown.

The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work; and a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord; he could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God; and he took it. Christ threw him a passport, and took him into Paradise.
D. L. Moody, "Day by Day with D.L Moody," Moody Press.


 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 





Bible Readings


Ephesians 2:1-10
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.




John 14:1-7
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’