Tag Archives: salvation

1. Step #1: Acknowledge Jesus As The Messiah

The following three lessons present three steps that each of us need to take in order to receive new life in Jesus. This first lesson focuses on who Jesus is, and our need to recognize that he is the Savior.

The focus verse for this lesson is Matthew 16:16: Jesus asked,

“’Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”

The popular Jesus

People generally like Jesus, at least what they think they know of him. And Jesus is one of, if not the most famous person to have ever lived. So people like to have Jesus on their side. And what they typically do is take a part of Jesus that they like, and then make this to be who Jesus is for them.

Here’s some examples of popular versions of Jesus:

  • Jesus was a great philosopher – a teacher who taught love. You find this among some historians and philosophers.
  • Jesus was a prophet – a man who challenged injustice and died for his cause. You find this among some political activists as well as people of other faiths who try to make a place for Jesus in their belief system.
  • Jesus was a spiritual mystic – a charismatic person with wisdom and healing powers. You find this among “new age” folks, or in Eastern religions, where Jesus is one of many manifestations of the divine.

People make out of Jesus whatever they want. And you find this stuff in book stores, on TV and all over. But what we want to do is . . .

Meet the real Jesus

We do this by looking at what Jesus actually said and did as this is recorded in the Gospels, not just a piece here or there. And let me just say at the beginning that the real Jesus was very controversial. (If you were raised in a Christian environment, you can easily miss this). After all, what he said and did was so radical that it got him killed! He was executed by the State.

Let’s look at the real Jesus:

1. Jesus did mighty works of power. Jesus healed people. He healed, “every disease and every affliction among the people” – Matthew 4:23-24. God’s power worked through him to do this.

Jesus also did other kinds of miracles: multiplying food (Mark 6:30-44); calming a storm by his word (Luke 8:22-25); walking on water (Mark 6:45-52); and raising the dead (Luke 7:11-17). Jesus did amazing works of power.

2. Jesus cast out demons with a word. He had amazing power and authority over evil spirits. As just one example, Luke 11:14 recounts, “Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.” Jesus did this time and again.

3. Jesus forgave sins, something only God can do. Mark 2:3-12 tells this story:

Mark 2:3-12 (ESV)
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. [4] And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. [5] And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” [6] Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, [7] “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” [8] And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? [9] Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? [10] But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— [11] “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” [12] And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

“And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!'”

4. He taught that with his coming God’s promises are all coming to fulfillment. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand . . . believe the good news” – Mark 1:15. Jesus is saying, ‘God’s purposes and promises are being fulfilled through me, believe it!’

5. He said that he is now the teacher who tells us what God’s will is. Speaking of himself, he said, “You have one teacher” – Matthew 23:10. He is saying is that he is now the interpreter of God’s will for us.

And, in fact, he changes Moses’ teaching – the one who was the supreme teacher of God’s way. He changes it by raising it to a higher standard. For example he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44. Moses taught you this . . ., but I am now raising the standard.

6. He demanded that with his coming each one of us should now begin to live our lives differently. His message to all was “Repent” – Mark 1:15, that is, fundamentally change how you are living your life. Jesus is saying, ‘I’m here, God’s purpose is at hand, now everyone has to change how they live.’

7. He called for a higher allegiance to him than to our own families. He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” – Matthew 10:37. Think about your family. If you have a good relationship with them, this is an amazing statement! And this would include the “extended family” of our country, wherever we may be from. Jesus calls for an allegiance to him that exceeds all our earthly connections.

8. He called us to love him more than our own lives. He said a disciple of his must “hate . . . his/her own life” – Luke 14:26. What he is saying is that, when you have to choose between being faithful to him or losing your life, you choose him. And this isn’t just talking about life or death situations. It means that you are willing to sacrifice for Jesus on a daily basis, to give up what you want and like, if that’s what it means to be faithful to him.

9. He said that acceptance or rejection of him will determine our eternal destiny. He said, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 10:32-33. This is a picture of the final judgment. If we, now, deny Jesus is who he is, then he will deny us before God on that day. But if we acknowledge him, we will be acknowledged; we will be saved.

10. He said that his predictions about the future cannot fail. He said concerning his words about the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” – Mark 13:31. His words are more enduring than heaven and the earth we walk on.

11. He said that he would be killed and would be resurrected by God. Jesus said that he “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” – Luke 9:22. And this is, in fact, what happened, as reported by his disciples and by the evidence of the empty tomb.

12. He said that he would return to earth and judge all people on the final day. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he (or she)  has done.” – Matthew 16:27.

One thing that is clear from this brief survey is that . . .

The real Jesus is not a popular Jesus

Jesus is so much more than what any of them say, since they just take a piece of him and run with it according to what they like. It’s clear from his own statements and actions that he is:

  • much more than just another great philosopher
  • much more than just another prophet
  • much more than just another mystic

No one spoke like he did. No one acted like he did. Jesus is in a class by himself. He exercised amazing power and authority over sin, demons, diseases, nature and even death. And he claimed authority over every part of our lives.

Jesus’ claim, ‘I am the Messiah’

Jesus put all this together by saying that he was the promised Messiah. He asked his disciples one day (from our focus verse), “’Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” – Matthew 16:15-16. And Jesus accepts Peter’s confession that he is the Messiah, as straight from God. “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” – Matthew 16:17. Jesus claims to be the promised Messiah of God.

Well, you might ask, “What is the Messiah?” It’s the Hebrew word for “anointed one” (the Greek word is “Christ”). It has to do with the Old Testament practice of anointing someone with oil when they are commissioned by God to do a task. In this case, there was the expectation among many Jews, based on the Scriptures, that God was sending someone to deliver and save his people and to bring God’s righteous rule to this earth – the kingdom of God. This was not just “an” anointed one, this was “the” anointed one. [For more read – Prophetic Predictions and Foreshadowings of Jesus, the Messiah].

So the claim here is that Jesus is this “anointed one.” Jesus is the one God has sent to save and rule over the earth. Jesus is the one with authority over all creation, including us. Another way to say it, is that “Jesus is Lord.” This is what it means to call Jesus Messiah.

This brings us back to the question we began with . . .

“Who do you say that I am?”

Jesus knew that his statements and actions would be deeply controversial. That’s why he said in Matthew 11:6 – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As we have seen, Jesus was a polarizing figure, and that by design.

  • Jesus forced those in his day to decide about him. Everyone had to answer the question, “Who do you say that I am?” They had to answer, “Who is this Jesus?”
  • And he forces us to answer as well. Jesus asks each of you the same question: “Who do you say that I am?”

And although like others, we may want to place Jesus in some other category, he was a good person, or just a prophet (but not everything that he claimed – a popular Jesus) Jesus himself doesn’t allow us to do this! By the sheer power of who he is, and the extreme way in which he presents himself, as we saw – Jesus leaves us no middle ground! As he said in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” We are either with him or against him. These are the only two options, according to Jesus. We can either accept him for who he says he is, or be offended by him and reject him.

We can acknowledge that he is indeed the Messiah, and then we have to rearrange our lives and start living like this is true. Or, we have to say he is not who he says he is and that something was seriously wrong with him.

This latter option is what the Pharisees chose. They held that Jesus was a false prophet. Yes, you claim authority, but you are really only blaspheming (Matthew 9:3). Yes, you have amazing power, we can’t deny it, but it is really demonic power (Luke 11:15).

Like the Pharisees and everyone else who encounters Jesus, we have to make a choice. Which will it be for us? Jesus’ challenge to each of us is to believe that he is who he says he is; to acknowledge that he is indeed Lord; to confess as Peter did – “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And then Jesus challenges us to begin to live our lives like this is true, which is what the rest of these lessons are about.

William Higgins

3. Step #3: Receive New Life From God

In this lesson we look at how Jesus not only came to call us to live a new kind of life – Jesus came to make this new life possible for us.

The focus verses for this lesson are from Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

As we will see, these verses call us to ask for and receive the new life that Jesus gives to us.

Our situation

Jesus has to act to make it possible for us to live the new life, because we are stuck under judgment. If you do evil and stubbornly rebel against God, this is the result. God judges your sin. You reap what you sow. And your sins will find you out. What is this judgment?

We have been given over to Satan. Luke 4:5-6 tells us that the whole world is under the power of Satan. And he holds on to us. In Luke 11:21-22 Jesus pictures Satan as a “strong man, fully armed” guarding us in his fortress. We are prisoners of Satan.

We have also been given over to death. As Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul who sins shall die.” Jesus agreed. In Luke 13:3 he talks about how everyone “will perish” because of sin. He also talks about “Hades” in several places, the prison house of the dead. This is the realm of the dead until the final judgment. We are spiritually dead and we will all physically die at some point.

So our situation is that, due to our sin, we are in prison, as it were, miserable and waiting for death. Or to say it in another way, we are not able to respond to Jesus’ call to live a new life.

But there’s good news

Despite our sin and rebellion, God has chosen to be merciful. God sees the world – its misery and suffering under Satan and death (which is God’s judgment). But God has had a change of heart. God has heard our cries. And so God has sent Jesus to save us; so that we can begin a new life in Jesus.

This salvation (or, what Jesus calls the kingdom of God) is pictured for us in the ministry of Jesus:

  • He casts out demons setting people free from the power of Satan
  • He heals people of their suffering
  • He raises people from the dead

But he didn’t just come to give us a picture, or something temporary, or partial (these people all still suffered and then later died). He came to change the whole world and how it works, inside out. He came to bring about a new creation. Jesus came to save us completely. And this required that he give himself completely for us.

Jesus’ love for us

Jesus said about himself in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man came . . .  to give his life as a ransom for many.” As this verse says, he “gave his life.” He was not guilty or deserving of death, but he willingly gave himself up anyway. And he did this “for many.” He died for us – for you and for me. It is what we deserved; our judgment. But he bore it for us.

This reveals God’s love to us, that he sent his Son to die for us. And it certainly shows us Jesus’ love that he freely gave himself for us. So, yes, there is judgment for sin, but God’s last word is a word of love and grace, for all who will receive it.

Now lets look at how Jesus brought about salvation.

Jesus’ Victory

First of all, Jesus defeated Satan. That’s because Jesus never sinned, even though Satan tested him. His whole life was summed up in his prayer to God just before he went to the cross and an unjust death – “Not my will, but yours be done” – Luke 22:42. Yet Satan had Jesus killed – Luke 22:3-6, for no good reason. So, therefore, Satan is judged and cast down, while Jesus is exalted. God stepped in to bring justice for Jesus. So there is a reversal. That this happened can be seen from the gospel narrative itself. At the beginning of the story Satan has all authority on earth – Matthew 4:8-9. But at the end, Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” – Matthew 28:18. There has been a switch, a reversal due to God’s intervention.

Jesus also defeated death. Jesus was raised from the dead. Death could not hold Jesus down. He broke out of Hades, which no human has ever done. That’s because death had no right to him. As the angel said after the resurrection, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” – Luke 24:5-6.

Jesus not only defeated Satan and death, our enemies, next we see how he makes it possible for us to be set free.

Our salvation

Through Jesus’ death, we can be forgiven. Jesus’ death has established a new covenant. In Matthew 26:28 he spoke of his death on the cross as “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is like the sacrifice that established the first covenant (Exodus 24:8). The language of “blood of the covenant” is used in both places. But this is the promised new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) that provides free and full forgiveness for our sins.

So Jesus teaches us that though his death, our sins can be forgiven; we can find God’s mercy and kindness. And since we can be forgiven, we can be freed from Satan and death! We can start over again with a clean slate. All our guilt and shame, our sinful acts, our selfish behavior can be wiped away, through what Jesus has done. But that’s not all . . .

Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can receive new life by the Spirit. Being exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus received the promise of the Spirit. In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And after his resurrection Jesus poured out this promised Spirit upon his followers (Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2).

And when the Spirit comes into our hearts, something miraculous and amazing happens within!

  • We come alive to God and everything becomes new within. We are not spiritually dead anymore. We can know God and be in relationship with God.
  • God also enables us to live the new life Jesus models for us. For although “the flesh is weak,” “the Spirit is willing” – Mark 14:38. The Spirit strengthens us each day to help us to do God’s will.
  • And also, the Spirit gives us power to serve God, as Jesus says in Acts 1:8. We are given gifts and abilities and anointings so that we can work for the kingdom of God.

And this new life doesn’t end here. We can live on into eternity. At the resurrection, when Jesus returns, the righteous will be raised up and given new bodies (like Jesus has) and will live forever. In Luke 20:35-36 Jesus said – “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead . . . cannot die anymore . . ..” He also said in Matthew 25:46, talking about the final judgment – “the righteous (will go) into eternal life.”

Because of what Jesus has done for us, in his great love, we can receive all this.

What must you do to receive new life?

Having acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, and having heeded Jesus’ call to repentance, ask God for forgiveness, for mercy, for a new start, for cleansing. Forgiveness is a gift of God to us, but you need to ask for it. No one else can do it for you. You have to come before God and ask yourself. It doesn’t happen if you don’t ask. God holds out the gift, but you have to reach out to receive it.

The promise comes to us from our focus verses – “Ask, and it will be given to you.” – Matthew 7:7. This applies to all of God’s “good gifts” to us, as it says in Matthew 7:11. And it certainly applies to forgiveness. Claim God’s promise in faith for yourself and receive the gift.

Also, ask for the Spirit to come into your life and make you new. The Spirit is God’s gift to you, but you need to ask for this, as well. Pray – “Come into my heart, fill me, bring me new life!”

Again the promise is: “Ask, and it will be given to you” – Matthew 7:7. In Luke 11:13 Jesus specifically applies these words to asking for and receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Claim this promise in faith for yourself and receive God’s gift to you.

William Higgins