Sermon: Who can be saved?

Bible talk by Steve Millay

Who can be saved?
April 12th, 2016 11:09 am     A+ | a-
The preacher on the radio said that all you have to do is confess Jesus as Lord and believe God raised Him up and you will be saved.  That is it.  He even provided a quick prayer that you can say to accomplish it.  So with just a few words you can have a guaranteed spot in the Kingdom of God.  Just a few words and then nothing else will be required of you.  Just a few words and you will have eternal life.
You don’t have to worry about commandments and going to Church.  You don’t have to worry about the consequence of sinning.  You can pretty much do whatever you want, as long as you confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him up then you will be saved.
Is the preacher correct?  Is this what the scriptures teach?
It seems that way; the preacher on the radio is quoting almost word for word from Romans chapter 10.
And for the masses of people out there who are tired of the Church politics.  For the masses of people who are tired of the holier than thou attitude of Christians.  For these masses of people this teaching is music to their ears.
They don’t want to get lost in all the debates about doctrine, they don’t want worry about fellowship issues, and they don’t want to have someone tell them the way they live their life is offensive.  So what the preacher on the radio is telling them is good.  It is not only good, but it is based on the word of God.
As it is written “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved”.
Is the scripture wrong?  Is Paul off base?  It seems too good to be true, is there fine print hidden somewhere in the text that people are missing?
If it is true, then no doubt that there will be a lot of people saved.  You could probably go down town and ask everyone you meet if they believe Jesus is Lord and if they believe he was raised from the dead.  Probably half of the people you ask will say yes.  In some polls 70% of the people in this country we live say that they are Christian.
On the flip side of this, there are a lot of Church groups that feel that Salvation is much more exclusive.  That you will only be saved if you are a member of their Church, or if you live a Godly life, or if keep the Sabbath day holy, or if you don't eat certain foods.  They have a long check list of items that you have to do in order to insure that you will be saved.  And even if you follow the entire list of items there still may not be assurance of your salvation.
The irony is that these groups with a long list of items that you have to do also use the word of God as a basis for what they teach. 
Therefore you have people reading and studying the bible and reaching totally different conclusions about salvation.  If people who have spent their whole life studying the bible can't agree on salvation that where does that leave us?  All the different teachings about salvation just can leave us confused.
Even in the chapter that we read this morning there is no clear check list about who will be saved.  Do we identity with the Pharisee?  Perhaps we are confident in our own righteousness.  We are better than the people around us.  We don’t rob people, we don’t do evil, and we don’t commit adultery.  We fast two times a week; we give 10% of everything we own.  We keep the commandments.  Certainly if anyone is going to be in the Kingdom it will be us!  But Jesus teaches that all those things do not justify us.
So if keeping the commandments doesn’t guarantee us eternal life, then what do we do?  Do we choose to fail?  Do we become so ashamed of ourselves that we can’t even look up to heaven?  Knowing that we aren’t even worthy of the calling.  Do we become a failure and always rely on Gods mercy in order to be justified?  Is this how Jesus teaches that we are saved?
But wait, in this same passage of scripture Jesus tells us something else; he teaches that we have to be like a little child.  Unless we receive the Kingdom like a little child we will never enter it.  Okay, so we need to be unworthy and we need to have the mind of a child.
But hold on for a moment, this chapter has someone actually asking Jesus the question we want to know.  What must we do to inherit eternal life?  Perfect, that is exactly what we are trying to figure out.  If Jesus now answers and says, believe that I am Lord and that God will raise me from the dead and you will have eternal life.  That would agree with what Paul teaches, that would appeal to the masses of people around us.
So how does Christ answer the question?  He gives a check list of items.  Don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t lie, honor your parents.  These are the five commandments that you must do to inherit eternal life.  Don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t lie, and honor your parents.  This is the answer to the question that we all want to know.
Now I am just getting confused.  Paul simply says believe Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead.  That’s it.  But Jesus is saying, it is not the commandments that save you, and then he says it is the commandments but only 5 of them, and then he says that we should have a mind like a little child.  But to add to the confusion Jesus also adds something else.  He says that if we really want eternal life we need to go sell everything we own and give it to the poor.
I guess that no one in this room is going to get eternal life because by the last count I don’t think any of us have gone and sold everything we have and given it to the poor.  But isn’t that what Jesus taught that needed to be done?   Why do we think we are immune from that instruction?
It is no wonder that people get so frustrated by religion.  There are times when it seems to make sense and then we dig further into it and now it just confuses us. 
Paul on the other hand seemed to have given us a simple easy to digest answer to what we need to do to be saved.  It seems to be very different from what Jesus is teaching about what we need to do.  So what is the correct answer?
Well, if we look closer at what Paul teaches in the book of Romans, we learn that it’s a part of a longer letter that he writes.  So we really need to look at the entire letter to make sure we understand the teaching.  It is in Romans 10 we are told that we just need to believe Jesus is Lord and God raised him up.  But then in the very next chapter Paul tells us not to be arrogant about it and he adds that if we don’t continue in Gods kindness we will be cut off.  He then tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. And if you read on to chapters 12 and 13 you will find a very long list of things we need to do.  Commandments and rules and guidelines and do this and do that and don’t do this and don’t do that.
Why does it have to be so complicated? 
Why does it have to be so complicated?
People are the reason that it has to be so complicated.  People are the ones making it complicated; making it impossible to get eternal life.  The reason is because people don’t know what it means to believe; people don’t know what it means to have faith.  If we didn’t have all the commandments and rules and guidelines we would think that faith is simply just saying I believe.  But true faith comes from deep inside us, and true faith is more than words on a piece of paper.
The people who were saved from Egypt thought that they believed.  They had been witnesses of the signs from God.   The mighty nation of Egypt was crushed in front of their eyes.  They were very happy to load up all they owned and to leave that terrible place.  But as soon as it got tough, as soon as they faced trial, there was no belief at all in the God that saves.  They wanted to go back to Egypt.  They wanted to go back and be slaves. 
If any should have believed it should have been that generation.  They walked through the middle of the sea.  They felt the spirit of God holding back the water.  They saw the pillar of fire and they were led by a cloud.  If any should have believed, it should have been those people.
But as soon as they became hungry, as soon as they became thirsty they lost any faith that they had and just longed for Egypt.
So much energy is wasted debating if faith saves us or if works saves us.  Some men point to Hebrews 11 and say, look it is faith and works have nothing to do with it.  But look closely at Hebrews 11, the chapter is filled with works. That is, People doing things because of their belief.  None of those people in that chapter sat back and said I don’t have to do anything because I have faith.  Those thoughts did not even come to mind.  All the people listed in Hebrews 11 gave everything for their belief.  They made life changing decisions.  They responded when God called them.  They gave their life, they trusted Him.  So never sit back and say that you don’t have to do anything because you are a child of faith.
A child of faith will leave behind everything they grew up with and their comfortable way of life and will walk with Abraham to the promise land.  A child of faith will spend their time and energy, year after year building the ark right next to Noah.  A child of faith will run as fast as Joseph to get away from temptation, a child of faith will not be driven by careers and money, but will give that all up and follow Moses out to an unknown place.  A child of faith will not be afraid, but will walk out with David against the mighty Goliath. 
We say we have faith, these men and woman had faith – faith that changed their lives.  Faith that you could see in everything they did.  It is by that faith that they received a good report. 
And for us it is written “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved”.  By God’s grace he provided us a way to be saved.  He so loved the world that He gave his only begotten that whoever believes on him will have eternal life. 
It is that simple, but the problem is we don’t know what it means to believe. 
So Jesus is teaching us in Luke 18 what it means to believe.  First don’t put your trust in your own righteousness like the Pharisee and certainly don’t put down the person standing next to you.  Second know that we aren’t perfect, and like the Publican we will fail, but when we do fail we can trust the mercy of God.  And if we do fail, don’t ever let your faith fail.  Third come to Jesus with the same minds as the moms bringing their infants.  They had no doubt that their child would be blessed if only Jesus touched them.  Forth, show God that you believe in him by trusting that He will provide for you .
Belief doesn’t end when you come out of the waters of baptism.  Belief doesn’t end when you are standing by the sea and your enemy is about to overtake you.  Belief doesn’t end when you are starving.  Belief doesn’t end when you run into trouble, or are persecuted, or are afraid.  That is when Belief begins.
Crowds of people want to believe, crowds of people want something solid they can hold to, crowds of people are crying for salvation, but salvation comes by believing from deep inside, and so many people who came and heard beautiful words and so many people that were feed with a few loafs of bread and some fish, so many of those people left him and walked away as soon as they heard something they didn’t like, or when trial came.
We are just ordinary people, we have also heard beautiful words and we have been feed with a little bit of food.  Our normal life may find us just sitting on our couches and not doing much, but the time will come when our belief, our faith will be put to the test.
I don't know what it is going to be for you.  For Daniel it was to pray to God even when it met death, for Job it was to trust God even when everything he owned was taken away.  It will be different for each of us, but at some point we will be challenged to prove our faith in God.  What is faith?
Faith is turning the other cheek when someone hits you 
Faith is not being upset when someone steals something from you
Faith is not being worried about tomorrow
Faith is not letting something or someone at work upset you
Faith is smiling when the storm strikes
Faith is trusting God even when you don't have all the answers.
Faith is forgiving someone who has hurt you 
Faith is doing something good and not caring if people notice.
Faith is quietly saying a prayer before you leave on a trip
Faith is being kind to your enemies and not talking behind their backs
Faith is gathering food for the poor
Faith is the strength it takes to walk through that door and want to be here
Faith is trusting in miracles, even when there is no proof that there will be one
Faith is letting your light shine in a dark world.
Faith is helping a stranger on the street
Faith believes in the impossible.
Faith believes when the whole world doesn’t
Faith is something that we can see, that believes in something that we can’t see
Faith is not losing control when we are under pressure
Faith is holding our self together even if our family splits in two
Faith is not giving up even when you don’t have a home
Faith is not being afraid of the terrors of the world
Faith being there for friends who may just don’t care anymore
Faith is shelter when the rain pours down
Faith is not turning away like a blind man when we see the poor on the street
Faith is holding onto love even when it just seems to get slashed and torn
Faith is smiling when we feel like breaking.
Faith is giving ourselves another chance, giving love another chance.
Faith is not being ashamed to be called old fashioned
Faith is caring for the people around you
Faith is clinging onto God even when we feel the pressures, the pressures of life
This is faith!
And this faith prepares us for the day when the serpent says to us, death, dying, don’t worry about that.  You are alive right now, that is all that matters.  The serpent will say listen, listen to me.  I know what’s best for you; I know how you can feel good about yourself.  As for this God you worship, He is nowhere to be seen.  Trust me and you will enjoy all that life has to give.
And how will we answer the serpent in that day?  We will say that we believe…God!
This is the faith that saves.
Now maybe we understand what Paul meant when he wrote:  “The word is near you;
It is in your mouth and in your heart,” WHEN you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.  You will be saved.
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