The Church in St. Louis

But to Him who is able to do superabundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which operates in us. - Eph 3:20

What it means to be a Christian

Message 1

God's Desire

Tonight the focus of the message is salvation. What does it mean to be saved? What does it really mean when we say, "I am a Christian?" I can tell you something from my own experience. In my hometown there was a building owned by the Salvation Army. They had this giant neon cross and it flashed  "Jesus Saves". I always thought that was really funny.  I heard that phrase, "Jesus saves," a lot growing up. It's a phrase that's very popular in American culture - you see it at football games, you see it spray-painted on underpasses, but I never knew what that meant. What does it really mean, that Jesus saves? I asked some people, like my parents and others, and the general answer that I always got was that Jesus saves you from hell. I was told that if you are a Christian, you don't have to go to hell. So being young, I felt that this was a great thing. All the Christians I knew growing up were people I didn't like. I didn't like hanging around with them. I didn't want to be around them. I would much rather be with my friends, who weren't saved, doing all sorts of other things that I shouldn't be doing, and getting in a whole lot of trouble and having all the fun that I wanted. I thought to myself, "well if being saved just means that I don't have to go to hell, I'm going to live my life the way I want to live it, and then right before I die, I'll get saved. That way I can do what I want, and I don't have to go to hell. I can have my way, and I don't have to suffer for eternity." I felt satisfied, and I figured God was happy because He doesn't want people to suffer. The only thing He wants is for you to be saved." Be saved and everything is fine."

However, I came to find out that this was not what God wanted. That was actually just my own desire - my concept of what God wanted. It wasn't what God said that He wanted. It was something that I had made up to say "this is what God wants." It made me happy, and I thought I was doing God a big favor and making Him happy too.   I thought God would be thinking, ?ere's a Christian, He's saved too. When he's dead, it'll just be one more person who gets to go to heaven." 

Well, this is not what God wants. God has a very specific desire. When He made man He had a very specific intention. We can see this in Genesis 1:26: "God said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven, and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing upon the earth" When God made man, man was made in the very image of God. Man looked, resembled and in every way was exactly like God. God made man just like Himself, because God wanted man to be God's representative on earth. That's what it means when the verse says  "to have dominion." He wanted man to express Him on the earth. After creating man with this intention, He took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden.

In that garden, there were two trees - the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God took Adam and put him in that garden, and those two trees were right in front of him. God said  "Adam, you can eat from any tree that's in this garden, just don't eat of that tree - the knowledge of good and evil." God was very clear.

God wanted Adam to express Him on earth, and God wanted a relationship with Adam. He wanted a very intimate, personal relationship with Adam, but He wasn't going to force it upon Adam. He wasn't going to make Adam have this relationship - He was going to let Adam choose. That's why those two trees were there, for Adam to have a choice: "am I going to eat of God's life, represented by the tree of life, or am I going to eat of sin and death, represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." This was the choice that Adam had. I think everyone here knows the story. Adam chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He didn't choose to eat God's life. When Adam did this, it created a serious problem.

The Problem


When Adam ate that fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered into Adam. God never made sin, but when Adam chose to do that, sin came into him. Adam was perfect before that. Adam was everything God wanted. When Adam ate from the fruit of that tree, sin came into him, and then, basically everything in the whole world experienced the result: sin came in, death came in, sins came in ... all of these things that were contrary to what God wanted came in the moment he ate from that tree. Romans 5:12 says, "just as through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death passed onto all men because all have sinned." When he ate of that tree, he was filled - he was constituted with sin and death. Adam became sin. Adam became death. That was his very nature. Everything about him became sin and death. This was a man that had been made in the image of God who was now full of sin and death. There's another important aspect to this verse. Because we human beings are all descended from the first man Adam, it means that we have that same nature in us. The moment we're born, we're born into sin and born into death. It becomes part of who we are, just by being born. We don't have to do anything or say anything. The moment we're born, our very life is sin and death.

To go further and to show why sin is such a big problem, I have an example. Sin is an offense to God. It's something that accumulates between you and God. And let's say that this golf ball is a sin. We'll make a it a little sin, like a white lie. I'll give you an example - when I went back home this summer, my mother had broken her wrist. She had a huge purple cast on her wrist, and the first thing that she says to me is " how do you like my cast?" I was thinking, "you're 53 years old. Why do you have a bright purple cast? It's the ugliest thing that you could have!" This is what I was thinking. But instead, I said "Oh, it's kind of cool. It looks good." It's a lie, right? Very simple, not a big deal to us, but it's still a sin, a little sin - a little golf ball. Now imagine how many of these sins - these golf balls - you accumulate in one day. Think of the tiny little things like that, or even big things that you accumulate during your day. If each one looks like a golf ball, your day might end up looking like this great big, heavy bag full of golf balls. Just by living your life - with the little thoughts, the little words - each of these is a golf ball. And this giant bag is represents only one day's accumulation of your sin. Now, multiply that by your whole life. And multiply that by how many people have ever existed throughout the course of human history! How many golf balls would you have? It's beyond counting. And every single golf ball, every single sin, is an offense to God. By the end of your own life, you may have a gigantic room full of golf balls. Each of the billions of people that have lived will also have a room full. And all of those, every single one, is an offense to God. And God makes it very clear that when you have an offense, a sin like that - it has a consequence. All of these sins have consequences. They have wages. Each one deserves something. Romans 6:23 says "for the wages of sin is death." Each sin has a price. God is perfect. He is righteous, and He has a standard. And for every single sin that we accumulate, the price that God requires is death.

This is a very sobering word, but this is God's standard. And if you look at your life, if that were the way things were, we'd all be dead before we were two years old. By that time we would have accumulated at least one sin, and that sin would have meant death for us. So there's a very big problem - between us and God. We accumulate all of these offenses, all of these sins, all of these problems, and God who is perfect and righteous has to do something about all of those problems that keep us from Him. He must do something to deal with it.


But there's a deeper issue than just sins. You've got all of these sins, these individual things, but these are just symptoms. The root of the problem is actually Sin itself. This refers to the nature in you that is a problem. Sins are the actual actions, the things that you do. But Sin is who you really are. It is that nature, that thing that's in you, that even though you want to do the right thing, makes you do the wrong thing. It's that part of your being that you know just isn't right with the Lord.


What do all these things issue in?  They issue in Death. When God made Adam, God never intended Adam to die. That was not what God wanted. God never wanted any man to die. Death was never in His plan. But when those sins came in, death came in. That's something that weighs on every human being. It may not seem like much to us now, because we are young, but it weighs on every person. Older people, if you talk to them, if they don't know the lord, there is a weight of death. It's certain, it's coming, there's a weight of death. This is why Paul says in Romans 7:24 "Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death??That's the cry of people. People want to be delivered from death. Every person has a fear of death.

The World

Then there is the problem of the world. When Adam fell and all of that sin and death came in, it had a manifestation. That manifestation can be seen throughout all of history. If you look at the state of the world today, it's very clear that there a lot of things in this world that are not Godly. All of the evil, the suffering, the pain that's in the world - this was not God's intention. When sin came in, Satan took control of the earth, and it basically became his realm. He has worked out awful things throughout history. The world is basically in his hands, and all of those things, sin, death, suffering and pain are working. God never intended for those things to be man's experience. God never intended that this would be what the world is. But when Adam ate that fruit, when he took sin into him, that's what the whole world became filled with. The whole world became filled with all of that evil. It came under Satan's control.


Finally there is the problem of the law. Here are all of these people in the image of God, made after his likeness, and they don't even know who He is. They have no idea who He is. And they don't even know that they're sinning. They don't even know that what they're doing offends God. So what God did was to bring in the Law. It's not just the 10 commandments, there's a whole system of law, at least 600 of them that God gave to the children of Israel. This law was given to show you what your condition is. Besides the moral law, there are all kinds of little things covered - from what you can eat and how to cook it, to how you have to place your shoes when you come into the room, how to shave, cut your hair, all of these things to show you who God is - that He has a standard that is perfect. The law was given to show you that you can't meet the standard. No matter how hard you try, there is no way to fulfill all of these laws. So the law does two things. It shows you who God is - that God has a standard that's perfect. And it shows you that you can't meet that standard. No matter how hard you try there is absolutely no way you can fulfill that law. The law shows you who God is and who you are, and makes it clear that there is no way for you to meet the standard according to that law.


's Solution

So at this point the situation seems really bad. We have sin, sins, the world and the law showing you'll never be good enough ... and God knew this. God saw the situation, and God had a solution - God became a man. God Himself became a man! This man was just like any other man. He wasn't really tall, wasn't particularly good looking, wasn't really charismatic ... but He became a man. Except this man had one big difference from every other man in history - this man never sinned. There was no sin in Him ever. This man was God. He lived a life on this earth. When He was 33, He said, " I'm going to pay the price for all of humanity's sins. God says that every sin has a wage of death. I'm going to pay that price, even though I don't deserve it, I'll pay that price for the sake of every human being. So He was crucified, and all of these sins throughout the course of human history were put on Him, even though He didn't deserve it. Even though He had never sinned in His whole life. They were all put on Him, and He paid the price for every single one of those sins. When He died, He took all those sins with Him. He terminated them all in His one death. He paid the price for every sin that was ever committed in the course of human history.1 Peter 2:24 says " who Himself bore up our sins in His body on the tree, in order that we having died to sin might live to righteousness, by whose bruise we were healed." The Bible tells us that when Jesus died, He took up on the cross all of those sins - everything that we've ever done to offend God was paid for by Christ. So that eliminated a lot of the problem!


But God didn't just stop there. It would be very easy to stop there - all the sins are dealt with, and there's no problem between God and man. But God went even further. He went to deal with the problems very specifically. He didn't just pay the price for the sins so that there's no debt. He completely forgave it. He completely removed any debt, any consideration of it - so much that God doesn't even remember it. It's completely gone.


He also made us "justified." This is a funny word that can be hard to understand. Its not just that we have forgiveness of sins, but that we can now have a relationship with the Lord. We are now able to come to the Lord. There's nothing in the way to stop us anymore. There are no sins or offenses to be a wall to prevent us from coming to the Lord. He justified us. He made us right. He gave us a position to come to Him - to come and seek Him. Before, there was no way for man to come to God because man had accumulated so many sins that there was no way for God to deal with him. But when Christ died, Christ paid that price for all the sins. He justified mankind. Now He says "man you can come to Me. There's nothing between Me and you to prevent you from coming to Me."

Eternal Life

This next verse is my favorite part. It's the most famous verse in the Bible as well. In Christ's death, He also made Life available to all of us. He made Eternal life available to us." For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that everyone who believes into Him would not perish but have eternal life." Now this is a verse that I never really understood. What's so great about eternal life? I thought this meant that you don't ever really die. You just continue living the same life that you have now. Frankly, I don't like that idea so much. The life I have now is not perfect ?there are a lot of things, suffering, and obligations and responsibilities that I don't like. Why would I want that to go on for eternity? But this isn't the life we're talking about. What we're talking about is God's Life. This is the very Life of God. When Christ died, He made God's Life available. When we're talking about God's Life, we're talking about an amazing Life- a perfect Life, an indestructible Life, an unconquerable Life, a buoyant Life, a Life filled with all of the good things of what God is! It's filled with God Himself! That's eternal Life! It's not our life extending indefinitely, it's God's Life! There are no terrible things in God's Life. There's nothing corruptible, nothing dead, no sin, no suffering- it's God's Life! It's full of all of His love, all of the wonderful things that He is! That's what Christ made available!


Even further, He set us free. It's not just that our sins are forgiven, but that we're completely free. We don't have to live in that sin anymore. We've been set free. The Bible says that sin and death make us their slaves. We were slaves to sin and death. But when Christ died and paid that price, He set us free from slavery. I was speaking earlier about that nature that we have in us to just do things that we know are wrong?hat's what I'm talking about when I say slavery. We can't do what we want to do. There's something in us that makes us do the things we don't want to do. So God dealt with that problem. God made us free from that. It's not just that our sins are forgiven so I can just keep living in them but be forgiven, but He dealt with the problem that was there. He dealt with the problem of who we are. He set us free so that we no longer have to be slaves to the sin that's in us. We no longer have to be subject to those little urges to do the things you know you shouldn't do.


Even further, He made us His sons. He took people that didn't know Him, and in fact hated Him, and cursed Him, and wanted nothing to do with Him, that committed all of these offenses to hurt God, and He made them His sons. This is what salvation is. Salvation isn't just that you're saved from hell. When you're saved you're forgiven from all your sins. You're justified, you have a right position before god. You can freely go to Him. He gives you His eternal Life - his very Life into your being. In your very being you have God's Life. And He sets us free. All of the things that we were under - we were subject to sins, to death, to the world, to the law - He set us free from all of these things. There's no longer any obligation, there's no longer anything holding us. God completely set us free from all of those things. And He's taken us and made us His sons. This is the kind of relationship that God wants. God wants a relationship with man where He has His Life in man, and that man is free to come to Him, that even man would be considered His son. That's the type of intimate relationship that God wanted with Adam, and that's the type of relationship that He made available with Christ.


All of these things happened when Christ died. They're a fact. God made them all available to us. But it still requires for man to choose. Even though God has done all of these things, even though He has forgiven sins, even though He's justified man, even though He's given eternal Life, man has to take it. It's available, but it still requires for man to take it." If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." That's all God said you have to do to get all of these things that God made available. All you have to do is confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart, you'll be saved. That's it. God has made it very simple. He made all of these things available to us, and then made it very easy for us to get them. All it requires of a man is that we just have to open our mouth and say " Jesus is Lord." Confess this, and you're saved.  At that very moment, you get all of those things. You're freed from all of your sins. You're forgiven from all of your sins. You're justified before God. You have God's Life, and you are God's son. God set us free from all of those problems that were weighing down mankind - weighing down every person, by one act. And then He made it available to everyone, so that all we have to do is say "Lord... You're the Lord! I believe in you!" That's it! And the moment that happens, anyone can be saved. Anyone can get all of these things that are under God's provision. He made them all available - that open. That's all we have to do.

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