“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.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30 NIV
Finished means finished.
LISTEN UP: YOU CAN’T SAVE YOURSELF, not even a little.
No amount of good works or your own effort will save you. Period. It won't even give you a little boost or a slight edge. But, thank God, Jesus did it all for us:
The work is finished.
Jesus was the sacrificial lamb of God who took the sins of the world (that’s YOURS and MINE) upon himself to once and for all time bridge the gap between us and God for all who believe in Him.
Why is there a gap, you might ask? Because humans have a congenital heart problem called sin (the original Greek word used for sin literally means missing the mark, like an archer), and sin is what separates us from God because heaven, God's Kingdom, can have no sin in it -- that's the rule.
"There is no one righteous, not even one;" (Romans 3:10 & Psalm 14:3) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
We're damaged goods, every one of us. And we can't fix ourselves because it's embedded in our very nature:
"You were once dead because of your failures and sins. You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else." Ephesians 2:1-3 GW
See, our souls are like old, white tee shirts. You don't realize how gray and dingy they are until you put them next to a brand-new one. And no amount of work or washing will make the old shirt perfectly clean again. That's just the way it is.
If you had a physical heart problem and needed surgery, you'd go to a heart surgeon. You can't operate on your own heart. So it is with our spiritual hearts too.
We need Dr. God to heal our spiritual heart problem. And thankfully he wants to heal us, too. Badly.
So much so, in fact, that he stepped down from heaven, where everything is perfect, to rescue us in the greatest love story ever told.
Jesus, God's eternal word (logos), came into our filthy broken world, lived a perfect sinless life, and unjustly died an excruciating, humiliating criminal’s death on the cross, taking all of our sins on himself — so that YOU AND I could be made clean through his blood and then clothed in HIS righteousness (not our own).
It's like we get to put on his perfect, new, spotless, bright white tee shirt over our own dingy one, and by doing so God will refuse to remember our sins anymore. We're made whole, not by anything we've done, but only by what Jesus did. Not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is.
The prophet Isaiah, speaking God's words, wrote this:
"But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 43:24-25 NIV
John the Baptist understood this too:
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”” John 1:29 NIV
(See also Exodus 12:7, 12-13 to see how the Jews clearly understood what John was saying.)
So to summarize: We've all sinned (Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). So we all deserve to die for our sins. Jesus was sinless so even though he died, death could not hold him and he was raised to life again. He sacrificed himself for all of our sins (Romans 5:8) so that we can be born into a new life. We didn't do a thing! He did it all. When we acknowledge WHAT HE DID for us and NOT WHAT WE DO, we are made alive again through him (Romans 10:9-10).
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13 NIV
THAT is the essence of being SAVED BY GRACE and being BORN AGAIN, my friends. It's admitting our own hopeless sin problem that separates us from God, acknowledging in our hearts and with our mouths who Jesus is and what he did for us, and then completely submitting ourselves to him. When you're truly born again, God, who is love, lives in you. And your life is never the same again.
"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations." Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT
I pray that each of you can feel the tugging on your heart and be born again into a new life through Christ Jesus. Grab the life ring! Be saved. Be transformed. It’s the best gift ever, you just need to receive it
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 NIV
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20 ESV