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“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)
As I look around and see the news, and world events, I sometimes wonder: “have we reached some sort of transition time in history?” It almost feels like we are living in one of the Bible’s chapters that talk about The Great Controversy, or as some would call it, The Apocalypse. It does appear at the very least that perhaps things are going to be quite different for everyone from now on.
Many of us who look at society now are saying things like: “You know; I just want to make sure that I am ready, and that my loved ones are ready. I want The Lord to be able to use me to reach out to others regarding their eternity – because what could be more important now than knowing Jesus, and being assured of “eternal life?” (John 17:3)
For the Christian, life can be summed up as having two purposes: 1) We come to Jesus just as we are: (John 6:37) [as in vetical relationship to God]. 2) So first we come, (to Christ) and then we go, with Jesus, in the horizontal relationship with our fellow human beings. (1 John 1:1-3) Our love for God, and our love for each other. AND,this is right where all of our struggles fit in. Where our testimonies are born from. (Rev 12:10-11). But this is right where/how we tend to break the ten commandments. We do not love God enough. We don’t know Jesus well enough. We don’t love one another aright. Yet, as Christians, we want the experience of a new heart. As Jesus has said: “unless you are born again you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (John 3:3) People need to know about this “new birth.” We, as Christians cannot possibly teach about a new heart to anyone unless we ourselves experience it. And that new birth that Jesus talks about is what this week’s devotional study is all about.
The Science Of Salvation: Isa 6:1-5…
There is a system, or a series of steps that one usually follows in seeking out this new birth experience. But the steps are not written in stone or in order. It can be boiled down to just one step, Come to Jesus just as you are. (John 6:37). Don’t try to fix or improve yourself first. he takes us as we are! Let us look briefly at the experience of being born again through the prophet Isaiah.
1/ Isaiah repents of his sin, after he sees the goodness of God. The power of God. (see Isa 6:5).
2/ Isaiah tells us that as soon as he confessed his iniquity, that he was “taken away” and his “sin purged.” (see Isa 6:6)
3/ And right after Isaiah confessed his sin, he “heard the Voice of The Lord.” (see Isa 6:7).
I have come to see Isaiah’s experiences as representing the last-day Church. The experience of “conversion” is the very same for Christians today, as it was back in the day with Isaiah. After we come to Jesus with an open, honest heart; we repent of our sin, and we then go on in our daily life to hear God speaking to our hearts in a brand new way. (2 Cor 5:17). Its kind of like when Jesus came out of the water, and there was the Voice from heaven saying: “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22).
The Great Commission
With Isaiah, God said: “who should I send? Who will go for us?” (Isa 6:8). And Isaiah, without hesitation replied: “Here am I – send me.” (Isa 6:8). And so we see by the prophet Isaiah’s experience here that it is necessary to come to Jesus and then “GO into all the world.”
Where Does Salvation Begin?
Salvation is wonderfully simple, and simply wonderful. Salvation really just starts by seeing God. The Bible describes this seeing God further by informing us that “the goodness of God leads us to repentance.” (Rom 2:4). People will sometimes just see Jesus in us. We might be the only “Bible” they see. Recall that first, Isaiah “saw The Lord.” But not only did isaiah “see the Lord” the Bible makes a point of telling us that Isaiah saw the Lord “the year that King Uzziah died.” (Isaiah 6:1). King Uzziah was a very good King back in the day. Isaiah was really close to this King. Yet, it was the year that King Uzziah died where Isaiah saw the Lord best. Now that is such a significant point regarding our own salvation today; and how most of us will see Him the best when things are at their worst. What Isaiah saw then was captioned in Romans 2:4 as “the goodness of God which leads to repentance.”
We can see Isaiah’s repentance in Isa 6:5 and just as soon as Isaiah repented he was forgiven. (see Isa 6:6-7). And just as soon as Isaiah was forgiven, he was given the great commission. (see Isa 6:8). This is such GOOD NEWS because it’s the very same GOOD NEWS as we can see in The New Testament. THIS is why Rev 14:6-12 calls it “the everlasting gospel” because it is the same gospel for al people of all ages! And THAT is better news than what we usually see on the internet or coming from today’s pulpits. I find myself amazed, overwhelmed, at how wide is His mercy, and grace; and at how deep is His love.
It seems apparent that it has always been at the cross where people always see Jesus the best, and maybe this is partly why Paul once exclaimed: “God forbid that I glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ, my Lord.” (Gal 6;14) By living a sinless life and dying on our behalf, and when we really see what Jesus has done for us, His “goodness” has a major, transforming influence upon us. (Rom 12:2).
Many preachers like to use the tough talk types of sermons/lectures when they talk about being saved. The cry always centers around “repent or die. No eternal life for you if don’t be good.” But the Bible, while it does mention some consequences of not being saved, mostly emphasizes that it is God’s goodness” that leads us to repent and be saved. Transformed day by day into His likeness, simply because His goodness has attracted us to Him. We do not repent or get saved out of fear of the hell-fire consequences that some threaten the masses with. Its our love for Jesus that attracts us to Him, and makes us want to live His way and emulate His character. When we see God’s goodness,” we are transformed. We don’t conform. The Bible uses the word “transformed by the renewing of our minds…” (Rom 12:2).
Sometimes I have thought that a crucifixion would be very disturbing to personally view. It would have many nasty sights and sounds that we could never truly “un-see.” But maybe this is a good thing? For there is today, still great power in that crucifixion, when we think of Someone doing all of that just for us! And isn’t it at the cross where we today still see Jesus the best? Where His “goodness” (Rom 12:2) is most clearly seen? I would imagine thats why Paul Said: “God forbid that I glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Gal 6:14). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20).
Thief On The Cross
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” (Luke 23:39-40)
Out of the two criminals hanging on either side of Jesus, who was on the middle cross, one of them blasphemed Jesus, and the other one repented with all his heart. It is this very kind of 11th hour conversion that can give us great hope today. This part of the story is not found in the other three gospel accounts of the crucifixion. But would it be wise for us to always wait until the 11th hour to come to Jesus and repent and then just offer to Jesus our leftovers before we go down to the grave? The conversion of the thief on the cross takes place right there, at the cross. As soon as we go, and see THAT “goodness of God,” (Rom 12:2), then we will repent immediately and be ready for our own, personal Great Commission. THAT thief, on a cross beside Jesus, literally was crucified WITH Christ. Paul’s experience, as in our’s today will echo the thoughts in Gal 2:20
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
Often while going through our many trials today we can be seen praying mightily for some kind of relief, for some kind of comfort, for the pain to stop. For the terror to subside. We always want Jesus to make us more comfortable. But why don’t we often pray for Jesus to just get us through the difficulty? We need His strength and wisdom and peace to get through our trials. Does Jesus automatically make us more comfortable while we are living a selfish life. Concerned just about ourselves? Sometimes I have caught myself just praying to be more comfortable or prosperous on my intentional way to darkness and sin. Of course, we must note, that the disciples who “stood afar off” by the cross, even though they denied jesus, as He hung on the cross, were still saved. Its because of another promise in Eph 2:13 that says
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:13)
Obviously, not all who wander are lost. So there is hope for everyone in Christ. Even if one is a real dirty dog, if they are still alive, there will be hope in Christ:
“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Eccl 9:4)
This is why its so important to know what the state of the dead is all about because in that one Bible truth alone we can know that as long as we are alive, there is wonderful hope in Christ, but once we have died, there is no more hope. Thats likely why Jesus said later in Revelation, at the point of the resurrection:
“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” (Rev 22:11).
All it takes is just one look at Christ and Him crucified. Even the Roman Soldier standing guard at the foot of the cross exclaimed at the death of Jesus: “surely this is The Lord Jesus.”
“As for the Captain and the soldiers who were with Him keeping guard over Jesus, when they witnessed the earthquake and the other occurrences they were filled with terror, and exclaimed, “Assuredly he was God’s Son.” (Mat 27:54)
Christ was crowned with thorns. His hands and feet were pierced by nails. Every step onward in the shameful scene was one of intense suffering. But it was God’s purpose that publicity should be given to the whole transaction, point after point, scene after scene, one phase of humiliation reaching into another. The main point was to show “the goodness of God” (Rom 12:2) which is the only thing that can lead us to repentance. There is no such thing as repenting when it is done out of fear. There are just a few things that happen regarding repentance and conversion. They are, as follows:
1) we see the Lord, and by contrast see ourselves as we really are (Isa 6:5, Luke 23:40)
2) then we repent, we are genuinely sorry (Luke 23:40, Isa 6:5)
3) we publically confess (Luke 23:40-41)
4) we believe and then receive the promise: (“today, I tell you, you shall be with me in Paradise”) [Luke 23:43]
5) we embrace the cross, we are then crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20)
6) we receive and share the blessing (1 John 1:1-3)
Just as the thief on the cross was about to die; he turned to Christ for forgiveness, and Christ accepted him. This shows that our deeds don’t save us—our faith in Christ and Him crucified does. It is never too late to turn to God. Even in his misery, Jesus had mercy on this criminal who decided to believe in him. Our lives will be much more useful and fulfilling if we turn to God early, but even those who repent at the very last moment will be with God in paradise. There is really only one step needed. Just look and live.
As soon as Christ was fastened to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. The great thing he died to purchase and procure for us, is the forgiveness of sin. This he prays for. Jesus was crucified between two thieves; in them were shown the different effects the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men in the preaching the gospel. One malefactor was hardened to the last. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. The other was softened at the last: he was snatched as a brand out of the burning, and made a monument of Divine mercy. This gives no encouragement to any to put off repentance to their death-beds, or to hope that they shall then find mercy. It is certain that true repentance is never too late; but it is as certain that late repentance is seldom true. None can be sure they shall have time to repent at death, but every person may be sure they cannot have the advantages this penitent thief had. We shall see the case to be singular, if we observe the uncommon effects of God’s grace upon this man. He reproved the other for railing on Christ. He owned that he deserved what was done to him. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongfully. Observe his faith in this prayer. Christ was in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father. He made this profession before the wonders were displayed which put honour on Christ’s sufferings, and startled the centurion. He believed in a life to come, and desired to be happy in that life; not like the other thief, to be only saved from the cross. Observe his humility in this prayer.
His request “Lord, remember me;” shows he was humbled in true repentance, and he brought forth all the fruits for repentance his circumstances would admit. Christ upon the cross, is the whole story. Though he was in the greatest struggle and agony, yet he had pity for a poor penitent, hanging on a cross beside Him. By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves; but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him. We can be sure that in general people will die the same way that they lived. (taken from Mathew Henry Commentary on Luke 23)
That Jesus might sanctify the people with His own blood, Christ “suffered without the gate.” Heb 13:12. Christ, our substitute, was to suffer without the boundaries of Jerusalem. He died outside the gate, where felons and murderers were executed. Full of significance are the words, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal 3:13. Both Isaiah’s experience and that of the two thieves represent the experience of the last day Church.
At The Cross I Saw Salvation
To Be Continued Next Week