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Salvation and works

I received an email with the following statement:

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
 
One of the most overlooked verses in the Scriptures utilizes the very concept God spoke unto Jeremiah. It is when Jesus said when He was lifted up He would draw all men into Himself. It is the loving kindness that God gave to all men. As the angels declared the Savior would be a blessing to all men. As the Prophets and Moses declared, “every knee shall bow.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Adam all men are dead in sin but in the Savior all will be made alive and whole.
 
If one were to look around the religions of the world, it is hard to find good news within them. You will find hatred and a portraying of “God” as mean, vindictive and quite the loser. In fact, religions routinely have God only saving a few “good” men and the rest will face destruction of untold suffering. The “loving kindness that I have drawn thee” is lost with each and every religion.
 
God is not loser and He will show love and forgiveness to all men. He will not draw the few because they have “decided” to follow Him. No, He will draw all men because of His great love for all. Religion is all about works and a parade of see what I have done to earn my “supposed salvation.” As for me, I am quite comfortable be a wretched sinner incapable of saying anything or doing anything to earn God’s mercy and grace. In fact only a fool would want to earn what God designed to be unearnable, unattainable and unimaginable. I am quite comfortable with trusting in God’s loving kindness.

The author’s comments are italicized and my response and Scripture is in bold:

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

 One of the most overlooked verses in the Scriptures utilizes the very concept God spoke unto Jeremiah. It is when Jesus said when He was lifted up He would draw all men into Himself. It is the loving kindness that God gave to all men. As the angels declared the Savior would be a blessing to all men. As the Prophets and Moses declared, “every knee shall bow.” The Apostle Paul wrote in Adam all men are dead in sin but in the Savior all will be made alive and whole.

To the above I say absolutely!  God does love us.  He created us in His image. Genesis 1:  26Then God said,(O) “Let us make man[h] in our image,(P) after our likeness. And(Q) let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him;(R) male and female he created them.

Jesus is the Savior who offers salvation to all. Absolutely!

John 3:16-18 (English Standard Version)

 16“For(A) God so loved(B) the world,[a](C) that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not(D) perish but have eternal life. 17For(E) God did not send his Son into the world(F) to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18(G) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not(H) believed in the name of the only Son of God.

While God does draw us to Him…through creation, His love, His Son,etc., He loves us enough to give us free will.  In the above passage in John 3 He states that whoever believes will not perish, but whoever does not believe is condemned.  It is our choice.  And yes, he does not want us to be condemned.  He wants us to be saved.  He wants though.  He gives us choice.  God could have created robots.  He could have left out the choice but He did not. 

There are many verses in the Bible that address our sin, and our ability to be saved from that sinfulness.

Mark 7:21-23 (English Standard Version)

21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft,(A) murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit,(B) sensuality,(C) envy,(D) slander,(E) pride,(F) foolishness. 23(G) All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

1 John 1:9 (English Standard Version)

9(A) If we confess our sins, he is(B) faithful and just to forgive us our sins and(C) to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Again, the above tells us that we must accept salvation.  We must come to repentance for our sin and then salvation is free to us.

In Romans 10, Paul addresses the issue of sin and salvation:

 “5For(E) Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that(F) the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6But(G) the righteousness based on faith says,(H) “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7or “‘Who will descend into the(I) abyss?'” (that is,(J) to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say?(K) “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if(L) you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and(M) believe in your heart(N) that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says,(O) “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12(P) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;(Q) for the same Lord is Lord of all,(R) bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For(S) “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him(T) of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear(U) without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,(V) “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But(W) they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says,(X) “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So(Y) faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

In Galatians and Colossians the sinfulness of man and salvation from that sin is addressed and it states that we must “put on…” which is a choice and act on our part.

Galatians 5:15-26 (English Standard Version)

15But if you(A) bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Walk by the Spirit

 16But I say,(B) walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify(C) the desires of the flesh. 17For(D) the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,(E) to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are(F) led by the Spirit,(G) you are not under the law. 19Now(H) the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,(I) divisions, 21envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that(J) those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But(K) the fruit of the Spirit is(L) love, joy, peace, patience,(M) kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23(N) gentleness,(O) self-control;(P) against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus(Q) have crucified the flesh with its(R) passions and desires.

 25If we live by the Spirit,(S) let us also walk by the Spirit. 26(T) Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Colossians 3:12-17 (English Standard Version)

 12(A) Put on then, as(B) God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,(C) compassionate hearts,(D) kindness,(E) humility, meekness, and patience, 13(F) bearing with one another and,(G) if one has a complaint against another,(H) forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on(I) love, which(J) binds everything together in(K) perfect harmony. 15And let(L) the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called(M) in one body. And(N) be thankful. 16Let(O) the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,(P) singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,(Q) with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And(R) whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,(S) giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Yes, every knee shall bow.  Can you imagine anyone standing before God in all of His Holiness and Perfection and Purity and denying that He is real?  Even satan does not deny Christ.  He made every effort to get Christ to fall (Luke 4) but was unsuccessful. He knew Jesus was the Son of God or he would not have gone to these efforts.

Then the author states: 

If one were to look around the religions of the world, it is hard to find good news within them. You will find hatred and a portraying of “God” as mean, vindictive and quite the loser. In fact, religions routinely have God only saving a few “good” men and the rest will face destruction of untold suffering. The “loving kindness that I have drawn thee” is lost with each and every religion.

 

God is not loser and He will show love and forgiveness to all men. He will not draw the few because they have “decided” to follow Him. No, He will draw all men because of His great love for all.

The author states that it is hard to find good news in religions around the world.  I cannot speak of others, but in Christianity the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is proclaimed and not hidden.  It is taught, preached, and in song.  If someone is a Christian then they don’t just settle for their own salvation. A Christian seeks for others to be saved.  If the author thinks God is portrayed as mean or vindictive by Christians then he is choosing to focus on the fact that we believe we are sinners and we need and must have salvation.  Punishment for sin is not because God is vindictive.  It is because He loves us.  He wants us to live in love, peace, humility, kindness, etc.  God knows that when we focus on the fruits of the Spirit and turn from sin, we have a more peaceful and God-glorifying life.  It is for our own peace and joy in life to turn from sin.  Even Paul battled sin:

Romans 7: 15”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good (God’s law). 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
      So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

Yes, like Paul we battle sin.  But we do not just accept sin because God wants all of us to be saved.  We must remember that we have to repent of that sin and have faith in Christ.  God loved us so much that He allowed the Holy Spirit to remain with us to convict us of sin, in order to keep us focused on God, and to give us wisdom and understanding of Scripture.

The author needs to turn to Jeremiah 18 where the example of the potter and the clay is written. God is the potter and we are the clay.  We are not saved through our works, nor claim to be. The author states:

Religion is all about works and a parade of see what I have done to earn my “supposed salvation.” As for me, I am quite comfortable be a wretched sinner incapable of saying anything or doing anything to earn God’s mercy and grace. In fact only a fool would want to earn what God designed to be unearnable, unattainable and unimaginable. I am quite comfortable with trusting in God’s loving kindness.

Our salvation is not about our works.  We are the clay and God is continually trying to mold us to be more like Him.

  We are not suppose to accept our sinfulness and enjoy it knowing Christ died for us.  We are suppose to try and be more like Him.  Actually imitate Christ.

Ephesians 5

 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In being an imitator of God, our “works” or actions should serve others, love others…that is what our works is about.  Our works are not about earning salvation, but instead living our salvation.  We accept and confess we are sinners and the only way to salvation is Christ, and then our lives should show fruits of that salvation.  The works are not to make us better than others or to earn salvation.  The works are to help others know Christ.  To allow God to love others through us. 

From this passage in Mark 11 we learn that Jesus wants us to produce fruit…works.  He is also was angered at their sin:

Jesus Clears the Temple

 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

 15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
   ” ‘My house will be called
      a house of prayer for all nations’[
c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[d]

 18The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

 19When evening came, they[e] went out of the city.

The Withered Fig Tree

 20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

 22“Have[f] faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”[g]

And in Matthew 7 Jesus teaches about our works.  He tells us in this lesson that everyone will not come to salvation.  Salvation is not based on works but if one is saved they will produce fruit. 

Matthew 7
A Tree and Its Fruit

 15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

I say to the author:

If you have not found a church that teaches grace and mercy and the churches you know teach God as being vindictive, then please continue to seek a church that is founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I think the verse he focuses on in Jeremiah is a beautiful verse of God’s loving kindness.  Certainly, God is all loving. He allowed His own Son to be tortured for us!  We cannot base our understanding of God on one verse.  We must study and explore and read all of the Bible.  I think his battle is one that many have.  The confusion of predestination and free will.  Election and free will both exist.  My pastor said that the two are “perfect harmony in God’s mind.  Don’t try to solve it – just know they are harmonized in God’s mind.”  Both election and free will are in Scripture.  Ephesians 1 tells us that God saves us for the glory of His grace.  Salvation is administered through 3 things from God. Ephesians v. 4 – He chose us.  God adopts us through Christ (transferred from family of evil into family of faith).  He accepts us.  Yes, God chose us.  Romans 10:13 states that whoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved.  2 Peter 3:9 teaches that none should be written off from salvation.  Mark 9:27 teaches that we should repent of sin and believe. 

It is very clear in Scripture that God created us to follow Him and love Him and He loves us with a love we cannot imagine.  It is also very clear that we must be broken and come to God with a contrite spirit. We must then try to imitate God.

  1. Psalm 51:17
    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
    Psalm 51:16-18 (in Context) Psalm 51 (Whole Chapter)
  2. Isaiah 57:14
    [ Comfort for the Contrite ] And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
    Isaiah 57:13-15 (in Context) Isaiah 57 (Whole Chapter)
  3. Isaiah 57:15
    For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
    Isaiah 57:14-16 (in Context) Isaiah 57 (Whole Chapter)
  4. Isaiah 66:2
    Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

Kim

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