ARE YOU REALLY SAVED? FREEDOM FROM LEGALISM

Sermon: PastorBryan


Introduction

 I’d like to start by asking three questions

  1. What does it take to enter the gates of heaven?
  2. What is God’s grace and what does it mean to me?
  3. How do I know I’m a Christian and have eternal life?

We could ask five people these three questions and get five different answers. So it’s not good enough to be able to answer the questions, we need to be able to answer them correctly. Being confused or having the wrong answers will leave the door open to allowing legalism in.

We have a natural tendency to believe we must live a good wholesome life to stay in the good graces of God. Even Peter struggled with this issue. Knowing full well there is only one way to enter the kingdom of heaven and even having firsthand knowledge of Jesus Peter found his own thoughts slipping back towards legalistic thinking. In fact, In Galatians chapter 2 we learn of a time when Peter allowed the legalistic thinking of other Jews to redirect his thinking and Paul had to correct Peter.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus commanded us to make disciples? Why didn’t he instruct us to go and win souls? It’s because learning about Jesus is enough to win souls. He knew if we would merely teach people about him, they would be drawn to him and want to follow him.

The natural course of salvation is learning about Jesus, believing in him, accepting him as our savior and continuing to grow as a disciple. The problem with many today though is that they were left at the alter and never gained more than a superficial understanding of who Jesus is or who we are to him. The result is frustrated Christians who don’t understand Christianity and spend years bouncing back and forth like waves. With this comes a natural tendency towards legalism.

Today we are going to examine salvation and how legalism can creep into our world and keep us from living in the fullness of God’s Grace.

What is legalism?

 Legalism believes that salvation can be earned or maintained by good works. In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc).  This legalism can take different forms.  The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation.  The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.  The third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed.

Scripture – John 3:1-17

The New Birth

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Scripture Examined

Verse 1-2

  1. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

In this passage we are introduced to Nicodemus who is a “Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews”. We know several things about him. First he is educated on Jewish doctrine but he also has respect for Jesus because he refers to him as Rabbi.  Not only that but he believes Jesus has come from God. This is a bit unusual given Jesus had no formal education and the Pharisees were outright opposing Jesus and his teachings. We also know the man came at night to visit Jesus. This could have been because he didn’t want others to know he was visiting Jesus.

Verse 3-8

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus knows the Pharisees heart and pretty much ignores the statement he made and seems to get right to the heart of what the man wants to know. “Jesus said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This puzzled Nicodemus and he wanted to know how a person could be born again once he was old. Obviously he was taking what Jesus said as literal. Jesus responded by explaining this is a spiritual birth and one that must take place before being allowed into heaven. Jesus must have sensed his confusion because Jesus compared what he was saying to the wind. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Verse 9-12

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 

 

Verse 13-17

13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

 

Let’s take a look those three questions
  1. What does it take to enter the gates of heaven?

Verses 15, 16 and 17 all three answer this question. Salvation comes by belief in Jesus. In Acts 16 Paul answers this question as well when the frightened jailer asks, “what must I do to be saved?” Paul replied very simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”.

There is nothing else to it. Romans 10:9-10 further backs this up by teaching us, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

There is no other way to get into heaven but by believing in Jesus Christ. No amount of good works will get you in.

  1. What is God’s grace and what does it mean to me?

Grace means undeserved merit or favor. It means what you got isn’t what you deserved to get. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

God has given us grace in that he allowed the sacrifice of his son to atone for the sins of everyone who believes.

  1. How do I know I’m a Christian and have eternal life?

You can be assured when you believe that your salvation is secured because the Bible says so.

Romans 8:1-2 says, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Just as we could not earn salvation by good works, we can’t maintain salvation by good works. This means once we are saved being it wasn’t up to us to secure we don’t have to worry that we will lose it.

Have you heard the old saying you can’t accept Christ, and then go live like the devil? Well I want to set something straight, no one who accepts Christ wants to go live like the devil. The Bible states, For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want (Galatians 5:17). When we accept Christ we feel the battle.

Paul said, 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now 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 (Romans 7:15-20).

 

 

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