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Salvation: Entering the Safety Zone

God's law, sin and faith.

What is God's Law, and How Did I Break It?

God's law is, first of all, the spiritual law that we have in the New Testament. Second, it is the covenant between God and Israel. Third, it is the law God gave to mankind at the very beginning of human life on earth.

The law we have today can be summed up in a few words: We are to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength, and we're to love one another, even as Christ loved us. The apostle Paul said, "He who loves another has fulfilled the law."

There are two objects, then, of our love. First, we love God with every bit of our being. Second, we must love our fellow man as much as we love ourselves. That encompasses all the law. In Jesus' words, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40).

In the law given at Sinai, on the other hand, there were specific rules and regulations, beginning with the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments have to do with devotion to God. The fifth commandment has to do with obedience to someone who stands in the role of God, namely our parents. The remaining five have to do with the way we treat our fellow man. Don't steal his wife. Don't steal his possessions. Don't lie about him. Don't murder him. Don't hurt him. If you do to him as you do to yourself, if you love him the way you love yourself, you have followed those commandments.

So in the final analysis, God's law is that we should put God first in our lives. He wants us to function under Him as loving, obedient sons and daughters. We must listen to Him, obey Him, and be prepared to do His bidding, whatever it is. That is the ultimate in God's law, and it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:2).

The written law, which was given by God at Mount Sinai, had many dietary rules and continued other provisions, but this law was given essentially to Israel. The Bible says that this law was a shadow of good things that were to come (see Colossians 2:16-17). The fulfillment of the law is in Christ. Christ enters into us, and we live out in our lives the righteous commandments of the written law. The Spirit of Christ within us helps us to do naturally what the law attempted to force us to do.

Law, when you see it in today's world, is essentially a restraint on people who do not live in love toward others. There are traffic lights, pollution controls, laws against murder, kidnapping, theft, fraud, and a host of other things. All these laws seek to prevent conduct that will hurt someone else. But for those who walk in love, law doesn't really need to exist--no law to burden or bind them, because they naturally and voluntarily fulfill through the spirit all the righteous demands of the written law.

Since the law is based on loving God and our fellow man, we break God's law whenever we fail to love Him or whenever we harm our fellow man. Since harm to another--be it theft, adultery, murder, or false witness--usually begins in our inner being, God added to the law a prohibition against coveting--a mental sin. Jesus expanded the concept by saying that lustful thoughts are the equivalent of the act of adultery, and that anger, along with demeaning insults, is the equivalent of murder (see Matthew 5:21-28).


What Is Sin?

Sin is falling short of the glory of God. We sin when we do not do what God wants us to do, or when we do what He does not want us to do. The word sin in Greek is hamartia, and it means "to go apart from a mark." If you were to shoot an arrow at a target, and you missed the bull's-eye, you would be missing the mark.

The mark of God is perfection--total perfection. Anything that falls short of His perfection and holiness is sin.

There are two other words which refer to specific kinds of sins. The first is iniquity. Iniquity means twistedness or crookedness. It is a perverseness, a twisted desire to do something contrary to an established norm. If Jesus Christ is our standard, then repeated conduct deviating from His example, would be iniquity. The second word is transgression. Transgression means the deliberate breaking of a known law or standard. You know what God wants you to do at a particular point, but you deliberately go against His will. Iniquity bends and distorts God's will for our lives. Transgression deliberately cuts across it and breaks it.

There is one final definition of sin. The apostle Paul said that "whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). In other words, when in doubt, don't. There are many areas where we have to ask ourselves if what we are doing is right or wrong. To one person something may be all right, while to someone else, it might not be.

For example, if someone is a long distance runner, eating a piece of cake the night before a race could be a good idea. He is getting some extra carbohydrates into his body--a process called carbohydrate loading--and that is a smart thing for a highly trained athlete to do before a long race. On the other hand, if the man is a diabetic, he has no business eating that cake. Eating it could result in great harm to him. So there are different nutritional standards for different people, and this is true in spiritual service as well.

If someone is going to the mission field, he may have to give up material things because it will be necessary for him to live in a poorer culture, and many possessions would hurt his relationship with the people he wants to reach. On the other hand, if a person is a business executive, then he has to function among his fellow executives. If he lives in a grass hut and wears overalls, then he will neither be able to have a proper relationship with his colleagues nor be able to share his faith with them.

To the one man, living in an expensive home might be sin; to the other it might be a sin not to. It depends on the circumstance, because God has a special plan for each of us. Therefore, the standard for the undefined areas of our life is faith itself. "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

We should copy Jesus and not necessarily one another. The Bible says, "There is none who does good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3). "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (Psalm 58:3). But in Jesus Christ there is perfection. It is only in Christ that we can hit the mark. Jesus is the only sinless man, and there will never be another.

When we trust in Christ, we take His sinlessness upon ourselves. That is the only way we can enter into heaven--without any sin. The Bible says, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7). As we are walking with Jesus, whatever sins we commit by our contact with the world are being continuously forgiven by the blood of Jesus as we confess them


How Does Jesus Save Me?

He saves us by His death from all our sins: Past, present, and future. We all have broken God's law, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ never sinned, so as a sinless "second Adam," He was able to die as a substitute for all human sinners. Therefore God was able to preserve His righteous law and government by punishing the breaking of the law while offering a pardon to those who had broken it.

The apostle Paul said that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13). The word redeemed means to buy back a slave in the marketplace. Mankind was in bondage to the curse of the law, which is death. Under this analogy, the death of Jesus was the "ransom" needed to set us free from the bondage of the law, sin, and death.

So in one sense, Jesus is our substitute; in another, our ransom. In yet another, His is our hilasterion (translated "propitiation") or mercy seat, a reference to the lid or covering over the ark of the covenant. When the mercy seat was covered with the blood of a sacrifice, the law's condemnation against the people was shut out before God. Jesus Christ is our complete and only covering.

Our salvation has three parts. First, at the moment we receive Christ in faith, His death cancels completely all of our sins. This is called "justification by faith" (see Romans 3:24-30, Galatians 2:15-21). In Christ our position before God is sinless. We are totally absolved from all past sins, just as if we had never sinned. This is salvation of our spirit.

Then as we walk with Jesus day after day, we have present salvation, and we grow in holiness. We enter into the state of sanctification, where we become freer from sin and more like Jesus. Paul said that we change from one degree of glory into another, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (see II Corinthians 3:18). The goal of the Christian is to grow up into Christ. This is our ongoing salvation.

The third part of salvation is future, where we will lose these bodies which are always being pulled by sin, and we will get brand new bodies (see I Corinthians 15:42-44). This salvation is also called glorification. So salvation is total. It is a matter of the past, present, and future.


What Is Faith?

In the book of Hebrews, the Bible defines faith as "the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things (we) hope for, being the proof of things (we) do not see and the conviction of their reality" (Hebrews 11:1, Amplified). We are hoping to reach heaven, a world we cannot see, and faith gives substance to our expectations.

Faith can be a title deed to things we cannot see. For example, suppose there is a lot in a Florida resort, which you have never seen. A salesman comes to you and says, "I have a lot in this plat, and if you will give me $10,000, I will give you a deed to it." So you give him the money, and he gives you the deed. The moment the deed transfers, you own the property. You might not see it for many years, but you know it is yours, because the title deed has conferred all ownership privileges upon you. From that moment on, you can begin to enjoy it.

That is faith. It is the title deed to things we cannot see. Faith is an attribute given by the Spirit of God that enables us to reach into God's invisible world and take possession of that which we cannot see.

Faith is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and this means that it grows naturally for those who belong to God (see Galatians 5:22). The Bible says the testing of faith produces patience, which means we can develop a stronger faith by working on it (see James 1:3). If we exercise faith, just as we would exercise a muscle, it will grow. The more we walk in faith and appropriate things by faith, the more our faith grows. We get to a point where we say, "If God can do what I have experienced, then surely He can do something more." Our faith will grow as we use it, whether it is faith for healing or for family unity or for finances or even for the conduct of national affairs.

There is also what is called a manifestation, or a gift of faith (see I Corinthians 12:7-9). This is a supernatural enablement of faith that God gives when it is especially needed.

This supernatural faith is the kind of faith that can move mountains, provide divine protection from danger, or provide for an unusual financial need. Faith can be something that is continuously growing through use, or it can be something that comes instantaneously as a gift from God.


What Is Being Born Again? Do I Have to Be Born Again In Order to be A Christian?

Yes, you have to be born again in order to be saved. Unless you are saved, you are not Christian, regardless of which denomination you belong to or whatever you happen to call yourself.

What is being born again? The Bible tells us that there was a member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night. He said, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God." What he was really saying us, "Teach me how I can find God." Jesus cut through the discussion and said, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus did not understand that and asked, what is this "born again"? Do you want me to go back into my mother's womb and be born all over again? Jesus responded by saying, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Then Jesus referred to the wind. He 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.... Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things" (John 3:1-18)?

Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he had to be born from above, by the Spirit of God, and by water, which I presume is the water of baptism (although there are others who think it may be the bursting of the waters at initial birth, or the Word as referred to in Ephesians 5:26: "the washing of water by the word"). There is a transformation by the Spirit of God of our lives that is tantamount to a second birth.

God said through the prophet Jeremiah that He was going to write His laws on the hearts of His people (see Jeremiah 31:33). This is one result of being born again. Suddenly the law of God is no longer something on tablets of stone, but is something written upon the heart. One is motivated from within as the Spirit of God begins to lead in obedience to the righteousness of God.

First, God says, "You are righteous by faith," then He gives you the Holy Spirit so you can live righteously. Once you have been born again, you live the righteous demands of the law by the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is the process of regeneration that turns a sinner into a saint, fit for God's kingdom: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).


What Do I Have To Do To Be Saved?

To be saved you must turn away from sin, believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and receive Him as Lord and Savior of your life.

Here is the step-by-step-process. First, you must consider your life and then turn away from everything in it that is contrary to what God wants. This turning away from selfishness and toward God is called repentance (see Matthew 3:7-10, Acts 3:19).

Second, you must acknowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive you of sin. You take Him as your Savior to cleanse you from sin--as the substitute who paid the price due you for your sin (see Romans 5:9-10, Titus 2:14).

And third, you must ask Him to be Lord of your life, acknowledging openly and verbally that Jesus is not only your Savior but your Lord.

The Bible says that as many as received Him were given the power to become the sons of God (see John 1:12). So when you open your heart and receive Him, He comes into your heart, your inner person, through His Holy Spirit, and begins to live His life in you. From that point it is a question of confessing what God has done. "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" (Romans 10:9).


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