Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 3
Study Guide, November 8, 2015 – Pastor Clay Olsen
In our Men’s Fellowship last Saturday we talked about one of the great quotes by G.K. Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” It sounds kind of odd, even funny, but it really makes sense. It’s really a call for us to not get so stressed about the outcomes of things in life and just get on with putting some effort into trying to do what’s worth doing, even if we don’t do it all that well for awhile, or ever. And even in the Christian life it helps to remember that God doesn’t call us to results; He only calls us to faithfulness and perseverance. So we needn’t worry about messing up while trying to do worthwhile things, but we do need to get on with being diligent about doing worthwhile things; diligent, meaning; putting forth extreme effort, by faith and in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, of course.
In connection with this, in our study times, we started considering some things in our life that are worthwhile; things that we have done or tried to do; things that maybe we should try to do over, that is, do them over before our life is over. And one of those things for many of us to do the ‘Gospel conversation’ over, meaning; to change the way many have thought about and talked about the ‘Gospel’ with the unsaved world around us all. Much of the conversation between the church and the world about the Gospel needs a do-over, before this life is over.
And the reason we point this out is because there is both a great deception upon the minds of the unsaved, the unregenerate people of this world, and there is a great confusion in the discussion about the Gospel among irreligious as well as religious people of this world. And oftentimes even in witnessing to the unsaved world Christians neglect clearing up both this great deception and this great confusion. And as a result the irreligious unsaved and the religious unsaved go away still deceived and confused.
One of the greatest deceptions in the world, among even the religions of the world, is that people do not know what their basic problem in life is, and thus, they do no know what their basic need in life is either. Nearly every person on Earth, from the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Shintoism and Hinduism to the Middle Eastern religions of Islam and even Judaism to the Western Native religions and even the Social Gospel Churches, all begin with this world-wide deception concerning the basic spiritual condition of man.
What is the basic spiritual problem about man in which most people are deceived? Many religions will identify and admit to some sort of sin problem. That is why most of the religions of the world include some actions of sacrifice or some methods of offering sacrifices to atone for sin. And these sacrifices are usually then accompanied by some set of good works that they are to perform in order to merit their reward of whatever concept they have of life after death; from Nirvana to Valhalla to the Celestial Heavens and so forth. And, again, even among the Social Gospel and Liberation Theology churches, the teaching about salvation is related to a combination of forgiveness plus the doing of good works which is supposed to then equal the reward of meriting a place in Heaven. But again, each religion is starting from this world-wide deception of the belief that man is basically spiritually good. And therefore they then act on this world-wide confusion that all they are then in need of is the combination of getting some forgiveness for what has been bad in their life and then improving on what could be better in their life through the merits of some good works in their life. However, in doing so they are completely rejecting or neglecting God’s revelation about what their real problem is and what their real need is which can only be solved and met by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The thing is, mankind’s problem is way past any discussion about religious good works or improvements in their religious practices. Here is the critical point about the Gospel revelation. Both the deception that man is basically good and the confusion that man can get better through good works is resolutely refuted and completely corrected by the clearest revelation by God through the Apostle Paul concerning the basic spiritual condition of every person on Earth. Eph 2:1-10- “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. At that time you followed the world’s evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God’s anger. But God’s mercy is so abundant, and His love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus He raised us up with Him to rule with Him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of His grace in the love He showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good deeds, which He has already prepared for us to do.” TEV
Contrary to nearly all human understanding about the spiritual condition of man, man is not basically good; rather, man is basically dead – spiritually dead. This is where the Gospel conversation starts. The Gospel is about how spiritually dead people can become spiritually alive by having their spirit united to the life of Jesus Christ. Yes, we need forgiveness from God because of our sins, but we also need something from God which is central to the Gospel; we need spiritual life.
One of the clearest statements about the Biblical Gospel is attributed to Ravi Zacharias, who was trying to clarify this very deception about the spiritual condition of man and the confusion about what Jesus came to do about it all. And this is how he summarized what the Bible is saying to us all: “Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”
This is the message that cuts right through all the religious deception and confusion by the various religions of the world about there being different religious paths to Heaven. This is the message that reveals to everyone that the way to Heaven is not a path at all. Why? Because the Gospel message is not about religious behavior, it’s about being brought out of spiritual death into spiritual life. It’s about Jesus bringing spiritual life to the spiritually dead people of Earth. That’s what the Apostle is declaring to us: “But God’s mercy is so abundant, and His love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ.” The Gospel is not about walking some pathway to Heaven. Again, the spiritual condition of man is way past that. People without Christ in their life are already spiritually dead. What they need is spiritual life, and spiritual life can only be found in Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Life-giver.
Something we must realize is that the enemy of our souls has the world deceived into thinking that they already have spiritual life since they believe they are basically good. And then he has them confused by thinking that all they need from God is some help; some help with a dose of forgiveness now and then and some help with their good works. Even for many who claim ‘Christian’ as their religious faith, they think of Jesus more as their ‘Helper’ rather than their ‘Life-giving Lord and all sufficient Savior’. They are still thinking as though they are basically good and simply need be sorry before God for what they’ve done wrong and with His help they will try to do better. They think they are right with God because they are trusting in God’s grace and their works. But for one thing, the Apostle Paul said that is impossible because our works cancels out God’s grace. It’s either one or the other. Speaking of our salvation the Apostle says this: Rom 11:6- “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” NASU
If a person is depending upon a combination of some help with forgiveness from Jesus plus trusting in the merits of their own works for their salvation, the Apostle reveals to them that they have just canceled out God’s grace for their salvation. They are still trusting in what God says cannot save them; their works. The Scriptures clearly state that we can only be saved by God’s grace through our faith and not by our merits or works.
Again, one of the reasons the Gospel conversation needs to be clarified with the irreligious unsaved or the religious unsaved is because of this humanistic belief that people have that they are basically spiritually good people. This deception is deeply rooted within the sin nature of mankind. And so what people then do, in relation to their idea about being right with God, is that they continually compare their relative goodness with what they see in others when they are considering if they are good enough concerning whatever religious beliefs or affiliation they have. And in this comparison with other religious people they often will not see much of a difference, nor much of a need to change either what they believe or how they are living. And so they conclude that they are probably all right with God and do not need whatever some ‘Christian’ might be offering to them.
What they need to understand is that what the Biblical Gospel is revealing to us all is that mankind’s problem is way past a discussion about religious beliefs or works and behavior. What they need to understand is what sin did to their spirit. Most people of the world do not know what ‘Sin’ did to the human spirit. If you were to ask people on the street what ‘Sin’ did to our human spirit, how many would answer: “Sin killed our human spirit and left us spiritually dead.” None would give that answer unless they had learned this Biblical truth about sin. This is not something that the natural man knows, since this truth can only be discovered through the revelation of God concerning what sin did to our human spirit. Sin killed the spirit of every person on Earth and has left everyone spiritually dead. Therefore, what every person on Earth is in need of from God is to have their dead spirit brought back to life again. And the only way that can happen is for them to turn to the only source of spiritual life, Jesus Christ, and receive Him into to their life to raise their dead spirit to life again in union with Him. Jesus Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life!
The Gospel is about asking the One who was crucified and who died in my place because of my sins to remove my spiritual death penalty from me and to bring my dead spirit back to life in union with Jesus’ own eternal life. The Gospel is about raising the spiritually dead back to life again through the mercy of Christ’s death as substitute for my eternal spiritual death and through the grace of Christ’s gift to me of His own eternal life. My trust, therefore, is not in anything of my own merit or works, but only in what Christ has done through His sinless life and sacrificial death in order to bring my dead spirit back to life in union with Jesus’ own eternal life.
I’m not trusting in my works because no amount of good works could ever bring my dead spirit back to life. Do not overlook this critical point. Whenever the conversation about salvation turns to the issue of good works it needs to be turned back to the fact that dead people can’t bring themselves back to life through their good works. Let’s state that again: The reason that ‘good works’ cannot save anyone is because no amount of good works can bring a spiritually dead person back to life again. One who is spiritually dead can only come back to life through uniting himself or herself with the only source of life, the Lord of life, Jesus Christ.
Look at how Paul explained the issue of the Law in terms of why the works of the Law could never bring salvation: Gal 3:21-22- “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” NASU
The reason that the Law of works in the Old Testament or the good works of anyone who has ever lived since that time have no power to save anyone is because good works have no power to impart life to a person’s dead spirit. Like we said: No amount of good works can ever bring anyone’s dead spirit back to life. And that is what we are talking about when we are talking about the Gospel of Salvation: How can anyone whose spirit is dead because of their trespasses and sin have their dead spirit brought back to spiritual life again? There is only one way; and that is by the Life-giving Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ, coming to unite His spiritual life with the one who is spiritually dead, re-birthing his or her dead spirit with His own spiritual life. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born-again.” Our dead spirit must be birthed into spiritual life.
Again, The issue with the unsaved around us is not about what church they go to or what religious beliefs they have or what good works they have done. No, the issue with the unsaved people around us is that they are spiritually dead, and therefore what they need, what everyone needs, is spiritual life. And they can only get spiritual life through the Spirit of Christ.
Much of why many Christians are uncomfortable about witnessing is because the conversation often turns into a discussion about good works. And even when the Christian tries to clarify that salvation is not based on our good works but on God’s saving grace, still, since most people think they are pretty good already, the conversation often bogs down right there. They might even like the part about God’s grace, but somehow they just sort of add whatever is said about God’s grace to their own opinion of their good works and off they go. That is why the Gospel conversation needs to changed, because a world that believes that they are basically good will also believe that they are basically ‘OK’ with God, and so they think of themselves as basically already spiritually alive. But God says that apart from being united to Christ’s Spirit they are basically dead in trespasses and sin and will remain that way forever, regardless of their good works.
The enemy of the souls of mankind has both deceived and confused the minds of the unsaved. The Gospel of the Bible is the only revelation that proclaims that sin has killed the spirit of every person on Earth and they are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. And unless their spirit is brought back to life again through receiving the Life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will enter an eternity as spiritually dead people and will forever be spiritually separated from God in a land called Gehenna Hell.
That’s the bad news. But the good news is; the Gospel is: “But God’s mercy is so abundant, and His love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ…For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” The Gospel tells us that anyone and everyone can have their dead human spirit brought back to life, if they will receive the Lord of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, into their life as their Savior, as their Life-giver! That’s what ‘Savior’ means, Life-giver. Maybe we should start this change in the Gospel conversation, this ‘do-over’, by talking more about Jesus as our Lord and ‘Life-giver’. It might turn the Gospel conversation back to helping people understand that being right with God is not a matter of religious works and deeds – it’s way beyond a discussion of ‘works’; it’s a matter of ‘life and death’! It’s a matter of the spiritually dead coming back to spiritual life in union with Jesus Christ, who alone is the Life-giver. We need to reveal to the world why in fact Jesus came to Earth: ‘Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.’