Thursday, 6 June 2019

Simple, not easy

It was Monday morning and a friend asked me if I had been preaching the night before. I told him I had, and he asked me what I was speaking about, so I told him I had been speaking about the words of Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”. He replied, “If it was that easy then everyone would do it.” I told him it wasn’t easy at all.

Make no mistake, salvation is simple. The Lord Jesus Christ has paid in full the price of sin that we never could pay, and He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Salvation is not a reward to be earned, it is a gift to be received, and it is so simple that you could receive it right now. But it’s not easy, there is a difference…

If a man offends his wife, it is (usually) very simple for that situation to be remedied. The man just needs to come to his wife and sincerely say, “I am sorry for what I did.” It’s that simple, but I think most people would agree that’s not easy!

Or think about a job that needs done in the house. The man says he will do it, but very quickly realises he has met his match and can’t get it done. What’s the answer? Call someone who can – it’s that simple, but there’s something that makes it really difficult to do that. What is it? The same thing that makes it difficult to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me.” Pride.

This is one of the things that means it’s not easy to get salvation – self-righteousness. The Bible says we are hell-deserving, and helpless to do anything to earn God’s favour. Pride acts as our defence lawyer, and jumps to its feet, “I object! My client is not that bad – this verdict is wrong, the penalty is too severe…” It is impossible to be saved while you retain pride. Give your lawyer the sack. Accept God’s verdict about you, and then God’s offer of salvation through Christ – it’s that simple, yet people will try almost anything else if it allows them to keep their self-righteousness.

This is one of the things that sets the gospel apart from religion. The religions of the world tell you that salvation is by your goodness. If you make it to the desired location it is because you did enough, and so you get (at least some of) the credit. The gospel says over and over again that salvation is not by works. We have nothing to boast about.

Another reason it isn’t easy to get saved because of self-centredness. We want to live our lives the way we please. We want to be on the throne and in the driver’s seat. We would be willing to accept God’s forgiveness as long as it didn’t result in any change to the life we are living, but that isn’t on offer. Sin is rebellion against God, and before the rebel can be forgiven he has to give himself up and turn himself in – he has to bow in allegiance to his rightful sovereign. For many people, the approval of friends and the acceptance of the world mean more than being right with God, and so they aren’t prepared to identify with Jesus Christ. The Lord stands at the door of your life and knocks, but if you let Him in, He comes in as the owner, not a guest. He will start making changes. Don’t be afraid of this – the changes He makes are changes that allow you to enjoy the blessings God made you to enjoy and live the life God meant you to live – a life free from the domination and disappointment sin brings, a life lived in fellowship with God. But it’s not easy to give up that throne – you like being your own boss. Self-centredness makes salvation impossible to get.

The Bible presents Jesus as Lord and Saviour, so before we can be in a right relationship with God we need to give up our self-centredness and acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and we need to give up our self-righteousness and accept Jesus as Saviour. It’s that simple, but it’s not easy.

…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9, ESV)