Is it Easier to be Saved or Lost - Part 2

Is it Easier to be Saved or Lost - Part 2

Scripture: Romans 8:1-4, Philippians 2:5, 2 Peter 1:4
Forgiveness doesn't change God's attitude toward us, but changes our attitude toward God. The Lord forgives sin by taking away sin. Jesus moves into the human heart to give us victory over sin and have the mind of Christ.
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Our last text spoke of "remission of sins that are past" as a part of this justification experience. What really happens in this act of remission or forgiveness of sins? Many believe that this is something which happens outside the life of the believer. They consider that forgiveness changes God's attitude toward the transgressor, because of some celestial accounting carried out millions of light years away. Is it true that forgiveness affects God so that He no longer holds something against me? This is decidedly not the case. Forgiveness does not change God toward us; it changes us toward Him. God didn't need to change. He was never wrong. Man was the sinner who needed to change. He stood condemned before a broken law that could offer no grace or forgiveness. There was absolutely no righteousness to be drawn from the law. It could not provide any strength for right-doing. The sinner was powerless, condemned, and helpless under the scourging of that law.

Paul's terminology makes condemnation to be the opposite of justification. In Romans 8:1-4 he describes what justification subjectively accomplishes for the individual. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. . .For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

Immediately we can see that the problem lay in the flesh which was too weak to obey the law. Something had to be done in man to bring him back into harmony with God. The Greek word for "righteousness" in this verse is "dikaima," which means "just requirement." How could the weak-flesh problem be remedied so that man could fulfill the requirements of the law?

God provided the full solution when He sent Jesus in the flesh to obey the law perfectly. It was only because Christ lived a perfect life of obedience that He is able to impute justification to each one of us. If that plan of sending Jesus had not taken care of my weakness in the flesh, then the plan would have failed. When Christ moves into the life, the condemnation is removed, the sins are forgiven, and we are empowered to fulfill the requirements of the law through Christ in us. This is the change which forgiveness makes in the life. Forgiveness does not change God, but us. He forgives sin by taking away sin. He justifies the ungodly by taking away the ungodliness. He justifies the rebellious sinner by taking away the rebellion. When He declares us righteous, His self-filling word makes us righteous. He does not declare something which is not true. The One who conquered Satan now moves into the human heart to provide victory over the power of sin. The miracle of the new life is described in the Bible by utterly fantastic expressions. We can have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), and be made free from sin (Romans 6:18). All this is possible as grace begins to rule the life, and under this power Satan doesn't have a ghost of a chance!

All who do not resist the goodness of God will be led to repentance and salvation, and they should not be intimidated by the pretended authority of a defeated foe. We must recognize our position as the sons of God. We should also be unafraid to acknowledge our authority in Christ over Satan. It is time for God's children to stop trembling before the threats of a conquered enemy. Too often in evangelism we watch in dismay as the devil arranges his competing attractions to take people away from the word of God. We say, "Oh my, what are we going to do? The circus is coming to town during our crusade." The truth is that Satan should be worried instead of us. He ought to tremble and say, "What am I going to do. The evangelistic meetings are coming to town."

God's Spirit-filled children must learn to be more confident, more aggressive and bold in their assertion of truth in the name of the mighty, conquering Creator God. We are not operating in the strength of the flesh, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. He that is for us is greater than he which is against us. Praise be to God for such assurance!

Now let us consider the question, Why is it not hard to serve Christ when you are a Christian? Please don't mistake the language of this question. We are talking about a born-again Christian following Jesus. There is no contention that anyone else will find it easy to live the Christian life. In fact, there is probably no more difficult task in the world than trying to live for Christ in the strength of the flesh. It is quite possible that many of the degenerative diseases and weaknesses of the body have been produced by generations of struggle to please God by human effort. People are wearied and worn out by such futile activity.

But for the committed Christian the way of obedience is a joy and delight. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:3. The great disciple of love declares that it is not hard to obey God's law when it is the fruitage of a love relationship. The Psalmist wrote, "I delight to do thy will, 0 my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8. There are two strong reasons why it is not grievous for the true Christian to serve the Lord. First, he is absolutely confident that God loves him and will do only what is good for him. Second, he loves Christ supremely and chooses to run no risk of displeasing Him.

Someone may raise a question about the demands laid down in the Bible, and the penalties attached for transgression. None can deny that they are there. Do these requirements and threatened penalties make obedience a hardship? Let me answer that question with two imaginary interviews; Suppose I have just submitted to a complete medical examination and the doctor is giving me a report of his findings. He says, "Joe, I have bad, bad news for you. Your tests indicate that you are going to die unless you follow my orders exactly. To save your life you must obey what I'm going to tell you, and you must continue to follow my orders every day for the rest of your life. I've found that you will be required to eat two or three times a day in order to save your life. And you must force yourself to do it day after day as long as you live."

Think about it for a moment. Those are strict rules with heavy penalties attached. I can lose my life by violating the law laid down by the doctor. But will it be difficult for me to follow those orders? Of course not! Why? Simply because there is a higher law leading me to eat every day anyway. The physical laws of my being demand that I eat regularly, and I enjoy doing it. It is for my own good to eat, and I do not have to force myself to comply with the doctor's rigid requirements.

In the same way there is a law of love operating in every Christian life which is the natural extension of a personal relation with Jesus. The commandments and penalties of the Bible are no threat whatsoever, because the Christian recognizes the higher law leading him to do these same things that are for his best good. He does not obey for fear of the penalty, but because he is happiest obeying the One he loves.

Let's imagine another conversation that will never actually take place. I am preparing to leave home for a month of evangelism. My wife tells me good-bye and then solemnly holds a paper before my face. "Joe," she says, "you will be gone for a month, and your check will be mailed out before you return. I just want you to read this paper very carefully. It is a copy of Maryland Statute No. 392, and it states that you will be put in jail if you don't send me money to operate the home. It's not very pleasant in that county jail, so I'll be expecting you to send that money as soon as you get your check."

What she says is true, but do I need the threat of that law to make me support my family? No, there is a higher law of love which makes me want to take care of my loved ones. Love turns duty into a joyful privilege. I remember walking ten miles in the pouring rain to keep a date with the girl I loved. I had no regrets. My love for her overruled the hardship. We can make anything a burden by the attitude we have toward it, and by the way we relate to it. It is a burden to serve Jesus if the relationship is wrong.

I've heard people say, "But Christianity is so restrictive." True. But marriage is even more restrictive than religion. Does that make it miserable? Do brides and grooms complain about the narrow promises they make to each other? I've performed many marriages, and have never seen newlyweds unhappy about their commitments. They are always radiant, even though they have just promised their lives away.

Imagine someone approaching the new bride with these discouraging words: "Oh, my! You really are in a bad situation now. Just think, you've got to cook for this guy every day of your life. You'll be required to clean the house, mend his clothes, and put up with his untidy habits. This marriage thing is bad news." Do you know how that new young wife would respond? She would say, "Wonderful! I'll love it!"

Suppose someone should try to discourage a newly baptized Christian who has just been "married" to Jesus with these words: "Oh, you've got yourself into a miserable mess. Just think, you can't go to the bars and dances anymore. You can't go to the ball games on Sabbath, and you won't be able to eat pork and shrimp anymore." Without question that beaming new-born Christian would answer, "Wonderful! I'll love every moment of it!"

The explanation for this response is made in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ constraineth us." Love propels and compels people to do anything and everything to please the One who died for them. No burdensome yoke binds such disciples to the path of service and obedience. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14. That word "blessed" really means "happy." The commandments may be restrictive, but it's a joy to be restricted by love.

To the unconverted these thoughts are alien and contradictory. People who are not in love cannot appreciate the selfless involvement of those who are happily married. Some married couples have destroyed their love for each other, and they look upon marriage as a galling bondage. The fault is not with marriage, but with the attitude. When Christians fall away and lose their relationship with Jesus, they also begin to complain about the burden of religion. But the fault lies in the loveless hearts of the complainers, not in religion.

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