Print Friendly, PDF & Email

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Last week we had a Word on the worship of self and self-power, something we tend to call willpower. However, salvation is not something you do. It is something Jesus did. The point being, salvation is not a matter of willpower.

What, then, is sin? Sin is anything that displaces Jesus’ rightful place. So, you can see from this an assertion I made last week. It is not a far reach to say that willpower is sin because it replaces Jesus as the power to salvation.

I used to think of sin this way, “Sin is doing anything Jesus told me not to do or not doing anything he told me to do.” On the surface, that sounds like a pretty decent definition, but it is off about a mile and a half. Why? It is because that definition applies to actions. It is behavioral. Sin is in the heart. You see, if we let Jesus fix our hearts, sin will not be a problem. My former definition relies on my willpower, my strength and conviction rather than the transformative power of Jesus.

This is why the modern evangelical movement sometimes fails. It relies on a misunderstanding of God, Jesus and love. If we could begin to fathom even the most superficial meaning of John 3: 16, we could help millions of people find salvation. Salvation is found in the love of Jesus and God the Father, and it is only in that love that any of us are saved. If we have tried to be “good;” if we have tried to be saints, then we have failed because salvation isn’t in the behaviors, and it most certainly is not in the power of our self. Will and power belong to God and Him alone. When we try to be good in our own power that is a loud declaration that we don’t need God. Have you not read where Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone,” (Mark 10: 18). None of us are good. Jesus rejected being called good so why are we struggling to be good. No, the only good is in our surrender to Jesus and our Father. In them, we are righteous. Our will and our power have nothing to do with it.

So, how do we tell others of this salvation? There are essentially two camps. There is the fire and brimstone camp and the love camp. The love camp sounds like a bunch of hippies. The fire and brimstone camp at least sounds righteous, right? It tells us to clean up our act and be saved. Otherwise, we are going to hell. However, I would argue this approach is vanity and borderline insanity. Even the world knows that you catch a lot more flies with honey. How can we hear that saying over and over again and yet not understand its meaning? It has become a cliché for a reason. Is the threat of going to hell an effective evangelical tool? Is it kind? Is it loving? Where does “For God so loved the world” fit into that paradigm? Better still, do we believe that a person will fall in love with Jesus if their motivation is simply to avoid hell? This is ludicrous. Salvation exists because of love. I doubt anyone will fall in love with Jesus because we threaten them with hell.

Salvation and evangelism, I believe, can be summed up this way – it is loving God and loving people. Furthermore, to demand that people act a certain way or clean up their behaviors so that God can save them flies in the face of everything the New Testament teaches. We ask people to control themselves, which is an act of self-will. Why do we need Jesus to save us if we can save ourselves through our acts of self will? It is the fact that we could not save ourselves that sent Jesus to earth, so to ask people, not to give their hearts to Jesus, but to police their behaviors is to deny his saving power and to functionally elevate themselves to Jesus’ throne through self-determination rather than surrender.

We’ve got this sin and salvation thing completely on its head. Do you want to lead someone to salvation? Tell them how much Jesus and Yahweh love them. Tell them about the great love, acceptance and forgiveness. And for yourself, don’t try to be righteous, just surrender and you will be. Don’t fight against a sin problem. Give it to Jesus. Let him fight it. You just get under his wing and let him be your savior.

There is no sin problem in love. Love is the great corrector and healer. If you truly love Jesus, if you get your heart right before him, sin will lose its hold on you. It is in the surrender to him, the letting go of your control and power. It’s one of the hardest things to do but this is what it means to be Jesus’ disciple. That is what you want, right?

Leave a Reply