Illustration: Athletes are expected to absolutely KNOW certain key skills. Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, once frustrated with his team after an inept losing effort, got onto the team bus and glared at his team. Holding aloft a football, he said slowly and distinctly: “Gentlemen, this is a football!” As if to say: “Some of you don’t seem to understand that fact!”
Christians really need to know just one thing and it’s found in John 3:16: Jesus died for our sins. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For centuries Christian missionaries have taken that simple truth to far-flung corners of the world. Many people steeped in heathen superstitions have come to understand that one simple promise: God guarantees them a home in heaven because of Jesus’ death on a cross.
1. They don’t go to seminary and get a degree
2. They don’t learn Greek
3. They don’t actually master all intricacies of Adventist prophecy
4. They don’t memorize key texts regarding all 28 fundamental beliefs
But they have a saving understanding of Jesus sacrifice for them at Calvary.
Disturbing Reality: Many Christians today embrace the twin ideas of GRACE and FAITH . . . without a clear understanding of those two terms.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 says clearly that we are all saved “By grace, through faith.” One group of earliteens at an Adventist camp meeting was asked to define grace. No one could. After years in church and attending Adventist schools, no one could. The best answer was that it is “the prayer we say before meals.”
Classic Definition: Grace means “unmerited favor,” God giving us an eternal life we do not deserve, a forgiveness we have not earned, a heavenly home we have no right to claim. Thus we are saved by grace.
Story: A man named John Newton made his living in the most sinful and heinous way possible; he was the captain of a slave ship. He would buy his human cargo, packing men and women into the hold of his ship under unbelievable inhuman condition . . . and crudely calculate that even if half of them died—and were tossed overboard to the sharks—he could still turn a profit.
Then Newton became a Christian. Could God possibly forgive his sordid past? Could years of trafficking in bondage and flesh be wiped away? He learned that grace—unmerited favor—gave even him a new beginning. And if Adventists check their hymnals, #108 was written by none other than John Newton. Amazing grace, How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, But now am found, Was blind but now I see.
What is faith? Faith is to simply trust someone, to believe their promises. When we have faith, we count on a person to deliver what they have said.
So a Christian who comes to Jesus is accepted by grace—unmerited favor—and they access that unmerited favor by believing Jesus’ promise to save them.
Illustration: On 9/11, a horrifying reality is that many people in the World Trade Center buildings chose to leap to their deaths rather than burn alive. Think of men and women who had to place final cell-phone calls to loved ones, knowing they would soon be jumping to the deadly streets below and dying.
Consider that you are on a sixth-story building that is in flames. There’s no escape; the elevators are broken, the stairwells blocked with fire. But firemen gather at the bottom of the building with a sturdy net. “Jump!” they cry out. “We’ll catch you.”
Perhaps you aren’t convinced the building is really in flames. Maybe you think you can still save yourself via the stairs. Maybe you don’t think the firemen will keep their word. In those cases, you will die despite the presence of a net.
But IF you jump, what saves you? The net. The net is grace: “unmerited favor.” You are saved by the net.
What is faith? The faith is your jump! Unless you jump, the net is useless. Equally, if there is no net, the jump is also useless. On 9/11, many jumped to their deaths because there was no net below. Through the centuries, people have “jumped” into cults and false religions where there was no net.
Conclusion: We are saved by grace (net) through faith (jump). It takes both of these saving tools for us to be rescued from our lost state.
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.