What is Faith?
Faith is not simply a belief that God exists. When you say that you have faith in someone, you do not mean that you believe they exist. Rather, faith is the level of confidence or trust that you put in a certain person or thing. Your faith in God is the level of confidence and trust you have in Him. It is a measure of your opinion of Him.
Do you think that God is just? Do you think that God is all powerful? Do you think that God is Holy? What level of trust do you place in Him?
Your faith can be boiled down to two key questions. First, what do you think God CAN do? Second, what do you think God WILL do?
The decisions you make, and the actions you take are directly related to your personal assessment of these two questions. Additionally, the nature of your relationship with God, and your ability to do work for the Kingdom are proportionally related to this faith you have in Him.
If you want a relationship with God, and you have a sufficient amount of faith to repent, you should continue to increase your faith. You must grow your confidence in God’s ability and desire to protect and provide for you. Increasing your faith will improve your performance in the spiritual race.
The Cost of Salvation
For a moment, imagine you are starving because you haven't eaten in days. You need to eat some food, and you finally manage to find one piece of bread. Just as you are about to take a bite, a man comes and offers you a trade. He offers an exchange, your piece of bread, for the contents of his covered basket. You can't see what is in his basket, but he tells you that there is food in it, and that the food is abundant.
Do you make the trade?
The decision you make is determined by your opinion of the man making the offer. If you trust Him, if you believe in Him, if you have faith in him, you will make the trade.
Despite your desire for additional food, if you don’t have faith in Him, you will reject the trade.
There is a question that faces you. Do you believe in God enough to turn your life over to Him? Do you have faith that He has your best interest in mind? Do you trust that a new life under His control, will be better than your current one?
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Continuing the above example, let’s assume you have faith in the man with the basket, and you make the trade. Upon completing the transaction, you find out that the food in the basket is indeed abundant. In fact, it will last you a lifetime.
Years later you may look back and remember the day that you were given a lifetime supply of food. It may feel like a gift. However, at the time of the exchange, the food WASN’T free. You took a risk and traded your bread for something unknown. You took a risk because of the faith you had in the man with the basket. At the time, the piece of bread seemed like a big price to pay. It was the only food you had.
Salvation works the same way. Once saved, we tend to think of it as free, but this is not the case. Salvation is the result of a transaction. Repentance is a transaction.
God offers you entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven at the price of your life. He offers a new life, an everlasting life with Him, in exchange for your current life.
You have a choice to make. You can keep control of your life, and the perceived freedom to do what you want, or you can give control of your life over to God. Before you are saved, you can’t understand what the new life is like. You don’t know what’s in the basket.
The decision you make is determined by your opinion of Him. If you trust the Lord, if you have FAITH in Him, if you BELIEVE in Him, you give your life over to the Father and make the trade. You release control of your life, and accept the God’s will in its place.
Once saved, you forget the price you paid when you made the trade. You realize that your previous life had no true value. You were a doomed sinner, headed to a damned eternity. Your piece of bread was moldy and rotten. In the basket, there were a new life and spirit. A life lived in intimacy with God Himself.
You need to remember that you only knew this AFTER the transaction was complete, after you repented. Before you made the trade, the cost seemed extremely high. In fact, it cost you everything you had: your life.
Recognizing the cost of salvation is one of the keys to spreading the message of salvation. To the person you are calling to repentance, the perceived cost is enormous. The cost is everything they have, control of their lives!
33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
In the above passages, Jesus reminds you just how big this decision really is. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must repent. You must have enough faith in God to lose your life.
Spreading the Gospel message is part
of your work for the Kingdom. It is a key competency required to succeed in the
race. If you are to successfully spread this message, you must understand that
to the unsaved the perceived cost of repentance is high.
Repentance is the Entrance Fee
Entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven must be purchased through repentance. That is, deciding in your heart to turn away from your sinful life and come under the will of God. It is handing your current life over to God, in faith that life under His control will be better.
To understand the mechanics of salvation, you need to understand why repentance is a requirement.
Jesus and the Apostle Paul often use the example of a slave and his owner to illustrate this concept. A slave does the WILL of his owner. We have already examined the WILL of Satan. He desires power. He is prideful, and he desires possessions. This is his WILL. When Satan tempts you with these things, he is actually tricking you into following his will.
In the garden, Satan took ownership of man. Adam and Eve made the decision to reject their Father’s WILL and follow Satan’s WILL. Remember, a slave does the WILL of his owner.
By rejecting the will of their Father and accepting the will of Satan, Adam and Eve transferred their ownership from their Father to Satan.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned
You are either a slave to sin or of Christ. You are owned by either Satan, or Christ, depending on whose will you choose to follow.
16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must transfer your ownership from the evil one, back to the Father. This transfer is accomplished through repentance.
You make the decision to turn away from your own will and accept God’s will for your life. There are only two wills to choose from. When you choose sin, it seems as though you are following your own will. However, this is not the case. When you choose physical lust, pride or power, you are tricked into following Satan’s will!
You must make the decision to reject Satan’s control, and accept the Father’s control. This is the action you must take to transfer your ownership from Satan, back to the Father.
You can’t fool God. He knows your heart. For this transaction to occur, you must truly mean it.
Repentance is the price you must pay to enter the Kingdom, the price you pay to transfer your ownership back to the Father. It is the decision to reject the will and ownership of Satan, and accept the will and ownership of the Father.
Repentance secures your membership in the Kingdom. However, there is still one major problem. While you are under the ownership of the evil one, you accumulate a debt to him. This debt must be repaid. This is why you need Jesus and the cross. To enter the Kingdom, you must pay the price of repentance. Jesus in response to this repentance repays your debt on the cross.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men
Repentance is required because your ownership must be transferred from Satan back to the Father. Your personal repentance initiates this transaction, and Jesus payment on the cross completes it.
The Good News
The phrase ‘The Good News’ sometimes raises eyebrows these days. It has unfortunately been leveraged by those that don’t have a true understanding of the Gospel Message. The word gospel means ‘good news’, and for those that have repented, Jesus’ death and resurrection are indeed fantastic news!
We previously examined why repentance is required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Your ownership must be transitioned from the evil one, back to The Father by repenting. After you truly make the decision to repent there is still one major problem that must be overcome.
In your time as a slave to sin, you followed the will of the evil one. In this time, you accumulated a debt.
Sin cause's pain, sin causes suffering, sin causes damage to God’s children and His Kingdom. For justice to be served, this pain and suffering must be re-paid. Your God is a just God, so this debt of suffering cannot simply be dismissed. The debt must be accounted for.
If you have repented, there is great news! In response to your repentance, God makes this debt payment on your behalf. He steps off His throne and becomes flesh, so that He can be your perfect substitute.
The consequences of your sin are:
Jesus faces these consequences on your behalf. On the cross, He first suffers a separation from God by dying spiritually. Jesus willingly gives up His Holy Spirit.
46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Further, Jesus goes on to suffer a physical death.
Lastly, He suffers wrath in the pit. The wrath that is due to you for your sins. This is how He repays your debt. Always remember that Jesus suffers for you individually. Every sin you commit has an associated amount of just wrath. Jesus suffers a differing amount of wrath for each of your sins. The total wrath that Jesus suffers in the pit is not a fixed amount, rather it is cumulative. The wrath that Jesus endures is the total sum of wrath accumulated for every single sin committed by God’s children.
This is Good News for you! God dies spiritually, dies physically and suffers in your place, so that you don’t have to. He cleanses you by paying your debt, and gives you a new Spirit!
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Repentance is the price you must pay to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The cross is the price Jesus pay’s to the evil one to free you from your debt and provide you with a new life in union with the Spirit.
When you repent, you are reborn of the Spirit. Jesus cleanses you with His sacrifice, preparing you to receive His spirit. He yielded His Holy Spirit on the cross, so that you may have it. He sacrifices His life so that you can be reborn with the gift of His Spirit.
Jesus pays your debt on the cross, in response to your repentance. However, this leads to an interesting question. To whom does he pay this debt too? Jesus and Matthew give you the first clue in Matthew 20.
28 Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
By using the term ransom, Jesus provides you with much insight into this matter. These are the typical logistics of a ransom:
i) A child is taken from his parents by a kidnapper.
ii) The kidnapper demands payment in exchange for the child’s return.
iii) The parent makes a payment to get the child back.
Jesus gives His life, both physically and spiritually, as a ransom for you. By using the word ransom, Jesus implies that:
i) We have been kidnapped from our Father.
ii) Someone has demanded a payment from our Father in exchange for our return.
iii) Our Father made a payment for our return.
Recognize that Jesus is the ransom, as He states in Matthew 20:28. Knowing that there can only be one who would take us captive, we can further expand this paradigm:
i) Satan kidnapped you from God (This happened in the Garden).
ii) Satan demanded a payment (a ransom) in exchange for you.
iii) God made the payment (Jesus) to Satan to get you back.
“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.
God gave His only begotten Son as our ransom.
In Matthew 4, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, and receives the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit immediately delivers Jesus to Satan in the desert. Before Jesus starts His ministry, the Father delivers His ransom (Jesus), to Satan in the desert.
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must repent. This proves your desire to transfer ownership from Satan back to the Father. In response to your repentance, God gives His only begotten Son over to Satan as your ransom.
This leads to two more questions. First, we know that Jesus pays our debt on the cross. This being the case, why is He delivered to Satan in the desert as a ransom? Second, if God has infinite power and maintains complete control of everything, how can Satan demand a ransom from Him?
Rest assured, your God is an awesome God, and He is in complete control.
If God has infinite power and is in control of everything, how can Satan demand a ransom from Him? God is indeed all-powerful and is absolutely in complete control. However, He does have a limitation.
God will not SIN, nor will He be UNJUST. God’s justice is perfect.
Satan is cast out of Heaven because he sins. He desires power. He desires possession, and he is prideful. Satan rejects God's will, and God’s just response is to separate Satan from Himself.
God made Satan the most intelligent of all His creations.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.
Satan is crafty. He knows that God must act justly. He knows that if he can get God’s children to commit the same sin he committed, God will be forced to issue an identical penalty.
In the Garden, Satan deploys this strategy against Adam and Eve. He tempts Eve to commit the same sin he did. He tempts her with:
i) the desire for possession (the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden),
ii) pride (her eyes will be open, and she will become wise),
iii) and power (she will become like God).
Genesis 3: 1-7:
7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
This is how Satan took ownership of you, and began to accrue your debt. Satan knows that God must act justly. Since God cast him out of the Kingdom for committing these three sins, God must also separate Himself from us.
This is how he took us captive. The next question is: what is Satan's motivation for taking us captive? Also, how does it relate to the desert temptations?
Satan believes that he is in control (power). He thinks that he is better than God (Pride), and that he can defeat God. He captures God’s children for the purpose of demanding a ransom. Satan uses God's children as leverage to force Jesus to the desert where he can test Him on his own terms.
The evil one is blinded by his pride. He thinks that God will also desire possession, pride and power if He gives up His throne to become flesh. If Satan can get God to sin, then his exile from heaven would be revealed as unjust.
Jesus appears to comply with Satan’s demands. He gives up his throne and power, and becomes flesh. He allows the Spirit to deliver Him to a test in the desert, just as Satan demands.
Fortunately, God is omnipotent. He knows how to defeat an attack of force. He uses the same strategy that Jesus you.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
This is exactly the strategy God utilizes. Satan forces Him into a testing in the desert. God complies and sends Jesus (the ransom), to be tested in the desert. Jesus is forced to go one mile. After Jesus overcomes the testing in the desert, He continues on to His death on the cross at the hands of Satan and His children. Jesus willingly goes two miles. This second mile results in freedom for His children, and the permanent defeat of Satan.
If God is all-powerful and in complete control, why does he set up creation in a way that allows Satan to take ownership of you? Why does He even create Satan in the first place?
The answer is that He did it out of love for you. God did it to give you the greatest gift of all, the gift of free will. Your God did an amazing thing. He created you in His own image:
27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them
That is, He gives you free-will. He gives you the choice to love Him or reject Him. He makes you unique, and gives you the ability to make your own decision.
God could have created you with no choice. He could have programmed you to love Him. However, that wouldn’t really be love. Without free will, there is no love. Without free will, you are not even really alive.
God desired children. He desired to love His children, and He desired that His children loved Him back. He knew in advance that Satan would turn against Him. God knew that Satan would take ownership of His Children. Most importantly He pre-knew the steep price He would need to pay to buy His children back. However, He was willing to do this.
God allows the world exist in its current state to give you a choice:
1) Love God, and hand your lives over to Him (Repent).
2) Reject God, and choose an eternal existence without Him.
It is your choice.
We understand the desire and love for children. God set up a creation where we can procreate, so that we can understand this desire. He set up creation in a way that you can understand His great desire.God wants children. Children who willingly choose to love Him, and grow up in His image. Our creator was willing to pay the ultimate price to achieve this end.
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