The certainty of salvation
The certainty of salvation is not found in your faith or in anything you do. The certainty of salvation is found in Christ and everything he did for you on the cross. It is because of Christ that we are absolutely certain that heaven is our home. It is because of Christ that the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing us a place in heaven. It is because of Christ that we will inherit eternal life. He saved us on the cross!
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
El Capitan in Yosemite National park is a 3,000 foot rock that protrudes straight up from the ground. Experienced mountain climbers find this the ultimate challenge. Using a series of ropes and pulleys, they long to reach the summit to enjoy their accomplishment. Many have fallen to their death trying. Recently a movie has been made of a young man who climbed this mountain with no ropes, just his bare hands and years of practice and experience. He is the only man to have done what had been believed to be an impossible feat. See the movie if you’d like. It is an impressive accomplishment. What had been considered impossible has now become possible. Others will try.
No matter what great death defying acts we see done by man, nothing will ever come close to accomplishing what Jesus Christ accomplished when he died on the cross after being brutally persecuted and then rising unharmed from his grave three days later. And what he did makes all the difference in the world for all of humanity. Let us consider this thought:
God accomplishes the impossible on the cross
by nature the cross offends us
by faith the cross saves us
“A man ran up to (Jesus) and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” That’s the question everyone wants answered for him. We are born with the opinion that we can do something to earn God’s favor. But we can’t. God has such high standards for us that these standards are impossible for us to reach. He says, “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy.” He says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” For this reason, St. Paul, wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … there is no one who does good not even one.” Eternal life is impossible for us to achieve.
But Jesus doesn’t come right out and say that to the man. Instead Jesus picks up on what the man called Jesus, “good.” He is certainly right in calling Jesus good. For someone to be “good” he must be perfect. When God created the world and called all things “good,” they were perfect. Jesus is perfect because he is God. But that isn’t the reason he called Jesus “good.” No. He thought of Jesus as a “good” person, who did what needed to be done to be sure that he would inherit eternal life. The man wanted to know what Jesus’ secret was so that he too might have the confidence of eternal life. Jesus was worthy of the title “good” because he is the perfect God-man. But this man was a fool if he thought he could ever achieve such lofty goals!
So, Jesus forces the man to look at his heart. He says, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’” The second table of the law is our favorite too. I’ve been a good neighbor. I don’t hate anyone. I haven’t killed anyone. I don’t cheat on my spouse. I haven’t stolen anything from my neighbor. I am not a gossip or busybody in other people’s lives. I take good care of my aging parents. I am respectful and kind to those in authority over me.” Do you really believe that you are that good? If so, you don’t need the cross! You’ve got it all figured out. You can do what God commands. You can be your own Savior. But, in reality you are fooling yourself.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘God, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Jesus loves sinners. He loves us enough to hurt us so that we see how much we need him. The man had distorted God’s law in order to excuse the sins in his own heart. Jesus exposed the secret sins in his heart – specifically, his love of money. Jesus caused this man to see that he loved his wealth more than he loved God. He saw himself differently now. He wasn’t as good as he thought. He was a lost sinner. Jesus invited him to be his disciples. But he was offended and too proud to admit he needed saving. He wouldn’t follow Jesus because his pride got in the way. He couldn’t admit that he was a sinner because he loved money more than God.
The cross offended him. By nature, the cross offends us too. By nature, we love the things of this world more than we love God’s holy will. If we fail to keep God’s unbending commands, we fail to love God. If we fail to love God, we cannot “do” what’s necessary to inherit eternal life. Our sinful nature (pride, greed, selfishness) is offended to think that we are helpless to contribute to our own salvation. We are told in our text, “at this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Jesus answer to the man’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” was too hard. You have already disqualified yourself! He was offended by the cross and left.
God accomplishes the impossible on the cross. By faith the cross saves us. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Sin stands as an insurmountable obstacle between the holy God and sinful mankind. It is impossible for us to remove that obstacle. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” There is no hidden meaning behind these words. A camel was the largest animal found in Palestine. The eye of a needle is the smallest opening we can imagine. Jesus wanted his disciples to know that it is impossible to love money and God.
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
God accomplished the impossible on the cross. The Bible says, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus made the impossible, possible. Jesus lived a perfect life. He did everything God requires in his holy will. Jesus died an innocent death because of the transgressions of all people. He paid the world’s debt to God. He died in place of everyone. He rose from the dead to assure the world that he had won the victory over sin, death and the devil.
The Bible says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no man can boast.” God has loved you eternally. He gives you eternal life when he gives you the gift of faith. You do not earn eternal life. You do not achieve salvation. You receive eternal life. You receive the gift of salvation. God saves you without your cooperation because of Christ and all that he has accomplished for you on the cross. God accomplished the impossible on the cross.
You never have to wonder what is going to happen to you when you die. You can be sure that you will go to heaven when you die because of Christ. Death is separation from God. Life is union with God. Because you have eternal life in Christ, you will never be separated from God. Through the water of baptism, he first gave you eternal life. Through the bread and wine of communion, he continues to strengthen your hope in Christ. He has promised to shield you from all harm and danger and at last to deliver you from all evil by bringing you home to heaven. On the cross Jesus saved you from death.
You understand then that the certainty of salvation is not found in your faith or in anything you do. The certainty of salvation is found in Christ and everything he did for you on the cross. It is because of Christ that we are absolutely certain that heaven is our home. It is because of Christ that the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing us a place in heaven. It is because of Christ that we will inherit eternal life. He saved us on the cross!
What must I do to inherit eternal life? Nothing. Thank God. Not only has Christ made the impossible possible, he has made eternal life a certainty. Jesus accomplished the impossible on the cross. When loved ones fall asleep in Jesus, there is no greater comfort in our sorrow.