Jesus is our Savior, 28 January 2018

Jesus is our Savior
The Gospel Truth
Romans 3:21-26

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Savior, saving us from sin and death.


In the classic film
The Princess Bride, Vizzini the Sicilian repeatedly calls things “inconceivable.” After hearing it said several times, Inigo Montoya utters a line which has become iconic among moviegoers. He says,

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Often, we use words
we don’t fully understand. Take, for instance, the gospel. What is the gospel?

Today we begin a series entitled,
The Gospel Truth. I think we all understand the concept of truth, but what is the gospel? The Greek word is euaggelion and it literally means “good news.”

When I was working on my doctorate, I interviewed several leaders in our neighborhood. I wanted to know what it would look like to bring the gospel to UpTown Toledo. Recognizing how odd it would be to ask strangers, “What would be the gospel for our community?” I asked, “What would be good news here?”

Parenthetically, nearly everyone said development, new businesses and housing to bring new life to Toledo…something we are doing through Claro Coffee Bar. I’m pleased to say there are many in our neighborhood grateful for First Alliance Church and our investment on Adams Street.

What is the gospel?

Here's rapper/pastor/artist Trip Lee's take on the gospel.

What is the gospel?

Perhaps like me you’ve heard the gospel is Jesus died so you can go to heaven when you die. It’s a get out of hell free card. The gospel is about being saved.

Let me give you the slightly longer version of what many have called the gospel:

- God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

- People are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

- Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin, and through him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

- We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord in order to know and experience his love and plan for our lives.

These four statements are from a booklet called
The Four Spiritual Laws written by Bill Bright in 1965 and has been shared around the world in hundreds of languages. I’ve actually shared it with people in both English and Spanish over the years. There is good news in those statements and elements of the gospel are found here, but calling this the gospel would’ve seemed odd to the first Christians. It would’ve seemed odd to great church leaders like Finney and Wesley.

What is the gospel?

I think a good place to start might be the Bible. Here’s what Paul said…

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,
and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Paul says this is the gospel:

- Jesus died
- Jesus was buried
- Jesus was raised from the dead
- Jesus appeared to people

What is Paul’s focus when he describes the gospel? Jesus. He says it again to Timothy.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, (2Timothy 2:8)

The gospel is about remembering Jesus is the Messiah, raised from the dead. The gospel is first and foremost to the story of Jesus, not the story of how to get saved.

Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Bill Bright—the three Bills—talked a lot about salvation, our topic for today. But before we focus on soteriology—salvation—I want you to understand the gospel is first and foremost about Christology…it’s all about Jesus.

The gospel is all about Jesus. In a word, the gospel is Jesus. In three words, the gospel is Jesus Is LORD.

In Acts 2:14-36, Peter declares the gospel is all about Jesus.
In Acts 10:34-43, Peter again declares the gospel is all about Jesus.
The Bible declares the gospel is all about Jesus.

There’s a temptation in our USAmerican culture to make the gospel all about us.

God loves us.
We sinned.
Jesus died for us.
We need to believe.

These are all true. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying salvation is not important or we’re not important, but simply that the gospel begins and ends with Jesus.

Jesus is the King.
Jesus is the LORD.

That’s the central gospel of the New Testament. We need to focus on Jesus, not how we can be happy when we die or what happens when we die. The story is not about us. It’s about Jesus and we are called to tell this story. In fact, the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are called gospels because they tell the story of Jesus.

For the next four weeks, we are going to examine Jesus. Actually, every Sunday is an opportunity to learn about, get to know, and become like Jesus. But this new series, The Gospel Truth, borrows from something called the Fourfold Gospel.

Our church was founded by a remarkable man, Albert Benjamin Simpson. He influenced not only the launch of our church but also the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare Church, and our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Perhaps you’ve seen the logo of the Alliance. It depicts Jesus as our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King.

Jesus is our Savior

What does it mean for Jesus to be our Savior? As we saw earlier, our sin separates us from God. Sin leads to death, including the death of our relationship with a perfect, holy God. Jesus came to this earth to show us what it means to be human and also to die—instead of us—for our sins.

None of us is perfect and righteous like God, but Jesus is fully human and fully God, holy and without sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

That’s quite a passage! Here it is in a slightly more modern translation:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:21-22, NLT)

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26, NLT)

This is, indeed, good news.

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 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

Many have heard of John 3:16, but the next verse is powerful, too. Jesus came to save us…from our sins, from ourselves.

Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends, proclaimed…

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

This is why Jesus is such a big deal. It’s why we don’t believe all religious roads lead to God. If we get to heaven by being good, Jesus was stupid for being crucified. Instead, he alone suffered and died for you and me. Paul wrote,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We praise him for his sacrifice on the cross, for salvation, for God’s gift of Jesus.


Many the gospel is about going to heaven when you die. I would like to suggest the gospel is going to heaven before you die. If heaven is where God is, we can experience God in the here and now. Through the Holy Spirit, God is present here with us, living inside of every believer.

Do you love Jesus? I’m afraid we’ve often turned Jesus into a product to sell so people can avoid hell. Believe these propositions, pray a prayer, and you’re done. Jesus never said make decisions. He said to make disciples. He said to follow him, not merely be a fan.

Although the gospel is more than just salvation, Jesus
is our Savior and that’s a wonderful truth. No matter your past, Jesus loved you, and he proved that love by dying on the cross to offer forgiveness for all of yours sins and mistakes—past, present, and future.

Jesus is our Savior. Hallelujah!

Credits: Some ideas from Scot McKnight.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Fan or Follower, 21 January 2018

    Fan or Follower?
    John 1:40

    Big Idea:
    Are you a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

    I’ll never forget the day I met Kirk. No, I don’t mean myself. I actually don’t remember the first time I met myself, though I’m quite sure I was very young! It was a warm day in Chicagoland and I met my neighbor, Kirk. Two things were memorable. First, his name was Kirk…and he couldn’t believe another Kirk would be his neighbor. It was almost as if he wanted me to change my name so he could be the only Kirk in the neighborhood!

    The second thing was even more remarkable. He told me he loved the Chicago Bears. I didn’t find this terribly surprising given we were in a suburb of Chicago, quite close, actually, to the training camp for Chicago’s professional football team. He was wearing a Bears shirt, ended a previous conversation with, “Go Bears!” and he had a huge Bears logo on the hood of his car (it looked like the eagle on an old Trans Am). And this wasn’t even football season!

    Before I go any further, you need to understand Kirk did not appear to be a very wealthy individual. His car was aging, his clothes looked well-used, and he lived in a small apartment above an old garage which looked like it could collapse at any moment! He very well could’ve been nearly homeless for all I could tell.

    Kirk continued to tell me about his passion for the Bears. “I go to every game,” he said. “And I don’t just mean the home games.” He went on to describe how for years he had driven his car from Illinois to every away game including Seattle, California, Miami, and the east coast. Then he uttered nine words I might never forget: “I even went to the exhibition game in Berlin.”

    To call Kirk a fan of the Bears may be the understatement of the year. He lives, breathes, and sleeps the Chicago Bears and is a fully devoted follower.

    Contrast that with one of the students I met Thursday at the After School Klub. We were playing a game and the question was posed, “Who’s going to win the Super Bowl?” One of the kids said, “I love the Broncos!” The trouble is, there are only four teams left this year, two games today will determine who goes to the Super Bowl, and the Broncos are already out of the playoffs. This Denver Broncos fan had no idea this was a losing season for their favorite team. Needless to say, there’s a huge difference between the Bronco fan and the Bears follower.

    Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

    Most USAmericans identify themselves as Christians, but what does that really mean? The word is commonly used to identify a political party. It is viewed by many as a group of people who are always against things and are filled with hate. Many within the church think because they believe in God and devote an hour a week to religious activity they are guaranteed a mansion in heaven when they die while others who haven’t prayed the prayer burn in hell for eternity.

    Many are fans of Jesus, content with belief in historical events, but unwilling to devote their daily lives to the One who invites us to follow Him. It’s one thing to pray a prayer and ask Jesus to be your Savior and quite another to fully surrender and make Jesus your LORD.

    Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

    Happy New Year! I know, we’re three weeks into the new year but this is my first chance to preach in 2018. How many of you are doing well with your new year’s resolutions? Oh never mind!

    Actually, I was interviewed for an article
    The Toledo Blade recently did on new year’s resolutions related to reading the Bible. Just over 60 percent of American adults say they want to read the Bible more than they do. I’m excited so many of you are using the free Mission 119 app and website to not only read but study and apply the Bible.

    But why? Why read the Bible? What’s the purpose of prayer? Why give money and time to the church? Why are we here week after week?

    I have enjoyed the Mission 119 readings in Genesis, beginning with God’s amazing creation and moving to the fall of Adam and Eve, the covenant with Abraham, and the outrageous behavior of Abraham’s family. You just can’t make up some of those stories! The entire Old Testament creates anticipation for the Messiah to come and heal the brokenness, forgive the sin, and renew all things.

    Jesus comes, models a perfect life, offers supernatural wisdom, performs miracles, dies on the cross for us, crushes sin and death, rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, and promises to return. Among his final words were these:

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

    It’s almost cliché around here to talk about discipleship, making disciples. That’s the mission. That’s the Great Commission. Make disciples.

    But what’s a disciple? We know Jesus had twelve disciples. What did that mean? Simply, they were fully-devoted followers. They weren’t fans, though Jesus had thousands of fans, fair-weather people who wanted to see him do tricks and critique his lectures. But these twelve—or at least eleven of them—were true followers, real disciples.

    That journey began with a simple, two-word invitation: follow me.

    Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

    Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter ).

    The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:40-43)

    We don’t know if all twelve were invited this simply, but the invitation continues to this day, offered to every man, woman and child: follow me.

    Tragically, many have flirted with Jesus but never truly followed. They put a fish on the back of their car or checked the “Christian” box in an application asking for religious preference, but never fully surrendered. Many have actually done many religious things, but missed the bottom-line message.

    That message? Four words:

    Love God
    Love Others

    When asked the greatest commandment,

    Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God
    with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

    Love God
    Love Others

    This is not new. It is not complicated. But before we get too deep into 2018, I want to challenge you with the simple question

    Are you a fan of Jesus or a follower?

    One dictionary defines fan as “an enthusiastic admirer.” That describes so many so-called Christians. They say they believe in God (satan believes there is a God, too!). They consider themselves to be good people. They might even be able to answer some Bible trivia from their time in church, but Jesus never said, “Admire me.” He never said, “Believe in your head I died and rose again.”

    Jesus defined what it means to be a follower.

    Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

    Last Sunday Jake was baptized. He was immersed in what is symbolically a water grave, dying, surrendering his will and desires before coming out of the water symbolizing resurrection, his new life in Jesus.

    Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came so dead people can come alive!

    The world “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible, each in reference to Jesus’ disciples. However, “disciple” is found more than 250 times. A disciple does everything to know and model the one they are following. They are a learner, but not just a head learner. Their heart and hands are changed, too, to love God and love others. They not only follow the Golden Rule of treating others as they want to be treated, they live out the Platinum Rule, loving others the way God loves you and me.


    I would like to suggest one way to love God and love others. It’s not popular. In fact, it’s quite rare. I believe it is a pathway to peace, a bridge to unity. In our culture of division, hatred, and violence, one simple character trait would transform conversations and relationships. I must confess I have struggled my entire life to embody this word so nobody is more challenged than yours truly. The world is humility.

    Paul wrote to the church in Philippi these radical words:

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    Brothers and sisters, so much is at stake. Our city, nation and world are growing weary of Christians who don’t follow Jesus, they’re just fans. To be honest, there are atheists who are fans of Jesus, appreciating the wisdom of his teachings without embracing his resurrection or invitation to follow.

    I see so much pride in the USA church today. Close-minded critics blast their spiritual siblings on Facebook and blog posts for controversial theological differences. So-called evangelicals seemingly more concerned with acquiring and supporting political power than emulating the homeless Messiah who said we would be judged by how we treat the least of these. I’m sick of self-righteous Pharisees concerned about the speck in the eyes of others while refusing to acknowledge the log in their own eye. This is nothing new, obviously, but I believe it needs to be said: we need more people to follow Jesus, our model for humility.

    And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

    The invitation to follow Jesus is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. It involves nothing short of complete surrender—death to yourself and possibly even martyrdom. But I can tell you there’s nothing greater than knowing Jesus Christ.

    In the next chapter Paul wrote

    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    Those are words from a follower, not a fan.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his classic book,
    The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Then the new life begins!

    Jesus said

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

    That’s a disciple.

    Are you a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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