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A Salvation too Great to Neglect

Hebrews 2:3

 

“how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” (HCSB)

 Tuesday, June 12, 2005 was a busy morning for police assigned to the Midtown area of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Four different shooting incidents occurred at practically the same time.  It is not surprising that crime is an issue for police in a major city, but four separate shootings in such a concentrated area is.  What is even more surprising is that one of the shooting victims refused treatment even though he was shot in the head.  (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Now, I like to think that I’m as tough as the next guy, and I hate to go to the doctor too, but come on—who in his right mind would refuse treatment after getting shot in the head?  Some needs are so pressing they need to be dealt with immediately.

 The writer of Hebrews asks an important question, “how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”

 His question immediately prompts another question in my mind, is there any other way of salvation than Jesus Christ? 

 Hinduism would say there are three paths to salvation: works or rituals, mystical intuition, or devotion to a Hindu god or goddess. Buddhism, a religion that began as an offshoot of Hinduism teaches that salvation occurs when a person realizes Nirvana, which is “the extinguishing of continual rebirths.”  In Islam, salvation comes from performing good works. (http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786353/k.A7EE/World_Religions.htm) (http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/ISLAM/ISLAM1.HTM)

 Are these other paths valid ones, or is there only one way to salvation?  “Dirk Ficca of Chicago, a Presbyterian minister who heads an inter-faith organization, told a PCUSA peacemaking conference that salvation through Christ was the norm for Christians but that there were other valid faiths. Ficca asked rhetorically, ‘What's the big deal about Jesus?’” 
(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Rev. Ficca, let me answer that question for you.  The big deal is that in Jesus, God became man, dwelt among us, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven 40 days later to sit on the right hand of the Father on high.

 During a unique time in human history, Jesus was born of a virgin, and throughout his entire earthly life was fully man and was fully God.  It wasn’t that “the divine” dwelt upon a man, or that as a man He did divine things, it was that Jesus was fully man and fully God.  Notice the terminology the writer of Hebrews used to describe the incarnation in verse 9.  The verse says, “But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone—crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”  (Hebrews 2:9 HCSB)  He said, “for a short time.” 

 Last week we discussed that Jesus was superior to the angels, this week the writer of Hebrews says that during a brief window of history; Jesus was lower than the angels.  In other words, He was man.  Paul used similar terminology to describe this blessed event.  In Philippians 2:5-8 he wrote, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, [6] who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. [7] Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, [8] He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” (HCSB)  The writer of Hebrews speaks of God lowering himself for a short time, while Paul says that he “emptied Himself.”  When we reflect upon both of these phrases, we get a clearer picture of this miraculous event.  God made a great sacrifice to become man.

 Why?  Why would God choose to humiliate Himself in this manner?

 I can think of two reasons: our sin and His love.  We’d sinned against our Holy God, resulting in separation from His favor.  Because God loves us, He went hunting for us.  In the beginning, the voice of God echoed through the garden asking, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)  And much later, Dr. Luke would write, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 HCSB)  In his gospel, Luke places three of Jesus’ stories together:  the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  In the first of the three stories, the shepherd leaves 99 sheep that he has in his fold to search for one that is lost.  In the second story, a woman loses one of ten coins and turns the house upside down to find the lost one.  And in the final story, a Father patiently waits for a rebellious son who forsook his family to live a unholy life.  These three stories underscore a single truth: God seeks the lost.

 Boys, it is just like what happened in our cabin last week at Centrifuge.  When one of us lost something of great value, we all went to the cabin during our free time and looked for the lost item.  We even looked in places where we didn’t think it would be.  And when we finally found it, we were all excited and rejoiced.

 That’s what happened in these three parables.  Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” (HCSB) Luke 15:10 says, “I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (HCSB) And Luke 15:22-24 says, “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. [23] Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, [24] because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” (HCSB)

 My question is who is doing the rejoicing?  Verse 7 isn’t clear—it just tells us where it happens—in heaven, but it doesn’t tell us who rejoices.  Verse 10 gives us a clue; it is someone who is in the presence of God’s angels.  Verses 22-24 leaves no doubt, it is the Father that rejoices.  God the father, who is in heaven, surrounded by His angels, rejoices when one of His lost children comes home.

 Why would he rejoice so much?  Because we are so valuable to Him.  The Psalmist cried out to His God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,” (Psalms 17:8 ESV). We matter to God. We are the apple of His eye.  He went to every extreme to save us—even becoming man, living a perfect life and paying the price for our sins.

 A couple of weeks ago Susan and I were enjoying a week at Lake Tahoe.  We don’t usually act like tourists when we are on vacation, but this year we did go for a two-hour cruise on the MS Dixie II to the Emerald Bay over the crystal-clear waters of the lake.  All I can say is the ride to the launching ramp wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the one across the lake.  We got directions over the phone and allowed plenty of time to get lost, but didn’t allow enough time to get lost several times.  As we approached a bend in the road on Hwy 50, I was afraid we were about to begin a climb that wouldn’t have any turn outs, so we turned around and headed the other way—this time, resolving that we would look more carefully.  The road had some construction on it, and we were afraid that we’d missed the exit in the confusion.  We drove slowly, looked carefully, but could find a thing.  Meanwhile, the clock continued to tick.  When we hit the downtown area again, we made another U-turn and decided to try one more time.  This time we went past the bend in the road and just as we did, we saw our exit.  We quickly parked, hurried to the ticket counter and waited in line with the other latecomers as the captain held the boat.

 In the quiet aboard the boat, I wondered how many people never go past the bend in the road to find the right path.  No, I’m not talking about a two-hour cruise on Lake Tahoe, I’m talking about eternity.  Just as there was only one right exit for the cruise, there is only one path to God—and that is Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 HCSB) 

 Are you on the right path?  It really does matter which one you’re following, because only one will get you where you really want to go.

 There is only one Salvation available, and you will not escape if you neglect it!

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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