John 15:8 (ESV)
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Becoming a follower of Jesus, one who humbly depends on and consistently abides in Him and His truth, makes an observable difference in the way true children of God think, feel and behave. This is what Jesus taught and this is the truth the Apostles reinforced in churches as they applied the New Covenant teaching of Jesus in the churches they established.
Down through the centuries the church has battled two faulty approaches to the gospel. The first error is that of saying God has His part in salvation and that men and women have their part. God provides His Son to pay the penalty for sin on the cross for the forgiveness of sins (God’s part). Men and women must believe in Jesus and be determined to remain consistently devoted to Him throughout life by personal determination (man’s part). This error adds human works and effort to both salvation and sanctification.
The second error is thinking that the gospel of salvation is realized by entrusting one’s soul to Jesus through a simple prayer confessing one’s sinfulness and asking Jesus to be Savior (i.e. receive the free gift). The ultimate hope is that those who believe in Jesus as Savior will eventually want to live in obedience to biblical truth, but even if they don’t they are eternally saved because they said a prayer confessing their sins and accepting Jesus as Savior. In an effort to keep the gospel free from human works this belief robs God’s transforming gospel grace of its saving and sanctifying power.
Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. From start to finish it is the work of God without the aid of any man or woman. God graciously gives spiritual life to the heart of a sinner, awakening him or her to sinfulness before a holy and righteous God. The illumination continues by revealing that hope for salvation can only be realized by humbly depending on Jesus as Savior and surrendering to Him as Lord. It is the gospel power of God that enables the desire to trust the completed work of Jesus. It is the gospel power of God that enables people to live for Jesus throughout life. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV) Followers of Jesus abound in thanksgiving because the work, from beginning to end, is that of God’s grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a manifestation of the same power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. God’s gospel grace provides all that is needed to save us and produce the fruit of progressive sanctification (ongoing surrender and obedience of biblical truth) throughout our lives. Because it is God’s work that produces fruitfulness in the lives of His people, the glory is God’s and our fruitfulness is the evidence that we have been granted the life and power of God. May His fruitful children praise the gospel grace of God in Jesus forevermore!
[Pastor Mark Landess]