You should know that I’m a teacher by trade. I was in English teacher for years, I’m currently a substitute teacher in our schools, and even in our church it’s my responsibility to teach young people about Jesus. So as a teacher, I usually don’t give speeches, but lessons. So try to think of the next 20 minutes as an interactive lesson.
Let’s start our lesson with an exercise. I’m going to show a series of quotations. Think about each one and which one best describes your views on God and salvation.
"To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath God promised forgiveness and a great reward," (Surah 5:9).
“Salvation is reached through acts of worship, based upon devotion and love for God.” – Bhakti Hinduism
“Through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” 3rd Article of Mormon Faith
Before we get to your answers, I have one more question:
How many of your have heard the phrase: “God helps those who help themselves.”?
Which book of the Bible does that come from?
Now, back to our exercise. The question was: Which statement best describes your view of God and salvation. I hope the first one didn’t describe your viewpoint. That’s a quote from the Koran; it’s what Muslims believe. So if you chose statement two then you’re … in full agreement with a lot of Hindus. So congratulations to those who trusted statement three … because you’d get along just fine with our Mormon friends at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
So we’re left with this: “God helps those who helps themselves.” Did anybody flip through and find where this quote is in the Bible? You might have found it under the Book of Hezekiah on the list of things that aren’t actually in the Bible. This is a quote from Ben Franklin.
Sorry to play such a mean trick on you all. I promise no more tricks – just truth from now on.
So how is the story of Jesus unlike any other worldview?
What would the Bible say about Ben Franklin’s quote?
Romans 5:6 – “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” So does God help those who help themselves? Not according to this Bible verse.
Regardless of whether we knew it was in the Bible or not, I think we all try to live by this motto. I think we’re doing all we can to be worthy before God. We’re working hard to make sure our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds by the end of our life. As if it’s a matter of willpower, we try really hard on our own to make it to heaven.
If this describes your approach to life, I hope I can convince you to give it up. It’s time for us to give up trying to earn our spot in heaven.
This month we’ve been talking about Mormons in youth group on Wednesday nights. We’ve learned so much about all of these rules and regulations they must keep. It’s a life of slavery to a set of rules: no caffeine, modest dress, frequent church attendance, and no less than 10% giving. We learned that to be saved, one must obey a set of laws and ordinances. If that describes you, then we need to change from the Mormon approach to life to the Christian approach.
In the Middle East I talked with some Muslims about God, salvation, and the afterlife. A Muslim explained to me that to be saved, you must give complete obedience to God, following all his commands. On the day of judgment, God will weigh your good deeds and weigh your bad deeds. If your good outweighs your bad, that you’re good to walk through the gates. If you have too many bad deeds on your resume, then the other thing happens. If that describes your way of thinking, then we need to change from the Muslim approach to life to the Christian approach.
In Thailand, I stumbled upon a bunch of picnic tables full of Buddhist monks, offering their wisdom and insight. They explained that life is so full of suffering. I agreed. He said that if we eliminate selfishness, greed, and wickedness from our life, then our suffering will end. He said if we concentrate hard enough, we can eliminate these bad things from our life, then we can achieve salvation. If that describes your way of thinking then we need to change from the Buddhist approach to life to the Christian approach.
You should know that I asked this monk, “Do you know anybody who has escaped suffering through this method you describe?” His answer was straight up “no.” I was too polite to respond, “Don’t you see a problem with that?”
What does the Bible tell us about our approach to life?
First, we’re told that we’re utterly helpless. We don’t have the willpower to be good. We can’t do enough good to outweigh the bad. And our spiritual bank account is so dry that we’re bankrupt.
What’s so unique about the story of Jesus?
That while we were utterly helpless, he helped us. That while you were a slave to sin, you were set free. That while you were bankrupt, your debts were cancelled. That while you were held ransom by Satan, you were purchased at a great price. That while you were dead in your transgressions, you were made alive in Christ.
Have you ever admitted your helpless? Have you ever admitted you’re bankrupt. Have you ever realized that your spiritually dead in your wrongdoing? If so, then why does everybody have a bookshelf full of self-help books? We can’t call ourselves sons and daughters of God and live life with a self-help approach.
I’m going to show you a video, and I want you to guess which guy is Jesus, and which guys are the other people I talked about.
***Show Video***: A man fell in a hole
Pray: Father, we recognize that you are the master of everything, and we – the masters of nothing. We used to be helpless in this hole, yet you helped us out, and still we live like we have to do enough good, or else we go back into the hole. Or, Father, some of us have never left that hole. Even though we’re helpless, we try to dig our way out on our own. God today we admit that we need your help and when you ask us if we want to be free, our answer is “yes.” Yes, we want you to save us from the hole and we want to live life with dependence on you, and not ourselves. We love you, and we commit our lives to you.