“The Story of Salvation”
Hello and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. A number of years ago, my grandfather passed away. One of the things I remember about him was how he liked to tell stories. His stories were fascinating and exciting, and I always enjoyed them. My family would sit around and listen to those stories for as long as he would tell them. His storytelling was good because it revolved around a good story. In fact, almost anybody can be a good storyteller if the story is a good one. The greatest story of all time is the one about Jesus Christ. No matter who tells it, the story is great and it ends in a very powerful and exciting way. In our lesson today, on "Key to the Kingdom," I will retell that story once again. Oh, I may not be the best storyteller around, but it really doesn't matter when the story is about Jesus. We will read several important Bible passages, and think once again about Jesus and His salvation. I trust you will want to hear this wonderful and life-changing story, So please, stay tuned to this station, open your heart and your Bible, and join us as we study together.
When I was a child, I remember my mother reading to me stories out of those fable books and story books, and I would sit for hours on end listening to them. If my mother ever skipped a phrase or forgot a sentence then I would immediately correct her and say for her to go back and read it again. I did that because I memorized those stories. They were very special and important to me. Later on in life, when I had children of my own, I would do the same thing, read those stories and those fables to my children. And again, if I missed a phrase or skipped over a sentence they would immediately catch me, because they too had memorized those stories. Yes, those good stories like that are important and we memorize them. We like to hear them over and over again and even pass them on to our friends or to our loved ones. Well, the very best story that has ever been told or that can be read does not come from a storybook or a fable book, but rather it comes from this Book, called God's Word, which is the Bible. It is absolutely true, it is confirmed in history, and it is the story of Jesus Christ. It is the story of the salvation that He brings to all mankind and for all time. Yes, Jesus is much more than the leader of our Christian religion. Jesus is much more than a great teacher. Jesus is far greater than just the subject of Christianity. Jesus is our Salvation. And yet at the same time, some people may ask the question, "Well, who is this Jesus? We really don't know anything about Him. Why does He receive so much attention? We don't know about His origin, His life, or His ministry. Tell us more about Jesus Christ and why He is so important." Well, the gospel of John, here in the New Testament, does a beautiful job of painting a picture, or a portrait, of Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. It tells the story of Jesus in several different ways and presents to us Jesus in a very unique yet understanding manner. For the next few minutes, today, I would like for us to think about that story of Jesus from the gospel of John. As John presents this story, or this picture, of Jesus and the salvation, he does so by focusing on Jesus' words, the things that He said himself; and, all of those begin with the words "I am." Jesus has several "I am" statements, and we are going to look at some of those "I am" statements, and through them we will see a picture, or a portrait, of Jesus and the salvation He offers. So with that in mind, let's begin by looking at the first one. In chapter 6, verse 35, Jesus states, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty." Jesus provides a life that is far greater than the life that we could find here on this physical world. He provides the ultimate nourishment we need in order to be blessed spiritually and to have that spiritual walk with the Lord. And when we find that life in Him, we won't be hungry, we won't be thirsty; instead, we will be filled up. Jesus even said, in John 10 and verse 10, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." Yes, we are able to experience an abundant life because Jesus is the bread of life. Another statement is found in chapter 9, verse 5: "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." And, He says basically the same thing again in chapter 8, verse 12: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Yes, Jesus is the light through which everything is evaluated. And, if we are walking in the light of Jesus Christ then we have fellowship with Him and He has fellowship with us. We are walking in the light of the Lord in the presence of Almighty God, and God looks down upon us and sees us living with that kind of light and relationship with Him. One of the primary reasons why Jesus came into this world is so that we no longer have to sit in darkness. Oh, this world is filled with darkness, isn't it; and yet, He came to provide a new way, and the light, so that we can come out of that darkness and enter into His marvelous light. Another statement is found in chapter 10, verses 7 and 9: "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." Jesus states, "I am the gate for the sheep." As Jesus spoke these words, His audience was filled with 1st Century shepherds. They knew what Jesus was talking about. Often times, the shepherds, at night, would gather up all of the sheep and put them into a sheep pen. And then, the shepherd himself would lay across the opening to that pen. And, the sheep knew that shepherd, and they knew that he was there to protect them, to watch out for them, and that only through him could the sheep exit that pen or come back in. And, that is the image Jesus portrays here in the 10th chapter: "I am the way in and the way out, and through Me you can find all the nourishment and the pasture that you need." He makes a similar statement in the 10th chapter, verses 11 and 14: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me." Yes, Jesus states, "I am the good shepherd." And indeed, He is the good shepherd. He loves His sheep. He knows their voice, and the sheep, those who belong to Him, know His voice and follow after Him. Jesus makes that statement, "I lay down My life for the sheep," and in fact Jesus did that. He went to the cross. He lay down His life. He died physically so that we can live spiritually. Yes, Jesus is that good shepherd who guides, and watches over, and cares for those who belong to Him. When we think about these words, immediately we think about the role of that 1st Century shepherd. Often times, a shepherd would have a rod, or a staff; and, he would use that rod or staff, that stick if you will, not to strike or to beat the sheep whenever they went astray or did not follow in with the rest of the group, but rather the shepherd would use that staff to guide and direct the sheep wherever those sheep needed to go. And if his sheep wandered off into the brush then the shepherd would use that rod to clear away the brush and bring that sheep back. Or, if the sheep wandered down into a stream of water and was about to be swept away, the shepherd would use the neck of that rod to bring that sheep out and back into safety. That's what Jesus is trying to describe for us here in the 10th chapter: He is our good shepherd. He watches out for us, and He leads us, and He guides us. It reminds us of the 23rd Psalm in the Old Testament, the words of David: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters." We know that psalm, don't we! That is the image that we find of Jesus when He makes the statement, "I am the good shepherd, and I am the gate for the sheep." Here's another statement. It's found in chapter 11 and verse 25, when Jesus states, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies." Let me set the background for that: Jesus had a good friend by the name of Lazarus, and Lazarus had two sisters named Mary and Martha. One day, word came to Jesus that His good friend Lazarus was sick and almost about dead, and Jesus said, "I'm not going to see about him." A few days later, word came to Him that indeed His good friend Lazarus had passed away; and, it was then that Jesus and others went to be with Mary and Martha. As they arrived, the two sisters were upset with Jesus, for they believed that He could have prevented their brother from dying. It was on that occasion that Jesus said these words, "I am the resurrection and the life." Oh, the sisters knew full well that, indeed, when the Lord came back that their brother would be okay. But, Jesus applied deeper meaning to the resurrection. He basically said, "I am the life, now, and when you believe in Me you don't have to worry about eternal life because that is provided for you. I am the resurrection and the life, both now and also for all eternity." And with that, Jesus raised up Lazarus from the dead, and he was able to experience life, once again. Here's another statement from Jesus, in chapter 14, verse 6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Oh, that's true! Perhaps you have heard those words before. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Yes, Jesus is the only way into a relationship with God. There are so many different ways and beliefs, and doctrines and philosophies and religions that are offered throughout the world today, but often times they don't include Jesus. They don't include the Son of God. And so, Jesus says, "I am the way. You can only come to the Father through Me." And, Jesus doesn't say that to pat himself on the back. He is simply speaking the truth; and, He wants you and me to know and to understand that He is the only way to experience that salvation and that relationship with our Heavenly Father. Another statement is found in chapter 15, verse 1. It is simply this, "I am the true vine..." Again, Jesus relates to something the people could understand, a vine growing out of the ground producing branches and leaves. And Jesus says, "You only have strength to do that if you are connected to Me. I am the vine, and if you want to bear fruit in this world, if you want to be productive then you will be connected to Me as one of its branches; and then, you will bear that fruit. Those leaves will be demonstrative to all of the people that you belong to Me and I belong to you." And He goes on to state, in the 15th chapter, that if we are not united to Him then we are cut off, cast aside, and burned. And through that image, once again, we find that Jesus is the only way into a relationship with God the Father. He is the true vine and we are able to experience life through Him, as we are connected to Him. In those different ways, John presents to us Jesus in a very beautiful picture, a very beautiful portrait of Jesus and the salvation He offers, by using the "I am" statements. Oh, there are many other things that we could identify, the names of Jesus that are found here in the New Testament, the many titles that are given to Him, which, again, identify His role in our salvation. For example: the Righteous One of God; the Author of Life; God's Prophet; the Servant of God; and then, He is the Savior of the World. Yes, all of those pictures, all of those phrases, give us the idea and the beautiful portrait of Jesus and the salvation that He offers to you and to me. The question then comes, however, as we look at that story of Jesus and the story of His salvation from that perspective: How then do we respond to that? The letter of Hebrews highlights the significance of Jesus, and it seems to focus on our response to Jesus. What do we do with this information? I want to identify a few passages from that letter. First of all in chapter 3 and verse 1, the author writes, "Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess." There are many things in this world that demand our attention, from commercials on television to billboards on the highways. The idea is, look at this; pursue that; this will give you meaning, and significance, and prosperity; and, this will meet all of your needs. These advertisements and these commercials will turn your bad life into something good. And our thoughts go everywhere, as we think about those options, as we think about what perhaps we need in our own life. Well, the author here in chapter 3 says, "Think about Jesus. Fix your thoughts on Him. Throughout the day and all the time, think about who Jesus is, the author of your salvation. And, recognize that as you confess Him as such, He provides that salvation for you." Another statement we find here in Hebrews is in chapter 7, verse 25: "He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." I love the phrase, “Jesus saves completely.” Jesus doesn't save me partially. He doesn't save me temporarily. He doesn't save just part of me, or for a short period of time: Jesus saves me completely, totally, and forever. That's exciting to know, isn't it; to realize that Jesus' salvation is complete and I don't need anything else. And, my response is to go to Him for that complete healing and salvation. Here's another statement. It is found in Hebrews chapter 9 and verse 15: "For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance -now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Oh, that might be a lengthy statement, but here's what I want to focus on: Jesus died as a ransom. We know what that word means: Jesus paid the price for our sins. And, that is a debt that we cannot pay on our own. He paid that un-payable debt by giving His life on the cross. He died for your sake, and for mine, so that our sin can be washed away, cleansed, and forgiven. And through that, we are able to be set free, like a person that is set free from a prison cell. We are able to enjoy and to experience the salvation that He offers to us in a brand-new life through Jesus Christ, our one and only Savior, the Son of God. Let me offer one more passage for our consideration, as we think about our response to Jesus Christ and the story of His salvation. It's found in chapter 12, verse 2. The author writes, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." A moment ago, in chapter 3, we found the words, "fix your thoughts on Jesus." And now, in chapter 12, the author states, "fix your eyes on Jesus." Again, there are many things in this world that distract our vision, that distract our thoughts; look at this look at that; do this; go here; experience that over there. But, the author says, "Look at Jesus. He is the author and the perfecter of our faith. Look at Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Look at what He did for you by dying upon the cross. Look at Jesus and His resurrection from the grave. Look at Jesus seated there at His Father's right hand. Know that He is praying on your behalf and that He loves you and cares for you more than you will ever know. Look at Jesus. Look at Jesus, the one who suffered and died so that you could live eternally with Him, forever." And, that's our response to Jesus, to fix our thoughts on Him, to fix our eyes upon Him, to realize that He sets us free: He paid the price for our salvation! Yes, the New Testament tells us who Jesus is. It tells us what He did and why that is so very important. There is one final statement about Jesus with which I want to close, and that is found in Acts 4 and verse 12: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Yes, the name of Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we experience the salvation of the Lord. My prayer, my encouragement for you today is that you know the name of Jesus Christ; that you see the beautiful picture that's painted in the gospel of John of Jesus, and who He is, and what He has done for you. Yes, I encourage you today to experience the story of salvation, knowing that it begins and ends with Jesus Christ. It's all about Him! Yes today, know Jesus and make the story of salvation your story, and experience that eternal promise of a home with Him in heaven.
When I was 12 years old, I became a Christian. Through some Bible study of my own and with the help of my parents and some loving Bible teachers, I decided to receive Jesus' salvation. I came to believe that He was God's one and only son and that He came to Earth to save me from my sin. Knowing that I could not save myself, I turned to Jesus and trusted Him to do what I could not. Yet, I also knew that Jesus was saving me for a special place in God's family. He would now recognize me as one of His children and I could look forward to an eternal home with Him in heaven. I remember standing before a group of believers and acknowledging Jesus as the One who died on my behalf, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the grave. Without any doubt, I knew it was the right thing to do. A good friend of mine then baptized me into Jesus Christ. And as he immersed me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, my sin was forgiven and I received the gift of God's Holy Spirit. I remember being immersed in that pool of water as a sinner and coming up out of it as a child of God. That was a turning point in my life. I had just given my life to Jesus Christ. He was now my Savior, and I made the commitment to live as His follower. I remember the exact date and the city in which it happened. I remember other specific details, as well. Yes, that was a life-changing day for me, and one I will never forget. It was a culmination of thought, and prayer, and study, and seeking to do God's will. Ever since that time, it has been the foundation upon which I have lived my life. And, I do not know if you have a similar story, or not. It might be a little bit different; however, I do hope you have a story of how you came to receive Jesus' free gift of salvation. If not, I hope you will take time to read and study the story of Jesus that is found in the Bible. It will change your life, as it did mine and as it has done for millions of people around the world. For the last several weeks we have studied about salvation. Perhaps these lessons have given you some things to consider as you search for a new beginning to your life. My prayer, today, is that you will accept God's love and receive Jesus' free gift of salvation.
Thank you for joining us for the story of salvation. Hopefully, this study reminded you of who Jesus is, what He has done for you, and the privilege you have to respond to Him. If you would like to hear the story again, please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. There you can download it in a variety of formats, without any cost or obligation. On the site you will also find a number of other studies and lessons. They are messages about the Lord and His love for people. I hope you will take a few minutes to browse the website and access those things that can be of benefit to you. If you would like to receive the free Bible study by mail, please call the number on the screen. Leave your name and address and we will send it to you in a few short days. It will help you to know more about Jesus and the salvation He provides. It, too, does not require any commitment, as you study at your own pace. Other ways to access our ministry include a free app on your smart phone and a free channel on Roku Television. I hope you will take advantage of these offers. Thank you for joining us for today's lesson. I hope you will join us again next time, as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."