“Salvation is a Gift”
Recently, a friend of mine told me how he spent a full day helping someone and not getting paid for it. He even paid for his own fuel to travel out of town and to assist someone in need. My friend was not too happy about that, and he wished that the person would have at least offered to pay something. Have you ever been in a situation like that? You did something for nothing? You felt somebody owed you for the effort you put forth? It leaves a bad taste in our mouth, doesn't it? We feel as if we need to be served, recognized, or rewarded for our duty and service. Well, sometimes, that is just not the case. In today's lesson on "Key to the Kingdom," Jesus addresses that very thing. Through a series of events and illustrations, He points out the fact that we have duties and responsibilities when it comes to our relationship with God. Even though we may put forth lots of time and effort in our service to Him, He owes us nothing. That may not sound quite right. It may go against the way things are in the world today. Yet, that is the way it is with God. And here is why: God has already done so much for us, there is no way we can repay Him. He does not owe us any more than what He has already given. He is full of generosity and grace. The very least we can do is offer our service back to Him and to others. For the next few minutes, we will look at Jesus' teaching and example. We will consider the fact that He is our master, and we are His servant. We will think once again about God's great gift of salvation. Please stay tuned for the next few minutes, as we study together.
At one time or another, all of us worked for someone else. Many of us still do. We were an employee for our employer. We had a boss or a supervisor who directed our work. And as an employee, we had certain responsibilities. We had certain obligations to keep and duties to see about on a regular basis. As a result of all of that, wages were earned and jobs were accomplished. Well, something very similar took place in the day of Jesus. It was not called an employer-employee relationship, however. Rather, it was called a master-servant, or even a master-slave relationship. Well, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 17, Jesus uses that image to teach His disciples what truly following Him means; that, "You are to be a faithful follower of mine." And through a series of illustrations in the 17th chapter, Jesus makes one primary point. He is always the master, and we are always His servants. Let's take a look at some of those illustrations. First of all, in verses 1 through 4, Jesus teaches that those who avoid leading others into sin and who forgive their brother up to seven times a day might feel they are owed something for their efforts. And Jesus states that is not the case. You are not owed anything for your effort. You are supposed to live in a good way and not lead others astray, and you are to be a person who forgives those who sin against you; that's what it means to be "My faithful follower." Here's another illustration, in verses 5 and 6. Jesus states that those who have enough faith to "pull up a tree and then plant it over here into the sea," might feel that they are special and worthy of honor and recognition by God, because of that great faith. And the idea they seem to have is, "God owes me something, because I am living by great amounts of faith." Again, Jesus says, "Not so. That is the way you are supposed to live, if you are one of My followers and disciples. You are to have huge amounts of faith on a regular basis." Jesus then, we see in verses 10 through 19, goes into a village, and as he does there are 10 people who cry out for help. They are afflicted with the disease of leprosy and they cry out for Jesus. They want His mercy. They want His healing. These people have been rejected. They have been cast out. They are neglected. They have no one to help them. They have nowhere to go. And so, they ask for Jesus' help. Well, Jesus has mercy upon all ten of those lepers, and He heals each and every one. One of them, however, come to Jesus and falls at His feet and thanks Him. He honors Him. He worships Him and appreciates the healing that has taken place. And yet, the other nine go about their life, not even offering a simple thank you to the One who healed them. It is as if they thought Jesus owed them something. And Jesus states that is not the case: "I owe you nothing." Let me offer one more illustration, and this is in the form of a story, or a parable. We'll read this one, here in the 17th chapter of Luke. We begin with verse 7. Jesus states, <"Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he not say to the servant, when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat.' Will he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; and after that, you may eat and drink?' Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? And so you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"> Slavery in the ancient Middle East was much different than what we know it as today. It was not based upon race. It did not carry the idea that a slave did not amount to much as an individual. In fact, even the poorest of people in the day of Jesus had slaves. And sometimes the parents would send their children to someone else to work and to earn some kind of money or perhaps gain something to take back home to the family. They might even send them to do some work, just so that those children could have something to eat and drink. Yes, in the day of Jesus, slavery was a daily reality, and the people accepted it as a part of life. Well, putting in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay is what governs things today. We expect to be rewarded based upon the effort we put forth. We may even want to be honored and thanked and recognized for the work we do. We might even expect to build up some kind of favor with our employer in hopes that he or she might help us or put in a good word for us somewhere down the line. But Jesus teaches here, in chapter 17, that because this servant did his duty, then he would receive enough to eat and drink, and that would be sufficient. That was based upon the agreement that the servant or the slave had with his master. Yes, the servant would be rewarded because he did what he was supposed to do. In the day of Jesus, the roles of masters and slaves were clearly defined, and those boundaries were not crossed. The master never served the slave. But on the other hand, the servant always served the master, and that is the way it was on a regular basis. However, when Jesus came to this earth, He changed all of that. He reversed that and did it differently. When He came, He served the people. He ministered to people, and yet, He was the Son of God in the flesh. He was the Master. I think about Jesus doing that. He humbled Himself in order to be that servant, and He taught His disciples to do the very same thing. One day, His disciples were discussing among themselves who was to be the greatest. And Jesus does some teaching about that over in Luke chapter 22. Notice these words, which begin in verse 24: <A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lorded over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."> Jesus simply states that in order to be great and recognized in the Kingdom of God, you are to become a servant of people. Yes, typically, it is the one who sits at the table who is the master, and he is the one who is served and recognized as important. But yet, if you truly want to follow Me and be My disciple, you will be the one who serves other people. Consider the story that is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 13. Jesus is with His disciples in that upper room and they are sharing that last meal together. Before Jesus is arrested and put to death, they are all assembled there and eating. After the meal, Jesus gets up and He takes off that outer garment around Him, and he gets a basin of water. He gets down on His hands and His knees, and He begins to wash the feet of His disciples. He goes from one man to the next, and He washes the dirt off of those nasty feet, and then He dries and cleans them with that towel. Afterward, He states to them, "As I have done to you, so you are to do to other people." And that doesn't necessarily mean they are to wash the feet of others, but rather, they are to be the servant of others. They are never to consider themselves to be in an exalted position, but rather to be a servant and to minister to people. The apostle Paul recognized the service that Jesus gave. In Philippians chapter 2, verses 6 and 7, Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be held onto at all costs; but, He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself, and He came to this earth in the form of a servant. That's the nature, that's the form that He took, as a servant, as He became obedient, even to death upon the cross. Since Jesus came to serve, we might believe that we are entitled to the benefits of that service. We might think that if Jesus is such a servant, then He is to serve me. He is to meet my needs. He is to answer my prayers. He is to provide everything that I want in this life, in order to make it that much better. And we are tempted, sometimes, to believe that Jesus owes us that; He owes us something because we acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior. And yet, we can never view Jesus that way. Even though He is full of goodness and grace, even though our Father in Heaven loves to give good gifts to His children, we cannot believe that we are deserving of those, and that God will continue to give them to us no matter how we live. No, we cannot believe that God is full of grace, and yet He makes no demands upon us. We can never believe that He is there to simply take care of us and to bless us, but we owe Him nothing in return. We do know that Jesus served other people, but at the same time, He was, and He still is our master; and, we can never forget that. He is our master, and we are forever His servants. And that is the message that is taught there in chapter 17 of Luke, and especially there in verses 7 through 10. It reminds us that Jesus is the master and we are his unworthy servants. We are simply doing the duty that has been assigned to us by our master. Throughout Luke's Gospel, he records many stories and teachings about the grace of God. Oftentimes, God's grace is demonstrated to people who are overlooked and neglected, people who feel left out, people who seem to be insignificant in the eyes of other people. Perhaps people like the women and the children, and we find many stories like that. We sometimes are feeling that we can put ourselves into that situation, and God is going to demonstrate His grace and goodness to us; and certainly, He does, and we all have our stories. However, it is dangerous to overemphasize God's grace. Yes, we know that He is good. He is full of grace and blessing. But when we overemphasize that grace, it may lead us to believe that we owe Him nothing in return and we have no responsibilities toward God, especially when it comes to the matter of faithfully following Him as one of His disciples. Yes, we can never forget, once again, that God is our master, and we are forever His servants. When I think about God's love for me, I'm amazed at how much it is. God loves me in ways that I cannot even think about or imagine. He blesses me and He loves me. He forgives me. He takes care of me. He does things behind the scenes that I cannot even be aware of today, but they show up somewhere later on. Yes, God is good. He is full of love. He is full of grace. He is not some distant figure who demands our service, but yet does nothing on our behalf. We know that is not the case. Yes, God takes great joy in serving us; and, our response is faithfully serving Him, who has done so much for us. Yes, we owe God everything; in fact, we owe Him our very lives. Going back to Luke chapter 17, we notice that in verse 9 of that chapter, the master does not show his servant any favor for doing what he was expected to do. The servant has not earned anything, nor has he put his master in his debt. He has simply done his duty. And then we notice in verse 10, the servant who does these things for the master is very useful, and yet, he is not owed anything. It was his duty to go out and plow the field and take care of the sheep. And likewise, we are very useful to God when we faithfully serve Him, when we do what we are supposed to do. When we faithfully follow Him and do our duty, we are not owed anything, because God has already given to us that gift. When Jesus told the story, no servant who heard this story felt as if he received any kind of special honor or recognition because of the work he did. The master did not owe him for plowing the field or guarding the sheep. He had not earned anything. Oh, the master might offer a word of thanks or appreciation. He might say, "Oh, that's a good job today." But beyond that, nothing was expected, except sufficient food and water. And that was the relationship between the masters and the servants, and likewise, we are not to expect anything more from God beyond what He has already given. It is our duty to serve our master. No matter what we do for God, it is only our duty, because of what He has done and continues to do for us. We are His servants. We owe Him our very lives, because of the opportunity we have to be a part of His family. God, through His son Jesus Christ, offers us the opportunity to be a part of that family. He has given to us the very best gift he can possibly give when He sent His son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf. There is no greater gift. There is no gift that could ever equal or compare to what God has already done. And through Jesus, He has saved us and accepted us and blessed us and given to us His unearned grace. And so in grateful response to that, we live faithful lives. We do our duty as one of His disciples. We make those sacrifices. We minister to other people. We serve those who are put into our life, just like Jesus did, as He served the disciples, as He served those who followed after Him. He fed those who were hungry. He healed those who were sick. He was a servant to mankind. And that is simply our duty, as well. Yes, God owes us nothing, regardless of what we might do for Him. We simply serve our Master, our Father in Heaven, because of the relationship we have with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Now, that is the way it has always been, and that is the way it will always be. It is an honor that is entrusted to us, to be a part of His family and to serve our Lord. It's an honor that we do not deserve and we certainly have not earned. And so our response is to live with God with faithful obedience; to love Him, and to trust Him, and to do our duty as one of His servants. As we close our lesson today, there are three things I want us to remember and to consider. Number one, God's salvation is a gift and not a reward. The salvation that comes to you and to me through His son, Jesus Christ, is something that God gives out of His love for each one of us. We do not deserve that. There's no amount of good deeds that we can do to say, "God, you owe that to me, and I want a reward for the duty and the service that I am giving." No, salvation is a free gift that God gives; and we receive it gladly, and then we serve Him as a result of what we have already received. Secondly, let us know that God is always our Master, and we are forever the servant. We can never get that mixed up. We can never believe that God is in our debt because of the work we are doing. Rather, it is simply our duty, because of what God has already done. He is our Master. He is the God of this Universe, and we gratefully serve Him because of that. Because of that great gift, His son, Jesus Christ, we devote ourselves to serving Him and to faithfully following Him as one of His disciples. And then finally, number three: We do not serve God in order to receive rewards. Many people in this world believe they do. They do all kinds of good deeds, believing that in them God will reward them and bless them in a very special way. Well, that's not the way it works. God has already blessed us. He has already given to us the very best gift; and we receive that, and we anticipate a future reward waiting for us in heaven. I would encourage us today to recognize that salvation is a free gift, that we are in debt to God, to His son Jesus Christ, and we live our life in service to them and to other people. And know, that as we do that, God will continue to bless and take care of us, as we owe Him our very lives.
As I stand near this employment office, I see many people looking for a job. They go into the office and update their resume, they fill out applications for certain jobs, and they hope that they will be hired. On the other hand, there are some employers who are looking for someone to do a job for them or for their particular company. And that's the way it works in our world today. People put forth an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Now, some believe that is the way it works with salvation, as well. If they do enough good deeds then they are in God's favor. If they go to church enough, or if they read the Bible enough, or even pray enough, then God owes them an eternal life, He owes them salvation. They may even be tempted to say, "Well, I deserve that heavenly home with You, because look at all of the good things I have done in the past." The problem with that is, however, it's not found in the Bible. Nowhere in God's Word do we read such an idea or thought. God's salvation, His eternal life, is a free gift given to everyone; and He wants us to receive that gift. It is not based upon our good deeds or on our efforts. God has already paid the price. He has already made the sacrifice, through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth, He died on a cross, was buried in a tomb and then rose up from the grave; and that is the gift that God offers to you, and to me, and to everybody on the face of this earth. I hope and pray that you have received God's free gift of salvation.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. In a spirit of humility and gratitude, we are to serve God because of how much He has done for us. No, it does not guarantee our salvation. Rather, it reminds us that He is our master, and we are His servant. This lesson, along with many others, is available on our website at keytothekingdom.com. If you would like to listen to it, or view it again, please feel free to do so. They are all free from any charge or obligation, and they can be downloaded in a variety of formats. The website is also the place to find a variety of other resources and information. There are study questions at the end of each lesson. Short video messages and one-minute Bible thoughts are available. Reports and pictures of our mission work in India is also highlighted. I hope you will take a few minutes to look at what is offered. Have you liked and followed us on Facebook? This social media tool is reaching many people, as we post new messages every week. You can even download a free app onto your smartphone, and it will give you direct access to our website and to the daily devotional thoughts. And finally, the phone number on the screen is toll-free. When calling, please leave your name and number, and we will be happy to return your call. It is our goal to offer free lessons, study materials and encouraging messages; hopefully, they will bless you in your walk with the Lord. Thank you again for joining us today. I trust you will tune in again next time, as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."