A Devotional Exposition of Psalm 27
Part II: “The Lord Is My Salvation”
I was driving with a gentleman many years ago who brought to my attention a man standing on the street wearing a sandwich board that declared, “Repent, and be saved!” My friend asked a question that, for him, was quite sincere, even if laced with a dab of agnosticism: “Saved from what?”
It’s an honest, good, pertinent question. We do need to be saved, but salvation must be properly cast, lest it become a caricature, whether of cynicism, subjectivism or legalism.
One could do worse than begin with a direct definition taken from the ultimate authority on the English language, The Oxford English Dictionary, an opportunity from which I extract the deepest sense of privilege:
“The saving of the soul; the deliverance from sin and its consequences, and admission to eternal bliss, wrought for man by the atonement of Christ … Preservation from destruction, ruin, loss or calamity.”
The OED accentuates the human soul but Holy Scripture actually encompasses the body and the world; indeed, the entire created order, within the precincts of salvation. It is right to accentuate not simply “deliverance from sin,” but also “its consequence,” as a whole host of issues, from sinful behaviors and attitudes to the ever-besetting sin-nature to the three-fold reality of death, including spiritual, physical and eternal. And “admission to eternal bliss” must be complemented by the advent of eternal life in the here-and-now, however much the here-and-now is fraught with fallenness and foible – However; whatever the circumstances, however menial or grave, however it comes about and to what extent it entails the course of time, salvation must be “wrought for man by the atonement of Christ.” And; praise God, our salvation has been so wrought!
Let’s put forth a fundamental point, lacking the reality of which we simply would not require a Savior, because salvation, both its conception and our need, would be nothing more than an abstract point (if even that): Each and every one of us is a sinner who is in need of the saving grace of God, a grace that finds expression through the submission of Jesus Christ to the Father’s will by way of the Cross at Calvary.
Let me put it another way to fully make our point: If we weren’t sinners who didn’t need a Savior who would provide us with the means of salvation, then Christ’s death on the cross, excruciating and agonizing beyond fathoming, both physically and spiritually, was an utterly catastrophic, colossal and cosmic waste of good blood and perfect life!
Anyone who looks to the Son must acknowledge his or her need for Christ and His sacrificial act. You can’t settle for the bone-headed notion that you are a “good person” or that people are fundamentally good. We have proven to be very selfish, however much we are cloaked in nobility or naturalness, and it has been my observation and experience that people are as good or as “nice” as they get what they want.
Nor can we seek to find our salvation in anything or anyone other than Jesus and His work on the cross. Education will fail us (if you haven’t noticed), as contemporary education is proving to be a sham of incalculable proportions, with parents and society beginning to wake up to its destructive currents of the past thirty to fifty years! Political statesmanship and solutions will fail us, as statesmen seem hard to come by these days, and solutions are elusive amidst polarization, the likes of which our contemporary leaders are turning into an inglorious art. Self-actualization and self-fulfillment merely breed expressions of self, and self is not a commodity by which a coherent and fruitful society can be established, or even envisioned! We could multiply the facets of life that themselves require the saving effects of Christ’s salvation.
I remember well the inception of my own salvation. I awoke one morning to discover that something was not quite right within me. The bottom-line is that I was overcome by a sense of my sin-nature, even though I hadn’t yet had any meaningful opportunity to sin, at least not anything other than what gets expressed in childhood, though that more indicative of forthcoming sin, the sin-nature beginning to manifest itself at an early and then with the growth of being a boy.
Jesus visited with me within the privacy of my bedroom one day in August 1975, consoled me with His Presence and directed me to His Word, a blue-covered copy of the Revised Standard Version that I had received at a Methodist Sunday School in 4th Grade. How could I ever forget the words that jumped off the page and lodged indelibly in my heart? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
My life has never been the same since; that is, since salvation was wrought within me, the Presence of Christ taking up residence, His blood having washed away my sins and His Spirit beginning the work of mortifying my sin-nature. I had struggles ahead, even in the immediate future, but hope had taken hold of me, borne forth of His love for me. I love what I read shortly thereafter: “We rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Praise God; I was saved!
Praise God; He is my salvation!
Salvation comes from Him. Salvation is to be found in Him. Salvation is unto Him.
God truly knows we need it. We can’t possibly fathom how desperate our need is. “The human heart is deceitful beyond measure; who can fathom it? (Jeremiah 17:9). We literally need to be saved from ourselves and the effects of our sin-laden, sin-soaked, sin-afflicted, sin-infested natures.
The Bible is quite clear that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:21) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Do highlight the word “all,” as it is all-encompassing, with no exceptions. Each of us who has ever lived is a sinner in need of salvation, a salvation that comes from outside of ourselves and from beyond the parameters of this world. For the very same aforementioned scriptures continue by saying that “all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of blood – to be received by faith,” (Romans 3:24, 25) and “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We are the sinners and He is our Savior!
It is a blessed tripartite reality, both doctrinal and existentially – We were saved when Christ went to the Cross 2000 years ago, a blessing appropriated when we came to faith in Christ or when faith in Jesus became real and meaningful. We are saved and in the process of being saved, as the Holy Spirit of Christ works in our lives, consecrating and mortifying and sanctifying our new-born lives. And we will be saved, in the full and final sense, upon Christ’s Return and the fullness of all things begins to unfold!
We Have Been Saved from Our Sin and Its Effects:
We Have Been Saved from Our Sin-Nature. As one devotional writer has aptly put it, “We sin because we are sinners.” Sin doesn’t come out of a vacuum; it arises from a nature that is laden with, suffused by and both afflicted and infested with a spiritual cancer called sin. Sin simply is not spawned within the life of a “good” person. Christ didn’t endure the horrors of the Cross on behalf of good people – Nope; He suffered the scorn and stigma on behalf of sinners, just like you and me … Yes; I speak for us all!
We Have Been Saved from Judgment and Death. No one welcomes death, and no one dreams to be found guilty before the eternal bar of justice, but death has come, and judgment has come; too, even as we await their fullness in time.
Death is three-fold: We have already died in the spiritual sense. All talk about spirituality and differing spiritualities are misguided, as the spirit of man died with the birth of sin, though our souls, of which we mean the aggregate of heart, mind and will, continue, even if now damaged in nature and effect. Our bodies will die at some point in time, a time determined by God but undetermined from our earthly vantage, a happening that will be heralded by obituaries, remembrances, wakes and viewings, funerals, luncheons and (for the worldly great) all manner of pomp & circumstance; nevertheless, notwithstanding the grandeur of it all, we’re still dead, gone and buried. And we all will die eternally apart from Jesus Christ. Eternal death is defined and experienced by separateness from God, who is Reality and Life – Not a very palatable eternity for those who apparently remain fully conscious but forever removed from Life.
Such a grim and rueful existence is the direct result of divine judgment. God’s holiness is utterly incompatible with human sinfulness, as He will have no communion with anything that so smacks or smells of such sin. Our very own sins condemn us, as they will be brought before the bar of divine justice to be weighed and assessed. Our lack of belief in God’s Son will speak against us, as this is considered to be the “unpardonable sin,” or the “sin against the Holy Spirit” of which scripture speaks. And there will be a that Day, our ultimate “day-in-court,” if you will, when God gives sentence to our lives, whether “Not Guilty,” by virtue of Christ Jesus, who has more-than-ably advocated on behalf of all of us who have been washed in His blood and filled by His Spirit, or “Guilty-as-charged,” given that we have remained unrepentant and awash in guilt that is written all over our souls and, one would have to guess at that point and in that moment, all over our faces. It won’t be pretty, and it is so utterly unnecessary, which is the tragedy and travesty of it all!
We Have Been Saved from the Corrupt Generation amongst which We Live. Our once-great society is increasingly awash in moral filth and spiritual depravity. Our souls are constantly in danger, and our children are fodder for such a world of what can now appropriately be described as amoral carnage.
The Apostle Peter was given the privilege of preaching the first recorded sermon of the New Testament era. Its historical significance is rivaled only by its surpassing spiritual profundity:
“When the people heard this [his Christ-centered sermon], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’” (Acts 2:37-40).
I am honored to say that I belong to that blessed category of “for all who are far off,” as I have been brought to such repentance and forgiveness, and have received the Spirit of the living God into my life – Praise His Name!
The Apostle Paul offered a similar message, a message similarly charged with existential urgency:
“My dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:12-16).
Life is at work in us, a Life to which we become integral and which becomes integral to who we are and what we do, a Life which plays out, though set apart, amidst human corruption, and a Life in which we are firmly ensconced even as we hold forth with its salutary message of Life for others – God be praised!
The New Testament writer Jude, one who was “eager to write … about the salvation we share,” exhorts God’s people who have been saved to the following work:
“You, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 3, 20-23).
I don’t think that anyone will have difficulty understanding the gravity of the situation, at least as it is explained by Jude; certainly, as Christ so lent Himself to our need – Let us praise God with our saved lives; shan’t we?
We Have Been Saved from Satan and His Machinations. He rules this world, according to the Apostle Paul, and as attested by Jesus, who found Himself pitted against such malevolent power, both by temptation and demonic confrontation. Writes Paul:
“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
He rules; that is, Satan has authority over this world, and over our lives, at least until Jesus has something else to say about us, which is His very own claim to our lives. It is what is meant by the word redemption, by which we speak of being redeemed, or bought back, being given full restoration to God’s fold, to God’s love – In short: to God! Paul goes on to speak both eloquently and exquisitely about our salvation:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
God has restored us from death to Life. He has redeemed us from demonic strongholds and delivered us to heavenly encampment. He has done a work on our behalf and in our lives in order that we might both belong to Him and work “for” Him, as Paul concludes when he writes that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We are no longer fleshly fodder for satanic stratagems; rather, we are now the workmanship or even the poem of Almighty God – Such is the nature of His salvation at work in our lives; can we praise Him enough?
We Are Saved for Christ and Life in Him:
We Are Saved for New Life. It is the thematic testament that runs through the entirety of the New Testament, acknowledged and celebrated by Jesus, Paul and Peter.
Jesus taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Apostle Paul would reiterate, adding the understanding that one’s religiosity was of no value; what counts “is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). Paul would later issue a very powerful and memorable statement of such new life: “If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18). And (not to be left behind) the Apostle Peter delivered this opening salvo to his first epistle: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
There are lessons to be learned: New life is a prerequisite to entry into God’s world. Religious sentiment, practice and culture are inherently worthless without God’s gift of new life. One’s former existence has gone, even if a kind of rigor mortis remains at play. And our new life is grounded in our hope in Christ and His Resurrection from the dead.
Our flesh and God’s Spirit go mano-mano. Our carnal natures continue to rear their ugly heads. Our flesh is antagonistic to the Holy Spirit who is working new life into us (Galatians 5:17). It can feel as if it is touch-and-go, but God is sovereign and is; therefore, greater than our sin. New life will carry the day!
We Are Saved for Restored Rapport with God. It reflects at every turn and by eternal design the blessed Reality of God. Our new life in Christ restores us to God. It posits our life in God through Christ.
We are no longer at odds with Him. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2).
We are now His children. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, the heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:14-17).
We Are Saved for His Purpose and Glory. We are no longer our own, as we were bought with a price, and now belong to God. We exist to serve Him, share Him, represent Him and manifest Him.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
We Will Be Saved to Higher and Greater Life:
We Will Enter His Eternal and Impregnable Kingdom. Arguably the most exquisite words in all of scripture come to us when Jesus grants us a “teaser” of what we who know Him may anticipate upon our arrival to His Kingdom & Presence – “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master!” (Matthew 25:23)
It will prove to be quite a place – Nothing unpleasant or unpalatable; all being absolutely exquisite and enervating, with God at the core of everything; the Divine Presence everywhere to be encountered! A place and mode of existence replete with angels, sanctified souls, prophets and priests, apostles and pastors, rank-and-file Israelites and bread-and-butter followers of Jesus Christ.
Will we encounter animals; even our beloved but deceased pets? Scripture doesn’t inform us. Some say that animals have no eternal soul, so we can’t expect to meet them again, but it is theological speculation, however cogent and valid the reasoning. I have queried, given the extent of divine justice, whether animals, who suffer because of our sins, will be afforded such justice and get another go of life, this time devoid of pain or sorrow or loneliness. We just don’t know.
What we do know is that it will be positively magnificent, and eternally so. I believe it was Catholic philosopher Bernard Lonergan who said that God is “the Great ‘Eureka;’” If so, the fullness of God’s Kingdom will be one expression and experience of extraordinary pleasure and privilege, all-the-while cast within a framework suffused with God’s glory.
We Will Continue in the Worship of, Service to, Education by and Glory unto God. We won’t be drinking mint-julip cocktails on a cloud, nor hobnobbing with loved ones from earth, though it will be joy to recognize and share with any who have known the effects of Christ’s blood and power of His Holy Spirit, as the motif of a feast table may very well suggest some kind of sustenance to be consumed for pleasure; certainly, for celebration, as witnessed by the table of which Jesus speaks in forthcoming terms.
I’ll take a Coca-Cola; myself, with Schubert’s 3rd Symphony being performed by a heavenly orchestra amidst a beautiful snowfall, but I’ll happily be content – nay; overwhelmed with joy – by nothing other than the Beatific Vision! His praise; always!
Bradley E. Lacey
February 9, 2021