Life's most valued blessings are based on a sense of partnership. A great friendship is an incredible blessing. Great friendships are built on a sense of partnership. A successful marriage is one of the most powerful gifts of human existence. Successful marriages are built on a sense of partnership. A love-filled home is one of this world's precious opportunities. Loving homes are built on a sense of partnership. Being part of a successful business is a source of, personal fulfillment. Successful businesses are built through a sense of partnership.

Many view successful partnerships with great skepticism. Commonly, that skepticism rises from personal experience. "Yea, sure! I tried that, and it did not work for me! Your partnership is not real! I see what they contribute to the partnership. But I cannot see what you contribute to the partnership."

In America, we are hard pressed to think of a significant, common blessing that does not involve some form of partnership. Perhaps for that reason Americans tend to view salvation as a partnership with God.

Let's consider salvation on the assumption that it is a partnership. Let's assume that salvation is a partnership with God that gives us eternal life.

  1. What does God supply the partnership?
    1. First, God supplies what I call the inexhaustibles.
      1. God supplies inexhaustible mercy.
        1. Our need for mercy can never exhaust God's ability to provide mercy.
        2. When I repent, my sins are destroyed by God's mercy.
        3. When I repent, none of my sins are bigger than God's mercy.
        4. Paul, writing to Ephesian Christians who were converted from an idolatrous lifestyle, said (Ephesians 2:4-6), But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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
      2. God supplies inexhaustible grace.
        1. God does not provide any of us mercy because we deserve mercy.
        2. To provide mercy to people who deserve mercy is a contradiction.
        3. Mercy by its nature is given to the undeserving.
        4. God does not provide us mercy because we are good or are worth saving.
        5. God provides us mercy because He is good.
        6. Grace makes it possible for the good God to accept and love evil people.
        7. Paul, writing to those same Ephesian Christians said (Ephesians 2:8), For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
      3. God supplies inexhaustible forgiveness.
        1. When we place our confidence in Christ's death and resurrection, when we want to redirect our lives away from evil, God separates us from our sin when we are baptized into Christ.
        2. God's forgiveness does not end when we are baptized into Christ.
        3. God's forgiveness begins when we are baptized into Christ.
        4. For us to walk each day with God, God must forgive us every day.
        5. John, writing to Christians, said (1 John 1:9), If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    2. A person outside God's mercy, grace, and forgiveness asks, "How is that possible? How can God provide Christians with inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness?"
      1. It is possible because God gave us a Savior.
        1. It is impossible to understand our Savior unless we understand what a savior is.
          1. A savior rescues a person from a situation or circumstances that are impossible to escape.
          2. A savior rescues us when we cannot rescue ourselves.
        2. We desperately needed a Savior to rescue us from evil because we cannot rescue ourselves from evil.
      2. What did God do when He gave us a Savior?
        1. God took all our evil and all our guilt and placed them on our Savior.
        2. 2 Corinthians 5:20,21 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
          1. This was written to Christians who (1) did not realize that they needed God's Savior and (2) did not rely on that Savior.
          2. "God gave you the Savior to make reconciliation possible."
          3. "Accept the reconciliation."
          4. "God desperately wanted you to be reconciled to Him.
          5. God wanted you to have reconciliation so much that God made Jesus sin to make it possible for you to be made righteous."
          6. "But you cannot become God's righteousness if you do not accept God's reconciliation."
        3. Someone suggests, "Paul was talking symbolically, not actually--God did not actually make Jesus sin so we could be saved."
          1. Peter understood what God did to be actual, not symbolic.
          2. 1 Peter 2:24 He (Jesus) Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
        4. Because Jesus paid for our evil with his death and sinless blood, God through Jesus gives the people who enter Christ inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
          1. When God does that, He creates a real relationship with the forgiven person.
          2. When God does that, He creates a real relationship between all those who live in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
          3. It is our responsibility to maintain and mature in our relationship with God and to maintain and mature in our relationship with each other.

  2. When we let Jesus rescue us and reconcile us to God, what do we give to the partnership?
    1. We give God our sins, so that God can forgive and reconcile us.
      1. It was our own evil that separated us from God.
      2. It is because we are evil that we need to be reconciled.
    2. We give God our trust by placing confidence in the Savior God gave us.
      1. We take God at His word.
      2. We place our confidence in God's promises knowing that God will not break His promise--we trust God!
    3. We give God our love because we appreciate our Savior, our forgiveness, and our reconciliation.
      1. We love God because we understand what God did for us.
      2. We love God because we appreciate our forgiveness, and we understand how desperately we needed to be forgiven.
      3. We love God because we understand that we are reconciled to God only through His mercy and grace.
    4. What do we give the partnership? Sins, trust, and love.
      1. Does that sound like much of a partnership to you?
      2. So, what do you think it does to God when we arrogantly act like God needs us and has to depend on us?
      3. So, what do you think it does to God when we deny how much we need God?
      4. So, what do you think it does to God when we act like God appointed us to be judges who reject and discourage other people?

  3. In the last several decades, too many Christians contributed to a terrible problem.
    1. This terrible problem offends our God, the God who gave us a Savior, the God who gives inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
      1. What terrible problem? We asked God to stand on the outside.
      2. How did we ask God to go outside? We act like the power and the wisdom to "get things done" are found in us.
        1. We act like salvation is about us, not about God.
        2. We act like the church is about us, not about God.
        3. We act like worship is about us, not about God.
        4. We act like spiritual things serve our agenda, not God's purposes.
      3. This seems to be a common attitude among many Christians: "God, we understand what You want better than You do. You do not have a clue about how to accomplish Your purposes in today's world. So if You will just step outside and stay out of the way, we will take care of the situation."
    2. Our concept of partnership with God is all about us.
      1. The partnership depends on us.
      2. We say we place our faith in God, but we really believe in ourselves.
      3. We say we trust God, but we really trust ourselves.
      4. We say we are concerned about God's values, but we are really concerned about our values.
      5. Why?
        1. Because our confidence is in our answers, methods, and approaches.
        2. Because we really do not think God's values are that important.
        3. Because we are convinced God's way will not work.
        4. Because we have not learned God's definition of success.
    3. So we rarely ask God to come inside and work through us to accomplish His purposes.
      1. When we pray, we often do one of two things.
        1. We use a formula that touches "all the right bases."
        2. Or, we give God our "laundry list" that asks God to take care of situations we do not like.
      2. We do not beg for guidance or ask for the courage to surrender.
      3. We do not confess our ignorance and ask for wisdom.
      4. It is His church, His Son, His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, His purposes, His will, His judgment, and His eternity.
        1. But we do not give Him the lead and ask Him to teach us how to follow.
        2. We do all the talking, all the planning, all the figuring, and assume God will say, Amen.
        3. God is just supposed to listen and do what we tell Him to do.

  4. Would you say these people had a partnership with God: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Mary, Jesus, Peter, and Paul?
    1. When Noah was bobbling around in the ark, God was in control.
    2. When Abraham was a nomad in a strange land, God was in control.
    3. When Moses led Israel through the wilderness, God was in control.
    4. When David fled from his own son, God was in control.
    5. When Daniel was a captive in Babylon, God was in control.
    6. When Mary was unmarried and pregnant, God was in control.
    7. When Jesus died, God was in control.
    8. When Peter preached to Cornelius, God was in control.
    9. When Paul was executed for preaching Jesus Christ, God was in control.
    10. I have no idea of what is happening your world, but God is in control.
    11. May we as His people give Him control.

[Prayer: Father, teach us to follow. Give us the courage and strength to trust. Help us invite You inside and give You the lead.]

What can we do to destroy the evil idea that God quit after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection? What can we do to destroy the wicked conviction that today "it is all up to us"?

Romans 8:32-34 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 29 October 2000

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