Luke 4:18 NCV
Michelangelo’s masterpiece David is in a gallery in Florence, Italy. Thousands of tourists wait for hours every day to get a glimpse. But many of them never notice the series of unfinished sculptures that line the corridor on the way to David. Their forms are identifiable – a hand here, a torso there. The statues were intended to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius ll, but they were never finished. It’s almost as if these sculptures are trying to break free and become what they were intended to be, but they are stuck in stone. Michelangelo called them captives.
We can sometimes go through times of feeling like captives. We can’t seem to break free from habitual sins that hold us back. We know who we want to be, what we want to do, and where we want to go, but we can’t seem to make any progress in getting there. But no matter how long we’ve been stuck, God wants to finish what He started in our lives.
Jesus said His mission was to set captives free (see Luke 4:18). We often tend to think of that statement in legalistic terms, as if salvation is a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. But it’s much more than that. Maybe we should start to think of that statement in artistic terms. Salvation also comes to release the person we were destined to be before sin distorted the image of God in us. We’re held captive by our imperfections and insecurities, our guilt and anxieties. But Jesus died to set us free from all of that. And He doesn’t just set us free from who we were, He sets us free to become who we were meant to be.
1 Ki 14-15; Mark 12:1-12; Ps 101; Prov 12:12-13
2 Corinthians 5:10 KJV
Paul writes: “We make it our aim…to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (vv. 9-10 NKJV). If you are wise, you will live each day with this truth uppermost in your mind. You’ll have a “preparation perspective!”
Think about it this way: You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’ve decided to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an accountant, etc.”; no, you make that decision many years earlier, and then you work toward it. Now let’s be clear. As a Christian, you’re not working to earn your salvation, but to earn your reward in heaven. Salvation is the foundation you build on, and the Bible says, “No one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have – Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11 NLT).
Then Paul goes on to say: “Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames” (vv. 12-15 NLT).
When you stand before Christ, you have two options – rewards or regrets. So get a “preparation perspective.”
Soul food: Dan 11-12; Mark 3:7-19; Ps 16; Prov 10:15
2 Corinthians 11:3 NLT
Have you heard of the velvet ant? It has a coat of tiny hairs that feel smooth and velvety. But it’s all a disguise. It isn’t an ant at all, but a wingless wasp with a nasty sting. After injecting its victims with a venom, it lays eggs in their incapacitated bodies.
One of Paul’s greatest concerns was that, after being saved by grace, the churches would go back to living under the Old Testament law. He constantly warned them about basing their salvation and their relationship with God on their own performance. “I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed” (vv. 3-4 NLT). Another Jesus! Another spirit! Another gospel! Again Paul warns, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (v. 14 NLT).
Yes, your work for God on earth determines your rewards in heaven. But only by trusting in the finished work of Christ will you get to heaven. No one in heaven will say, “Look what Jesus and I did!” Legalism will not only infect you, it will incapacitate you. Scottish minister Horatius Bonar wrote, “Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.” How do you protect yourself against “the sting” of legalism? By depending on God’s grace alone.
Soul food: Lev 15-17; Mark 1:14-20; Ps 25:8-15; Prov 10:1
2 Corinthians 11:3 NLT
Ever heard of the velvet ant? It has a coat of tiny hairs that feel smooth and velvety. But it’s all a disguise. It isn’t an ant at all, but a wingless wasp with a nasty sting. After injecting its victims with a venom, it lays eggs in their incapacitated bodies. And when we try to earn our salvation by rule-following, we can find that legalism is like the velvet ant – it can sting, infect and incapacitate us.
One of Paul’s biggest concerns for the churches was that, after being saved by grace, the people would go back to living under the Old Testament law. He constantly warned them about basing their salvation and their relationship with God on their own performance. ‘I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed’ (2 Corinthians 11:3-4 NLT).
Paul also warns, ‘Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (v.14 NLT). Our work for God on earth determines our rewards in heaven, but we only get to heaven because of Christ’s work. Scottish minister Horatius Bonar wrote, ‘Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.’
We can’t earn our salvation, no matter how many rules we follow. Salvation is God’s gift to us, and by His grace, our place in heaven is secured as soon as we accept that gift and put our trust in Him.
Lev 15-17; Mark 1:14-20; Ps 25:8-15; Prov 10:1
John 20:7 NLT
In Bible days when you wanted a fine piece of furniture made, you picked someone with a reputation for excellence – a master carpenter or a finish carpenter. But these carpenters had an interesting custom. When a carpenter completed a job, he took off his apron, folded it up, and set it on his finished work, signifying the job was complete.
So with that picture in mind, read this: ‘Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved….Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed – for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead’ (John 20:1-9 NLT).
Did you notice the words ‘the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up’? The master carpenter had finished the job. Our salvation was complete. That means we don’t have to work to be saved. We only have to put our trust in Christ, and our sins are forgiven and our place in heaven is assured.
1 Cor 15; Matt 28:1-10