The Walk Week 4: The Tension

Sermon Transcript


Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?

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Well, good morning to everybody and, also, good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. I was reading a story just a couple of weeks ago, and it was interesting. I mean, it probably wasn’t interesting when it was going on. It’s just sort of humorous, but it’s not super funny. But it just reminds us of a lot of things.

There was this couple that was getting married on a Saturday night at 5:00. At about 4:45, the groomsmen started looking around and they couldn’t find the groom. So, there’s 15 minutes until showtime. They’re like, “Where is he?” So, they start calling on the cellphone and they realize the cellphone is there in the room where all the groomsmen are at. They’re like, “Where did he go?”

So, they do what most men would do. They decide to start doing the search party throughout the area and out into the ceremony area, the church and everything. And so, they’re walking around probably looking like CIA guys looking for somebody important. And people start realizing that something’s up because all the groomsmen are out walking around. And so, this sort of cascades over, even into the bridal chamber. It’s like, “He’s not here.”

And so, it’s 4:50, 4:55, 5:00, no groom. And everybody’s having that moment where, I mean, it’s frantic to say the least. And so, about 5:02, the groom comes running in. He’s just sweaty and he’s wiping off everything. They’re like, “Dude, what is up? Cold feet? What’s up?”

He’s like, “No, man. I’m so sorry. I left my phone here. I was frantic. I realized that I had left the rings back in the hotel room and needed to go get them.”

Well, crisis averted. Everything happened good. But you can imagine in that moment what it is like. In that moment, there was what we would call tension, right? Everybody knows what tension is. You can imagine the tension that would’ve been in that room at that particular moment. When we think of tension, though, and we think of that moment because we can all think about it. Like, “Oh, man. That would’ve been terrible to have been there at 5:00, especially if you were the bride. Like, ‘Is he going to show up?’”

We feel that way. When we feel tension, we want to get rid of it. It’s like we don’t like tension. In fact, we’ve got a whole bunch of things that we call tension things because they’re no good. Like tension headaches, marital tension, political tension. Because when we think of tension, we think of something that we don’t like. It’s like we want to get the tension out of our life. And so, we’re in a process here and a series called “The Walk.” We’re talking about walking with the Lord, we’re talking about walking after the Lord and what it means for you and I to walk.

What I want to talk about this particular weekend is something that’s literally taken me probably 30 years to get to this position in my life. And I believe, with all of my heart, that this can be the most freeing moment for many of us, if not all of us, in some ways, this weekend, because this is important. So, what I want to talk about is this idea of tension. This is where a lot of Christians go wrong because we want to get rid of tension rather than maybe thinking, “Hey, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, there are parts about tension that are okay.”

And so, what I want to talk about this weekend is to help us learn to walk in the tension of the mystery. That there is a mystery to our faith. That mystery leads to tension. What we’ve done in the world today — because we don’t like tension, we want to get rid of it. And so, what we’ve done is we’ve developed this either/or mentality of popular theology, and I’m convinced it’s lead to disastrous consequences in our walk with God. What we do is we want to try to own something so it can make us feel better. We don’t want to live in the tension. We don’t want to live in that tension of like, “I don’t know.”

We want to sort of solve the problems. So, what we do is go to extremes on one side or the other, and it doesn’t really, really alleviate the tension. What it does is it gives us a system that we can convince ourselves that the tension doesn’t exist because we don’t want to live in the tension. But to walk after the Lord means that you and I are going to have a tension because there is a mystery. And let me explain how this works. If you’ve been around church long enough, if you haven’t gotten into an argument about whether God’s sovereign or people are free, you just haven’t been in the right group. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, that’s just a fact.

And so, here’s what we do: We go, “Well, God’s sovereign, right? I mean, Psalm 115:3 says our God is in the heavens and does whatever He pleases. Right? Ephesians 1 says that He works everything after the council of His own will. Romans 8 says that He works all things together for good. Right? So, isn’t He sovereign? I mean, doesn’t He know what’s going on? Doesn’t He say, ‘I harden those who I harden and soften those who I soften? Isn’t He sovereign?’”

And then somebody comes along and goes, “Yeah, but if God is so sovereign that He’s controlling everything, then aren’t we puppets? If we’re puppets, then how does that work?”

And somebody goes, “No. It can’t be that, so it’s got to be over here. We’ve got to be free. God’s really probably got some things He can’t really figure out or whatever.”

And so, rather than going, “Hey, both of these things can be true at the same time even though I can’t understand them, even though there is a mystery here,” we want to go to one extreme or the other and go, “No, no. I’m over here. No. You’re over there.”

Because I want to alleviate the tension. I want to have something that I know. I want to have something that I can master. And let me tell you something. When you think and I think that we can master God, or we think that we’ve got God figured out, what we have in our hands is an idol. We do not have the Living God in our hands at that particular point. So, there’s a tension.

How about this one? The Law of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament. You want to get into a fight? That’s a perennial issue. I mean, there was a guy named Marcion in the early church that said, “The Old Testament? Chuck it. It’s no good. Whoever that God is in the Old Testament, he ain’t the God of the New Testament. We’re going to stay in the New Testament.”

Believe it or not, there’s plenty of people that feel that way today. It’s just the Old Testament. They don’t even know what to do with it. Just sort of — that’s crazy. Like, shellfish? I like Red Lobster, so I don’t know why in the world that that’s the way it is. And then you get people over here that go, “No, it’s the Gospel. It’s the Gospel. There’s none of that.”

And so, what we do is we create these tensions, like the Gospel’s good, the Law is bad. The Law is good — all this crazy stuff that we do. But can I tell you something? Did you know that the whole entire Roman Empire was won to Jesus out of the Old Testament? There was no New Testament. They preached Jesus out of the Old Testament. So, there’s people today that say we’ve got to unhitch from the Old Testament, we’ve got to push it away. No, no, no. That’s not true. See, what we want to do is we want to alleviate the tension. So, what we do is we go to one extreme or the other to try to get away from the tension when, in reality, if we’re going to walk with God, there’s going to be a tension in the mystery of our faith.

How about this one? Grace and works. If you ain’t had a battle on that one at a supper club, you’re in the wrong supper club. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, that’s just — we do. We go, “Well, I was in church and it didn’t work out. People told me that I needed to live right and I couldn’t live right and it didn’t work right, so now I just want to believe in grace. All grace, all grace, all grace. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell me anything. Don’t give me that stuff. It’s all grace, grace, grace, grace, grace.”

And then people over here go, “That sounds like cheap grace. That doesn’t sound like biblical stuff.”

“Ahh, don’t give me those works. Don’t try to put that stuff on me.”

“Yeah. But doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to live a holy and righteous life? Doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to love people, do things and whatever? Doesn’t it say we’re supposed to walk worthy of the calling that we do?”

And we just go, “No, no, no.”

We’re going to go to one extreme or the other. And that’s what we do because we want to alleviate the tension. But the fact of the matter is there is a tension in the mystery. How about this one? Kingdom now or kingdom later? People go, “It’s finished.”

“Okay. Well, what’s finished?”

“It’s finished.”

“Okay. It’s finished. Great. So, what about sickness?”

“Well, it’s finished.”

“Really? Then why do people die still? Why do people still...”

It’s funny, too, because people go, “Oh, everything, everything. You should be healed of everything.”

How come those people that say that never come and pray for me for my glasses? Or how about the fillings that my own dad put in my teeth? I mean, that filling — that’s a result of the fall, so why not just pray that God would give me a new tooth? I mean, it’s like we don’t even think about those things. So, is it kingdom now? Is everything now? Is everything now? Like, everything now? Or things later? How does that work out?

And what we want to do is we go to one extreme or the other. You’ve got people that go, “It’s all now, all now, all now,” or people that go, “It’s all future, all future, all future,” and they fight about it because they want to control. They don’t want to deal with the tension. But the fact of the matter is the sweet spot is right there in the middle that we can’t understand fully. There is a tension in the mystery.

And so, we want to talk about how all of us can learn to walk in the tension of the mystery. This will free you in so many ways that the other things will not free you. What they’ll do is they’ll give you a system that you can believe in, but it’s not going to solve the problem. It’s not going to make it go away. You can sort of try to intellectualize it, you can sort of try to say all this stuff and you can quote all kinds of Bible passages, but the fact of the matter is there is a mystery to our faith. And learning to live in the tension of the mystery is probably one of the most freeing things that we can do.

So, let’s look at that here and let’s go into this. I want to teach. I’m going to be Teacher Chip today. If I get a little excited, I may move into Preacher Chip, but I’m going to stay Teacher Chip for the most part because I really believe this is something that can change your life in a massive way.

First of all, to walk in the tension — and we all are going to walk in the tension — requires us to understand the difference between the practical and the positional aspects of our walk. This is so important. Lean in and hear this. As a Christian — and, listen, if you’re here today and you’re not a Christian, it’s totally cool. You can sit here and hang out with us. You can belong here before you believe. We’re so glad that you’re here.

But maybe you might hear some things today that you’ve never heard before. Maybe you might go, “Man, you know what? Maybe I want to be in on this thing.”

We would love for you to be in on this thing, but just hang out with us and enjoy yourself because we’re glad you’re here. But, if you’re a Christian, this is true of you no matter whether you think it’s true or not, whether you want to believe it’s true or not. Whatever you want to do, this is the truth. You have a practical side to your Christianity and you have a positional side to your Christianity. Both are true at the same time, both overlap to some degree, and both don’t overlap to some degree. But they are both true at the same time. The practical aspects of our Christianity is what we experience now. And many of us, if I were to say, “Hey, could somebody give a testimony about how they had a temper and their temper’s gotten better because they’ve been serving the Lord and they’ve been praying and they’ve been going to studies and all this stuff?”

And you can see that the Lord is working in your life. We call that sanctification. You can see that the Lord is really doing some things in your life. Most Christians that have been in church for a long period of time can say, “Yes, there are some things that I have experienced in my life that God has done.”

That is the practical side of our Christianity, and it’s what we see. We can see it. We can feel it. You can see it in my life. I can see it in your life. It’s something that’s practical. It’s right here in the world right now for everybody to see. And that is true of our lives as Christians. There’s a practical experience that we have. But there is also a positional aspect of our Christianity. And the positional aspect of the Christianity is not necessarily all that we’re experiencing now. The positional side of our Christianity is who we are in Christ. That the Scriptures say that in Christ you’re forgiven. You’re holy. You’re righteous. And you start going, “Yeah, I don’t really feel that way over here.”

Okay. That’s true because there’s a practical side and a positional side. The positional side is something that we embrace by faith. So, check this out here. Put these together. Here’s the way it works. So, in Chip Bennett’s life, here I am trying to walk — that’s the way the Scriptures talk about our relationship. John says we walk in the light. We don’t walk in darkness. Paul says, in Ephesians 4:1, that we walk worthy of the calling in which we were called. He says, in Colossians 2:6, that if you’ve received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him.

There’s this idea of walking. It’s never a decision. It’s never a, “Hey, did you believe in Jesus?”

“I did.”

“You’re done.”

It’s never that. It’s a walk. It’s a relationship. Jesus is not after a decision. He is after a relationship, and there is a walk. So, as we’re walking in life, we have things that we experience now and things that are true of who we are, but some of those things that are true of who we are are not being experienced now. Which means as we’re walking towards becoming all that we are, and we’re not all that we are in the now, that’s going to create tension. And tension’s okay. It’s okay.

In fact, John tells us this. Listen to what John says. John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now,”

Practically. I’m a child of God. I’m 100% a child of God. John says, “Do you want to know if you’re a Christian? Believe in Jesus and you can know. You can know that you have eternal life. You can know that you’re a child of God. Experience it now.”

“Beloved, we are God’s children now,”

Practically. Look what he says, though. It’s very important.

“And what we will be has not yet appeared;”

So, we live in the tension of here’s what I’m experiencing right now, and it doesn’t look like everything that God says I am. And that creates a tension because I want to walk towards that, but what I realize is that that isn’t going to always be fully here because everything that I’m going to be has not yet appeared. And that creates a tension that we want to resolve. And we run to our theological camps to try to resolve it. There’s a beauty in the tension. There is a tension to the mystery.

And here’s what’s beautiful. He says, “I’m God’s child now, and what I fully am going to be hasn’t yet appeared.”

This is great: “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

There’s a beauty here. There’s a beauty. And so, let’s work this out here in a way that makes sense. We’ve got the practical and the positional. Let me try to explain how this works. Every single one of us, whether you want to admit it, whether you want to own it, whether you want to sort of theologize yourself out of it, whether you want to act like, “Well, that’s not really what it is,” here’s the reality: Every single one of us, whether we want to admit it or not, we still sin. Period. End of story.

If you don’t believe that, I’ve seen you drive on University. Every single one of us. 1 John says if you say you have no sin, you’re a liar and the truth is not in you. Paul says in the present tense to Timothy, “I’m the chief of sinners.” Not, “I was,” but, “I am the chief of sinners.”

We sin. Every single one of us. Every single one of us still sin. And sometimes we don’t even know that we sin. Sometimes we do things that we don’t even know that we did. We still sin. But, at the same time, we are as holy as holy could be. I mean, you have absolutely no sin. Jesus paid for everything that you and I will ever do. Hebrews 10 says that He paid for sin once for all and He sat down at the right hand of the Father.

And you go, “Whoa. How does that work?”

Right? How does that work? It’s like, “I’m not this, but I am. It doesn’t look like it though.”

There’s a tension. It’s the tension of the mystery. Or how about this? Guilt. Most Christians still feel guilt. They do. You can tell them they shouldn’t feel it, and you can tell them whatever. They do. Feelings are valid. If you feel a certain way, you feel a certain way. You can’t tell people not to feel that way. But Scripture says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You go, “Well, how does that work?”

It’s the tension of the mystery. It’s where we live. And what we want to do is we want to go to one or the other. We want to separate this out so that we can own it and not live in the tension, because the tension is part of the walk.

Or how about this? “I feel unworthy. I’ve still done some things I shouldn’t have done. I sort of feel guilty. And now, when I come to church, I just feel unworthy. I just feel this way. That’s just the way I feel. I overwhelmingly feel bad.”

And then somebody comes along and goes, “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way.”

It’s like, “Dude, I feel that way. You can’t tell me not to feel that way. I feel unworthy. That’s the way I feel. Don’t tell me. Don’t quote me a Scripture. That’s the way I feel. Okay?”

And what happens is also, over here, positionally, you’re forgiven. Completely. And you go, “How does that work out?”

See, practically, this is who I am. I have not yet experienced all of the fullness of everything that God has for me, and I’m never going to and you’re never going to in this life. Period. End of story. And we can see it over and over again in Scripture. And as much as we want to try to theologize ourselves into all these crazy camps that we create, the fact of the matter is we live in between these two things and there is a tension to the mystery.

Now, let me show you how this explained in the best explanation in all of Scripture. Last night, we baptized all these people and it was great. [Inaudible 19:09], they were here, too. They helped us out. Great stuff. It was just a great night. So, we baptize everybody and I said Paul, when he talks to the church about living out a life that looks like Jesus, do you know what he goes to? He goes to baptism. He doesn’t say, “Remember the day you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior? Remember the day you got a revelation of this?”

He didn’t say that at all. He says, “Go back to your baptism.”

He does it with the Romans. He does it with the Ephesians. He does it with the Colossians. He does it with the Corinthians. He always goes back to baptism. He goes, “Don’t you know when you were baptized?” in 1 Corinthians 10. “Don’t you know you were baptized?” in Romans 6. He says, “You went under the water and you came up out of the water. You went under the water an old man, drowned, new man comes up.”

But he says, and this is important, “Consider...” — he doesn’t say you are. He says, “Consider yourself dead to sin.”

You’re not dead to sin. You consider yourself dead to sin. And the reason you can consider yourself dead to sin is because you are all these things here even though they’re not all experienced here, but they are absolutely true whether or not you experience them here or not. It doesn’t nullify that this is true because we live in the tension of the mystery. We live in faith as to what we are in this world, knowing that those things that we’re believing in will come to pass because Paul says to the Philippian church in Philippians 1:6 that he is confident of this very thing, that the one that began a good work in you and me will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus.

Right? Okay. So, Paul’s talking about baptism and he’s saying, “Newness of life. Live in newness of life. Don’t continue to sin. Don’t do all that stuff.”

Then he gets real in Philippians 7. He goes into present tense in case you sort of think it’s past tense. He changes the Greek verbs to present tense. Here’s what he says:

“I don’t understand my own actions. It’s like I went in the water, and I came up out of the water and I have newness of life. And I want to walk in newness of life, and I really want to be all those things that God wants me to be, but man, sometimes I just am a bonehead.”

Can I get an amen? It’s like, “Man, what is going on here? I don’t even know what I’m doing sometimes.”

It’s like, “Why did I do that? I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Why in the world would I go do that? That’s crazy.”

He says, “I don’t do what I want to do, but the very thing I hate. This is not really great. This is honest here. I got baptized. I’m considering myself dead to sin, but sometimes I just don’t know what I’m doing. It’s like, “Why did I do that? Why in the world would I do that particular thing?”

He says, “So, now,” — not in the past — “it’s no longer I who does it. I used to do it. I used to do that, but I went under the water and came back up. I don’t do that anymore. It’s not me. I’ve been redeemed. I’m a different person. It’s not I, but sin. See, I’ve got this body. I live in a fallen world. God’s not redeemed everything yet. So, there’s part of me that’s fully all there, and then there’s part of me that’s ugly. What do I do here? I know that nothing good dwells in me, just in case you forgot, because I wasn’t really talking about me. I’ve been redeemed. I’m okay. It’s my flesh. It’s not me. I’m good. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m really doing good things. I’m thinking good things. I want to follow God. But I’ve got this problem, for I have the desire to do what’s right, but not the ability to carry it out at times. I try, but it’s like, ‘Ahh.’ I prayed last night and then I did the exact opposite of what I prayed for. What’s wrong with me? What is going on in my life?”

He’s like, “What a wretched man that I am. Who will...” — future tense — “...deliver me from this body of death?”

He’s like, “I went under the waters of baptism. I’m trying to live this thing out. Sometimes it’s brutal. It’s just brutal. Am I going to get deliverance from this? Of course, I’m going to get deliverance from this because Jesus has delivered me. So, I’m living in the tension of this mystery.”

And here’s the most beautiful, beautiful passage in all the New Testament:

“There is therefore now...” — for the person who has been raise to newness of life, that struggles in the tension of the mystery of trying to do the things that they want to do, and sometimes can’t do it — “ condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

If you’re in Christ and you’re going from Romans 6 to Romans 7, you can take absolute assurance in the fact that that struggle that you are having in your life, there’s no condemnation for you because God is working in your life, or else you wouldn’t have the tension. And then what does he say? You need to walk. You need to walk. You need to walk. You need to walk after the Spirit. You need to walk. It’s a walk. See, this is all good. I’m telling you. So, faith claims the truth of God’s Word in our life regardless of what we see or feel. And we live in the tension of the mystery. Let’s get going. This is good stuff here, too.

To walk in the tension embraces the truth that the King has come and the kingdom is coming. Like, what? Hold on. Coming? How does that work? So, what we want to do is we want to relieve the tension by going to one or the other, but we can’t. Look at what the writer to the Hebrews says:

“In putting everything in subjection to him [Jesus], he left nothing outside his control.”

Nothing. So, you want to say, “Well, Chip, I had this problem in my life.”

Nothing is outside of God’s control.

“Yeah, but I had this thing.”

Nothing is outside of God’s control.

“But my marriage...”

Nothing is outside of God’s control. He is absolutely in control. Right there: “He left nothing outside his control.” Get ready. Mind blown. Get ready because the next sentence is like, “What?”

Listen. Here we go. Nothing. Nothing. Absolutely nothing outside of His control. Look here.

“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”

Like, “What?”

Everything is in control, but we don’t see it yet. What is going on here? It’s the tension of the mystery. There is nothing in your life that God is not sovereign over, but we don’t see the sovereignty of God in every aspect of our life because the two have not yet come together. We live in the tension of the mystery. Let’s continue on. Paul, to the Philippian church, says the same basic thing in a different way. Here’s what he says:

“For many, of whom I’ve often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk...” — because you walk one way or you walk another. It’s not a decision. It’s not a set of facts. It’s a walk. It’s a relationship.

“...walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction,” — so, walking that way is not a good thing — “their God is their belly,” — they’re appetitive. They want everything that they want now. I know nobody in America wants it now, so we’re good, but they want everything now. Everything now. Now, now, now.

“They glory in their shame,” — they take pride when they do things that we know are wrong. They glory in it — “and their minds are set on earthly things.”

That’s what they think about is the earth. The place they live. Their subdivision. Their country. Their comforts. Earthly things. They want it now and don’t care how bad it is. They take glory in shame. They’re focused here when we’re told over and over and over and over again, like Colossians 3, if you’ve been raise with Christ, seek those things that are above, not on the earth. Put your mind towards the heavenly things. In Hebrews 11, what are they looking for? What’s Abraham looking for? What’s Moses looking for? What are all these guys looking for? What are all these women looking for?

The heavenly city. That’s what they’re looking for. The heavenly city. He says, “So, here’s the reality: You can walk this way, and when you walk this way, everything’s sort of only earthly things. But listen, Church at Philippi, come here. Listen. But our citizenship is in heaven. We’re not earthly dwellers.”

And here’s what he’s saying. He’s using Roman terms to make a point. In Rome, they owned all kinds of land, but there was still land that they didn’t conquer yet. They were going to conquer it all, but they hadn’t conquered everything yet. So, what they would do is they would send people into the outer banks in areas that they didn’t control and they would build a colony. Those colonies looked like Rome, they voted like Rome, they held Caesar back in Rome, but everything around that colony and that outpost was not Roman. But they acted and they lived as Roman citizens in that colony even though everything around was not that way.

Paul is saying, “Guys and gals, you live here, but it’s not about here. It’s not about where you live. We don’t get caught up in all that stuff because our citizenship isn’t here. Our citizenship is there.”

And so, what we do is we live as heavenly colonies in whatever area of outpost we live. Whether it’s America, China, Russia or wherever it’s at, we’re not citizens. We’re strangers and pilgrims and exiles. Our citizenship is in heaven. We’re in a colony doing Jesus stuff in our colony, trying to make the outer banks that are not yet colonized, we want to make sure they’re colonized. So, our citizenship is in heaven. And, listen, from it, from our colony, we await a savior. The Lord Jesus Christ. We await His coming. We know that He’s the King, but we also know He’s coming.

He says, “And what He’ll do is He’ll transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”

Third point of the tension: To walk in the tension realizes that there’s three tenses of our salvation. This is probably one of the big arguments in Church is salvation. Most people don’t realize that salvation is talked about in three different tenses in the New Testament. Because it’s a walk. It’s a walk. You could be saved. Remember in Acts 4:12 where Peter says, “There’s no other name given among men. Jesus is the only name that you can be saved by.”

When the Philippian Jailer says, “What do I do?”

They say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

There’s the point. Saved. But then there’s being saved. You say, “Yeah, but I was saved.”

No. There’s also being saved.

“Being saved? What’s that?”

That’s the walk. And that’s why you’re being saved if you continue to the end. You’re being saved if you walk to the end. You’re being saved if you stay on the walk. If you turn back and shrink back and you go back to all those ifs and all that stuff, because it’s a process here. It’s a walk, and we see that in Scripture. It says, “To us who are being saved, it’s the power of God.”

We’re in a walk. This is a relationship. That’s why Jesus says, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

It’s a relationship. It’s a relationship. And then, at the end, there’s glorification, or final salvation. These are the three tenses. And what we do is we read these passages as if they’re here and we read these passages as if they’re here. And we make a mockery of what Scripture is actually telling us because there’s three tenses to our salvation. It’s called the walk all throughout the New Testament.

So, let’s talk here for a second. This is so important that we get this. So important. This is incredibly important. I don’t care if you’ve been a Christian for 30 years. So important here. First of all, there’s nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They keyword here is “earn.” That’s the keyword is “earn.” You can’t earn it. So, if you’re in here today, I love you. I’m glad you’re here. I’m not trying to step on your toes and make you feel bad, but if for some reason in your mind you go, “Well, I’m not as bad as my neighbor, and I’m not as bad as my ex-wife, and I’m not as bad — I don’t even know who they are, but they look like a crackhead or whatever. I don’t know about that.”

What I’m saying is, can I tell you something? No matter how good you think you are, no matter how well you think you have arrived, there’s nothing that you can do to earn or merit your salvation. It’s not based that way. In fact, Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 64:6, “Our righteous acts...” — those are the things that we do really good — “...are like filthy rags compared to God.”

There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. In other words, you can’t merit it. You can’t go, “Jesus, let me pay so I can get on the walk. Let me bargain here a little bit so I can get on the walk.”

The only way that we can get on the walk is He’s given that to us. He has earned that. However, even though there’s nothing that we can do to earn our salvation — this is huge — there are things we do to receive our salvation. Big difference. Believe. Repent. Walk. These are part of receiving the gift of salvation. Because, remember: It’s three tenses. It’s not “saved.” It’s saved, being saved and ultimately saved. There’s things that we do to receive our salvation. And there are things that we do to demonstrate our salvation. Peter says, “Make your calling and election sure.”

Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself to make sure you are in the faith.”

There are things that we do that demonstrate our salvation. Can’t earn it. Nothing can be done to earn it, but we do receive it because it’s a gift, and a gift needs to be received because a gift can be rejected. And we also demonstrate it because we’re in a walk. And that’s why Scripture refers to this in the New Testament as the walk. It’s always the walk. It’s always the walk. It’s always walking. It’s always walking. It’s where we’re walking. It’s an active thing. We’re walking with Jesus.

Here’s the way Paul explains it: “By grace you’ve been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

In other words, salvation is a gift. You didn’t merit the gift. You couldn’t earn the gift. You couldn’t do any of that stuff. It’s a gift. God says, “I sent my Son to die on the cross for you. If you want to receive this gift, you can be forgiven. You can receive it.”

“And it’s not a result of works, so that no one can boast.”

You can’t go, “I got in because I wasn’t like you.”

You can’t do that at all. So, you can’t earn it. But then, listen to what he says:

“For we...” — those what have received the gift — “...are his workmanship,”

In other words, you didn’t just say, “I’m in. Now, go live however you want to live. Don’t want to do anything? Just go do whatever you want to do.”

No, no. We’re His workmanship. We’re on a walk.

“Created in Christ Jesus for good works,”

In other words, He wants to demonstrate what He’s done in our lives as we walk.

“Which God prepared beforehand,” — uh-oh — “that we should walk in them.”

Think about that. So, see, we live in the tension of the mystery. So, what are the take-homes? You don’t even have to write these down. You can just memorize these. There’s just three, and they’re quick. First of all, the tension of the mystery is part of the walk. It’s just part of the walk. You can try to alleviate it. You can try to explain it away. You can go, “I don’t like it.” You can say, “I don’t want to believe it.” You can say whatever you want to say, but the tension of the mystery is part of the walk. It’s part of it.

Secondly, the tension of the mystery is proof that we’re on the walk. The struggles that you have that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who are on the walk, the struggles that we have are proof that we’re on the walk. Because, if we weren’t on the walk, we wouldn’t care. And here’s the big one. This is the one that really ties it all together. Huge.

The tension of the mystery is where faith has opportunity. See, if you know what you know, you have knowledge. You don’t have to have faith. I met so many Christians that think they have faith. They don’t. They have knowledge. They tell you all the things they believe. They explain Jesus and everything. They have knowledge. Faith is the only way in which we please God. The only way. And faith in the tension of the mystery is the place, it’s the reason why God did it this way, it’s the reason why He created it this way, is because it gives you and me the opportunity to trust Him and to believe Him that I am on a walk of becoming all those things and those things are gradually coming into my life and I’m becoming more of what I am. But, one day, I’m going to become all of what that is because Jesus died for me, and I can take it to the bank, if I am one of His children, that I’m going to get to the end, and I’m going to be everything that God wanted me to be.

And if I do U-turns, I’m not on the walk. I’m walking. And I stumble along the way, there’s no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.

“Yeah. But Chip, sometimes I’m really freaked out.”

It’s okay, brother and sister. God’s got it. That’s your opportunity to go, “God, I need some help.”

And that is some freedom you can walk in because you can know that it ain’t you that’s got your hold on God, it’s God that has His hand on you and He’s created an opportunity for you and me to have faith as we walk in the tension of the mystery.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to do what I get to do and what we get to do here at Grace. Lord, it is obvious that Your hand is on this church. It’s obvious that You’re doing a work in this church. You’re raising up leaders. You’re raising up people. People are being baptized. People are coming to faith. People are getting free. Lord, that is when we know you’re at work. And God, what we pray right now, and I pray in Jesus’ name, in faith, I pray, Lord, that freedom would come to Your people. Lord, that we would stop trying to play the games of the either/or and we would embrace the tension in the mystery, and Lord, we would trust You that even though we don’t look like all that we are, and we really are those things, that we trust You by faith that one day we’re going to look fully like those things. And the beauty of it is that some of those things are going to be experienced even in the now as we continue to walk towards you.

So Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. We ask, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again, and help us, Lord, to remain the church that You’ve called us to be, which is a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You and we thank You for everything. In Jesus’ name, and all God’s said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.

John Flowerree