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One of my favorite AA meetings ends with everyone repeating, “It works if you work it.”
This truly applies to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It also applies to the way God works with his people.
A thumbnail sketch of God’s activity is that God has done everything for his people. However, for God’s work to be active in our lives, we must receive by faith what has been done.
In the late 1950’s I attended church for one of my occasional visits. A visiting preacher had all of the children assembled in the auditorium.
He placed four silver dollars on the platform and said, “If you want one of these, just come up and get it.”
Finally, one courageous child sheepishly walked to the platform and grasped the silver dollar. Then, a rush of kids ran to the platform to make the remaining three dollars their own.
The preacher told the children that Jesus provided salvation for everyone and that it was free. The one catch was that we had to ask him to give us salvation. A large number of children walked to the edge of the platform and asked Jesus for his salvation.
Like I did with the coin, I sat firmly in my seat. It was years later when I received Jesus’ gift of salvation by faith.
Salvation in Isaiah
Earlier chapters in Isaiah declared that God had delivered his people. The opening verses of chapter 52 calls upon God’s people to act in faith on what God had already done.
put on your strength, O Zion!
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for the uncircumcised and the unclean
shall enter you no more.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter Zion! (Isaiah 52.1-2)
His people were to wake up, shake off the dust, get up, and receive what God had done for them. They could not receive God’s work in a passive state. Their faith had to act upon what he said he had done for them.
When I remember the time when I did receive God’s gift of salvation, I had to do something. I first prayed and surrendered my life to God.
The joyful work that I did involve prayer, Bible reading the Bible, attending church services, and following God’s direction. The payoff was over fifty years of joyful and productive living.
Going back to the AA analogy, I believe God has made it possible for addicts to be free. However, they have to wake up, shake off the dust, get up, and actively receive what God has done for them.
This involves reading the Big Book, attending meetings, following the direction of a sponsor, working the steps, and daily connecting with God. The success stories of many AA friends reveal the truth of how “it works if you work it.”
A Joyful Message
When people experience salvation and well-being, it is time to rejoice. I watched two men serve two of their friends last week.
These men know God’s salvation and live in his peace. Jesus is the Lord of their lives, and they joyfully give it away. When I read the next verse, I think of these two men.
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52.8)
The transformation of their lives was a glowing “good news” picture to the friends with whom we visited. They were able to counsel their friends to allow God’s principles to guide them.
They were messengers of God’s peace and well-being. They encouraged all of us to actively receive what Jesus has done for us.
Over 2000 years ago, God bared his “holy arm,” just as Isaiah prophesied.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52.10)
It was God’s “holy arm” that delivered more than a million people from slavery in Egypt. Once again, God’s “holy arm” returned Hebrews from exile in Babylon.
God “bared his holy arm” on the cross. God’s might was shown in his willingness to lay down his life for his creation.
On the cross the truth of God’s absolute power became evident.
John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3.16).
The gift of God’s Son on the cross achieved eternal life for multitudes. However, humans have a necessary response to his gift.
If we trust our lives to what Jesus has done for us, we will receive a quality of life that can only be described as “eternal.” In addition, we will receive a quantity of life that is forever.
Once again, it works if we work it. We must receive what God has done for us.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.