So a couple of years back a couple came to our church, and like a lot of people asked about what the Alliance is. I explained to them a little history, a little bit of the theology, and a little bit about what our particular ministry was here in Quartzsite. At the end of this about ten minute explanation, The woman responded with, “All that sounds good, we thought you were some sort of cult.”
I was taken aback by it, and I found it really funny. But I can see why they might have thought that. The Alliance denomination isn’t widely known. It has no where near the high profile of a Baptist, Methodist, or Calvary Chapel. And it’s not like we have one of those “cool” names that so many churches have today, like the River, the Rock, Adventure, or any other number of different names. We’re simply the Alliance Church of Quartzsite.
So when people see our church signs, or ads, I can see them thinking, what type of weird cultist place is the Alliance? Well, I’ve been praying about a time to share more about what it means for us to be an Alliance Church. And since we’re in this limbo period between our winter sermon series, and our Easter sermon series, this seems like as good of time as any to delve more into what the Alliance is, and how God has worked through the Alliance for decades. And as we do this, we’re going to focus on how the relationship between God and the founder of the denomination, A.B. Simpson, molded a group of churches into what is now known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to dive into the book of Romans chapter 5 starting in verse 6. And as we do I want to share with you my testimony.
As far as I remember, I have never shared my full testimony with the church. I try to share it with the teens at least every year or two, to help them understand where I am coming from. But with the whole church in this type of setting, I have never give my full testimony.
As I have shared before my parents were saved into an Assemblies of God church in Lodi, California. When we moved to a little town called Comanche, we started the process of finding a new church. This process continued until we eventually stopped regularly attending altogether. At the start of my seventh grade year I was invited to attend a youth group with my buddy, who’s older sister was one of the leaders. The youth group was putting on a haunted house and so I was invited to help out. After helping with the haunted house, I attended a few more times, but never cared for it, because the older teens were complete jerks.
It didn’t help that the leader was indifferent, and didn’t really teach us anything about the Bible. It was more a social club than anything else. Well, my junior high years were not the best. I didn’t do a lot of my school work, and spent the majority of my eighth grade lunch period in detention for not completing homework. It was at this time that one of my teachers told my mom, that if I continued the way I was going, I’d end up in juvenile detention pretty soon. This was close to a prophecy. But in the end I barely scrapped by and graduated.
Then High School happened. I loved playing football, even though I was only eligible for the first half of the semester. Again, I didn’t care for school, and piling on top of that, my anger began to really grow out of control. Getting to the point, where I would physically challenge adults. It was in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, that things began to explode in my life. The town that I had lived in since I was in fourth grade was a similar size to Quartzsite. And being that it was a rural town, there wasn’t a ton to do. One early summer night my friend and I were at the local elementary school messing around on the playground. I don’t know how it happened, but we decided to check the doors of the classrooms. One of them was unlocked. It was all down hill from there.
For the next month or so, we began to break into not just the elementary school, but also the local junior high. For me, I did it for the thrill, and because I was bored. For my friend, who was into computers, it was about building a better computer. We eventually got other friends involved and we were having a great time. But it didn’t last long. Eventually the cops caught two of my buddies, and they turned the rest of us in.
From here, reality began to press itself against me. I was arrested, brought before a judge, and eventually sentenced to, in retrospect, a very light sentence. My parents took me out of my school and sent me to a Seventh Day Adventist private school in Lodi.
Even though all this reality was circling around me, I was still in rebellion. Though I began to take my schooling seriously, I fought against any authority figure. In the Bible classes we had, I would use what little knowledge I had to argue with the teacher. I gravitated to the teens that didn’t fit the mold that the school wanted. I even went as far as taking round up and spraying a nice little happy face in the grass in front of the principle’s window. Added to all this, I had a girlfriend who I would get to school earlier for, just to walk off campus with.
Fast forward to the end of the year, I’m still on probation and have started on my community service. Every weekend, and when the summer hit, every day, was spent in the, at the time, hottest summer to hit our county. About this time I also found out that my girlfriend was cheating on me.
That reality that I had antagonized and rebelled against was starting to collapse on me. And I couldn’t handle the weight of it. Thoughts of suicide, or just running away, filled my head all the time. Escape was all that I wanted. It was then that my family flew to North Dakota to attend my sister’s college graduation. As I sat in the back of the rental car, trying to listen to my cds on my Disc-man, I became fed up with the words that I was hearing. It was then I had my first miracle of the day. I dropped something on the floor and reached under the seat in front of me to retrieve it. Instead of finding my lost item, my hand found a cd case with a Christian artist named Kirk Franklin. I began to listen to the cd, and my heart began to break. In that weekend I came to recognize my need for a Savior. I understood that all of my pain and rebellion was rooted in a need that I was trying to fulfill for myself, but I could never do. I recognized my sin and need for Jesus, and in a hallway of a college in North Dakota I accept Jesus as my Savior and placed my trust in him.
I returned home with a new zeal for life. But none of my friends were Christians so they didn’t understand. There was no youth group in my area, so I never got connected. And so for the next two years, I gradually returned to my rebellion.
I share this first part of my testimony, because the words of Paul starting in verse 6 of Romans chapter 5, are the words I that fit my life. “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
These words, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” are the words that pierce my life. I remember that young man in distress; I remember his pain and hurt; I remember the moment he accepted Jesus as his Savior, and the radical impact it had on him. And I praise God that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. The prophecy of my eighth grade teacher did not come true, because when the teachers, and judges, and everyone else looked upon me and said that boy is just going to be a dredge of society, Christ saw me and loved me. He died on the cross 2,000 years before I was a speck, and though I was a sinner after the fact, his death broke through history and saved me.
I was not abandoned by God in my time of need. Though I broke everything from his law, to my parent’s hearts, “While I was a sinner, Christ died for me.” Not because of anything I did, but because of his deep love. I, an imperfect sinner, was loved by the perfect God who came to earth, died on a cross for me. And I didn’t have to become good, I didn’t have to fix my life, I didn’t have to look, or act, or smell, or think a certain way, Christ died for me even in my sin. Even when I didn’t think, or act, or speak right. Christ died for a sinner like me.
And in my powerlessness, the work of Jesus on the cross brought me salvation. And I moved from death to life in a flash.
This is the first aspect that A.B. Simpson stressed to the Alliance, Jesus is our Savior. This is the first step in our understanding of God. Jesus saved us, not because we deserved it, but because of his deep love for us. God’s saving work through the cross, speaks to the depth of his love, and the extremes he is willing to go to show us his love. Jesus as Savior brings us from death to life. It brings us from rebellion into right relationship. And it brings us from eternal self absorption to eternal selfless worship.
A.B. Simpson gave 8 things that Jesus saves us from. First, Jesus saves us from the guilt of sin, Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” So when the lies of the enemy tell us, “you messed up again you sinner,” we can exclaim, “but Jesus does not condemn me by his work on the cross!”
Second Jesus saves us from the wrath of God, Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” God hates sin, and seeks to destroy it in every place it hides. But through Jesus’ work on the cross the wrath of God passes by, because sin has been and is being dealt with in our lives.
Third, Jesus saves us from the curse of the law, Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” Paul writes that through the law of Moses we recognize what sin is, and it’s by the law we are condemned to death because of our sin. But through Jesus’ work on the cross, the law’s judgment is broken because Jesus paid our penalty.
Fourth, Jesus saved us from our own evil conscience, 1st Peter 3:21 states, “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” We try to justify our sinful acts and thereby pervert our conscience into agreeing with our lies, but through Jesus’ work on the cross we are now clear of the lies and deception we need to create to make ourselves feel good.
Fifth, Jesus saves us from our own evil heart. In the book of Jeremiah it reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (17:9)?” God knows that our hearts are corrupt. Jesus even says that out of the heart comes all evil things, (Mark 7:21). But through the work on the cross Jesus saves us from this corruption.
Sixth, Jesus saves us from the fear of death, in 1st Corinthians 15:55-57 Paul stands defiantly and proclaims, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The fear of death should no longer constrain us, but rather we stand in front of it and proclaim Jesus’ work is greater than the grave.
Seventh, Jesus saves us from Satan’s power, 1st Peter 3:8 states, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” The works of the enemy do not control us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior. And so we can stand on the work of the cross and proclaim, I am a servant of only one master, and his name is Jesus!
The final thing Jesus saves us from is certainly not least. Jesus saves us from eternal death. Jesus states in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” We have moved from the road that leads to a place of eternal death and decay, on to the road where everything is new for eternity.
I’ve experience all of it. I am free from the shackles that I placed on myself, because of my rebellion. But while I was a sinner, Christ died for me and set me free from all the things that God never intended for my life. But that’s not all.
A.B. Simpson brings out that we are just not saved from something, but rather to something. Jesus saved us to be justified in God’s sight, Romans 5:1 reads, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” God sees us through the lens of Jesus, and when God looks upon us, all he sees is the perfect work of the Son.
Jesus also saves us to experience the favor and love of God, The Psalmist wrote, “11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12).” We who put our trust into Jesus can experience this love and favor because we gain Jesus’ righteousness.
We are also given a new heart, God prophecies about this through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (36:26).” Our heart can beat as it was supposed to, with the fruits that will be produced in us through Jesus work.
Jesus’ work also saves us to experience God’s grace to live every day, Paul talks about this kind of grace in 2nd Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God’s grace is there so that we can do the work that he has saved us to be a part of.
Jesus’ work through the cross also brings us the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul talks about the giving of the Holy Spirit to us in Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” We can live daily in the power of God, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Jesus’ work also brings us God’s working out of all things for our good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Those are Paul’s words in Romans 8:28. Even when we mess up, God can take those mess ups and turn them for good as we seek him.
Jesus’ work on the cross also brings the opening for more blessings to flow to us. Paul recognizes this in his prayer for the Ephesian church, “14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21).” We cannot even begin to understand the blessings God has for us through Jesus.
Finally, but not the least, we are saved to eternal life. “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” And that life, begins at the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior and moves into forever.
None of which we deserve, but because of God’s deep love for us, he gives freely.
Jesus as Savior is one aspect, of what A.B.Simpson called the Four Fold Gospel. This approach to understanding the Gospel spurs the work of the Alliance ahead. The gratitude we as believers have, because of the depth of love shown through the cross, that, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This sinner, who from an early age was in rebellion, was pandered by almost everyone he came into contact with, but Christ died for such as he, and now I serve at the command of Christ. Not to earn my salvation, but in adoration of the God who has done so much for me.
To often in our lives we take for granted the depth of work God has done for us to bring us to salvation. But God wants us to remember that depth of work Christ did on our behalf by his work on the cross. And to rejoice in it.
Jesus spoke this parable from Luke chapter 7, “41 ‘Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43 Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly.’ Jesus said.”
I now seek to understand the depth of my debt, so that I would love my Savior even more.
This week my challenge is simple, seek God’s understanding of the depth of your debt to the Savior. Make a list with the words, “While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” at the top. Then, after writing all that Jesus saved you from, write at the bottom, “While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” And praise him for his work.
Let us be a people that seeks to know the depth of love that our Savior has for us. It is seeking to understand this depth that we join together as a family of believers to be called the Alliance. Amen.