Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our need for a Savior

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.' "  John 14: 6

Here are portions of a few letters I have written to friends and family.  A segment of what is written I learned from the series, “The Way of the Master” and paraphrased it a bit:

“…I wanted to say hi and expound a few topics of great importance that may be of benefit to ponder.  I address a few different topics that may be new to you or questions you may have already had. …

I am unsure of where you stand with the issue of religion or what your views are on this.  Possibly you believe that religion is for people who need "help" in life, or those who want to have some sort of order and a reason to be kind to others in the name of whatever god they claim to serve, or maybe religion is a topic of great interest for you, seeking info about a variety of religions as to see what best suits your taste.

I must say religion today is so random and everyone appears to have their own views and perspective on which religion to choose.

I believe that the Christianity of the Bible is one of significant importance.  There are many people who claim to know God, believe in Jesus, or be a Christian, yet their lifestyle and practices, along with their conversations and point of view are contrary to how the Bible instructs us to live.  I am guilty of such myself and often do not watch my words, especially for someone who cares to know the God of the Bible.

I once heard an acronym for the word BIBLE that went:  B asic  I nstructions  B efore  L eaving  E arth

I thought this was quite cool and as simple as it is, gives one something to ponder.

Have you ever questioned who Jesus is or why His name is so well known among the world?  There are people who are willing to die for the sake of His name, others who oppress or even harm people in His name, some who love and live for the benefit of others in His name, many religions based upon His name, and still others who only use His name as a cuss word and even hate His name.

A Pastor named Steven J. Lawson said the following in his sermon entitled, “The Coming Final Persecution”:

"There is no name on this earth that is more loved than the name Jesus Christ.  And there is no name more hated than the name Jesus Christ.  No name more loved by believers, and no name more hated by unbelievers.  Christ is the continental divide of the human race.  Christ is the divide of the eternities."

I have given thought to the name Jesus and wondered why He is so popular, so to speak, if there is nothing really significant about Him or if there really is no depth to His character, life, ministry, claims, death and resurrection.

There are so many different opinions of who Jesus is, what He taught, and if He even lived as the Bible has claimed.  And it surely does not help when there is SUCH a numerous array of opinions of Him, as evidenced by the teachings in different religions, and the variety of information out there about Him (a lot of which is contrary to what another person is saying or ends up being their own interpretation of Biblical passages rather than actual truth which has been discovered by reading the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the time the Bible was written and studying the culture and time of age the Bible was written).  The internet alone has so many conflicting ideas of who Jesus is.  And the followers of Christianity often do not live lives of evidence that the God they claim to serve indeed does make them a new creation in Him as they believe in God's salvation and now desire to live for Him (Second Corinthians 5: 17:  "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”)  Some who may rightly be called, "hypocrites in the church"; saying one thing and living another.

I believe one aspect of Christianity that differs from other religions, a very important aspect at that!, is the issue of good works or earning God's approval by our good deeds (after all, I have never murdered or cheated on my spouse.  I am kind to people, taught my kids to be nice to others, and I even have morals.  When I stand before God, I think He'll allow me into heaven because hopefully my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds.)  Christianity and the Bible say "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3: 23 and “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"  Jeremiah 17: 9 and "...and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment..."  Isaiah 64: 6

These Bible Scriptures ring rather true when you observe two toddlers who can't even get along!

And the "Ten Commandments" in the Old Testament of the Bible prove this reality to an even greater degree.

Have you ever heard what is commonly preached in a lot of churches, called "The prosperity gospel"?  This teaches, "Invite Jesus Christ into your life.  He will give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness."
Although joy and peace are the fruit of salvation, they should not be the draw cards for salvation.  Read the Bible, Jesus never promised us a happy life; instead, as Christians, He assured us we would go through trials, experience tribulation, and be persecuted.
Look at the following Scriptures:
Second Timothy 3: 12, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted".
John 16: 33, " 'These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.' "
John 15: 18-19, " 'If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you' ".

…I would like to ask you a few questions to prove my following point:

Romans 3: 19-20 says, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."

Romans 7: 7, "...On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law, for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COVET' ".

…do you think you have kept the Ten Commandments?  Read Exodus 20: 1-17, which lists the Ten Commandments.

Have you ever stolen?  The eighth commandment says, "You shall not steal".
The fifth commandment says, "Honor your father and your mother...".  Have you always done this?
The sixth commandment says, "You shall not murder".  But, First John 3: 15 says, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer...".

Romans 3: 23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".

Imagine you are in a court of law and are guilty of a serious crime.
The consequence is life imprisonment or a debt of money you just cannot pay.
Someone you don't know steps in and pays your debt for you so you can now go free.
This is what God did by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.
He paid our penalty so now we can go free.  It's that simple!  “Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.” Quote by Greg Laurie

Acts 17: 30-31 says, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead".

To repent means to turn away from, to forsake your sins.  Not justifying your sins, or like some people, coming as close to sin as they possibly can, without actually "sinning".

God, by nature, is a just and holy God, who will punish sin wherever it is found.
In order to stand clean before Him on the Day of Judgment, our sins need to be forgiven.
It isn't enough to only say a prayer or to vaguely believe in Jesus.
By trusting in the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we now have a love relationship with God that requires daily commitment and total surrender.
It is a matter of growing in our walk with Him, learning to trust Him, cooperating with His perfect will, and growing in the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5: 22-23.

It is always fascinating to me when people are opposed to Christianity or following after God.  Are they rejecting Christianity because of the lukewarm, mediocre "Christians" who attend church on Sunday and then live a hypocritical life the rest of the week, (and seeing this, question what Christianity has to offer, what makes Christians different than the rest of the world?)  Are they rejecting Christianity because of the false doctrine they see in many churches, even in some Christian books, web sites, and resources?  Or are they rejecting Christianity because there was a time in their life they prayed earnestly about something, and God seemed to ignore their request?

It really is so simple.  To correct these misconceptions, bring everything back to God's word (The Bible)!  It doesn't matter how others are living who claim to know the LORD, and yet their talk doesn't match their walk.  False doctrine can easily be avoided by trusting God's word, not the Pastors or speakers who claim to expound the Bible, when what they are teaching is clearly contrary to the Bible!  If God appeared to be distant and ignore an individual's persistent request, I know from experience that God had a better plan in mind and always has our best interest at heart.  I really believe when people stray from the truth of God's word, and focus on such examples as listed above, (or other areas in life that keep them from God), it blinds them.

…I would also like to expound the topic of guilt, shame, and feeling the need to be "condemned".  I have heard it said by many, "I deserve to rot in hell; I hope I receive the punishment I deserve."  The individual who says this is failing to recognize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23) and Romans 3: 10-12, "as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” "

"...and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment..."  Isaiah 64: 6

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Ephesians 2: 8-9

This is a blinded way of thinking and in my opinion, totally spits in the face of God.  The entire reason God sent His Son into the world to die on behalf of sinners and rise triumphantly from the grave was so that wretched, blind, sinful, guilt-carrying sinners could be reconciled to a holy and perfect God, in right standing with Him, their sins forgiven and atoned for by the precious blood of Jesus.  I appreciate the statement, "When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!"  Both satan and our own conscience testify to the fact that we ARE guilty, we ARE wretched, we ARE blind, we ARE sinful, we HAVE committed wicked deeds that result in overwhelming feelings of guilt, absolutely!  Yet, it is through God's salvation that we are set free.  Second Corinthians 5: 17 says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  First John 1: 9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  John 8: 36 says, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."  Like the old hymn, "Well may the accuser roar of things that I have done, I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah knoweth none".  And the classic, "Amazing Grace", which goes on to say, "Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound!  That saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see".

It is through God alone that we are made clean, our past is taken away, and we are a new creation.

…I am unsure if you struggle with guilt over the past or sins that you can't deal with on your own, though I encourage you to spend time in prayer and commit such issues to God, asking that in His perfect way, He would set you free from such bondage.  Offer Him a heart of gratitude and trust, asking that He would make you the woman of God He calls you to be, that God would do whatever it takes to set you free.

I have been trapped in the past and have known many who were trapped, yet through the willingness to stand in right standing before God through His Son, Jesus Christ alone, and a willingness to live the life God calls you to live, God can began acting on your behalf.  It really is a miserable existence when we try to carry the burden of past guilt and confusion as to whether we are truly saved or not.  It is a miserable existence to live for God halfheartedly or be only half surrendered to God.  I know this from experience.  Isn't it interesting and funny when people think that by living God's way and surrendering all we are and all we have to God is when we will be "trapped", implying a lack of freedom?  What a distorted lie!  With God, life is clean, we have freedom through our relationship with the LORD, and we can live with a calm assurance knowing that whatever happens, God is in control, He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8: 28), He always has our best interest at heart and will do what it takes to build our faith, trust, reliance, and commitment to Him.  And because of our right standing before Him, we don't even have to fear death because this will only bring us into the presence of our loving Savior forevermore!

I do agree that many professing Christians give Christianity a bad name, yet please be willing to understand and believe that ANYONE can claim to be a Christian, this doesn't mean they are truly saved.  The parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 proves this fact perfectly.

And everyone loves to throw around the name of God don’t they?  How many politicians, Presidents, and even celebrities have claimed to be Christian, all the while to see later on that how they live, what they stand for, and their morals and lifestyle clearly prove otherwise!

What is funny about those who address the topic of hypocrites in the church is how rare it is when those who say such comments actually ponder the following, “So and so claims to be a Christian.  Yet he or she is clearly living in opposition to how God’s word calls believers to live, and they even make light of the sins described in God’s word and dismiss them as if living in sin is all right as a Christian.  They are claiming to be a Christian, yet are living in a manner that is totally opposite of how God calls Christians to live in His word.”

This isn't to say that we will not sin.  We will because we were born with a sinful nature.  This is not an excuse to give into temptation, place ourselves in tempting situations, converse with others/friendships that we know will cause us to stumble, or intentionally fill our minds with entertainment that is anything but holy.  We cannot expect to live a godly, set apart for the LORD, life if we will not turn from those sins and situations that so easily entangle us and cause us to stumble.  It really is foolish and silly to think that living as a Christian means you can live the exact way you lived BEFORE you got saved.  Is this not denying the purpose of God making us a "new creation" (Second Corinthians 5: 17) and other calls in His word about walking in repentance and growing in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. “, which is the quality of character God is building in a believer’s life as they daily follow after Him)?  First John 2: 1-6 says, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.  By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

The Bible calls believers to cherish God above all else (as He truly is the only One worthy of this.  I personally believe that Christians should daily be on their face before God in total reverence, thanksgiving, and praise...not playing around with sin and then asking for God's forgiveness knowing we will commit the same sin again quite soon!)  We are called to carry our cross daily and follow after the Lord, to abstain from every "appearance" of evil - First Thessalonians 5: 22, for those who are unmarried to abstain from sexual immorality, First Thessalonians 4: 3-5, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God…” and Galatians 5: 16-25 goes on, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.  Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

As for the topic of attending church weekly, keep in mind that you wouldn't be going to church for people.  You would be attending church for God; to learn about Him, worship Him, and hear His word expounded.  There are many professing Christians and even Pastors that may talk the talk yet not walk the walk, though you need not focus on them.  Focus on your relationship with God and seek to make Him your top priority, realizing that nothing and no one is worth taking God's place in your heart.

What better gift, what better assurance, what greater blessing and comfort, what better life indeed than to know God, be set apart for Him, and walk in a manner worthy of Him, growing to love Him more, being made more like Him as time passes, and God building the fruit of the Spirit in your life through your daily commitment to Him, until the day you go to be with God forever in Heaven!

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." "  John 14: 6

The poem "Footprints in the Sand":

One night I had a dream--

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord

and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,

one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that many times along the path of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest

and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.

"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,

you would walk with me all the way,

but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life

there is only one set of footprints.

"I don't understand why in times when I needed you most,

you should leave me."

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,

I love you and I would never, never leave you

during your times of trial and suffering.

"When you saw only one set of footprints,

it was then that I carried you."

I hope you will take the time each day to read God's word, and in doing so, obey what you read and draw near to the LORD, making Him your life!  God's word can be trusted, not our thoughts, not how we feel, or how we perceive life to be.

If you have any questions, would like to share your opinion on all of this, or want me to address other important topics about the Christian faith, please do not hesitate to write! …

There is nothing more important than your eternal salvation!”


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