Before She Falls Off the Cliff

u turnShe was walking away, heading toward the cliff and if she doesn’t stop she’ll fall to her death.  All at once she stopped, turned and began walking back the way she had come.  Her change of mind saved her life.  You could say she repented.  She repented of the direction she was going.

That’s what repentance really is.  Stopping the direction you’re going, turning around and going back in the direction you came.

Imagine your life apart from Christ, your life of sin that has separated you from God and salvation as walking toward a steep, tall cliff.  That’s where sin is leading you.  Into an eternal chasm sometimes called the pit, or the abyss, and mostly known as hell.  When you realize you are a sinner when you compare yourself to Jesus and God’s Word who is going to perish (c.f., John 3:16) if something right doesn’t happen in your life, needing a change and wanting a change, that’s when you repent.  You change your direction, a 180 degree turn around and you begin moving toward God and his way, from now on.

That’s what repentance is!  But it takes an enormous level of trust in God to repent.  Will he accept my repentance?  Will he forgive me of my sin if I ask?  Will it matter at all?  Well, we’ll be discussing this part of the salvation issue.  Just as belief is necessary, so is repentance.

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Larry Norman

I discovered Christian music in 1972, my sophomore year of high school.  Love Song, Phil Keaggy, John Michael Talbot, Terry Talbot, Pat Terry and others, but the one that started it all was Larry Norman ( http://www.larrynorman.com/ for bio and discography ).  That first Christian Rock album was called Upon this Rock.  My first Larry Norman album was Not of this World which is considered one of the best Christian albums ever recorded.  DC Talk recorded Larry’s song I Wish We’d All Been Ready about being prepared for the second coming of Christ.  We used to sing it in our youth meetings.  Larry influenced Christian music there’s no doubt.  But he wanted people to know Jesus.  You can see that in the song Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus.  Watch the video, listen to the message, and look into Jesus that’s all I’m asking you.

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Why do I believe in Jesus?

Jesus“You are the Christ, the Son of God” Peter said as Jesus asked the question to his disciples, “who do you say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:13-19).

That is the confession of belief that most of us seek from those who are presenting themselves for baptism.  It’s a good statement, it’s a true statement that comes from understanding that goes deeper than just knowing the answer, it comes from what the Bible calls the heart (which is more than knowing, understanding, and emotion).

We have discussed what to believe.  That Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead.  Both difficult to believe and accept for human beings who are short-sighted and small-minded (in terms of eternal things).  Why do we believe?  Why are we to believe in Jesus?

John 3:16 says that God loves you and me so much that he sent Jesus (Emmanuel, God with us, Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14) so that we (you, me, and everyone) who believe in Jesus the Son of God won’t perish ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%203:16&version=NIV )

I don’t hear that word perish much except with this verse of Scripture.  Let me give you a view of what perish describes for me.  It is the final conclusion of a horrible coming to an end of things.  I know this is a rather awkward sentence and probably grammatically incorrect.  The picture I have in my mind is like someone lost at sea without a single hope and distressing over the storm, the possible sinking of the ship, no visible way of escape, and finally drowning, which seems to me to the worst possible way to die.

Jesus came so we don’t have to perish.  Perish from what?  Our sin!

Sin, the failing to please God ( Romans 3:23; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%203:23&version=NIV ) by disobedience to His will is a perishable offence.  One sin is enough (c.f., post of September 29, 2009 for an example https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/im-as-good-as-any-christian/ ).  And all of us have sinned and the greatest sin of all is when one does not believe in the Son of God that He has sent and receive God’s salvation through Jesus.

Jesus came to save.  The angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21 that Jesus will “save his people from their sins” and Jesus said after Zacchaeus repented that he came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Very simply, Jesus came to save us from sin and perishing in our sins which is an eternal thing.  The horrible pain of separation from God.  That place is called hell ( Romans 6:23;http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%206:23&version=NIV ) Don’t want that.

There’s another reason to believe in Jesus.  God has given only one way to salvation.  It is through Jesus Christ.  In Acts 4:12 we get the picture.  Peter with John is telling the very leaders who should have seen and believed in the first place but whose arrogance and pride kept them from believing these words, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

220px-Larry_Norman

1947 - 2008

Larry Norman, the Christian music pioneer (he had the very first Christian rock album) popularized the phrase “One Way.”  As you would say “One Way!” you’d point to heaven with your pointing finger.

Jesus is the one and only way.  We will only find the way to God through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ the risen Son of God.  Not through some other means.  Some churches teach other ways as well.  By works, by trusting in some person or thing.  Some will accept whatever form of belief you have.  But, if we are going to please God we are going to need to follow his teaching and way.  As God he has the right to decide how that will be.

Now here is the question I have for you.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

If you do, you have the first element of what it takes to be saved and the Lord bless you as you continue to believe in the Savior.

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Don’t Stand on the Sidelines

Kids playing footballIt’s not safe to stand on the sidelines!

I grew up in central Indiana in the 1960’s and 70’s.  We played basketball year-round, even when there was snow on the ground.  In the summer we played baseball and whiffle ball in the backyard and a few months of the year, we played football.  Some of the best games were in two feet of snow when you’d come home and your hands were frozen and you’d run hot water over them to warm them up (which actually makes them hurt worse).

In our neighborhood, we’d play in the street, in backyards, in the school yard, and in the front yards of our homes without trees.  One day, we were playing in Brent and Greg’s front yard.  My brother Gary was standing along the sideline watching us play.  He claims we did in on purpose, I don’t remember it that way, I say it was an accident.  The play, a run around the right end of the line, ended up with the ball-carrier being tackled on top of my brother.  Tackle football, no pads, kids 10-14 years old, and my brother got tackled and he wasn’t in the game.  Oh, it also broke his collar-bone.

It’s not safe to stand on the sideline.  But that’s the way a lot of Christians do.  They don’t get in the game of church (though they attend church services) and faith (though they believe) and witnessing (though they claim to be a Christian) and service (though they’re thought to be good people), they watch from the sideline, maybe routing for those who are doing, maybe wishing they could be in the game, but they sit on the outside of what is going on that they are supposed to be a part of and they will regret their failure to participate.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote in his letter to Christian believers, some who were sitting on the sidelines, that they needed to get into the game.  That they couldn’t just believe and still be living faith.  Listen to this:

James 1:22-25

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:14-25

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.  25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.  [Italics mine]

A lot of Christians just believe and do not do.  James helps understand what that means when he says “faith without deeds is dead.”  I understand that to mean that faith that isn’t involved in the doing of faith, belief only, is not really faith at all.  I think we should realize how significant that is.  Because there is obviously eternal consequences to failing to be involved in Christianity and the church.

John wrote Jesus’ words about who will not be making it to heaven.  Revelation 21:8; “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The cowardly won’t be there.  Who are the cowardly?  Those believers who are not involved in the faith.  Believers who fail to witness, to care for other believers, who became a Christian but are not active in being a Christian (and church attendance is not enough to count).  Standing on the sidelines . . .well . . . it’s not safe.  We’ve got to get in the game.

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I Just Wanted to be Liked

DadI don’t know.  I guess I was insecure as a teen.  I didn’t care about being cool or popular, I just wanted to be liked . . . so I did some really stupid, goofy things to get attention.

I had friends, my family loved me, but I suppose it mattered to me that everyone liked me, I mean not every single person, “I like Jeff,” but that I wasn’t disliked.  There were a few who didn’t.

That’s the most appealing thing about God to me.  He wants to be with me.  Let me explain.  To me, these are the most beautiful words in the world, Revelation 21:1-3:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Verse 3 means the most to me.  To someone who wanted to be liked and accepted, hearing that God wants to spend his time with me is huge.

We always think, God wants us to be with him and I know that’s true, but more impressive is that God loves me so much, and even likes me that he wants to spend eternity with me.  He wants to live with me . . . well he wants to live with us.

And a guy from the 70’s has to say “Cool!  I am liked and accepted.”

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It Better be True!

joytoworldIf we’re going to believe in Jesus, the things that we know about him had better be true.  I mean, if what we know about Jesus from the Bible isn’t true and trustworthy, our believing is futile and useless.

If we can’t trust the Bible to tell us the truth about Jesus, than, well, you’re getting the picture aren’t you?

The Bible is one of the most reliable documents in history.  Of course if God is behind it, what else would we expect.  If we can’t trust the Bible, than we can’t trust what the Bible teaches us, especially about Jesus.  And if this is true, we can’t trust God either.

Lee Strobel has made several investigations into the claims about Jesus and faith.  In his search, and he is qualified to search, he has found qualified and certain evidence for the reliability, the accuracy, the integrity, and the veracity of the Bible.

We can trust what the Bible says.

I haven’t gone into great detail, there are several outstanding books documenting what we’re talking here, such as Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Ben Wilson, and Lynn Gardner, but there is one more element that I haven’t made reference too and its this; the unity of the message of the Bible.

This unity is impossible for people, but not for God.  The 1500 year period, the numerous authors at different times and in different places and from different backgrounds that produced a unified message about one being, Jesus Christ the Son of God could only come from one source, the heart, mind and hand of God.

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