This is What it Means to be Saved

You and I can talk all day about the conditions that lead to salvation and eternal life. It does need to be discussed. It IS important to know what must happen in your life and mine for us to gain salvation from God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We’ve dealt with these conditions before here (click on Salvation Stuff in the menu to the left).

What has got to happen in my life, what are the conditions that make it possible for God to save me?

I believe in Jesus. John 3:16; Romans 10:10&11). I believe that God sent Jesus and that he is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead. This is the beginning of discipleship. Every person that has ever been saved were saved because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. They have faith in God and in Christ and in the things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. BELIEF, that’s one.

I have to repent of my sin, Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30. If God is going to change me, because I am letting him, belief is opening the door and repentance is letting God in to clean out the mess that sin is. Repentance is as Gareth Reese says [“New Testament History, Acts,” College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO, 1976, page 145-147], “individual, inclusive, and indispensable.” Repentance is done by and found in individuals, and it is for everyone (inclusive) and salvation cannot happen without repentance (indispensable). It involves my intellect, knowledge of sin, a change in my emotions, I must feel the sense of guilt that I possess and be sorrowful for it, and it involves a change of my will, letting God take over my messed up life to make things right in my life. REPENTANCE is another.

I must confess Christ, Romans 10:10-11. If I have let change come into my life, it’s got to show. I have to say it. I have to let it out that I believe in Jesus and that I have made him my Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), that I belong to him, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. This is a continual thing. It doesn’t happen only once, it is constant. I belong to Christ, I declare that I am his by my lifestyle and my message of faith. CONFESSION, that’s a third one.

I must be baptized, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is immersion. That is what the word actually means and it is the only form that the church practiced with the apostles. I must submit myself in humility to baptism in order that God will forgive me of my sins and give me salvation. It all happens when we come in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection by our own death and resurrection. We are buried in baptism and raised from the water with new life. Pretty cool concept. A new life, a fresh start that propels me on my way to heaven. BAPTIZED, that a fourth one.

But is that what it means to be saved? Those are the conditions that make it possible for God to save us, but what it means to be saved is to be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in changed and being formed into the likeness of Christ.

You were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Sin distorted that image (it’s in your soul). Sin corrupted the goodness that is in you, it robbed you of innocence as God is good and innocence, you have no righteousness, but Jesus brings the change that will restore you to God’s good graces. He is God come to earth (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:15–16). And when we are saved through Christ, we are renewed. He refreshes that original image of God that we possess.

That means how we live, think, and act is totally different from the ways of the world. We possess the goodness and righteousness of God and do right and good and kindness in this world. We live holy as God is holy, without sin, with the power of God. We are saved and eternal life with God the Father is our home. We get to be with God because when we have met the conditions in our lives, where our heart, mind, and soul are prepared to accept Christ, then God saves us.

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“I Believe!”

Yesterday was a very emotional day for me. See, I visited the teens in the residential counseling facility that I work with. I wanted to see them a couple of days before Christmas and share cookies and Christmas wishes with them.

About two thirds of the kids were gone for the holidays. I brought cookies, Christmas wishes and Christmas hugs.

I always go around and say hi to everyone and see how people are doing. Are they struggling? Are they having a great week? That sort of thing. As I was visiting with one young man, he showed me a picture he was working on. He told me he would like to give me the picture when he finishes. I thought that was really nice and told him thank you. He said, “You’re a part of my life and you mean a lot to me. You made me believe in Jesus.”

Now I get soft-hearted now and then, this was one of those times. This troubled young man, struggling with self-worth issues touched me deeply. I am so happy he believes in Jesus. I look forward to helping him move forward in his belief. I know it will bring healing to him.

That is one of the reasons I continue to invest myself in the lives of these teens. To see them change, to help them see God and learn about Jesus.

May God be blessed.

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The Uncomfortable Truth (Romans Pt 2)

I believe it’s pretty common, most people want or try to improve themselves. The New Year is a popular time for people to reevaluate their lives and resolve themselves to improving themselves in some way. Eat healthier, lose weight, develop stronger relationships, help the needy more, be more productive at work, etc.

I think we all want change that is desirable to ourselves as well as is beneficial to those around us. Isn’t that a good goal? Be better and make the world a better place.

We also rely upon others to make things better. In the past couple of national elections, the main reason America elected most of the candidates they did was to see our country become a better place, economically and socially, to put the biases and divisions behind and find a unity that might propel our country forward as not only the greatest nation it has been, but that it will become even greater.

There are organizations whose purpose is to benefit and improve the lives of others. They may be concerned with the planet, or with poverty, or with animals, or education, or any number of things.

We humans want to be better. How well we’re doing at that is a matter of opinion, but there is one uncomfortable truth that each individual must wrestle with, whether we like it or not. Here is the fact – we human beings are sinners!

Bad word. No one likes that word and a lot of us want to deny that is what we are. We weren’t born that way, we were born with the ability to learn and the free-will to choose and we learn to sin and we choose to sin which makes us sinners.

We all want to improve ourselves just like I already noted, but we cannot improve or change until we understand and admit that need. I can’t overcome being overweight until I consciously and emotionally admit that it’s not good and then I must have the conviction and determination that something needs to be done about it and so I’m grateful for Nutrisystem. Until I come to that point in my life, my weight will remain, or actually, continue to increase, even if only gradually.

We hide ourselves from God because we have sin. Sin never accomplishes anything positive. It actually separates us from God. We want to deny that, but it is true. Look at Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men” (sin and sinfulness) “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (NIV)

We try to hide from our sin. Yet we are sinners and God will punish sin. Romans 6:23 says plainly, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

It’s not good. George Carlin (1937-2008) accused Christians of being the reason for the problems in the world. I will admit that some Christians have created problems in the world, and at the same time I realize that many who claim to be Christians do not represent God or the spirit of Christianity. I think that Carlin, and others like Bill Maher have lumped all people who claim to be Christians into one basket. That is dangerous. That’s like saying every Democrat is liberal or every Republican is conservative and interpreting the characteristics of each party on the basis of a few people. That’s not fair.

The problems in the world is sin. It always has been. Sin is a separation from God. Sin puts up a wall that keeps us from reaching God and keeps God away from our lives. We like the moral teachings of Jesus, we revel in the care for the weak, the crippled, and the poor that the Bible endorses, but just being moral, or being helpful doesn’t bring us close to God because sin has separated us from him.

The sad reality is that each and every one of us has learned to and has chosen to sin. A single white lie, disobeying our parents, stealing a dime from the kid sitting next to you in math class, any single thing was enough to build the wall. And the more we do things that are sin, it’s makes this proverbial wall higher, and wider, and even thicker separating us further from God.

All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23 (NASB), or as “The Message says, “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us….”

We can’t please God in this way. We can’t get close to God with sin, in fact, he doesn’t hear our cries out to him in need or in thanksgiving unless we are repenting of our sin.

Another sad reality is, since we humans sin and seem to want to keep sinning, God has given us over to that sin and things continue to go from bad to worse in our lives and in the world. God will not force his will on us, but his desire is to have a close and intimate relationship with you and me.

The truth is uncomfortable, but it is not hopeless.

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He Just Decided

It is totally interesting to me and sometimes baffling to me what happens in a person’s life that leads them to become a disciple of Christ.

The past couple of years, I have had more people come to me and tell me about their new-found or re-found belief, or at least their journey to belief that is a couple of steps from true belief in Jesus Christ.  It happened again on Sunday.

A young man came to me after the spiritual time and asked if he could talk with me.  He revealed that he had chosen to be a Christian.  I smiled and inside I’m doing back flips.  Then he gave a condensed version of his journey in and out and back into faith.  Tuesday, we visited a little longer and I asked him to tell me more of his story.

He had been a part of a Christian family, but because of the difficulties and troubles he has experienced in his life, he had given up on their faith.  It appears that their faith was not his own.  He went through a series of changes and beliefs, from doubt and skepticism, to disbelief, even considering atheism and Satanism.  But nothing answered his questions and fulfilled his longing to understand and be accepted in spite of his weaknesses, failures and the outside stuff that came down on him.

He listened as Cliff, and Brian, and Ben, and I have shared with him and the others from the Bible about the lessons in the Bible over the past few months.  He watched our lives and saw that we cared and were consistent in caring and sharing.  More importantly, he was impacted by another student who has taken hold of faith over the past couple of years and chosen to follow Christ.

I think he wanted to share this with me because he recognizes me as an authority figure.  I feel privileged to have him place his trust in me and want to let me know about and have me help him grow in his faith.

He revealed to me a sense of peace and contentment, even though he is experiencing the same crap he was before.  So we talked about Job and the crap he went through and his steady faith in God.  Job had questions, but he never wavered in belief.  This young man is willing to be like Job, faithful to God through the crap.

He is coming out of life that resists God and has uncovered faith and turned toward God and accepting God’s love and mercy and grace.

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Conditions

Do a search. You'll find 16 things that the NT says saves you.

I learned from Robin Sigers that the New Testament tells us that there are 16 things that saves us.  Four of those things you do.  Actually, you have help in doing them, help from God himself, he is involved in these four things with you.  These are not steps of salvation. These are conditions which place us in the very hand of God because of the heart of God who has chosen to save us by grace through faith.

The first condition is FAITH. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen,” Heb. 11:1.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him” Heb. 11:6. What do

You gotta have faith!

you think.  Faith is essential.  Now God works in our lives so that faith can be instilled in us, faith in God, faith in Jesus the Son of God.  Faith that Jesus is the Son of God and that God has raised him from the dead.  Faith that holds onto truth, reality, and fact.

Faith is foundational. If we are building a house, faith is the foundation.  Everything else it built on it.  You got to have faith!

Another condition of salvation, one of those things you are involved in deciding and doing, is REPENTANCE.  Jesus told us, “But unless you repent, you too will perish,” and “But unless you repent, you too will perish,” Luke 13:3 & 5.

Repent means to turn, to hate sin and turn away from sin.  It’s really that simple.  Though understanding and realizing that is simple, a lot of times, it’s not that simple to do. It implies a trust in God because there is going to be a major change in my life.

Since faith is the foundation, repentance is the framing, the 2×4’s and 2×6’s and such.  The structure of the house.

I have to turn to God, away from sin, I have to pronounce that I hate sin, I have to tell people that I am a sinner and my heart is conditioned than to receive God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

And I must CONFESS.  What must I confess?  Usually in church, when someone presents themselves for baptism, we ask them to

Confess Jesus is Lord and Christ

confess their faith in Jesus.  Often, mostly, we will say the Good Confession, Peter’s confession of Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is true, but we should be making the Great Confession.  Thomas, doubting Thomas made this confession.  when Jesus appeared to the disciples a second time, Thomas was with them than and he saw Jesus and said, “My Lord and My God,” John 20:28.

Our confession is commitment.  Are we committing to let Christ take control of our lives.  With the Great Commission we will.

Faith is the foundation, and repentance is the framing, confession is the outside, the brick, the siding, the stucco of the walls that people see, seeing the beauty of our life in Christ.

The other condition for salvation is BAPTISM.  Baptism is immersion, not sprinkling or pouring, or some spiritual symbol, it is literally being immersed under the water.

One of the Biblical uses of Baptism/Immersion is when they would have the cloth and it was grungy looking, they would dip it in a solution and it would come out white as could be.  That is the picture we need of baptism.  Jesus told his disciples to make disciples and “to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Matt. 28:19. Peter told the people on the day of Pentecost to “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins,”

Jesus says you must be immersed.

Acts 2:38. Peter again tells us that “baptism now saves us, not the washing away of dirt from the body, but an appeal toward God for a clear conscience,” 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is where, due to the activity of faith, we come into contact with the blood of Jesus and God washes our sins away.  It is when salvation begins in my life.

Faith is the foundation, repentance the framing, and confession the outside of the house. Than Baptism is moving into that house.  Let’s get a new address and move into heaven not hell.

I want to be saved.  These four conditions are what I am involved in as a thinking and choosing person.  Choosing faith in Jesus and choosing to obey the God of creation, so that I will come into a personal and loving relationship with a loving and caring Father who wants to live with me.  There are other things that save me, God’s grace, standing firm, and more, but there are four things that I am involved in with God whereby I must be saved.

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Identification Badge

Often one of the first things that we examine when we try to understand who God is, is the many names of God.  There are many, Adonai, Elohim, Yahweh, El Roi, El Shaddai and many others.  Each name has to do with what God has done or with attributes of his character.  But one of those names basically includes what all of his names mean and more.  That name is the I AM.

Popeye the Sailor Man says “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”  He was saying, I am who I am.  Maybe another way to say it is what you see is who I am.  French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) said this; “I think therefore I am.”  He is often quoted or his quote is altered for given situations; “I eat therefore I am,” etc.  He was saying because I have consciousness, I must be alive, I apparently exist.

On a tall mountain one hot day in the desert, about 3500 years ago or so, Moses saw a bush on fire but not burning up and went up on that mountain to see what in the world was going on.  It was a curious thing, and got even more bizarre because of what he encountered, or rather, who he encountered and how when he got to where the bush was (Exodus 3 & 4).

In 3:6 God introduced himself to Moses this way, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob” At this Moses hid his face.  He knew he was in the very presence of God, YHWH.  A ways into their conversation, after God told Moses that he was sending him to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians, Moses, trying to offer objections, said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13). Here’s what God said;“I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites,: I AM has sent me to you.’  God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites,’ ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.  This is my name forever the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation'” (3:14-15).

The I AM.  That’s who God is.  The meaning goes something like this, “I Am the Being.”  “I Am the self-sufficient, self-existing One.”

Another way to realize who God is is to look at a couple of verses in Revelation.  “‘I Am the Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Rev. 1:8) and the worship of the four living creatures who, Revelation says never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

He who exists outside of time and space, who lives according to his own life, is involved with us.  He was involved with the Patriarchs, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham.  He was involved with Israel.  He is involved currently with the church.  These all honored and worshiped him, but he is involved in all of creation.  He created the world and everything in it (Gen. 1, 2 & 3).  He sustains this world, keeping it functioning and living (Heb. 1:3).   He reaches into our lives to bring us into relationship with him through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Names have meaning.  Names have significance.  Learn the meaning of names in the Bible and you’ll gain understanding into that person or about the event or meaning of what is being revealed.  Abram meant “great father.”  God changed his name to Abraham with means, “father of a multitude.”  My first name means “God’s Peace” or “Peace of God,” and my last name means “descending one.”   Therefore, my name means “The Peace of God Descending.”  I like that.  In fact, that’s what seems to happen to people around me, they experience God’s peace through my faith, my hope, my joy, my encouragement, etc.

God’s name tells us he is the God of Wonders.  Wonderful in love and compassion, wonderful in care and help, wonderful in hope and provision, wonderful to forgive and save.  Wonderful you are O Lord.

He is identified by his name and his name reveals who he is.

All Scripture passages from the New International Version of the Bible.

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Let’s Take on Faith, Reason, and Nonsense

These discussions are hard, not because they’re rational but because they’re emotional.  It’s hard not to let hurt, disgust, anger, fear, and a number of other possible emotions get involved in the discussion.  It injures me deep in my soul when people attack what I have found and believe to be true.  They feel the same when I say Jesus is the only way.

Well, let’s go back in time 35 or 40 years.  I grew up in central Indiana, in a conservative environment.   A mostly working class community with about 60,000 people, several GM plants, a steel mill, a Dodge transmission factory and the like.   Two large high schools with 1500-2000 students each and a hand full of county high schools of a few hundred each.

I was born into a family of believers.  My parents were part of a church whose fellowship primarily was with  Restoration Churches (http://www.therestorationmovement.com/ and http://www.gotquestions.org/Restoration-movement.html, should help explain the movement).  We were taught the Bible, not a form of theology and doctrine, just what the Bible presents as a whole, you know, Biblio-theology.

I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College, http://www.occ.edu/) a conservative Bible-believing and teaching college and have read and studied over the years what I first believed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the only way to God, salvation, and heaven.  I learned it from those I respected and they shared it with me from the Bible and through reason.  People like Paul Jordan, PT Butler, Knofel Staten, Harvey Bacus, Don Dewelt, Seth Wilson, Wilbur Fields and more and they referred to many apologists such as CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, Josh McDowell with Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and others documenting facts and truth about Jesus.

So . . . for me, it’s pretty simple, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Lord and God (I thank Peter, Mark 8:29 and Thomas, John 20:28 for faithfully confessing these truths for me to learn, believe and confess).  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” John 14:6 & 9 (cf., Acts 4:12 & 1 Timothy 2:5).  In doing so, I also believe that there is only one way to God and salvation and that is through Jesus.

The problem now lies not in whether I believe it or not, I do, the problem lies in that many don’t or they don’t like that God chose to be so exclusive about access to him.  And when we begin discussing these things, though reason may be present, often emotions are stronger than reason and people go all bongo about what they feel.

Let us look at the identity of Jesus Christ, of who God is and what they have said taking into consideration the claims of many other religions because as one theologian I recently heard on the video The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (bought it at Wal-Mart for $7.50 last week), all religions could be wrong, but not all of them can be right.

I had (maybe I still do) a lesson book for teens called Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, let me borrow from and alter the title for use here.  We will use our brains because Christianity is a thinking religion that is filled with faith, hope, and feeling, but as we find the way to salvation, let’s Check Our Emotions at the Door.

What is right and what is true?  Let’s find that out and then put our heart and soul into it.

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PS: Check Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Faith and the The Case for Christ for detailed information about this.