Tag Archive | Salvation

Religious Lifestyle or Living Relationship?

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us as Christians to always be prepared to share the reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ – in other words, to be ready whenever the opportunity arises to share our personal testimony of how we came to know Christ. I especially like the New Living Translation wording of this verse.

“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

During recent weeks, our iConnect Bible study class members have been taking turns sharing our personal testimonies of how we came to know Christ. The goal has been for each of us to prepare and share a brief, two to three minute testimony of our life before knowing Christ, how we came to know Him, and how receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord has changed how we live. Then, when God opens the door to  share this with someone who does not know Christ as their personal Savior we’ll be prepared to explain what God has done in our lives and what He is able and willing to do in their life.

This is my personal testimony.

I was born into a Christian family. My father and my mother had both accepted the Lord as their personal Savior at an old fashioned camp meeting revival before they were married, and by the time I came along over 20 years later, our family lived a Christian lifestyle.

Two of my earliest childhood memories are of my father sitting in his red leather rocker every morning before leaving for work reading his Bible, and of my mother kneeling beside her bed each night praying. And going to church was simply what we did – every time the doors were open. It was as much a part of my lifestyle as a child and teenager as going to school.

We attended a Methodist church that was at the end of the block where we lived, and I remember walking to the church early every Sunday morning. During the week, I also spent lots of time at the parsonage which was next door to the church, visiting with some of my best friends, our pastor’s daughter and another friend who lived next door.

My father was a deacon in our church, my older sister who still lived at home a children’s Sunday School teacher and choir member. And by the time I was in high school I was either working in the nursery or teaching the youngest class of children most Sundays.

When I went away to college in 1966, I continued to attend church. A large local Methodist church sent a bus to the campus to pick up students, and I seldom missed a Sunday.

When I graduated from college in 1970 and moved to the town north of Baltimore where I had a job teaching kindergarten, one of the first things I did after my roommate and I got unpacked and settled in an apartment was to start looking for a church. I found a nearby Methodist church and started attending. And this church is where my life changed.

At this church, my life changed when Christianity became more than a religious lifestyle. It became a relationship, a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It was in this church that I first understood that the only way to be a real part of God’s kingdom is by being born again. For the first time, I understood that my religious lifestyle wasn’t enough. I understood that my sin separates me from God, but that God had provided a way to bridge that gap.

Even though I had attended church all my life, even though I considered myself a Christian, for the first time in my life I recognized this wasn’t enough.

For the first time, I understood why Jesus had to die on the cross, and the steps I needed to take to benefit from His sacrifice.

  1. I now saw myself as a sinner who needed salvation.
  2. I understood that the just penalty for sin is death.
  3. I acknowledged that Jesus paid that penalty for me when He died on the cross.
  4. I recognized that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, one we accept by faith.
  5. I received that gift by faith, as I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. And I was born again – and since that day my life has never been the same.

My life as a new Christian began me down a new road, one that definitely hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve never regretted the decision I made so many years ago. Jesus has been with me, walking at my side, through every trial I’ve faced, and my relationship with Him has been my source of strength.

Do you have a similar story you can tell? If not, now is the time to take these same steps I took. Moving from religion to relationship has the power to transform your life.

If you’ve already received this free gift of salvation by faith, are you prepared to share the reason for the hope you have found in Christ Jesus? Have you taken the time to prayerfully prepare a brief testimony of the work of God in your life to bring you to salvation? Acts 1:8 says the Lord has called us to be His witnesses, to our Jerusalem (the city where we live), our Judea and Samaria (the area nearby), and to the ends of the earth. Are you prepared to be His witness whenever He opens the door for you to do so? If not, don’t wait another day to get ready.

 

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 4

Day 18: Psalm 96:1-6

Sing…bless…tell…declare…these verses are filled with action. The Christian life, lived the way God desires us to live it is not passive. Yes, Jesus has already made a way for us to be a part of the family of God. There is nothing we can do to earn His salvation. But once we have come to Him in faith and received salvation, He calls us to actively serve Him.

  • Sing to the Lord – repeated three times in these six verses. Even if you aren’t a skilled musician, God still delights in your songs of praise.
  • Bless His name. To bless the Lord is praise Him, to bend the knee in an act of adoration, to honor Him as holy, and to glorify Him through our words and actions.
  • Tell of His salvation. Remember the words of Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” You may not think of yourself as a preacher, but you can tell of His salvation by sharing what Jesus has done in your life.
  • Declare His glory. Declaring God’s glory is simply declaring His character, all He is, to others or even to yourself when circumstances cause doubt to creep in.
  • Declare His marvelous works. To declare is to proclaim and affirm something. Has the Lord done anything in your life? Tell others about it. Is there a promise of His Word that you’ve seen fulfilled? Share the promise and what God did to demonstrate His faithfulness to you.

Day 19: 1 Peter 2:1-9

What happens when you take a small taste of your favorite food? Do you simple say “that was good” and turn to something else? Or do you take another bite and slowly savor it’s flavor or smoothness or spiciness or whatever word best describes it’s appeal?

If you’ve had a taste of the Lord’s goodness, your response will be similar. You will want to know Him better. You will have a hunger that only the growing knowledge of God will satisfy.

I still recall the early days after I came to know Jesus Christ personally as my Lord and Savior. I was a kindergarten teacher at the time, needing to leave for school early in the morning, but it was no burden for me to wake up early to spend time with the Lord at the start of my day. I was hungry to know Him better.

I am no longer a spiritual babe, having walked with God for over forty-five years. But the desire to grow in my knowledge of Him is still a daily part of my life. I still set aside the first part of my day to spend time reading my Bible, praying, and often journaling. I crave this time in His presence more than I crave another bite of my favorite food, because the more I’ve come to know Him the more I’ve realized I’ve just cracked the surface into the fullness of all He desires to be in my life.

Day 20: isaiah 29:13-16

Father, help me to draw near to You with my heart, not just with my words. May my worship of You spring out of a heart fully committed to You. And above all, help me to remember You are the potter, I am the clay, not the other way around. I humble myself under Your mighty hand. To argue with what You are doing in my life is the height of foolishness.

Day 21: Isaiah 25:1-9

God is today and every day worthy of our praise. We sure to set aside some time today to praise Him for His faithfulness, His goodness, His steadfast love, His compassion, His righteousness, and whatever other characteristics come to mind. And give Him thanks for the wonderful things He has done and is still doing in your life.

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Day 22: Psalm 1:1-6

Being blessed sounds like something most of us would desire, and this passage gives clear instructions on how to be blessed, three negative “do not’s” and two positive commands:

  • Do not walk in step with the wicked.
  • Do not stand in the way that sinners take.
  • Do not sit in the company of mockers.
  • Delight in the law of the Lord.
  • Meditate on His law day and night.

Then it goes on to describe the one who follows these instructions, using the metaphor of a flourishing tree, planted by flowing streams of water.

Day 23: Ephesians 2:4-10

Our God is great in love, rich in mercy, and abundant in grace. This is seen clearly in the story of the Gospel. And those who belong to Him through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece.

We live in a world that applauds self-made men and women. But as Christians, we understand that we are God-made men and women. We belong to Him. We live for Him. We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to do.

Day 24: Psalm 27:1-6

No beauty on this earth surpasses the beauty of the Lord. Seek Him with an undivided heart. Sing to Him. Bless His name. Declare His glory. Praise Him with your whole heart.

During this week leading up to Easter, as we focus on His sacrifice as the Lamb of God who took away our sin and on His victory as Risen Lord, take time daily to gaze on His beauty as you open His Word and get to know Him better.

Jesus, the Bridegroom

 

The name Bridegroom is used often in the Bible as a metaphor for God, specifically for Jesus Christ. The Church is likened to a Bride with Christ as her Bridegroom, painting a clear picture of the special relationship we are privileged to have with Him. We are bound together by a covenant of grace that cannot be broken.

In our current culture, marriage is not known for permanency. But this was not God’s original plan. God’s guidelines for marriage were explicit. Marriage was meant to be ‘til death do us part’, as the traditional Protestant marriage vow states.

“’Haven’t you read… that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew‬ ‭19:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With this understanding in mind, the bride-groom imagery of the Bible is a wonderful picture of the security of the children of God in their relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Once we have made a true commitment of our lives to Jesus, we can have assurance that we belong to Him. Yes, we still sin, we’re far from perfect. But we never again need to fear we are lost eternally.

Whether or not you are now happily married, if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord you will be a part of the Bride of Christ at the Wedding of the Lamb. In his gospel, John said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom” (John‬ ‭3:29a‬ ‭NIV). If you belong to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, you will be a part of the Bride of Christ.

At the culmination of human history, Christ will come for His Bride, the Church.

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

The Bride, made up of all those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah through the ages, has made herself ready. Dressed in Christ’s own righteousness, she has grown in purity.

But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John‬ ‭3:2b-3‬ ‭NIV‬

Now, she has seen her Bridegroom face-to-face, and she is pure as He is pure. She is ready for her heavenly wedding. It’s time for the Wedding of the Lamb!

As I reflect on this name of Jesus Christ, I look forward to this day in the future. As part of the true Church, I know I will be included in the Bride. If you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, you can have the same confidence.

Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-3 is one of my favorite Scripture passages, one I turn to repeatedly when I’m growing weary from walking through the difficult circumstances of life with chronic illness, with having a medically fragile and mentally handicapped son, and just when facing the day-to-day trials that are a regular part of life on this earth marred by sin.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words remind me to turn my eyes off of what I’m walking through and turn them on the One who is in control. The One who is using even the hard things that life throws my way for my good and His glory. They empower me to continue running the race He has set before me.

But these verses also contain a very important name of Jesus. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (wording from NIV 1984 version).

  • As the Author of faith, Jesus is the beginning point of faith. The Greek word used here, archegos, has also been translated Prince, Captain and Founder. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, it primarily signifies “one who takes a lead in, or provides the first occasion of anything.” The same Greek word is used earlier in the book of Hebrews of Jesus as the founder of salvation.

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Perfecter of faith, Jesus is its Completer, Finisher and Perfecter. The Greek word used here is teleiōtēs, which comes from a root word meaning “to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end.” Though the actual Greek word used for Perfecter in this verse is not used anywhere else in the Bible, the root word is used in many verses. Most applicable to our current study, it is used to describe Jesus, who though already without sin, learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭5:9‬ ‭ESV

  • Modern translations specify the faith that is described in this verse as our faith. In the original Greek, the article used in this verse is properly translated “the.” The faith Jesus originates and perfects is a strong conviction that Jesus is the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ) and that He is our source of eternal salvation.

As the Author and Perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a life walked in faith. During His days as Immanuel, God with us in human flesh, He unswervingly walked the path of faith, modeling for us the life of faith.

I’m very grateful for this example, laid out so clearly in the gospel accounts of His life, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When I don’t know the right, God-pleasing way to walk through the trials of life, the gospels provide a clear guidebook to direct my path.

 

Jesus Christ Our Savior

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Savior as “one who saves from any form or degree of evil.” In the sense we are using Savior as a name of Jesus, it refers to the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sin available to us by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. Easton explains, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ secures to the sinner a personal interest in the work of redemption. Salvation is redemption made effectual to the individual by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The idea of a Savior isn’t unique to the New Testament. From the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin, God has spoken of Himself being our Savior. One of many verses from the Old Testament calling God our Savior is Isaiah 43:3, which begins with these word, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”  

Throughout the Old Testament, God delivered His people from perils when they walked in obedience to Him. But the promise of theSavior, of the One who would come to bring salvation from sin and restoration of relationship with God was still future.

From His birth, Jesus was identified as this promised Savior. When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field watching their sheep, this announcement was made.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke‬ ‭2:11-12‬ ‭ESV

After His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus was recognized by the early church as the ONLY source of salvation.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Both Paul and Peter acknowledged Him as Savior.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus‬ ‭3:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While the price for our salvation has been paid, a response is required from us for Him to be our personal Savior.

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John‬ ‭4:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior in 1971, when my eyes were opened to the truth that growing up in the church didn’t mean I knew Jesus as my personal Savior. If you haven’t made this decision, today can be your day of salvation. Listen to the following song, and then make wherever you are your altar of surrender to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.

Jesus, the Son of God

Jesus is called the Son of God in many Old and New Testament passages, and I decided today to cover several of these descriptions together. As the Son, Jesus is:

  • The only begotten Son of God – begotten of God through the Holy Spirit and not a human father (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5)
  • God’s beloved Son – emphasizing His relationship of love with the Heavenly Father (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5)
  • The radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus affirmed the importance of this truth when asked by Caiaphas the High Priest if He was the Christ, the Son of God. He answered “you have said so,” confirming this as truth, even though He understood this claim would be considered blasphemy and worthy of a death sentence.

And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.‘ ” Matthew‬ ‭26:63-65‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Another important Scripture concerning Jesus as the Son of God is found in Hebrews 5:

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” Hebrews‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If Jesus were not the Son of God in human flesh, we would still be lost in our sin. Jesus – fully God and fully man, perfect in both aspects of His nature – is the only One who could pay the penalty for our sin and restore us to fellowship with the Most High God. He offers salvation as a gift, and the evidence we are a part of His family is our desire to obey Him because we love Him.

Don’t fail to take advantage of this gift that has been provided to us through His grace and accessed by us through faith. I’m grateful that I took this step over forty-five years ago, and in spite of all of the difficulties I’ve faced since then I have no regrets concerning that decision.