That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10Continue reading
Tag Archives: Christianity
Why is Christianity the correct pursuit of God?
Consider that Christianity sprang from the most obscure beginning and blossomed into the predominant religion on Earth over the last two thousand years. Billions of souls believe that Jesus Christ is God. How could it be that the words of a man born in a primitive town 2,000 years ago, who delivered his message for only 36 months and gathered a handful of followers before his brutal murder at the age of 32, were not lost to the ages? How can it be that the message of this guy has persisted?
Two thousand years later, Jesus is everywhere in our society – either worshiped, ignored, mocked, or despised. It seems absurd that a young Jewish carpenter’s words and actions from so long ago would be the most impactful and influential on humanity ever in history. Unless, of course, Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be – God incarnate.
So, what sets Christianity apart from any other set of beliefs or concepts of God? Here are three primary reasons why Christianity, which is faith in Jesus Christ, is superior to everything else:
- The principal figure in Christianity claims to be God himself. Jesus Christ is not a prophet or a great moral teacher speaking about a distant deity. Instead, he is the true living God who we may come to know personally. In Christianity, we have God telling us about himself, ourselves, how to live, and how to perish.
- Only in Christianity is our acceptance by God a gift to us from him. Our only responsibility, and the only thing we are capable of in reconciliation with God, is to believe and accept his gift. Every other religion, and even some Christian denominations who have distorted his message, base salvation on things you must do, rituals you must perform, or even money you must pay to earn God’s favor hopefully.
- Christianity is rooted in a book that claims to be God’s inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word, not just words about God. That book is the Holy Bible. The belief that the Bible is God’s word is the essence of faith, and for those who have put their faith in Jesus, the Bible is an amazing, dynamic connection with God. It contains everything we need to know about him and his direction for us. Through it, he will transform your life. When you get into it, you will find it inexhaustible in its capacity to reveal meaning. The answers to all the questions that matter are in the Bible – if you desire to find them. To those who don’t believe, the Bible is foolish nonsense, an archaic work of implausible, boring fiction embraced by the gullible.
So, what is the message of Christianity? What is in the Bible that makes it so compelling? What did Jesus do that dramatically changed the hope of mankind over the past 20 centuries?
The answer is salvation.
The Good News of Salvation
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16-17
The good news of Jesus Christ is that he has provided us the means to be reconciled with God and the opportunity to come to know him as our loving father. Because of his sacrifice on the cross, we can enjoy peace with God and reap the benefits of being one of his beloved children. Benefits that we enjoy both in this life and the life to come.
“for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Born spiritually separated from God, we spend our lives pursuing our desires. Things that come to us naturally attest to our adversarial standing with him. Our natural inclination is to sin, transgress against God’s law, and rebel against him. We see this clearly and dramatically in the immorality and depravity in the world. We also see it in our daily lives as we live for our own pleasure and comfort. We prioritize our interests, desires, and love of things in this world ahead of God. Jesus tells us that the most important commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Read Matthew 22:37-38 Who of us does that or is even capable of doing that?
“For the wages of sin is death; . . . “ The first half of Romans 6:23
God’s holy nature demands justice; he cannot condone sin. He is the essence of righteousness, the foundation and source of right and good. He is the stark contrast to what is wrong and evil in the world. Being a just God, he cannot allow sin to go unpunished or forgive without proper atonement. If God were to let any transgression stand, he would be no better than us. The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death, and we all deserve the wrath of God that is coming when we stand before him and face his judgment.
Man’s Attempt to Reconcile
Some don’t see the need to reconcile anything at all with God. They go through their lives without giving this any serious consideration. Many others, who have a notion of God, feel they are in good standing with him if they try to live a good life and be a good person. The presumption is that if you generally treat others well, think good thoughts, and rely on the good things you have done in life, that should be sufficient. Surely a person who has tried to live a good life does not deserve an eternity in the hell of the Bible, right?
The religious man’s instinct has been to do something to make things right with God. In man’s consistent overestimation of the good in himself, he tries to win God’s favor by doing what he believes, or has been told, pleases him. He tries to appease through self-righteous attempts to follow the rules and rituals of religion, living a pious life, or doing good works. But to God, it is futile nonsense.
The truth is, there is nothing anyone can do to earn God’s forgiveness. We are incapable of measuring up to his standard of righteousness. No matter how good you try to be, how good you think you are, you are not good enough. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah tells us that our very best is no better than filthy rags to God. Read Isaiah 64:6
God’s Incomparable Gift
“ . . . but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The second half of Romans 6:23
If we are incapable of attaining a righteous standing with God, is our fate then sealed to experience God’s judgment and wrath and suffer eternity in hell? Thankfully No! God so loves the people in the world that he provided the means to become righteous in his eyes, be forgiven of our sins, and be reconciled to him. He accomplished this for us by sending his Son, the person Jesus Christ, to live a perfectly obedient, sinless life and then be nailed to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus bore our sin and paid our debt, redeeming (purchasing) us from the penalty and power of sin with his blood on the cross.
“But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him.” Romans 5:8-9
Faith in Jesus saves us from God’s wrath and provides us the means to become what we were meant to be, his beloved sons and daughters. The depth of God’s love for us, paying such a costly price for those who are by nature his adversaries, is hard to grasp. But the clearer you understand the essence of your sin, the more you realize how profound and precious this gift is. This understanding, magnified as you come to know the Lord and understand what he did for you, produces deep, humble thankfulness for an underserved pardon. By his grace, unmerited and undeserved favor, God offers this gift to deliver us all from the condemnation we deserve and instead provide redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and an eternity in heaven with him.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9
God’s gift of salvation is available to all who choose to receive it. To accept this gift is easy, but the decision must be rooted in what you believe in your heart. This is to understand you live in sin and ask God to forgive you. Believe that Jesus Christ is his Son, who died on the cross for your sin and was raised from the dead three days later. Change the direction of your life (this is to repent) and trust, follow and obey Jesus Christ for the rest of your days on Earth. Accept his gift of salvation to save your soul and live forever with all the benefits of a beloved child of the God of all creation. Ask him to fill your heart with his presence and guide you, direct you, and sanctify you. Do this in prayer, from conviction in your heart, and you will be saved.
Know that this is not a magic chant or an act of religious emotion; instead, it is an act of faith, believing God’s word. The result of that faith is justification, being made righteous in God’s sight. This is the beginning of a new life for you. God gives you a clean slate, everything is forgiven, and you are now reconciled to God forever. Now seek him in his word, in congregations of true believers, in prayer, and you will find him. Read Matthew 7:7-8
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2
When you become a Christian, you become a new kind of person.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold all things are become new.2 Corinthians 5:17
As a child, I had been well-schooled in the message of salvation, and in my teens, I declared my faith in Jesus Christ and was “saved.” My father and I were baptized together in a small Texas Southern Baptist church at the same evening service. I think that was around 1974. The foundation of education in God’s word so long ago was instrumental in my preparation, but it wasn’t until 40 years later, in my mid-50s, that I was compelled, or led, or driven, or whatever you might call it, to turn to God. It was then that I was changed, in some ways dramatically so, and finally became a new kind of person.
It was an intersection of challenging circumstances that brought me to this point. My father, with whom I was very close, was terminally ill, and we knew the day of his death was near. The anxious thought of losing him, a figure of stability and security, along with other life pressures, greatly intensified my primary source of anxiety and stress – an exceptionally demanding job. I felt that my knowledge, experience, and confidence were at best the minimum needed to succeed. I worried that I lacked the competency required to handle the role, and the workload was daunting. The stress of performance was crushing to me, and a debilitating fear bloomed inside. A constant undercurrent of failure anxiety impacted every area of my life, not the least of which was my relationship at home. At its worst, I was not able to perform at work. In meetings, fear would grip me, and I would freeze up in a panic. With a pounding heart, sweating palms, and an inability to breathe, think, or speak, I had to endure the embarrassment of excusing myself from meetings. Worry that this might cost me the job magnified stress and anxiety – feeding a terrible cycle of fear. It became clear that I could not effectively manage or cope with it independently; self-reliance no longer carried me through the tough days.
The great benefit of weakness is that God will use it to draw you near, and I am very thankful that he does! Knowing that I had reached the end of self-reliance, I turned to him. To the best of my ability, I gave God the whole thing; that is, I gave him my life along with all the issues and challenges. I trusted him to take care of my job, father, wife, kids, attitude, happiness, and future, and he did not disappoint. I experienced his loving kindness as he comforted us through my father’s passing. I was there when Dad took his last breath, and though the separation was difficult, we were at peace through it all. I felt his support as he established me at work, well beyond what I thought possible. Through him, I attained competence, value, and security. Not so much security in the job, but security and comfort in knowing that his plan for me is the best I could hope for. I felt his loving kindness as he blessed my marriage and relationship. We have never been closer or more complete together.
Most importantly, I have peace knowing that all things now work for my good, and after I am done here, I will spend eternity in heaven. I now strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and have true peace with God. I now experience and understand the often-repeated paradox in the Bible: “whoever wishes to keep his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake will keep it.” Read Luke 9:24 I am thankful that God gave me the time to get to this point. My 40 years of wandering in the wilderness had come to an end.
As I mature in the faith, I see self-serving attitudes continue to pass away, replaced by a desire to please God. The transformation is not instantaneous but happens over your life as you pursue God, and he works to sanctify you. Sanctification makes you more like Christ in motives, thought, and behavior. For some, this is a refinement, and for others, this transformation is an astounding miracle, as I feel it was with me. As you soak yourself in God’s word and take in the truth from correct teachers and other believers, he opens your eyes to what is right and proper and convicts you about what is wrong and unacceptable. If you pursue Jesus Christ, you will be changed, and without a doubt, you will look back in disbelief at what you had sought in the world, how you lived your life, how you treated others, and what you thought was OK.
A Limited Time Offer
My intent was to present the critically important message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Here is a beautiful one-verse summary of the point from the book of John:
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” John 3:36
I hope God will use this work to entice you to come and see because there are many more wonderful things to know!
The time we spend on Earth is relatively brief. Read James 4:14 The person we become and the choices we make now will determine the quality of our lives for eternity. Now is the time when we have the opportunity to accept God’s gift. But if you die, or if Christ returns as he has promised, before you come to your senses, it will be too late. Jesus tells us this is the unfortunate path that most will choose:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
Humility and Pride
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. James 4:10
Humility is the subtle attribute that at first seems incidental, but in God’s word rises to be the most Christ-like characteristic that we could hope to attain. Being humble means putting the interest of others ahead of ourselves – just as Jesus did for us.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Jesus Christ, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
In humble obedience, Jesus went to the cross to atone for our sins. It is therefore not difficult to reason why God, the ultimate righteous authority, would have no tolerance for the arrogance of man – a creature who exalts himself even though he, on his own merits, falls terribly short by any righteous measure. Read James 4:6
Being humble does not mean to think less of yourself, but instead to think of yourself less. This is not a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or weak submissiveness but instead living in the confidence of your value to God and that he will take care of the circumstances of your life. Being humble is living with the absence of pride, working to serve others and not for your own gain. In pride, we are self-focused, self-sufficient, ungrateful, and hardened to the saving grace of God. God is crystal clear that he abhors pride and arrogance. The Bible repeatedly warns against being prideful and exalts those who are humble.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble spirit. Proverbs 29:23
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:18-19
Jesus also tells us that to be the greatest is to be the least, like in the humility of a little child.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4
What You Say Matters
Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3:4-8
You can destroy your life with what you say. In a moment of foolishness, you can hurt others, ruin your reputation, and dishonor God. An undisciplined tongue is the hallmark of a fool. Discipline in what you say, along with listening and calm control, are markers of a mature Christian . . .
But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19
The things you say also reveal what is in your heart. Listen to what people say and understand what they really are. . .
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks that which fills his heart Luke 6:45
Here Jesus tells us that the things you say are so impactful that judgment and salvation hang in the balance . . .
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37
Those who live in Christ, seeking the approval of God above all else, say things that are different from those who are lost in the world. People who spew boastful arrogance, slander (tearing others down), obscenities; offensive, malicious, and derogatory gossip are displeasing to God. Not to mention those who dishonor and disparage God, using his name as profanity! This is all filth from the world and should not be present in those who live in Christ. What you say matters and you will be held accountable for what comes out of your mouth.
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37
Often the best plan is to keep your mouth shut. Unless you are sure what you are about to say is rooted in the truth, adds some value, is not self-serving, and is pleasing to God, you are best served to keep it to yourself.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Proverbs 17:28
Discipline, Self-Control, and Moral Excellence
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8
In the verses preceding those above, Peter tells us that “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” are given to us by Jesus. Because of all that is ours in Christ (salvation), Peter tells us to do the following:
Giving all diligence, add to your faith – this is striving with maximum effort, a result of self-discipline, to enhance your belief in the word of God (faith) with the following 7 excellent qualities:
- Virtue is moral excellence. The characteristic in your life that allows you to stand out as a godly individual. The model of moral excellence is Christ, and virtue is a product of sanctification.
- Knowledge is spiritual discernment, insight, and understanding of the truth in the word of God. This is required to pursue moral excellence.
- Temperance is self-control. This is to not allow the desires of the flesh to direct your thoughts and actions, the opposite of lustful indulgence. Temperance is essential to Christian living, otherwise, we are no different than the Pagans.
- Patience is perseverance and endurance under temptation without succumbing. This patience never gives in to difficulty or sin.
- Godliness is reverence for God. This is a practical awareness of God in every area of life. Godliness is at the heart of moral excellence.
- Brotherly Kindness is loving your neighbor. This is the second most important commandment!
- Charity is love, which is the greatest virtue and the most important commandment! Love of God results in love for our brother, and our attainment of the other six qualities.
If these things are evident in your life, then you will be an effective witness to the truth and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift from God, but becoming a mature, exemplary disciple of Jesus requires effort.
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We rejoice because of what we know to be true about God and his plan for us. We rejoice because everything is under his control, and he causes all things to work together for our good Read Romans 8:28 We rejoice because by his grace we have been saved from condemnation and made heirs to his kingdom. We rejoice for blessings we do not deserve and penalties we will not pay.
We are grateful for all these things! No matter our circumstance, we give thanks to God because our salvation is eternal, while the trials of this life are temporal. We are grateful for the ridiculous volume of blessings that have been showered down upon us. We are grateful that we were drawn to believe. We are grateful because every good thing in our life has come from him.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
A hallmark of the godly person is joy and gratitude! Being joyfully grateful is a wonderful and effective witness to the love of God and clear evidence of a transformed life.
Awake and Alert
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
I like the New American Standard translation . . . Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. All that you do must be done in love. There is a lot packed in this short verse about competence in living a consequential Christian life.
- Watch ye – to be alert, awake, and to know what is going on. Be aware of what the adversary is doing and what is going on in your life. Do not exist in a spiritual stupor where you fall prey to Satan, temptation, apathy, or false doctrine.
- Stand fast in the faith – to be firm in what you believe and what you know to be true. Do not let human wisdom infect and twist your faith. The lies and garbage of the world are incompatible with the revelation of God.
- Quit you like men – to act like men. That is to be mature and courageous. Do not be childish in your understanding of the word.
- Be strong – be strengthened by the lord and the power of his might. Resist temptation and be resolute in seeking and following the will of God.
- Let all your things be done with charity – Do all this with an attitude of love. A love that is not of emotion but is self-sacrificing service to the one in need. We should temper a staunch defense of the faith with brotherly love.
Being spiritually alert, steadfast, mature, and strong in love will make you what God wants you to be. Living by these principles results in a powerful, transformed life. Those who remain spiritually stunted, oblivious to the pursuit of the faith, are at great risk of being devoured by our adversary.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8