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One thing is guaranteed in life -- we live, and then we die.
The ageless question is what happens after we die? Is life just a meaningless speck in the vast eternity of time, only to vanish into nothing at death? Or do our lives only just begin when this body of ours ceases to function? Do these questions inspire fear of the unknown, or excitement for a wonderful future?
The message you are about to read is equivalent to a chapter in a book. It will probably take you a half-hour to read. The length is a result of my desire not to cut corners in describing the Gospel. I could have written a one page "Gospel Tract" that only takes a minute to read, but I fear that too much is left out of the Gospel these days. Please prepare some time to read this. What is written may be critically important concerning your life now, and concerning your eternal life after you die.
Dont just take for granted the things you are about to read. Though you may gain some insight and understanding, you should never, ever rely on the words of a mere human. I believe that what I have written is true and accurate; however, you should carefully verify everything that is written with what the Bible says. The final authority is the Bible, the Word of God.
Not even a Priest, Pastor, Pope, Bishop, Elder, nor anyone else has authority over the Bible, nor has authority in addition to the Bible. Not even a Priest, Pastor, Pope, Bishop, Elder, nor anyone else is the only person able to interpret the Bible. The Holy Spirit enables us to learn what the Bible says for itself. Though the words of people may be useful, we shouldnt rely solely on somebody elses interpretation.
"I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit -- just as it has taught you, remain in him." 1 John 2:26-27.
You must understand that the Bible is written entirely by God Himself. And because God wrote the Bible, the Bible is without error. Sure, God used the hands of humans to physically put ink on paper, but the Words of the Bible were given to men to write:
"All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:16-17. "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20-21.
I understand that I am using the Bible to prove itself, but it is important for you to understand the claims that the Bible makes. There are many resources outside the Bible that present explanations, proofs, and evidence as to why the Bible is historically correct and without error. Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, is an excellent starting point for you to research the accuracy of the Bible.
If you dont accept the Bible as the truly accurate, inspired Word of God, then you may as well stop reading from this point on because everything that I have to write (to the best of my God given ability) is entirely based upon the Bible, Gods Word.
I pray that these next few words will be used by God for the Salvation of your soul. Its important for you to understand that what I am about to write does not come from my own preconceived ideas. Heaven and Hell, Sin and Death, Jesus Christ and Life, and everything else I am about to write are all dealt with directly in the Bible, not from my limited human "wisdom". Dont believe these words you are about to read because I said so. Believe the words because God said so.
I take no pleasure in the following paragraphs. It is just as difficult for me to write as I hope it will be for you to read. It would be wrong for me to walk past a house that was burning and not warn the unaware people inside; likewise, it would be wrong for me not to warn you of your future.
God says -- "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. Sin is disobeying God. Sin is failing to do the good things -- "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesnt do it, sins." James 4:17. Sin is breaking the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Sin is not loving God -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Mark 12:30.
Sin is as follows:
"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know Gods righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." Romans 1:29-32.
Ask anybody, and if they are honest, they will say that they have sinned. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." 1John 1:8. If you are honest, I think you would agree that you have personally sinned in the past, may be sinning this instant, and will continue to sin in the future.
You may be saying to yourself, "Well, nobody is perfect! My good outweighs my bad. Im basically a pretty good person." You may indeed be a "good" person, by the worlds standard, but you are NOT good by Gods standard:
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6. ("Filthy rags" is the term used to describe the cloth a woman uses during her period.)
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NOT EVEN ONE." Romans 3:10-12 (emphasis added).
Stop making excuses and accept the fact that you are a sinner.
Give up? I hope so. Think about your past sins against God. Its humbling to realize that you are a sinner, and it is not fun -- perhaps even agonizing -- having your past sins flash through your mind right now. Unfortunately, there is more. There are consequences to your sin, and you will be judged because of your sins.
"...man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." Hebrews 9:27. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." 2Cor 5:10. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books." Rev 20:12.
The Bible says that God will judge you. God says your punishment will be that you are going to Hell. "For the wages of sin is death," Romans 6:23. "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyones name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Rev 20:14-15.
I am just stating the facts of the Bible, I am not judging you, but God will.
Hell is not a place where you can go and party with your other friends. It is unbelievably sad and plain ignorant to hear people say, "Im going to Hell with the rest of my friends." Or, "Ill see you in Hell." You will not see your friends. Hell is a place of loneliness, pain, and agony. Hell is the lack of ANYTHING that is good. Hell is forever. Hell is Hell. Hell is separation from God.
"...he, too, will drink of the wine of Gods fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever." Rev 14:10.
Jesus spoke a great deal about Hell. Jesus says in Mat 25:41 -- "Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Jesus told about a rich man in Hell in Luke 16:19-31. Here are some excerpts, "The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment... [he said,] ...have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.... [Abraham said,] ...between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."
You may be screaming, "How can a loving God send people to Hell?" I dont claim to have the perfect answer. There are some things that we will only fully understand once we stand before the judgment throne of God. God is a loving God, and he is a just God. God cannot just turn his back on sin, as if nothing happened. God does not tolerate sin in his presence, and God punishes sinners.
In fact, how could you respect a God who lets people get away with anything? Think of the most hideous crimes that you have heard on the news. When you learn of these crimes, dont you DEMAND justice. Dont you even find yourself yelling at the top of your lungs, "He deserves to go to Hell!" Well, before God, even your most "innocent" sin is the same as the most hideous crime you can imagine. Any sin is the most horrendous trash in the universe compared to Gods infinite Holiness, Righteousness, Love, and Sparkling Purity.
Just as it is not pleasant for a parent to punish a disobedient child, it is even more so that God takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:23.
However, just because a parent does not find punishing a child pleasant, doesnt mean that the child goes off scot-free. Inasmuch, God does not allow sin to go unpunished. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; ... -- if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority." 2Peter 2:4,9-10.
You may be thinking, "The crime doesnt fit the punishment. Hell is too extreme." Thats a tough statement, but who are you to determine what is fitting? God is not cruel; He is just.
Maybe a limited analogy will help. When we punish someone in jail, that punishment is a percentage of his total life on earth. If a man lives to be 100, and he is in jail 10 years, dividing 10 years in jail by 100 years of life equals 10 percent of his life being spent in jail. In fact, for murder, 100 percent of the rest of his life is spent in jail.
Remember that we are going to live infinitely, either in Heaven or Hell. Dividing whatever time in years a person would spend in Hell by eternity always yields zero percent. Anything divided by infinity is zero. That is a mathematical definition. 100,000,000 years / infinity = 0 percent. The only time you get something other than zero is by dividing infinity by infinity. Infinity / Infinity = 1. That is also a mathematical definition. So, Infinite Time in Hell / Infinite Life = 100 percent of the sinners life in Hell. Sin is more extreme than murder, so 100 percent of a sinners time spent in Hell is just as appropriate as 100 percent of a murders time being spent in jail on Earth.
If we could only understand the magnitude of sin, then we could understand the reason for Hell. We may not like it, nor understand it, nor understand why, but Hell is the punishment that fits the crime of sin. Just because we dont like something doesnt make it any less true. We have to trust God -- He is fair and just.
Remember, God does not want anyone to go to Hell, but you leave Him with no choice if you do not receive His forgiveness. "He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2Peter 3:9.
I hope all of this has brought the fear of God to you personally. Because, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Proverbs 1:7. (Its easy to let the fear of God overwhelm us, or to let the fear of God have a misplaced priority over the love of God. Mark 12:30 tells us that the most important command is to love God.) Fear is a reasonable first step; love often comes later.
If God had done nothing, every single person on Earth would deserve punishment in eternal Hell. Fortunately for you and me and everyone, God provides a way out of Hell. However, God didnt just want to simply save us from Hell. More importantly, God wanted to provide a way for us to have an intimate, personal relationship with Himself. God wants us to know Him for His Love and Tenderness -- to be able to call Him Abba, which means Papa, or Father.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17.
God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to provide the way from sin and death to righteousness and life. Your response to Jesus Christ will determine whether you spend eternity in Hell or eternity in Heaven. But who is this Jesus? What did Jesus do?
Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Messiah means, "anointed one". Christ is the English form of the Greek word Christos, meaning, "anointed". As prophesied in the Old Testament portion of the Bible, he was born in the Jewish genealogy of King David. The Bible often refers to Jesus as "the Son of Man," and "the Son of God." The Messiah is associated with being the Suffering Servant, the King of Israel, and the King of the coming kingdom of God.
Now, here comes the miracle of miracles. Jesus Christ was born physically with human flesh and blood that is the result of growing in Marys womb. Yet Jesus Christ is more than just a human -- Jesus Christ was and is also God Himself! The Creator of the Universe, God Almighty Himself, took the form of man, being born of a virgin, and entered into this world as the man Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God!
"Thomas said to him [Jesus], My Lord and my God!" John 20:28. "Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, WHO IS GOD OVER ALL, forever praised! Amen." Romans 9:5 (emphasis added). "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (KJ) 1 Timothy 3:16. There are many, many more verses that declare and state that Jesus Christ is God.
Before we continue, we must examine a characteristic of God. It is critically important for you to understand that there is only ONE God:
"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me." Isaiah 43:10.
"This is what the LORD says -- Israels King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." Isaiah 44:6.
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God." Isaiah 45:5.
"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me." Deut 32:39.
Many religions would have you believe that there are many gods. In fact, some go so far as to say that you, a mere human, can someday become a god. That is utter nonsense and blasphemy! Can you imagine the chaos of millions of little gods floating around creation, doing their own thing? Especially imagine the chaos of a sinful human becoming a god. You thought Hitler was bad, imagine if Hitler was a god. No, my friend, there was, there is, there always will be, ONE God.
Now dont become confused when the Bible says that Jesus Christ is God Almighty Himself. Jesus is not a second god, or another god. Jesus Christ is the only ONE true God. Stop and think about it for a moment.
If God is all-powerful, it is certainly within Gods power to manifest himself as anything He feels like. It just so happens that God manifests Himself as a human. Just because God chose to become a human being, doesnt mean that He is any less God. God can take on whatever form He feels like. What better way to communicate with His human creation than to become a human Himself, yet maintaining to be fully God at the same time?
If God is all powerful, then God could certainly become a man, to walk, to talk, to teach, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to heal, to perform miracles, to introduce himself to humanity on a personal basis. What better way for God to bring us to Himself, than to clothe Himself in human flesh. As human, God could easily teach us and talk to us. We could finally relate to God because God came to us in the form of a human that we can see, hear, and touch.
(Actually, God manifests Himself as three distinct Persons, yet being one Essence, Substance, or Being. God is in the form of what Christianity calls the Trinity. There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three are the same essence; all three are the same One true God. It gets confusing, but my purpose is not to try explaining the Trinity.)
Because Jesus is God, Jesus always existed since before the beginning of time. It is easy to think that Jesus was "created" or that Jesus was born into existence. Even though Jesus was born into the world by a human virgin mother, Jesus always was and is God:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the Beginning." John 1:1. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14.
Because Jesus is God, Jesus Christ never sinned. He was perfectly blameless, never doing anything wrong. Jesus said in John 8:46 -- "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why dont you believe me?"
Even though Jesus never sinned, he understands the struggle we have with sin. Hebrews 4:15 says -- "For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin."
Jesus didnt sin, but because you have sinned, God demands justice and punishment for that sin. In the Old Testament, God used the sacrifice of animals instead of spilling the blood (i.e. killing) of the person who sinned. "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22. But that didnt stop the person from sinning again and again. No number of animal sacrifices would ever atone for all of our sins.
Therein lies the problem. When a person sins, God demands that the sin be covered by the shedding of blood. In other words, God demands that the punishment for sin is death as we saw earlier from Romans 6:23. You and I have a problem!
God knew that the sacrifice of animals was never enough to cover your sin, nor mine, nor anyone elses. Because God loves us so much, God offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our Sins. Jesus Christ would be the ultimate spilling of blood to cover your sins, my sins, and the sins of the world.
"The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Hebrews 9:13-14.
Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the cross for our sins. "When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him [Jesus]" Luke 23:33. "Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:46. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.
Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb for your sin, and the sin of the world. But Jesus Christ conquered sin and death by His Resurrection from the grave three days after his death by crucifixion. Luke 24:5-7 describes: "In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again."
Jesus Christ is alive in the flesh today. He is still fully God, but he is now in Heaven. If Jesus Christ had not been resurrected from the dead, we would have no hope of our own life after death. If Jesus had not been resurrected, we would still be in our sins:
"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." 1 Cor 15:13-19.
Now that you know Jesus died for your sins, it is important to realize that God has offered ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN. You cant get to Heaven by being good, doing works, belonging to a certain church denomination, being in a family, or in any other way. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven -- not your priest, not Muhammad, not some Buddhist priest, not through yogi, not a psychic, not yourself, not ANYTHING. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven.
"Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." -- John 14:6.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12.
"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:12.
Many people become indignant at this point and call us Christians intolerant of other peoples beliefs and religions. Please understand. It is NOT we who say that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven -- It is God. We are only repeating what God is saying in the Bible. We dont take arrogant pride in saying that Christianity is the only true religion, and that any other religion is leading people to Hell. God Himself tells us that Jesus is the only way.
Also, dont allow yourself to be fooled by other religions that claim to be Christian. For example, Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses call themselves Christians, but they do not hold to the fact that Jesus Christ is the one and only true God. To deny that Jesus Christ is God is to deny God Himself, and will condemn that person to Hell. It's one thing not to fully understand the Trinity, but it is another thing to DENY the Trinity and to DENY that Jesus Christ is God.
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." 1 John 4 1-3.
It's critically important that you have a correct understanding of who Jesus Christ is. Some religions would have you think that he is an angel, some say he was just a man, some say that he is just one of many other gods, or maybe even the head of other gods. None of these are true. Jesus is fully God and fully man. If you deny who Jesus is, then you are not believing in the Jesus of the Bible; and therefore, you are not going to be saved.
Think of it this way. There are thousands of people who have the first name of "Jesus". It would obviously be wrong to believe in a "Jesus" who currently lives in Texas. That belief, no matter how sincere, would be placed upon the wrong Jesus. Likewise, believing in a "Jesus" who is not God, is also believing in the wrong Jesus.
Also, many people would have you think that God is the same god of the Buddhist, or Muslim, or Eastern religions, or New Age religions, or many of the other religions that exist today in the world. That is simply not true. The Old Testament is packed full of examples that show how the One True God detested the sin of people who worshipped or followed other gods or other religions. God was extraordinarily strict about how he was to be worshipped and served so as to distinguish Himself and make it clear that worshipping any other god or religion of the world is evil.
"If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you saying, Let us go and worship other gods (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death." Deut 13:6-9.
The only God is the God described in the Bible. Any other god is simply a false idol. These so-called gods are made up by the minds of people because they dont like the True God of the Bible, or they want a god that they can conform to their idea of what a god should be. They also follow after other gods out of ignorance.
There are extreme differences and contradictions between the beliefs of the other world religions and Biblical Judaic Christianity. They cant all be true. The Bible claims to be the only inspired, true Word of God. The Bible says that there is only One True God, One True Religion, and one way to Heaven -- through Jesus Christ.
Now that you know who Jesus Christ is, how does Jesus impact your life? How is your life after death determined by your decision to accept or reject Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you choose NOT to believe in Jesus, you are going to Hell. If you choose to believe in Jesus, you will have everlasting life with God in Heaven. So what does it mean to believe in Jesus?
First, lets start out by finding out what believing in Jesus does NOT mean. It is not enough to have an intellectual understanding about the facts of Jesus. You can know that Jesus is God, you can know that you are a sinner, you can know that Jesus died for your sins, you can know that Jesus was resurrected, you can know all these things and more, but just knowing these things does not save you.
Many people use the word "believe" as a synonym for "know". For example, "Do you believe that angels exist?" can mean the same as "Do you know that angels exist?" The differences are subtle, but if you say, "I believe in Jesus," but you are really saying, "I know Jesus exists," that is not saving faith. Mere intellectual acknowledgment of the facts doesnt get you to Heaven.
"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -- and shudder." James 2:19. The demons know the facts about God, but they are obviously going to spend eternity in Hell with the people who do not accept Jesus as their Lord, God, and Savior.
In order to know what it means to believe in Jesus or to have faith in Jesus, one must understand the distinctions and interactions of works and faith. Works versus Faith is a difficult concept to understand. Having the wrong idea of how these two concepts relate to each other has led many people to a false assurance that they are going to Heaven; when in reality, they are going to Hell.
First off, nobody will ever work their way to Heaven. Many people think that they have to do good works, say the right things, do the right things. Many people think that they have to believe in Jesus AND do their own part by working their way to Heaven. But no matter what you do, you can never, never, ever earn your way to Heaven by doing anything at all on your own strength apart from God.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9.
"Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:27.
"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope." Galatians 5:4-5.
"Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4-5. Clearly, God is not obligated to do anything for a person, even if he/she does good works.
Now comes the hard part. We know that works, in and of themselves, in part or in whole, cant get you to Heaven. However, works are an indication of whether or not your faith is a true saving faith. Works are an expression of saving faith.
It is not enough to say that you accepted Jesus as your Savior, and then go on with life as if nothing has happened. Many people think of believing in Jesus as "Fire Insurance". They think that believing in Jesus will just stop them from going to Hell, and that is all there is to it. No commitment to God, no turning away from sin, not even the slightest intention of even trying to follow God. But that they can just go on living their life as always, as if God doesnt even exist. That is not saving faith:
"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17.
"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Gods love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:3-6.
"They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Titus 1:16.
Todays Gospel (which means good news) has been watered down to easy believism, and is not the Gospel that Jesus preached. You cant just "Try Jesus out," or "Give Jesus a chance," or "Taste the life that Jesus offers, and then decide whether or not Jesus is what you need in your life." You cant just believe in Jesus, then if you dont like it, bail out later. Believing in Jesus doesnt come with a money back guarantee on your life if you later decide you dont like being a Christian. Believing in Jesus is not a take home trial offer that can be returned if you dont like it. Believing in Jesus isnt free; it costs you your very life.
The word "believing" involves several key concepts, none of which can really be separated from the others. If any concept is left out, you run the danger that your belief will not be a true saving faith, but a false faith that will lead to a false assurance of your salvation. This false assurance, no matter how intensely you believe in it, will not save you from deserved punishment and damnation in Hell.
To believe in Jesus is to submit your entire life to Him as your Lord. To believe in Jesus is to submit your entire life to Him as your God. To believe in Jesus is to submit your entire life to Him as your Savior. Believing means obeying Jesus. Believing means repenting (or turning away from) your sins. Believing means trusting in Jesus with your entire life, giving your life to Jesus in complete surrender. Believing means acknowledging that you are a sinner and that only Jesus can save you. Believing means going to God in humility, knowing that you are a wretched sinner deserving the punishment of Hell, and asking forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ. Believing means receiving the gift of Salvation. Believing means bearing good fruit.
Jesus said about false prophets in Matthew 7:17-20 -- "Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
Jesus also said in Matthew 7:21-23 (emphasis added) -- "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, BUT ONLY HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6:1-2.
"Then he [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Fathers glory with the holy angels." Mark 8:34-38.
Jesus said in Luke 13:3 -- "But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
"Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS of sins will be preached in his name to all nations" Luke 24:45-47 (emphasis added).
"When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." Acts 11:18.
The balance of works verse faith is a fine one. You cant work your way to salvation to get into heaven, but you cant get to heaven without salvation expressing itself through your works. Nothing you do BEFORE you believe with faith to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, and God can save you. But after you believe with faith and received Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, and God, your faith must be evidenced by works. Saving faith always bears good fruit. False faith always bears bad fruit. (The fruit of a false faith is still bad, even if it appears to be good on the outside. On the inside, it is rotten to the core.)
So now you have a better understanding of what it means to believe. You dont have to totally understand the concepts behind the word "believing", but do realize that believing in Jesus Christ is not a free ride, it costs you everything.
In order to believe, to receive in faith the forgiveness of your sins, you must take action and receive the gift of salvation. If someone hands you a birthday gift, you must, of course, reach out and take it. Its not your gift until you decide to receive the gift. So it is with the salvation of Jesus Christ. You must explicitly decide to take action and with purpose in your heart, receive Jesus as your Savior. Believe in Jesus with your heart. Confess you are a sinner. Proclaim him Lord of your life.
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God." John 1:12-13.
"In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3:3.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 -- "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
"That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Romans 10:9-10.
Receiving Christ, believing in Christ, having faith in Christ, involves the desire and willingness to live a righteous life, the desire and willingness to be obedient to God, the desire and willingness to repent from sin, the desire and willingness to have personal growth as a believer, the desire and willingness to bear good fruit. You cant do any of these things on your own; they are all an expression of Salvation and God working in you.
Being a new Christian doesnt mean you will automatically start doing all these things, but it does mean that you will start growing in your faith. God will gradually, over time, enable you to do all these things as a natural expression of your faith. You will sin and stumble along the way, but God will always give you the strength to continue in the Christian Walk.
God is not asking for a sinner to become perfect. He is asking a sinner, with all his faults, weaknesses, and frailties -- just as he is right now -- to receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then and only then, will the sinner be born again, and then, and only then, will he be able to express his Salvation in good fruit, a righteous life, obedience to God, repentance from sin, and personal growth as a believer.
The decision is yours.
My friend, deciding not to act, or deciding not to believe in Jesus at this very moment, is the same as rejecting Jesus. By saying that you will think about it for a few days, you are still saying, "I dont accept Jesus, I dont believe in Jesus." Your indecision is condemning you to Hell. Sure, you can decide later to accept Jesus as your Savior, but accidents happen. How do you know you will be alive the next hour, let alone the next day, week, month, or year?
"And he [Jesus] told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He though to himself, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. Then he said, This is what Ill do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And Ill say to myself, "you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry." But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21.
You must make a decision while you are alive. Your "ticket" to Heaven is advanced seating only; you cant receive your "ticket" at the box office once you die. "Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe STANDS CONDEMNED ALREADY because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son." John 3:18 (emphasis added).
"As Gods fellow workers we urge you not to receive Gods grace in vain. For he says, In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I TELL YOU, NOW IS THE TIME OF GODS FAVOR, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION." 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (emphasis added).
You have read a lot and are probably overloaded with information. No one will ever have a perfect understanding of the Trinity, works and faith, Jesus, God, the Bible, or anything else. You dont have to perfectly understand anything except for the simple fact that you are a sinner in need of Jesus Christ. You dont have to do anything, except receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. God isnt concerned that you have a textbook understanding of salvation. You now know the basics. God is concerned about your heart and willingness to receive forgiveness of your sins through the Lord Jesus Christ.
My friend, I pray that at this very moment, you will believe in Jesus and receive him as your Savior. If you are willing, pray the following prayer. These words are not some kind of magical formula. The specific words dont matter, what matters is the sincerity of your heart before God. Please pray:
"God, I come before you in humility. I know that I have sinned against you and that I need your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that Jesus rose from the dead. Please Lord Jesus, come into my life and forgive me of my sins. I give my life to you. Please forgive me, and use me for your glory. Enable me to follow you. Enable me to obey you. Enable me to stop sinning. Please, cleanse my heart. Help me to know more about you. God, help me to come close to you and to have an intimate relationship with you as my Heavenly Father. Thank you for hearing the prayer of my heart, and thank you for allowing me to receive Jesus as my Savior. Amen."
If you have earnestly prayed these words, or something like them, there is rejoicing in Heaven because you have turned from death to life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Welcome to the Kingdom of God! Your name is written in the book of life.
Jesus said in Luke 15:7 -- "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Jesus said in Luke 10:20 -- "...rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Jesus said in Revelations 3:5 -- "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels."
Tell someone about your newfound saving faith. Tell your pastor, a friend, or a family member. It is not necessary for your salvation, but just as Jesus was publicly humiliated and hung on the cross for you, there is something good about your public statement of faith about Jesus Christ.
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Romans 1:16.
Baptism is a public expression of your faith, and it is an important step in your obedience and walk with God. It symbolizes the death and burial of your sinful life/nature and being born again into a new life.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." Mat 28:19
"Or dont you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just a Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Romans 6:3
It's not always easy being a Christian, but God provides a solid Rock to stand on when the storms of life start beating you. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-25 -- "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."
Start reading the Bible on a daily basis to learn more about God. Find a Bible believing Christian church. If you would like, write to me, and I will send you some information that may be helpful in your new Christian walk.
My prayer for you is that you will come to know God more intimately, that you will serve Him, allow Him to teach you, be obedient to Him, and allow Him to enable you to grow in your Christian faith and walk with Jesus. There will be times when you stumble in sin, and you may have many sins that God must deal with, but God will help you defeat your sins by your faith in Jesus Christ. A grand, wondrous adventure awaits you!
For those of you who discount the Gospel of Jesus, please know that it has been foretold, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-11. Are you going to wait until you are judged to Hell and forced to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, or will you reconsider doing so now?
Dont allow anything to stand between you and God. Dont turn your back on Jesus Christ just because some "Christian hypocrite", or "fanatic", or "Hell and Brimstone message" turned you off. What matters is not somebody elses walk with God, but your own. Seek God out through Jesus Christ. "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me." Prov 8:17. "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Mat 7:8.