Becoming a Christian

The best thing that ever happens is when someone becomes a Christian. It is the best thing for them. It is in Christ that God’s blessings are fully given. Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul wrote, “as sin reigned in death, even so, grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).

But how does one become a Christian? That is one of the most important questions which we could ever consider, and the answer begins with Jesus. Our sin made his incarnation and sacrifice necessary (Romans 3:21-26). Jesus’ life confirms that He is the Messiah–John 20:30-31. His death covers the debt of our sin and restores us to life with the Father–Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10.

We can learn about Christ and be convinced that He is the Savior through God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” That faith which is built through the Word compels us to respond appropriately to Christ and His work (James 2:24).

The proper response of faith to God’s grace is to repent of sin (Titus 3:4; Acts 2:38); confess Christ (Matthew 10:32); be baptized into Christ (Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:1-5). At that time the person is saved and adopted into God’s family. He or she is entitled to all the blessings and obligations of the covenant of Christ.

O happy day, that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.

If you have never obeyed the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17), I pray every day that you will come to Christ and be saved.

 

 

Working Together

We are thankful for the great opportunities which God gives to us every day. The greatest blessings we can enjoy in this life are the blessings which God has given to the church. “He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3).

A great part of those blessings is found in serving God and others together as the church family. Ephesians 4:11-16 says:

“And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.“

It is important for us to work together because God has given us this blessing (4:11); when we all work together, the saints can be “perfected” (4:12); the church can enjoy unity (4:13); the church will enjoy great spiritual maturity (4:14-15); and the church will “build itself up in love” (4:16).

Jesus goal for the church is that for which he prayed in John 17.  Jesus said, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:10-11).

Always Winter?

“Ye see, dearly beloved, how great protection there is for them that are chastened by the Master: for being a kind father He chasteneth us to the end that we may obtain mercy through His holy chastisement” (1 Clement 56:16).

 

In his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,  C. S. Lewis wrote the lament, “It’s always winter, but never Christmas.” That feeling of “always winter and never Christmas” is an interesting emotion in which we all struggle.

Winter can be a difficult time. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real problem which affects many. We can be depressed emotionally and spiritually and begin to feel that it is always winter.

Winter is also a special time because it is the setting of many warm memories and aspirations. The cold winter season is pregnant with aspirations for family, presents, warmth, and hope. But Lewis described a sad situation in which its always winter, but never Christmas.

I hope that we can begin to appreciate the long dreariness of winter. If not for the night, we could never marvel at the stars. God has used distress to highlight his mercy and his glory. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” (Gal. 3:23). In Romans 11:32 Paul wrote, “for God has imprisoned all for disobedience, so that he might be merciful to all.”

I hope that we can begin to look beyond dreariness. We look beyond by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith can be difficult and sometimes even elusive. Grow your faith–Romans 10:17. We look beyond by faith and look for mercy. The use of the word “mercy” in the New Testament often involves people crying out to God for a gift of divine favor (Mk. 10:47; Lk. 16:24, 17:13; Rom. 12:8). Look beyond by faith into God’s merciful home. “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory which will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

 

HOPE

Hope is, “The confidence that, by integrating God’s redemptive acts in the past with trusting human responses in the present, the faithful will experience the fullness of God’s goodness both in the present and in the future.”[1]

Remember we have hope. All is not lost. Jesus lives. He invites you to come to him and have hope. When you think of hope, I hope you will think of Jesus. Hope is Him, his Omnipotence, his Presence, and Eternity with him.

 

H-Hope is with Him.

John described the hope we have in Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). See how God described his Son. “In him was life,” tells us that he is the source of life. He is the origin of life. Furthermore, the Son of God has not been overcome. He has been through the world of sorrow. He has endured death itself.  Yet, he is not overcome. And we find victory in him.

 

O-Hope is based on his Omnipotence

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” is what God asked Abraham and Sarah just after he promised them a son when they were near 100 years old. His promise held true. All God’s promises hold true. So, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?”

 

P-Hope is found in his Presence

Luke 2:14 records the words of the angelic host, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” He is the one to whom we must run for refuge. “But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

 

E-Hope is realized in Eternity.

We know that in the world we will have tribulation, but Jesus has overcome the world. So Paul said, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). He also wrote, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:18).

 

[1] Ben Craver, “Hope,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

What Doctrine Gives You the Most Joy?

I came across this question recently, “What Bible doctrine gives you the most joy?”. We don’t usually think of doctrine as something which gives us joy. Many doctrines of God are deep and keep our minds occupied trying to discover the truth of the matter. We think of the doctrine of the Trinity. How can God be one and yet three? The doctrine of the atonement is controversial even now. What exactly did Jesus do on Calvary? How did Jesus accomplish what he did? For whom did he die? These questions can leave us baffled and humbled. But what about joy?

What doctrines give us joy? I hope that all the doctrines of God can give us joy in some way. When we consider the incomprehensible unity in diversity of our Triune God, we should find joy in the community they share and the community which they share with us. When we consider the incredible work of the atonement, we should be overjoyed that all our needs are supplied and all our debts are paid. Even though we don’t understand all God has done for us nor all that was needed to be done, we can rejoice that God is victorious over sin for his people.

But which doctrine gives the most joy? Maybe the doctrine of the church is the one which gives the most joy. When we think of the doctrine of Heaven, we can only imagine what will be. When we consider the doctrine of the church, we behold the glory that is now. Ephesians 3:10-11 says, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Look at what Christians enjoy in the church now. We get to enjoy and proclaim the wisdom of God. We get to be a part of God’s eternal purpose. We get to enjoy being the result of God’s work accomplished in Christ for us.

Let us rejoice in Bible doctrine. Let us rejoice in the application of Bible doctrine. Let us rejoice in God.

INSIGHT

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defined the word “insight”as, “the power or act of seeing into a situation.” Wise living requires insight. Otherwise suffering will be multiplied. The book of Proverbs is devoted to sharing wisdom or insight for living. In chapter nine of that book we read, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.” Wisdom is pictured as a woman trying to help those who hear the call. She is rivaled by folly who calls for our attention as well. Which way will we turn? Certainly we should seek wisdom and run from foolishness. Where is wisdom to be found? Who can provide true insight for living? The Bible says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Turn to God and see how your life will be blessed. How do we turn to God for insight? First, the Bible says we must fear the Lord. It is a fearful thing to stand in the presence of God who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of all the earth. Sinful man. Is nothing and totally unworthy of this privilege. As we seek God, we should do so with fear and reverence. When we thus appropriately fear God, then we may seek to know him. To know God we must go to the Bible. This is how God has spoken and revealed himself to us–Romans 10:17. Knowing the Bible leads to knowing God and the insightful living which comes from that relationship. Two grand examples of insightful living shine in the Old Testament. I can not help but be reminded of both Jacob and Daniel. Both were exiled from their home yet they remained faithful to God. Their faithfulness to God was richly rewarded. Through trials and adversity both, became leading men in the most powerful governments of their times. Why? They were blessed by God and lived by his insight. Let us do the same.