Can You Explain Your Faith?

After accepting Christ as our Savior and doing our best to live a godly life, the most important directive Christ gave us, was to spread the gospel to as many people as we possibly can. (Mt. 28:19, 20.)

The only way to be the most effective in that endeavor, is to have faith in what it is that you are preaching / teaching. Moreover, you must also be able explain to the hearer (layman, agnostic, atheist, follower of false religion, etc.), why you have embraced your faith.

The gospel is no different than mathematics, physics, or any other kind of study, with regards to relating it to others; i.e. you must begin with the ‘basics.’ Look to teach and invite, not to make wrong and divide. You’re helping facilitate a possible love-relationship between them and God, by relating how you got one, what that has meant for you and what it can bring to them.

We can begin this conversation towards salvation by talking about cause-and-effect. For example, there are universal laws that we cannot break. Oh, we can try, but calamity usually follows. If we leap from a plane without a parachute, the law of gravity is merciless. SPLAT!

Physics tells us that a force is created when a mass is accelerated. Thus, if we stand in the face of an oncoming train, we are going to have an intimate exposure to its force. MORE SPLAT!

The same holds true when we violate the laws of God. He implanted the law of right and wrong within each and every one of us so that we could avoid transgressing them:

“For this commandment which I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not [a secret hidden] in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and obey it?’…But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.” Dt. 30:11, 12 & 14. AMP

Thus, in our discussion with an unsaved individual, we can point out that everyone has an innate knowledge of right and wrong, and that bad things happen when we make the wrong choices. In fact, we are sure of it, because everyone makes the wrong choices at times – some more than others.

If this innate law of right and wrong transcends our behavior, who set the standard and why do we feel remorse when we transgress it?

We can interject at this time, that as a Christian, we believe there is a God who both created and directs this universe, and who also takes a great and loving interest in the behavior of the people that He put here. He left us a plan for getting the most out of our lives:

“…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding closely to Him; for He is your life [your good life, your abundant life, your fulfillment] and the length of your days…” Dt. 30:19, 20. AMP

We make the choice for life or death on a daily basis. And so, as a Christian, we believe that it is imperative to choose life, by obeying that power (God), through doing the things that He deems as right. It is our desire to be living in His favor rather than being in enmity with Him.

Some people don’t believe in a ‘god.’ If that’s the case then, they must believe that the universe and everything in it occurred by happenstance. In that scenario, life really has no meaning, and this short span of years that we have on this planet is all we’ve got.

However, a great majority do believe in a God (e.g. Jews, Christians, Muslims), who is righteous, loving and long-suffering with regards to the inhabitants of this planet, and is concerned when they go astray.

We as Christians believe that God gave us a ‘good’ world, but that some people in it have chosen bad paths, contrary to His will. We attest that God is good and all that He creates is good. Furthermore, we hold it to be true that some people rebel against Him because the have fallen prey to an evil influence. This influence is a good angel gone bad – Satan. So, God did not create evil; it is a perversion of HIs goodness.

“He was a murder from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him When he lies, he speaks out of his own character; for his is s liar and the father of lies.” Jn. 8:44 ESV

We believe that all the chaos in this world stems from that angelic rebel and his followers, and that this condition will persist until God puts an end to time.

Why does the all-powerful Jehovah God that we profess, allow such a state to persist? Because the world’s condition is a result of a gift that He gave us – free will. We have the ability to choose between good and evil.

Given that God knows evil is persisting, why did He give us free will? Because God loves us; He created us and the only thing He asks of us is to love Him back. Of course, real love must be expressed voluntarily.

We love, because He first loved us. 1 Jn. 4:19 AMP

The problems occur because of those who choose not to love God, but instead to deify themselves – a lesson that they learned from the devil himself. There is no peace or happiness in the end for them.

We were created to consist and coexist with God:

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” Jn. 15:5 AMP

God spent centuries driving these messages home to His children, but evil persisted and many people were (and are) headed for death with no escape. Because He loves us so much, He sent a part of Himself, dressed up as a human, to deliver His children from themselves.

To be continued…

Goodnight and God bless.

  

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Making a Public Declaration of Your Faith

It is glaringly apparent that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. That should come as no surprise, as Jesus warned us of this very thing:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; and all children will rise up and rebel against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name, but it is the one who has patiently persevered and endured to the end who will be saved.” Mt. 10:21, 22. AMP

The world hates us just because we follow Christ. Why? Because if we do our best to emulate Him, we are vicariously heaping judgment upon it as He did:

“…it (the world) does hate Me because I denounce it and testify that its deeds are evil.” Jn. 7:7

AMP

“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Jn 3:20 NKJV

And so it is with us:

“…and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” Mt. 24:9 AMP

All you have to do is pick up any issue of the Huffington Post to validate that. Indeed, we are entering tumultuous times, where we will see both persecution and a falling away of many of the faithful:

“At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold. But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering to the end will be saved.” Mt. 24:10 – 13. AMP

The time will come when Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats. You definitely want to be in the sheep crowd. (Mt. 25:31 – 33.)

Sometimes, Christians are their own worst enemies, by letting their flesh take precedent over their spirit. For example, you have people playing with snakes, denying their children medical care, protesting outside of military funerals, killing abortion providers, advocating war over peace and putting politics over the kingdom.

We all have our human side, and fall repeatedly. This is where we must stay humble in the face of our sinful nature, take Jesus by the hand, and get up over and over to once again try our best:

“…he who comes to the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” Jn. 3:21 NKJV

And we mustn’t lose sight that Jesus is depending upon God’s children to spread the gospel message for the salvation of the world:

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world…Let your light shine before men is such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:14 & 16. AMP

“What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].” Mt. 10:27 AMP

So, it is both what we say and do for the kingdom that matters; and the more that we can do that publicly (teach the word, evangelize, volunteer, etc.) the larger the net we will cast for Christ.

Our public outreach begins humbly, but powerfully, with our first public declaration of our faith – our baptism. Why is that an important deed to undertake?

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above – spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:3 AMP

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:5 NKJV

This was Jesus’ first ministerial teaching – laying out the entire reason that He came, i.e. that there is nothing that we can do in and of ourselves that will get us into the kingdom of God. It is only open to those who allow God to birth them anew by changing what is in their hearts. Then, the continued presence in that kingdom is assured for those who do their best to live by those changes.

Water baptism is a requirement from God, through Jesus – not only for ourselves, but we are also called to help facilitate the baptism of as many people as possible:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mk. 16:15, 16. ESV

When we get baptized, our example of faith in God and our obedience to His word can potentially draw others to do likewise. It is an outward sign that our faith is both growing and being reinforced. Without the faith, the act of baptism would be worthless. The water is just water. It is the connection of the water to the word of God, by faith, that fulfills our requirement.

Water baptism by itself however, is not the way to salvation. It is a declaration of one’s faith in salvation through the Spirit. Baptism in water is a metaphorical demonstration of being re-birthed as a newly cleansed child of God, through the forgiveness of sins – confirming that your old ’worldly self’ has been buried (symbolized by your immersion in water) and that your ‘spiritual self’ has been resurrected and cleansed from the stain of original sin (portrayed by your rising out of the water).

The act of water baptism begins with your repentance of the actions of your flesh and ends with the declaration of your faith in the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

True salvation (having been made righteous from the cleansing blood of Christ) comes when you ask God for your Spiritual new birth by petitioning Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit – changing you into a new child in Christ. Only then, does God provide kingdom guidance and eyesight so that you can walk in His ways.

This is so BIG:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pt. 1:3 – 5. ESV

Declare…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Contact 24

Are You Kicking Against the Goads?

Shortly after Jesus ascended to His Father, the early Christian church fell under persecution by the non-Christian Jews. One such oppressor leading this charge was a man named Saul of Tarsus, (who would later become the apostle Paul):

…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3 ESV

Indeed, Paul himself later described his motivations and actions:

“…according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5 NKJV

“…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” Gal. 1:13 NKJV

Saul knew nothing of the gospel:

“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it…” Gal. 1:12 NKJV

Well, Saul and his henchmen were riding towards Damascus to hunt down more Christians, when suddenly a blinding light from heaven shone all about him:

Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:4, 5. NKJV

Saul knew that he was in the presence of a Divine manifestation, but I’ll bet when he realized it was Jesus, his knees commenced to knocking!

(A ‘goad’ is a pointed stick used to drive oxen. ‘Kicking against the goads,’ is a Syriac (western Semitic) proverb describing an attempt to do something that will only bring pain. Here, Jesus was implying that Saul was going to experience pain if he continued to oppose the will of God.)

“But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16 – 18. ESV

Only Jesus would transform His greatest earthly enemy into His mightiest champion. Paul would even go on to write (by the Spirit) the majority of the New Testament.

Similarly, there is no one else whom Jesus would not enlist to serve Him if they make the free-will choice to do so. He makes it pretty clear that the choice is either black or white:

“He who is not with Me is against Me…” Mt. 12:30 NKJV

I would venture to say then, anyone who is not with Jesus is ‘kicking against the goads.’  Why would someone do that? Perhaps they have not head the gospel message. That’s why it is so paramount that we spread the good news to everyone we can, because it is a life or death matter. (Dt. 30:15 – 20.)

There are others who have heard the message but suppress their spiritual pain in order to indulge in their desire for worldly things – effectively turning their backs on God:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:15 – 17. ESV

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory…all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on HIs right, ‘Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…”Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” Mt. 25:31 – 34 & 41. NASB

The outcome is not a good one for the ‘goats.’ But a goat can be saved right up until the time of his or her death. That’s why we never give up on those who love their sins. It is our duty. (Ezek. 33:1 – 9.)

Finally, there are people who have committed some infraction(s) in their past that they believe disqualifies them from salvation. But that clearly runs contrary to the love, kindness and mercy that characterizes our Savior:

“…every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mt. 12:31 ESV

So, if you approach your Father with confession and repentance, your pardon is assured, and you can get on with the business of living your godly life. We know that unrepentant sin brings death. (Rm. 6:23)

That ‘unpardonable sin’ Jesus talks about above consists of denying the Holy Spirit’s message of salvation through Christ, which will close the door on your redemption:

…you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be – if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins. Jn. 8:24 AMP

Thankfully, we have a loving eternal alternative:

“Repent, and turn from all your transgression, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezek. 18:29 – 32. NKJV

Besides, those goads are sharp! But they fall away when we make our Jesus contact…

Goodnight and God bless.