Thursday, January 12, 2006

This is Where it all Starts!

I have been so glad to post the blogs that tell the great things that God has done in my life; all the more, when I hear other people's stories of God's greatness (and they are many!), I urge them to try blogging for themselves. It seems that this thought is dismissed by those who haven't yet explored it--what a loss if they never do!
If you are reading this and have no story of what God has done in your life, perhaps you don't know how a person becomes established in a relationship with God. Some of my blogs give a vague description, but just in case it can be missed, I will give what is called the gospel here; the main points are underlined but the Scriptures are the vital part.

First, every person needs to acknowledge that he or she is a sinner. The Bible says "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). People ridicule the idea of sin, but it's a reality in God's mind. That doesn't single any of us out--think of it. We're all in the same boat. "All" have sinned. Not some of us. None of us can say we're any better than any others. We have all offended God by something we've thought, said or done; most likely a huge number of things.
Second, our sin separates us from God: Isaiah 59:2 says, "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear."
We need to know that Jesus is God's remedy for our sin. "Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Timothy 1:15.
Jesus died on the cross for us though we were still sinful, while the Father could not look upon our sin. Romans 5:8 says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
He's our only hope of salvation. John 14:6, Jesus answers those around Him by saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." He doesn't say that He's one of many ways to the Father. People will tell you that there are many ways, but the Scriptures clearly deny it. In the Old Testament God was constantly reminding the Israelites not to take on the idols, the other religions of the people around them. He was directing them to look forward to the coming Messiah, the Christ, in His many prophecies and pictures of Christ throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament we are told to stand firm, to keep the faith, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We need to realize that our being good doesn't save us, because we can't be good enough in our own strength to be holy enough for God's perfect standard. It is God's grace alone that saves us; His willingness to forgive us our sins. The Bible often refers to our own efforts to do good things as "works." Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not the result of works, so that no one may boast." That's one of humankind's big struggles. Even once people acknowledge the truth of the gospel, very often they still try to please God by their doings, rather than their simple trust in Him.
Salvation is God's gift to us, since we couldn't possibly earn it. Romans 6:23b says, "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." A gift is just given, just received. It's not earned or it's not really a gift! Imagine the Bible referring to something as being free--that amazes me! Usually the word "free" is so abused that it makes us skeptical. But you don't have to be skeptical about God's word.
Salvation cleanses us from sin. I love the verses where God promises this! I remember a woman from our old church saying, while we were standing out in the snow, that she often felt like she wasn't forgiven of her sins. I pointed to the snow and said it's a reminder, and quoted this verse: Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." Isn't that fantastic? There are so many sins that a person might think fall into the crimson and scarlet category--big red noticeable spots that are hard to remove. But God has just the remedy!
Do you think your sins are so bad that God won't forgive them? He says even if they are scarlet. He doesn't say that if they're really ugly He won't do it.
In Christ we become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." A new thing doesn't carry around an old burden! Release it today to God and He will make you new!
Obedience must follow salvation. Don't let me lose you here. It isn't us being obedient; it's God making us able to obey! Without His help we absolutely cannot. The Bible is God's Word, telling us about His holy character and what He wants for our lives. Our obedience doesn't become complete instantaneously, or even in this life! He makes the changes gradually in us, and helps us want to obey Him. The more you grow to love God the more you want to please Him by obedience. Revelation 2:10 says, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." He doesn't say "Be sinless unto death," but "Be faithful." That means we live by faith and obedience, which helps us obey. Our pastor says it's direction, not perfection. "Up and to the right," is what he says.
So how do you embark on a relationship with God? Knowing the verses above, you are well-equipped to pray, asking that He would forgive your sins because you trust that Jesus died for you and you want to be made new. The prayer itself doesn't save you; your heart attitude will show whether you become saved or not. You'll see a huge difference in your life, a new passion, and you'll suddenly desire different things than you did before. The changes are unique in each person. You'll probably want to be on good terms with everyone around you, want to read His word, be with His people, tell others what He has done. I hope I'm not scaring you! You won't make these changes--God will make them in you.
If you pray these things and don't see these types of changes in the weeks afterward, you have to wonder whether you really are saved. However, I suspect that the fact that you're still reading here might indicate that you are truly ready to receive Christ as your Savior.
I have to add that the changes within are all going to be for the better. Sometimes the changes in your life otherwise will get worse. When you're a Christian, people are either rejoicing with you because they are Christian, or if they are not, they might be angry or perplexed or puzzled. It will affect them! Be patient, pray for them, but don't expect everyone to be overjoyed with your decision. It might hurt in many ways. John 15:18 says, "If the world hates you, remember they hated Me first." That's for sure. They hated Him so much that they killed Him on the cross. God is faithful, though--you will see His faithfulness, I guarantee you!
I'll add a prayer you can read here, praying it in your heart:
"Dear Jesus, I know I'm a sinner and that sin has separated me from God. I know that you alone can save me from my sin. I pray that you would take my sin away and help me to live life like a new creation. Thank you for what you have done for me. I pray that you will help me every step of the way to please you. In Your Name I pray, Amen."
Then you'll want to go tell someone. I'd love it if you told me in the comments below! If not, tell someone around you who might need to hear it. They will surely react--one way or another. The most favorable, that is, the easiest, is someone who is already a Christian. But if someone is not, they need to hear the gospel too and you are just the one to share it! Pray beforehand that God might help them receive it.
Then expect big changes in your life!

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