Do you Know Jesus, or Know ABOUT Him?

Do you KNOW Jesus or know ABOUT Him?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus, as revealed in the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the only way of salvation.  

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received…: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4    

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12   

There is much false teaching out there.  Is your idea of who Jesus is the real Jesus of the Bible?  Does your vision of Jesus command repentance and obedience?   Would you suffer for His name and stand up for Him even if all others fell?

[Or is your vision of Jesus more like a wise prophet who embraced all in love, peace, and unity?  Who welcomed both the sin and the sinner (we are, after all, hopelessly sinful)?  And that the Bible contains good suggestions, but isn’t necessarily all applicable today?  These popular opinions aren’t supported by the Bible.  Jesus of the New Testament hates sin as much as Father God in the Old Testament did.]

Judas left everything to follow Jesus too, just like the other disciples.  When Jesus didn’t line up with what he wanted Him to be (a conquoring King), he was done with Him.  Not just that, but he was so disgusted with the real “suffering servant” Jesus that he betrayed Him with a kiss – ultimate deceit, faking friendship until the end.  None of the other disciples suspected him – he went through all the motions, did signs and wonders in Jesus’ name – but it was his heart that gave him away.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”  Matthew 7:21-23

Judas knew he made a big mistake, and tried halfheartedly to rectify it and return the blood-money.  He may have even believed that Jesus was truly the Son of God.  But believing this doesn’t save us.  Judas REFUSED to ask God for forgiveness, he refused to repent and truly follow Jesus.  Instead, he preferred to believe the lies of the enemy and take his own life.

Only the Jesus of the Bible saves.  Jesus, the Messiah anticipated throughout the Old Testament.  Not “another Jesus”.

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:4

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  2 Timothy 4:3-4

You must be willing to confess your allegiance to Him, and not deny Him.

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:32-33

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

Note that it says “believe with your heart”.  Not “if you think with your intellect”.  This is where we must become naive, like children, to enter the kingdom of God.  The wisdom of this world is foolishness, and can stand in our way of believing with our hearts.  Thoughts are transitory.  Beliefs are firmly established and incorporated into your being – your feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.  Your heart encompasses your mind/intellect, will, and emotions.  If your thoughts assent to the knowledge of Jesus, but it stays there, in your head, you will remain unchanged.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.  This is how the most pious, religiously observant group of people, the Pharisees, were called “whitewashed tombs” by Jesus.  They were clean on the outside – deeds and appearances – but rotten on the inside.

Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a “God consciousness,” whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.  Source

Questions to ask yourself:

1.  Am I trying to “do religion” by your own efforts?

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

2.  Am I willing to do an honest self-inventory before God?  Do I see my sinfulness as God sees it?

Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. Psalm 26:2  

3.  Do I have heart knowledge of God, or is it all in my head?

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Romans 10:9-10  

Leading Children to Christ

Parenting is one of the most difficult, and most rewarding, adventures that there is.  God has given these blessings into my life, and I heavily feel the responsibility for shepherding their hearts.  These are eternal beings, and how I raise them has a huge influence on how and where they will spend eternity.  I do not take this lightly.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  (Proverbs 22:6)

While I believe that those under a certain level of comprehension are not held accountable for their sins, it is impossible for me to judge what that understanding level is and whether someone has reached it or not.  It is God, and God alone, who can accurately judge the heart.

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.   (Romans 7:9)

It is wise to teach young children about the simple truth of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.   Typical children can often grasp the essential concepts around the age of 4-5, although knowledge of God comes easily much earlier.  Children are very open to the spiritual realm.

come-to-christ

Age at which Americans say they Became Christian – from Nazarene Church Growth Research

It’s tempting to try to make the gospel into more, or less, than what it is.  Salvation begins and ends with Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

When my daughter was four, this is how I walked her through the gospel:

1.  “Have you ever done mean choices or wrong things?”

“Yes!!!” she said.  What child doesn’t know they have done a “bad thing” sometimes, especially if they have siblings!  We, as parents, let children know when they have broken our rules.

I explained that God has also given people rules that He wants us to follow.  He has written His rules inside our hearts so that we know what is wrong or “bad”.  We know when we do bad things, because we try to sneak, or hide, or lie about it.  Even if we try very hard to do good choices, everyone does wrong things sometimes.  Even grownups.

2.  “Do you get in trouble when you do wrong things?”

“Yes!” she said.  Now while I do try to practice grace-based parenting, we do have rules and there are consequences for breaking them.

I explained that God is perfect in every way; He never does anything wrong.  He can’t have anyone who has ever done a bad thing come near Him or live with Him in heaven.  But that makes Him very sad, because He loves us so very much.

3.  “Do you want God to help you stop doing mean choices?”

“Yes!!” she said.  Children want to do good choices.  Their emotions, and lack of self-control, often hijack them.  We are incapable of breaking the power of “sin” over ourselves.  We need supernatural help…  But first we have to want to change.

I explained that God can help us choose kind choices if we ask for His help.

4.  “God wants you so much in His family with Him forever, that He came here Himself to fix things better.  God came here as Jesus, and was born as a baby person but He was also God.  He did no wrong choices at all, not even while He was growing up.  Then, when He was big, He told lots of people how much He loved them.  He did many amazing things like healing sick people, and even making dead people come alive again.  People were jealous of Him, and they were so mad that He said He was God that they even killed Him.  But when He died, He didn’t stay dead.  He came alive again.  He said that anyone who believed He was God and that He died and didn’t stay dead could go to heaven and be with Him forever when they die.  Do you understand that?”

“Yes!” she said.  At this point she also said “I hope I get to go to heaven when I’m still a children!”  She has actually said this before, and it kind of freaks me out – but she is super excited to go to heaven to meet God someday.  This was the part I really had no idea how to talk with her about, but she seemed to comprehend.

I explained that people have to die because of wrong choices.  If we believe what Jesus says and choose to follow Him, we get to go be with Him in heaven forever.  If we don’t believe what Jesus says, and don’t want to follow Him, then we have to go to the Lake of Fire when we die.  (Yes…I did mention this… I don’t personally see a way around it when fully laying out the salvation plan.  However, we’ve read Bible stories since she was 1 year old so this was not a new concept for her.)

5.  “When Jesus died, His blood became an eraser for wrong things.  He can erase all the wrong things you have thought, said, and done, if you ask Him to.  Do you want to follow Jesus and have Him erase your wrong choices?”

“Yes!!” she said.  It is so easy for young children to have simple faith.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

I told her that if she asks Jesus to forgive her from everything she has thought, said, and done that didn’t please Him, that He will.  I told her that if she believes in Jesus, and never stops believing in Him, that she is part of His family.  Jesus will hold onto her and never let her go.  She will get a new body and go to heaven someday (she has some physical challenges and is looking forward to a new body that works perfectly).

And there you have it.  Faith like a child.  It really is that simple.  No wonder Jesus said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

 

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  

I Just Want to Go Home….

 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 

Dear Jesus,

Today I feel homesick.

Before we had kids, I remember telling my husband at one point that I missed them.  I felt an ache inside, that I *missed* the kids that I didn’t have.  He thought I was nuts.  He asked, “How can you miss someone you’ve never met?”

Today, this is how I feel again.  An ache inside, that I *miss* home.  The same feeling I get after about 2 weeks anywhere else in the world, no matter how marvelous or exciting it is.  I just want to go home.

Home is… Comfort.  Familiarity.  Peace.  Security.  Rest.

For me it is, anyways, which is something that many, if not most in this world do not have.  I was going to say I am lucky or fortunate, but no.  I am blessed.  God placed me when and where he has, for his purposes.  No doubt I am benefiting from many generations of faithful followers of Christ who came before me in my family – as God is one who shows “steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Exodus 20:6.

He sees much differently than we do.  He focuses on the heart, on things of spiritual consequence.  His eye is on the big picture of eternity.  And the more we develop the “eye of the Lord”, the more we see the big picture of eternity as well.

What can I possibly buy that would fill this longing?  Where could I go?  What could I do?  I miss that which I haven’t seen – Heaven.  I miss Him who I haven’t seen – Jesus.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.  Philippians 3:20

Nothing in this world compares.  Not the biggest house, the fastest car, the best restaurant.  Not excellent health, the most enjoyable hobby, the most entertaining show.  Not even beautiful sunsets on pristine beaches or any of the wonders that this world knows.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:18-24

“Above All”

Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure
What You’re worth
Crucified
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all
(Michael W. Smith.  Click here for music video)

Come, Lord Jesus.

The How To’s of the Good News – What Must I Do To Be Saved?

 

Salvation is God’s work, from beginning to end.

Hebrews 12:2 – …looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

We have to see our need

First we have to recognize our complete sinfulness – called depravity.  God needs to open our spiritual eyes to see this – and we can ask Him for it.  We recognize that we have been living for ourselves (SELF / ME), not for God.  We have to hold ourselves up to the Law of God and see that we fall hopelessly short.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What is the Law of God?  In the Bible, God has given many instructions for living right before Him.  These include the 10 Commandments and extrapolations from them.  But apart from the Bible, God has written His commands on human hearts, which we refer to as “conscience”.  This is how He can hold us as being without excuse.  (How else do you explain conscience apart from God?  Animals are “naive” – they have no knowledge of good and evil, right from wrong.)

So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.  Romans 2:14-16

Our conscience is what tells us that murder is wrong.  It is what makes us angry at injustices, abuses, and crime.  We know we violate our consciences.  The telltale signs are lying about it, hiding it (doing it in secret), or covering it up.  Above all, God tells us to love Him with all our soul, heart, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  If you love anything in your life more than you love God (or a fellow human being), you have broken this command.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

Our human condition can be compared to a drop of poison in a glass of water.  Whether there is one drop or many drops, the water is still poisoned.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  James 2:10  Such is it with us – doing even one wrong thing “poisons us”. Even if we are a really “Good” and “Moral” person.  Good, moral, and kind people listen to their consciences.  There are many non-religious (or other religions) people who are good and kind people.  However, unless we have turned to Jesus, we are spiritually poor, blind, and naked.

According to God, breaking even one of His laws, once, results in the death penalty – as He is a holy and righteous being who cannot tolerate any sin (breaking of the law) in His presence.  Sin is why we die physically, and unless we repair our relationship with God we will “die” for eternity too (eternal “death” is actually eternal separation from God, in the lake of fire/hell).

We can’t open our own spiritual eyes to see our depravity.  Neither can we open anyone else’s.  We must *pray* for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do this work through the conscience.  Ask God to open your (or someone else’s) spiritual eyes. 

Here is a wonderful article discussing how the sermon on the mount explains our inability to save ourselves.

We have to want to change

We were created to be in relationship with God.  This is why people feel that there is something missing in their lives.  We pursue, pursue, pursue, and when we accomplish it is exciting but also empty – now what?  We move from one thing to the next, never satisfied.  There *is* something missing.  God.  We are like lost sheep – wandering around aimlessly.  Sure there are some “good things” and distractions in this world.  But when it really counts, if we lost it all – what is this life about?  We were meant to live in harmony with God, our Father.  His Spirit is meant to comfort us, to guide us, to bring us love, joy, peace, hope.  We are born into this world as spiritual orphans.  We feel and see the results around us.

Once the Holy Spirit alerts us as to our depravity, we have a choice.  We can choose to ignore Him, or we can choose to do something about it.  This is where our Free Will comes into play.  God wants to restore the relationship.  But we have to want to restore the relationship too.  He doesn’t make us, as if we were robots.

A change of heart, seeing ourselves as utterly sinful and wanting to do something about it, is called repentance.  Just recognizing that we do bad things (or break God’s laws as given in the Bible), but not having a desire to stop, is not true repentance.  We must truly want to be “born again”, to be restored to relationship with God.

There’s only one way…

There is nothing *we* can do to fix our “wrongness” – no good work, no sacrament, no penance.  But because God our Father loves us, He has given us a way to restore the relationship.

Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)

We must desire Jesus’ payment of our death penalty through His sinless life (though He lived as a man under God’s Law, He never broke the Law), death on the cross, and resurrection (came back to life in an eternal physical body) on the third day.

We must be clothed with Jesus’ righteousness, to cover our sins and spiritual nakedness (just as Adam and Eve needed to be clothed with the skins of animals to cover their physical nakedness).

Repentance is not only a change of mind about who we are (a sinner – totally depraved and without hope), but a change of mind about who Jesus is (a Savior – the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament of the Bible – and Lord).  Our only job is to “believe in the one He has sent” (Jesus).  But this belief must be *in our heart*, not just intellectually assenting to facts (see Simon in Acts 8:9-25, or the whole story of the apostle Judas, and even the demons Jesus cast out) .

Romans 10:10  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him who can be saved, He replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matt. 19:26). Doing anything to earn or keep salvation by our own efforts is completely impossible.  Saving faith is a miracle, every time.  That is why salvation rests in God alone by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).

Acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice in our stead results in immediate salvation and sealing of the Holy Spirit.  We are forgiven.  We can’t accidentally lose our salvation, and God won’t remove it from us or ever kick us out of the sheep fold (but there is Biblical evidence that we are always given free choice to reject it and leave the faith/reject salvation by our own choice).

Ephesians 1:13-14  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The critical element is faith.

Faith in Jesus’ provision.  Faith in His completed work for us on the cross.  We can do nothing to save ourselves, and we can do nothing to add to or maintain salvation.  “It is finished”.

 Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;  it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

Anything we do to try and “add to” or “maintain” salvation (such as sacraments, good works on our own effort) leads to death, because it means that we don’t accept that Jesus’ finished work on the cross was sufficient – which is the one thing we need to believe to be saved.  I emphasize this, because I think for many years I didn’t “get” the simplicity of salvation and tried to “earn” it (by repeating the sinner’s prayer, trying to live morally, etc).  I also didn’t “get” repentance, and wasn’t willing to fully examine my heart to see how sinful I really was (and how truly I needed a Savior).

What Next?   Sanctification (growing in Christ)

When we repent, we do a 180* turn and choose to follow Jesus instead of sin/self.  We have been freed from walking in sin.  We are now to follow and obey Jesus.  Assuming we weren’t on our deathbed, if we don’t follow-through with obeying Jesus, it is unlikely that we truly repented.

Romans 6:1-3   What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Commit yourself to knowing God – read His Word, study it, and pray daily.  Ask His Spirit to open your eyes to understand.

Will we continue to sin?  Yes, absolutely!

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.  For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.  Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me.  For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.  But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.  Romans 7:15-25

Even the godliest people struggle with sin – doing what we don’t want to do, or not doing what we want to do.  We still wear the sin nature in this natural body.  However, our hearts and minds are freed from being enslaved to it – if we call for help – God will provide a way out so we don’t HAVE to sin.  The trick is identifying temptation early, and halting it before we are sucked into full blown sin.

What if I don’t “feel” saved?

Salvation is kind of like an epiphany.  You have been wandering around in darkness, aimlessly, chasing after this and that – from one thing to the next.  Lost in the drudgery of what this world offers.  Being saved is like God turning on the lights, and all of a sudden you can see.   This is the Holy Spirit, working inside you.

The Holy Spirit Himself, is sealed within you at the time of salvation (Jesus’ baptism, with the Spirit).  You will want to obey Jesus.  You will want to become more like Him.  You will “bear good fruit”.  Yes, you will still sin, but you will have a desire to get back on track and restore your relationship with God (although individual sins won’t take away your salvation, it will put you out of relationship with God).  The Holy Spirit will start to convict you of sins.  It is your job to listen to Him and follow His lead, to progress in holiness (sanctification).

If you do not feel secure in your salvation, IT IS RIGHT TO EXAMINE YOURSELF, to see if you are in the faith.

If you can continue in habitual sin without feeling remorse and guilt (common sins like sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, gossip, lying, cheating…) then you should question whether you are saved.  The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin.

The “heart” is comprised of our mind/intellect, our emotions/feelings, and our will/actions.  We have feelings about God, we think through the facts about Jesus and the Bible, and our actions will demonstrate what we believe.  In each of these areas, we must rely on GOD to provide the faith.  We can’t make ourselves believe – we can’t force feelings, we can’t understand if our spiritual eyes are closed, and actions done on our own effort will consistently fizzle over time.  Examine if all 3 aspects of your heart are in alignment.  If not, confess that to God and pray for HIM to provide you with saving faith.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

Do not give up!  Do not despair!  Cling to God with all your might.

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

This church has such wonderful articles on saving faith and growing in Christ.  I highly encourage anyone seeking to know more about salvation and God’s plans and purposes to check it out!