Consider the Need for Salvation

Consider The Need For Salvation

Chapter One

Consider The Need For Salvation
Is Your Life 'Under Construction'? 32 Boundaries 39
The Price Is Right 34 God In The Garden Of Eden 41
New Beginnings 35 Who's In Charge Of You? 43
A Matter Of Seconds 37 Discussion Questions 45

Psalms 127:1, Isaiah 58:12

Is Your Life 'Under Construction'?

This past summer our small town witnessed some growth. Destroying old buildings as well as construction of new ones. Our newspaper featured several articles on the progress of each project. One caption above a photo of demolition in progress read 'Out With The Old – In With The New!' At times there was excessive noise, detours, etc. This created confusion and distress to some, and great interest and speculation for others. Some did not like the change, while others observed it with excitement! The sound of heavy equipment, the surveying of areas, the reading of blueprints, the pouring of foundations – all these involved several construction crews. Some who observed wondered what the end results would be, what new products and services would become available.

Decaying buildings crumble into heaps of rubble, rusty nails, squeaky hinges, broken glass. I thought of the workers and the onlookers, as well All persons are 'under construction' at different points in their lives. Some with broken lives, broken hearts, broken homes, aching spiritual joints. Physical ailments are the result of the normal aging process. Spiritual ailments are the result from careless living and spiritual neglect. I wonder how many of the people I observed are taking time to build a solid spiritual foundation, using God's Word as a blueprint for their lives. I wondered how many were paying attention to the spiritual detours around the known dangers to their soul, or how many were carefully observing the clutter and the clamor of the evil world about them, or how many were questioning the values of their old (sinful) ways versus the new (godly) ideas and standards. As I look forward in our small town to a new bank, a new car wash, a new 'co-op' building, a new rental building for storage of excess goods, I am thinking of the free gift of salvation to all persons. So many persons need a total (spiritual) reconstruction of their life. I wonder how many of the people in my small town are allowing God to transform their lives and relationships. God confronts every person with an offer – 'Out With The Old – In With The New'. A new life, filled with hope and healing, a new direction for the future. Overcoming the past mistakes, taking excess baggage out of one's life, washing away the soul's dust and clutter, and enjoying a new 'CO-OP' with Jesus! Depositing in the bank of heaven where the 'high interest' continues to grow! What about you? Is your life undergoing spiritual construction? God is the Master Carpenter who can restore broken lives and who can lift sinners from the rubble of the deepest sins. God is the One who can 'restore' your soul (Psalm 23:3)!

"Father, please take my life which has been broken by sinful thoughts and sinful affections and sinful habits. Reconstruct my life through your transforming power, that I might think anew and feel anew and act anew – no longer centered in my old 'self but instead centered in the living Christ who alone can make me completely new!"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I determine to build my life on Christ, who alone is the 'Solid Foundation' for real and abundant living!

– Joyce Calkins –

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Matthew 16:24-28

The Price Is Right

"Come On Down!" is a phase that rings a bell with everyone who has watched the show "The Price is Right." It also produces vivid recall of the shrieks and shouts of joy and excitement at the prospect of winning huge prizes. The object of the game is simply to match the price of an item to its real value. If you're successful at-doing so, you're a winner. If you're not successful in matching the price to the real value, you're not only a loser, but you have also spent your time in an exercise in futility which leaves you in a state of disappointment, despair, and depression.

There are some amazing similarities between this show and our real-life efforts to discover the match between the real values of life and the price that we assign to those values. The end result of those real-life decisions will also determine whether we are "winner" or "losers."

On the other hand, we also choose the price we are willing to pay for success in our work of happiness in our marriage. In these instances, the relationship between "price" and "value" is much more nebulous. Nevertheless, even though it is difficult, we are forced to determine our commitment to assigning a price.

Jesus was very astute in pointing out some of the hard choices which will have ultimate results that are either pleasant or disastrous. For example, He asked: …"What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) Inherent in that question are at least two major considerations:

  • There is a specific value for the soul. That value can never be expressed in monetary terms. However, there is a specific value. Man's problem is discerning what that value may be and what he can do to maintain that value.

  • There is a price to be paid to assure the eternal value of the soul. It is also obvious that if the price is not right, the soul can be lost.

It is incumbent on each of us to be absolutely certain that nothing in this life is so important to us that it could cause us to lose our soul.

"O Lord, forgive me for confusing my priorities and help me to count the real values in my life."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Trading our convictions for a moment of pleasure could create an eternity of regrets.

– Edward Rickman –

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Psalm 51:1-12

New Beginnings

"How I wish that there was some wonderful place called the Land of Beginning again, where all our mistakes and all our heartaches and all our poor selfish grief could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, and never put on again." (Anonymous)

Could it be that this is the longing of your heart today? It certainly is for scores of people like yourself who live with so many of the mistakes of their lives and think over and over again, "if only I could do it over again!"

Consider all the various mistakes we have made:

  • Our own mistakes and choices have caused financial problems.

  • Many of our own mistakes have created family divisions.

  • Some of our misdeeds have created marital conflicts.

  • Some of our own failures have even created spiritual drought.

Knowing this, we often think: "If only I could do it all over again!" I would surely do it all differently! It must have been some of these same kinds of problems that Jesus had in mind when He said: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Does this not suggest that maybe there is a place for "New Beginnings?"

This is also the picture in the prayer ofthe Psalmist who was continuously affiicted with the reality of his own sins, mistakes, and perverse nature. His colorful language and his vivid awareness of his thoughts and his guilt literally cry out for a solution that will give him a New Beginning.

Note that his prayer was four-fold:

  • He prayed for Release from the burden of guilt – "Create in me a pure heart, O God."

  • He prayed for Relief from a depressed spirit – "Renew a steadfast spirit within me."

  • He prayed for Renewal from his feelings of'lostness – "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me."

  • He prayed for a Restoration of his joy – "Restore to me the joy of your salvation."

What a prayer!

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Are you perhaps struggling with some similar issues in your life? If you are, this great prayer in Psalms 51, is one you can pray for yourself. You too can have a new beginning today.

The blood of Jesus Christ was shed to blot out our transgressions so that we could have new and clean beginnings.

"Lord, help me to pray this prayer of Psalms 51 for release, relief, renewal, and restoration, giving me a truly New Beginning Today!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is a place for New Beginnings. It starts with allowing the blood of Jesus to cleanse every part of my life and being.

– Edward Rickman –

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1 Peter 1:23

A Matter Of Seconds

One second we are here, The next… we are gone! Death is inevitable and surrounds us every day. Some days it hovers much closer than we would like. Driving to work one morning, a pickup truck raced through a red light and smashed into the side of my little car, spinning me 180 degrees. I thank God that I was able to walk away from that accident which "totaled" my car.

After the paramedics finished checking my blood pressure and I declined the offer to visit a hospital for a more thorough check-up, I returned home in my severely damaged car. Although it was driveable, it would be unsafe to continue to do so. The entire driver's side of the back end of my automobile was crushed. When I walked around the car to examine the extent of the damage, I was struck with the awesome reality that life is just a matter of seconds. Had this occurred one second later, the truck would have missed me … just barely! However, had it happened only one second earlier, at best I would have been writing this from the emergency room … more likely, not at all. What a difference one second makes!

One second we are here. The next … we are gone! This is a reality we will all discover once in our lives. I have encountered enough death of loved ones to know that the difference between life and death is a matter of seconds. Fortunately, through experiences such as I had, we can discover another second. That is, a second chance. During the few moments that I examined the damage to my car I realized that God had given me a second chance to live. Now, I did not see my life flash before my eyes, nor did I have the classic Jimmy Stewart It's a Wonderful Life encounter. Still, I do realize that I have narrowly slipped through a life threatening experience. It is my choice to reap positive benefits from this experience. I can either be bitter and angry over the damage, or I can look to the future with renewed hope. I choose to look to the future. I choose to accept the second chance.

I have been given the opportunity to dream even bigger dreams for my life. I now have the freedom (although I have always had it, I am now more aware of it) to achieve far more than I ever planned or hoped before. Every moment, from this second on, is filled with tremendous potential. How will I choose to live my life from this second forward? That's the beauty of experiences such as these … I have a choice! I've been given a second chance!

Yet, what good are my choices if I do not have the right outlook on life? I may choose to live a better life, but to what end? For what ultimate purpose? Do I want to simply live for the here and now, or for the hereafter? In the perspective Qf eternity, this life is a mere second … the amount of time it takes to go from life to death. On the other hand, the eternal perspective is measured by the amount of time it takes to move from

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death to life!

Only on two occasions does the Bible record the phrase "born again." Jesus spoke this to Nicodemus at midnight (John 3) and Peter reiterated the truth in his first letter (1 Peter 1:23). Loosely translated, it means God gives us a second chance. God desires that we have a life changing encounter with His Son, Jesus Christ. Believing God raised Jesus from the dead transforms our destinies … forever! That is the ultimate second chance! Go ahead … reach out to Jesus with faith. He will receive, forgive, and transform you. Go ahead … it only takes a second!

"Lord, by the time I finish this prayer, my entire life and eternal destiny may be changed. It is up to me to make that decision. It is Your desire that I come to You in faith. Thank You for giving me this second chance …"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In Jesus, I always know where I will be one second from now!

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Matthew 13:1-58, Matthew 14:1-36

Boundaries

Harriet W. ReQua, nearly a century ago, wrote a militant testimony, one verse of which makes the Christian stand erect:

"O the cross has wondrous glory! Oft, I've proved it to be true; When I'm in the way so narrow, I can see a pathway through; And how sweetly Jesus whispers: 'Take the cross, thou needst not fear, For I've trod the way before thee, And the glory lingers near.'"

Jesus spoke of the narrowness of the way, which leads to life, with few finding it. In our enlightened day, narrow-mindedness is resented, while broad-mindedness is a sign of knowing what the score is. But have you thought of the narrowness of the world – laws that fence us in?

Football is played on a small field compared to all the land. For a ball handler to step over that boundary means the clock is stopped. No one cries over this! Should a player cross the scrimmage line before the ball is snapped, resulting in penalty, no one fusses at such a law. Meeting another car at 65 mph requires a narrow road of 12 feet each. For each car to move to the center three feet spells disaster. Dozens of laws are written and enforced for every type of sport, insurance, construction, driving, etc. – but few criticize them. 2 plus 2 = 4. That's pretty narrow. An F sharp and B flat do not harmonize. That's pretty narrow.

Certainly the narrow way of Christ's cross means separation, cross-bearing, self- crucifixion (that's what crosses are for), but it leads to life; to the unregrettable life of serving Jesus; to world-wide friendships with God's people of varied nationalities; and, at last, to a large heavenly city called Heaven.

To leave the narrow way of Christ is to travel the broad way of the world with all its so- called "freedoms." But, with the quick passage of time, the broad way of the world eventually leads to a very 'narrow' and constrictive existence – an existence that can only be described as 'slavery'! For example: carefully observe the one who lived without constraints or boundaries. No friends, money, future, hope – a slave to sin. Life has narrowed him in.

Confined in prison, Paul wrote: "Remember my fetters" (Colossians 4:18), again, to King Aggripa, "I would to God that not only you but all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains" (Acts 26:29). Limited yet at liberty!

Madame Guyon in a French prison sang (note the paradox: boundaries and freedom):

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"My cage confines me round, Abroad I cannot fly; 
But though my wing is closely bound, My heart's at liberty. 
My prison walls cannot control the flight, the freedom of the soul." 

"Dear Jesus, I thank you for the boundary of your cross, for when I bow in repentance at the foot of the Cross, I find forgiveness and true freedom!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will walk the way the Lord has marked out for me. The way of faith and commitment to truth. Knowing this way leads to wonderful vistas in my life.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Genesis 27:1-35 (Genesis 27:36-45)

God In The Garden Of Eden

I grew up watching the soap opera "Days of Our Lives." I remember lots of the old characters that are no longer on the show. As I understand it, however, some of those characters have reemerged. That is part of soap opera magic. They get skin grafts and face lifts and brainwashed and de-brainwashed and escape from captivity and recover from amnesia and somehow all find their way back to the little town that kept them busy those many years ago.

Sometimes soap opera life looks so easy. People have jobs, yet they don't seem to work much. All are basically well to do. They always have plenty of time for their sorted social activities. They fall in love and it is always romantic and wonderful. .. but unfortunately usually temporary. That is the hard part of soap opera life. Characters "fall out" of love as quickly as they fall into it. They find out their friends are really not their friends after all. Their abundance of spare time is not spent engaged in the pursuit of truth and the good, but allows them to get into some kind of trouble. One of the great joys of life, children, are for the most part absent only making cameo appearances now and then. Overall, happiness is fleeting.

As bizarre as soap operas are, amazingly some biblical stories could be adapted for the TV and fit right in without skipping a beat. Such is the story of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau (also called Edom) and Jacob. Here is a central story in biblical history which is full of conceit, self-indulgence, jealousy, deception, hatred, favoritism, rivalry, lies, and all sorts of general family dysfunction not too different than what we find in common soap opera story lines. And what is even more striking is that there is little or no condemnation by God of this kind of activity. In fact, the worst perpetrators seem to be rewarded for their immorality. Although later Jacob is deceived by his father-in-law and gets a taste of his own medicine, it still seems that the good guy finishes last; crime pays.

The writer of Ecclesiastes remarks that "There is a vanity that takes place upon the earth, that there are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people treated according to the conduct of the righteous." (Ecclesiastes 8:14)

Where is God's justice and what can we learn from this kind of story? What does it say about God? It is a story about the grace of God and the willingness of God to get down in the muck and mire of ordinary lives to bring about salvation. Isaac's family had problems from the beginning, before his twin sons were born. And no family member is free from sin; it has affected the family in very negative ways. And yet, God takes the raw material given to him and still cultivates what he sees. He brings salvation to the

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whole earth through this family in spite of their sin.

I used to think people's lives could never be as messed up as they are on a soap opera. Now, I am not so sure. But God is not afriad of a messy life, family, or past. No matter what your life looks like, God can redeem it and even work amid the mess to bring glory to him. How he does it is a mystery, but that he does it is mercy.

"Father, forgive me where I have sinned against you and my neighbor. According to your grace, bring salvation to my life and those around me."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can experience salvation because of God's Grace that is greater than all my sin."

– Martin Adamson –

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John 3:3-8; 1 Timothy 2:3-6

1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:21-24; 1 Peter 1:21-25

Who's In Charge Of You?

For more than thirty years, I lived by the orders and rules of other people – mostly my mother's and those formless folks sometimes called "they." The question 'WHat will they think?' was the screening mechanism for most of my visible activities. Except for brief, impulsive episodes like eating all the frosting off the cake, screaming at a child, or driving ninety miles an hour alone on a country road, I toed the mark – somebody else's mark. Impulsive episodes like these blew off the built-up steam of inner pressure under which I lived. These negative and sometimes dangerous incidents created guilt feelings. The pressure of judgment and the fear of being found "not okay" ruled my life. But I continued playing the game to survive. Why? Because it worked.

Despair and hopelessness churned with the pressures of three babies in quick succession. I wanted out. I began to escape by involving myself in monumental projects outside the home, by being sick enough to land in the hospital regularly, and by eating a lot. My weight skyrocketed, opening another acceptable escape door: diet pills. They were plain amphetamines in those days, and I cheerfully used them for dieting as well as to raise my spirits. The results were nearly disastrous.

What was wrong? I had not realized that at the inner core of my selfhood was a child who was able to throw a monkey wrench into my best intentions. I was still attached to the emotional umbilical cord of my mother or anyone else whose approval mattered.

I had prayed, tried, and again and again fallen into my old patterns. My first glimmer of hope came from a teacher's journal. It contained a description of me – critical, negative..and suspicious; sizing up people, taking advantage of their weaknesses; guilt, impulsiveness, and self-centeredness. It was all there. The description was startling in its correctness and completeness.

I had often read the Bible, studied, prayed, been prayed with, claimed conversion, and claimed forgiveness hundreds of times. But I always seemed to end up back where I had started. I thought I had to be perfect according to "their" standards; but I learned this was impossible. Now, as I read with a different attitude, I began to realize that Jesus is not a "they." He is a compassionate, caring, understanding friend.

During those years when I took the first steps of separation from "them" to Jesus, I was really being reborn. It was slow, like the tide coming in. It still is, but now I realize that growth is always slow. Knowing that God through Christ has already.forgiven me, I can forgive myself. Today I am mostly weaned from "them" and their approval. I am now responsible to God through Christ. It's a different life, and I love it.

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"Thank you, God, that the placenta of dependent nourishment from the approval of others is quietly giving way to an awareness that you love me unconditionally!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I intend to live today not by the 'notions' or 'legalistic standards' of others, but by the loving 'principles' of my all-loving Lord!

– Kay Kline –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Share specific ways in which you believe your life is presently "under construction", as you are responding to God's initiatives to-change you; (Note 2 Corinthians 5:17)

  2. According to Matthew 16:24-28, what "value" does God assign to a "human soul"? Are you personally willing to "pay the price" in order that your soul may be "saved" from eternal loss? What is "your part" and what is "God's part" in accomplishing the salvation of your soul?

  3. As you carefully read Psalm 51:1-12, put a check beside the following statements which indicate what you have personally requested from God:

    • __ Prayed for release from the burden of guilt.

    • __ Prayed for relief from a depressed spirit.

    • __ Prayed for renewal from feelings of lostness.

    • __ Prayed for restoration of inner joy.

  4. Have you seriously considered the "uncertainty of life" and the "surety of death"? Have you personally experienced what it means to be "born again"? (Note John 3:1-17; 1 Peter 1:23) If so, describe the results of your life-changing personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

  5. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statements: "To leave the narrow way of Christ is to travel the broad way of the world with all its so-called 'freedoms'. But, with the quick passage of time, the broad way of the world eventually leads to a very 'narrow' and constrictive existence – an existence which can only be described as 'slavery'!"

  6. Have you ever felt that your own life, or the life of someone whom you have known well, was such a "mess" that it was "hopeless" for any recovery or "healing"? Tell with what degree of "conviction" you agree with the following statement: "No matter what your life looks like, God can redeem it and even work amid the mess to bring glory to himself." Do you honestly believe that God's grace is greater than all your sins, that where sin abounds, grace super abounds?

  7. Is the "approval" of other people more important to you than the "approval" of Almighty God? Are you attempting to be a "perfect person" (in your behavior) according to the standards of some other person (like your mother) or some group (like a church) rather than gladly accepting the unconditional love of the compassionate and understanding Savior?

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