Interests of novelty before interests of kingdom

Psalms 1:1-2, Psalms 16:1-11, 2 Timothy 3:1-5

We are looking at the flimsy excuses which people give for not entering the Kingdom of God. (Parable of the Great Supper, Luke 14:15-24)

“Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please have me excused’.” (Luke 14:19) Sound familiar? “I have bought a new car, and I want to try it out. We are taking a trip on Sunday.” “I have built a new cabin and plan to stay there over the weekends during the summer months. I’ll worship God in nature.” “I have bought a new camper and new fishing equipment. They say the fish are biting good. Might see you next Sunday. Depends on how the fish bite this weekend.” “I have bought some new skis. The snow is just right for skiing. Got to take advantage of the snow. Besides, everyone is going to the slopes. Have me excused please.” “A new TV series is starting on Wednesday night. Sorry I will miss Bible class. Have me excused.” “Spring is in the air. Time to get the garden planted. Please have me excused this time.”

Sad it is that the toys of sensual pleasure are more real to us than the delights of spiritual discoveries. The novelty of picking up a moon rock seems to thrill us more than picking up the Bible. Low attendance at a party is more disturbing to us than low attendance at worship services. Missing a favorite TV program disturbs us more than missing a good Bible class. The garden not growing disturbs us more than the church not growing. Learning a new recipe excites us more than learning a new verse of Scripture. Fishing for trout is more exciting than fishing for the souls of men. The excuse of the one who said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out”, is the same type of excuse that many give today. The interests of novelty are more important than the interests of the Kingdom. Such people are fools, for they accept the second-best or worse, when they could have the very best! These people miss out on the delights of the Kingdom Banquet!

They miss out on the mental delights. The Christian life delights the mind! While the sinner is feeding his mind on the husks of the world, the Christian is exploring new frontiers of knowledge and wisdom!

They miss out on emotional delights. There is an aesthetic heightening in Christian conversion!

They miss out on spiritual delights. There is a great contrast between the ever-dawning hope of the Christian and the ever-increasing despair of the unbeliever. Poor indeed is the man who puts the interests of novelty before the interests of the Kingdom!

“God, you are the source of all joy! You give me all things richly to enjoy! The pleasures of sin last for only ‘a season’, but the “Joy of the Lord’ is eternal!”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will gladly accept God’s Invitation to His Banqueting Table where heaven’s delights are lavishly served!

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Introduction Coming to Know God

Introduction – Coming To Know God

Coming To Know God

By

Ronald Christian

An Indepth Study Of God's Plan Of Salvation

INTRODUCTION

One of the most if not the most important, day of my life was on March 12th 1956, when I was a mere eleven year old child. On that cold winter Monday morning, as I lay in my bed, heavy of heart because of a definite conviction of sin, I looked up toward heaven and prayed a simple but earnest prayer of repentance: 'O God, save my soul!' I repeated that prayer four or five times. The tears began to trickle down my cheeks, and I quickly arose from my bed and went to the kitchen of my home where I announced to my godly mother that I believed that I had just been 'saved'! My mother said something like this in reply to me, "That's wonderful, Ronny, I am glad to hear that!" She then, as I recall, continued to turn the pancakes which were frying on the grill. It was the next Saturday–six days later–that I found myself alone with my mother. It was then that I told her in more detail about my personal conversion. Assurance of sins forgiven had flooded my soul, and I was rejoicing that I was now a 'Born Again' believer. As a child, up until this time, I had been raised in the little white-framed Free Methodist Church where several of my ancestors had worshipped for many decades. My great, great grandfather was a charter member of that church, back in 1881! I had regularly attended Sunday School, had memorized Scripture, had learned many Bible stories from my mother, had regularly 'said' my bedtime prayers, and had generally lived a rather decent and moral life. But, as I prayed on that March 12th morning several years ago, I recognized that I had never personally been converted. Religious education had taken the place of spiritual conversion.

My childhood conversion was real and lasting, although I must say that there have been many subsequent commitments made to God, based on a deeper and more mature understanding of the Christian faith. Christianity involves cultivating a daily relationship of love with the Saviour.

The truths discussed in this book are the most basic, yet the most important, truths of Holy Scripture. This book is an indepth devotional study of God's Plan of Salvation–a plan that is simple enough for an eleven year old child to understand, and yet profound enough that the greatest theologians spend an entire lifetime studying the concepts contained in that Plan!

As a pastor in the Free Methodist denomination for nearly two decades, I have had the privilege of sharing God's Plan of Salvation (including many of the concepts discussed in this devotional book) with literally hundreds of people, both from the pulpit and in the classroom and around the dining room table in the homes of scores of families. I have seen hundreds of people–sometimes entire families at one time–pray the 'sinner's prayer' and wonderfully become 'new creatures in Christ Jesus' (2 Corinthians 5:17)! There is no thrill like the thrill of people gaining an intellectual understanding of the basic truths of God's Word which leads to a personal faith commitment to Christ as Saviour and Lord!

The Plan of Salvation can be reduced to a presentation so simple as the following: (1) The Fact of Sin (Romans 3:23); (2) The Penalty for Sin (Romans 6:23); (3) The Insufficiency of Good Works (Ephesians 2:9, Isaiah 64:6); (4) Christ Alone is the Answer (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). In fact, this is the simple plan that many people have used and have accepted with greatest success–both in presenting the Gospel and in finding Christ in the Gospel. Whether one is on the presenting end or on the receiving end, this is an adequate and accurate profile of the simple truths of God's Plan of Salvation. Of course, after presenting these simple facts, a human response to the divine offer of grace and forgiveness must be called for. That challenge to appropriate divinely-provided resources can be given in simple 'A, B, C' steps. What conditions must man the sinner meet in order to receive Christ the Saviour? Starting with the 'C' step: (1) 'Confess'– "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9); (2) 'Believe'– "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31); (3) 'Accept'– "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

There is no message more important than the message of salvation that the Church must emphasize in its preaching and teaching. And yet, unfortunately, there are thousands of members in our local churches today who have never personally experienced the 'New Birth'. I have personally dealt with many who have told me, after they prayed the 'sinner's prayer', that they do not remember ever having heard a basic Bible message on 'How to Become A Christian', even though they had attended many church services. This is a tragedy, particularly when God makes it so clear in His Word (the Bible) that "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

Part One of this two-part book provides a general survey of Salvation, while Part Two deals in considerable depth with God's Plan of Salvation, as taught in the first six chapters of the great Book of Romans. Thus, Part One is a topical approach, while Part Two is an expository approach to Scripture.

The book can be used in several ways. It can be used as a daily devotional guidebook, with the reader reading one page each day for approximately six months. Each page includes, along with the practical-oriented devotional reading, an appropriate Scriptural reference, a written Prayer For the Day, and a written Affirmation For the Day. Because the book is divided into twelve chapters, the layout of the book is designed in such a way that it can easily be used for an adult Sunday School course. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could also well serve as material for small midweek study groups within a local church. There are thought-provoking questions listed at the end of each chapter, to provide class participants an opportunity to review and to discuss the main content of each chapter. Because there is a developing theme throughout the book it can also be used and read like any other 'regular' book.

There has been no book that I have more enjoyed writing and no content of any book that is more important to communicate. If all are sinners by nature and by choice, if Jesus died to provide an atonement for the sins of all people, if all humans are in a saveable state because of Christ's unlimited atonement and because of the universal gift of faith which the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon all persons, if God wills that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance, Jesus has commanded the Church to make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:19), if the angels in heaven rejoice exceedingly when even one sinner comes to repentance, and if it is appointed unto all men once to die, but after death comes the Judgement– then, in light of these basic Bible truths, should we not be most concerned that all persons everywhere understand God's Plan for human redemption? God has commanded all men everywhere to repent and to come to the knowledge of the Truth. If there is a 'heaven to gain and a hell to shun, and if hell was never prepared for mankind, but rather for the devil and his demons, then it stands to reason that all persons everywhere should be urged to repent and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus was born to die, in order that all persons everywhere can live eternally with God in heaven!

It is my hope that, through the reading of this book, believers may deepen their understanding and appreciation of God's wonderful Plan of Salvation (the plan which was hidden for generations, but now revealed to mankind in these latter days). It is my further and even greater hope that hundreds of sincere people who are 'hungry for God' may find this book an aid in their search for God. Nothing would thrill me more than to learn that someone found their way to the 'foot of the Cross of Christ' to find peace with God, through the reading of this book. "Coming To Know God" is the greatest privilege known to mankind!

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Ronald G. Christian

Fort Collins, Colorado

How Do You React To Christ? – 2

How Do You React To Christ?

Part I (Chapters 1 – 4)

General Survey Of Salvation (Topical Study Of Salvation)

Chapter One

How Do You React To Christ?
The Indestructible Christ! 1 "Lost! Lost! Lost! — My Life Is Lost!" 9
Is Christianity Worth Counterfeiting? 2 "I Like My Mother's Translation Best!" 10
How Shall We Escape If We Neglect? 3 Business Interests Before Kingdom Interests 11
Neutral You Cannot Be! 4 Interests of Novelty Before Interests Of Kingdom 12
Wise Men Seek Jesus! 5 Love Of Maid More Than Love Of Master 13
Jesus' Threefold Work — King, Priest, Saviour 6 Discussion Questions 14
Is Your God Too Small? 7 Discussion Questions (continued) 15
Shallow-Minded Response To Christianity 8    

Matthew 2:13-18, John 1:4-5

The Indestructible Christ!

Christ is the most beautiful person who ever lived! Christ is God's outstretched arm to save mankind from self-destruction. Christ is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But John records that He who made the world came into His own world to save His world, but that the world of His own people failed to recognize Him and refused to accept Him. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12 NASB)

Christ, the ever-contemporary One, confronts every person in every age and seeks entry into every life. All today, as in the days of Christ's earthly ministry, react to Christ in one of three ways.

Herod the King represents all those who react to Christ with hatred and hostility. The Chief Priests and Scribes represent all those who react to Christ with complete indifference. The Wise Men represent all those who react to Christ with adoring worship. We must look at each of these reactions to Christ.

Think first of Herod the King. He represents those who react with hatred and hostility. Herod tried to destroy Christ, but he was unsuccessful. Men can never destroy Christ or His message! The message of the Gospel may be either accepted or rejected, but it can never be eliminated. It is like a flame that can never be extinguished or quenched! Men try to put Christ out of their minds, but their conscience betrays them and it continues to speak out for Christ and for the right! The messenger of Christ may even be eliminated, but Christ and His Gospel can never be destroyed!

Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, who has suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, and who has often written about the heroic Underground Church, says "The secret police persecuted the Underground Church very much, because they recognized in it the only effective resistance left. And just the kind of resistance, the spiritual resistance, which, if left unhindered, would undermine their atheistic power. They recognized, as only the devil can, an immediate threat to them. They knew if a man believed in Christ he would never be a mindless, willing subject. They knew they could imprison men, but they couldn't imprison faith in God. And so they fought very hard" (Tortured For Christ, p. 17).

Men, like Herod, hate Christ because Christ is a threat to them. Christ will not let evil men have their own way.

"Christ, You and Your message are indestructible! The messenger may be imprisoned or even eliminated, but Your message can never be imprisoned or destroyed! It is an inextinguishable flame!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Christ of God and cannot kill the God in Christ!

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Matthew 6:24, Matthew 10:37-39, Matthew 12:30

Is Christianity Worth Counterfeiting?

The Chief Priests and Scribes represent those who react to Christ with indifference. "They were so engrossed in their Temple ritual and their legal discussions that they simply completely disregarded Jesus. He meant nothing to them. There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them." (Daily Study Bible, Matthew, vol. 1, p. 21, William Barclay.)

There are various reasons why persons today are indifferent to Christ and the Gospel. Some are indifferent because they believe the Church has been a failure. As I was having my hair cut one day, a barber said to me, "My experience with church-going, professing Christians has been unpleasant, so I decided I wouldn't have anything to do with the church". A university student said to me one day: "I was once a very active member of a Protestant Church, but because I saw corruption and hypocrisy in the church, I decided church was not for me. I don't believe in any organized Church. I believe that science will probably someday have all the final answers to man's problems. It may be a thousand years from now, but never-theless science will have the final word. look what progress science has already made. Someday Christianity will probably look simple and be archaic. What we need in Western Civilization is a liberal religion, merely as an agent of change. If you classify me as anything, I suppose that you could classify me as an agnostic. I can't say that I believe in Christ, and I'm not sure that there is such a thing as heaven or hell". A distant relative of mine said to me, rather indifferently, "There is a lot of churches, and it doesn't make any difference to me what church one belongs to. All have to live their own lives, and therefore, I don't care what other people do. Every church has its good and its bad, and you can go to church if you want to, but you don't need to if you don't care to!"

To each of these encounters, I reacted in a similar manner. I pointed out that, while the Church is important, it is not the Church, but only Christ, that can save from sin and give eternal life. Although it must be admitted that there is the superficial and hypocritical elements at times within the organized Church, there is far more of the genuine and the noble within the Church. Ten dollar bills are counterfeited because they are worth counterfeiting. Why is Christianity counterfeited? Because it is worth counterfeiting! Did you ever see a counterfeit unbeliever? No, never. Why?

"God, help me to be honest with myself. The medical profession is not judged because of a few quack doctors. I do not condemn all lawyers simply because some are dishonest. Don't allow me to deceive myself by judging Christ because of some counterfeit Christians!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Even the counterfeits of Christianity pay a great compliment to Christians, for they acknowledge that Christians are worth counterfeiting!

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Hebrews 2:1-4, Luke 12:16-21

How Shall We Escape If We Neglect?

The Chief Priests and Scribes represent those who react with indifference. They were too preoccupied with their own pursuits to pay attention to Christ. There are too many today who are indifferent to Christ because they are preoccupied with the cares of life. The wife of a university student replied to me when I asked her if she was attending church: "No, we are not attending church now. I have uncles who are Methodist ministers, but since my husband is a student, we don't have time to get involved in church now. In the future, after my husband gets out of college, we plan to begin coming to church".

Some say that they want to have their 'share of fun in life' while they are young, and that they will consider Christ and the church when they become older. What a false delusion to think that there is always plenty of time in the future to consider God! The old must die, and the young may die! No one knows the appointed hour of his death. The rich man (as recorded in our Scripture reading for today) thought he had a long time to enjoy his wealth, but God said, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you!" (Luke 12:20).

In one of his many books, William Barclay recounts the fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God". Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God". The second said, "I will tell men that there is no hell". Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin". The third said, "I will tell men that there is no hurry", "Go", said Satan, "and you will ruin men by the thousand". Barclay than asserts that the roost dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. He notes that the most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow.

The Bible's exhortation is wise: "For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:2-3 a NASB).

Today is the acceptable time to receive Christ. Now is the day of salvation. Tomorrow may be too late–eternally too late! Someone appropriately said: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

"I have a hell to shun, a heaven to gain, a soul to save, and a God to serve! O Christ, turn my good intentions into decisive commitments! Heal me of my procrastinations!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Tomorrow never comes! today! I will choose Christ

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Joshua 24:14-24

Neutral You Cannot Be!

Some are indifferent because they attempt to be neutral to Christianity. Some consider it a great virtue to adopt a policy of neutrality, to be tolerant to every religion. However, Christ dogmatically asserted that He was the Only Way to God. Jesus is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life". Only through the name of Christ can man approach God. "There is salvation in no one else! Under all heaven there is no other name for men to call upon to save them." (Acts 4:12 Living Bible) An indecision to follow Christ and an attempted neutrality, automatically becomes a decision against Christ. Said Jesus, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad". (Matthew 12:30) He also said, "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon". (Matthew 6:24) Joshua could well have been speaking to our generation when he said, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve". Christ will not share any other allegiances; He demands all. He is dogmatic in His claims, and all-inclusive in His demands. Pilate attempted to be neutral in his reaction towards Christ, but he was unsuccessful. His cowardice was a vote against Christ, and resulted in gross unjustice. The guilt that was on his hands was too great for mere water to wash it away! The blood of Christ was on his hands!

There are many nominal 'Christians' in our society and in our churches today. They are sympathetic to Christian principles, but uncommitted personally to Christ.

"Ye call me Master and obey Me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow me not,
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not,
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me Mighty and honor Me not,
If I condemn you, blame Me not." 

-Anonymous-

It is not easy to make the right decision. Jesus knew that. In the light of the absolute obedience and faith which Christ demands, many will make excuses. Excuses today are still 'a dime a dozen'! Of course, if Christ could reign along with all other gods in our idolatrous hearts, the decision would be easier, but that cannot be! It is either Christ only, or Christ not at all. Christ is jealous of your total allegiance, and will accept nothing less!

"The right decision is a hard decision, for Your absolute Lordship demands my total surrender and my absolute obedience. But it all results in absolute freedom! Thank you for your total claims on my life!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Neutral I cannot be. I must make Christ the Lord of all or He will not be the Lord at all!

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Matthew 2:1-12

Wise Men Seek Jesus!

The Wise Men represent all who react to Christ with adoring worship. The Wise Men only found Christ after they diligently sought for Him. "Where", they asked King Herod, "is the newly born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in its rising and we have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:2)

Centuries before, God spoke through Jeremiah and said, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart". (Jeremiah 29:13) Our seeking must be genuine; our asking must be sincere; our knocking must be persistent. God will only be found when we seek him with our whole heart. One cannot be pretentious, proud, or half-hearted, and expect to find Christ. The Wise Men were not satisfied until they found the Christ child. Their searching was in earnest. To find the Child was their only concern.

Jesus' parable of the lost coin well illustrates the necessity for diligence in ones search for God. In another parable, the precious pearl which was found in a field caused the finder to sell all that he had in order to purchase that gem. Full surrender is essential if one is to be a disciple of Christ and in order to find peace in life.

The Wise Men offered gifts to Christ. "When they came into the house, they saw the little child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him; and they opened their treasures, and offered to Him gifts." (Matthew 2:11 Barclay)

The essence of true worship and adoration is self-surrender–presentation of ourselves to God.

"Who answers Christ's insistent call Must give himself, his life, his all, Without 
one backward look. Who sets his hand un to the plow, And glances back with anxious 
brow, His calling hath mistook. Christ claims him wholly for his own; He must be 
Christ's, and Christ's alone." 

-John Oxenham-

Wise men still seek Jesus!

"Jesus, if I had the whole world to give to you, that would be a present far too small! 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Like the Wise Men of old, I will today bow before Christ, 'lost in wonder, love, and praise'.

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Hebrews 9:13-14

Jesus' Threefold Work — King, Priest, Saviour

Although the New Testament no where says specifically that there were three wise men, we assume that there were three because of the threefold gift which they brought. The significant thing is not the number of wise men, but rather the gifts which the wise men presented.

Gold is the gift for a King. The coming of a great king was a deep-seated expectation in the hearts of all Jews throughout the centuries, since the rule of David. Jesus came to be King, but not the type of King the Jews were anticipating. The Jews looked to Jesus as God's agent through whom the Jews would conquer all their enemies and enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. Their expectation reached its height when the excited Jews shouted Hosanna to Christ as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Jews expected Jesus to soon fulfill their nationalistic dreams. Jesus, however, came not to be a conquering king over earthly kingdoms, but He came to be the King of men's hearts. He came not to shatter the Romans, but He came to die on a cross in order that the Romans might be truly transformed, as well as all other Gentiles of the world. Christ came not to destroy, but to restore. He came not to hate, but to love. Christ came to destroy man's passion and pride and then set up his rule in man's heart.

Frankincense is the gift for a Priest. It was the work of the Old Testament Priests to act as representatives of God to man, and to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The Old Testament Priesthood was imperfect and unable to remove the guilt of sin. Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. In the Old Testament the common man was barred from personal access to God. It was the High Priest's responsibility to intercede in behalf of the people. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where it was held that God's presence dwelt. Jesus, the Perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. The veil of the Temple was rent in two, symbolizing man's personal access to God.

Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. In the opening account of Matthew's Gospel, the purpose of Christ's coming is defined. "She (Mary) will bear a son, and you must call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 Barclay) Our Scripture reading for today indicates that Jesus is both the Perfect High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice for sin. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death, His Saviourhood. To stop with the Babe of Bethlehem without considering the Christ of the Cross, is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation!

"Because of your threefold work as King, Priest, and Saviour, do your threefold work in my life. Rule my life, become my bridge-builder to God, forgive my sins!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God has given the gift of His all in the form of Christ, I will give Him the gift of my all in the form of my full surrender!

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Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23

Is Your God Too Small?

We have looked at three ways in which people react to Jesus. Some, like Herod, react with hostility to Christ and attempt to eliminate the truth. Others, like the Scribes, react with indifference to Christ and attempt to avoid Christ or His claims. Still others, like the Wise Men, react with adoring worship to Christ.

In His parable of the Four Soils, Jesus described four different responses to the Gospel Message.

The first soil is the wayside soil. (Matthew 13:3-4, Matthew 13:19) The wayside soil is hardened and unresponsive to the seed. The wayside soil represents the close-minded person who is unresponsive and indifferent to the Gospel appeal. Some are indifferent to Christianity because they do not realize the seriousness of its demands. They classify Christianity alongside politics, art, literature, music, science, etc., and consider it only with academic interest. They have a "take it or leave it" attitude. They classify Jesus alongside Plato, Aristotle, and other great teachers, even though they assert that Jesus is the greatest teacher in history. Many would be offended if it were seriously suggested to them that Jesus was God Incarnate. Many classify the Church alongside a business, a club, or a shop, thus denying its distinctive message and purpose. To them it is a place to enhance prestige or to fulfill social needs, the same functions that a club fulfills. Indifference is manifested in such expressions as this: "If I want my shoes repaired, I go to a shoe repairman. If I want a good meal, I go to a good restaurant. If I want religion, I go to some church".

Many are indifferent to Christianity because their conception of God is too small. The Modern-day shallow conceptions of God are effectively discussed in J.B. Phillips' excellent book 'Your God Is Too Small'. Notice what some of those misconceptions are. Some think of God as a policeman who is constantly seeking to punish. Some think of God as a harsh father, seeking to drain all pleasure out of life. Some think of God as the spine-less, mild, and pale Galilean who lacks courage, strength, vitality and joy. Some think of God as an escapism for the weak and fearful. Some think of God as the one who is contained within the four walls of a church, unable to meet life in an every day, practical way. Others are bitter towards God because of an unexplained tragedy in their lives. All such notions of God are far from the Truth, but holding such notions has caused many to become indifferent towards Christ and Christianity. Such people have shut minds because they have never had a mature conception of God, and because they have never really considered seriously the demands of Christianity.

O Christ, you are not one among many great teachers, to be admired. You are the son of the Living God, to be worshipped!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will shut my mind to immature caricatures of Christ and open my mind to the true character of Christ!

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Matthew 13:20-21, Hebrews 12:1-4

Shallow-Minded Response To Christianity

In His Parable of the Four Soils, Jesus said that some seeds fell on rocky soil. Jesus gave the interpretation: "As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has not root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away". (Matthew 13:20-21)

The stony ground represents the shallow mind. Such a mind does not think deeply and seriously about Christianity. There are so many who have never really considered the cost of being a Christian. Their lives are based on a shallow sentimentality. To such people, the beauty of a church is more important then the beauty of holiness. To such people, a tear-jerking sermon is more important than a thought-provoking sermon. The stony ground represents those whose Christianity is based upon emotionality rather than upon rationality. Jesus encouraged people who were potential followers to consider seriously what it means to be a Christian. He wanted none to begin the Christian walk and then stop midway. He wanted all to seriously consider the demands of discipleship. It was Jesus who said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me". (Matthew 16:24) He also said, "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple". (Luke 14:26)

There are many who begin the Christian way, but many do not last, simply because the Word has not found deep rootage in their hearts. One famous evangelist said, "We have learned that it takes about five percent effort to win a man to Christ, and ninety-five percent to keep him in Christ and growing into maturity in the Church". Someone insightfully said: "It is not easy to be a Christian; but it is easy to start". Why is there such a mortality rate in the Church among young Christians? One reason is that many have failed to realize that "Christianity is a case of all or nothing". Too many have stopped short of total surrender to God.

Another reason why many who begin the Christian life wither instead of grow, is that they have never learned the importance of patience and perseverance. It is easy to start, but difficult to finish. Says J .B. Phillips: "Long preparation, careful planning and slow growth would seem to be leading characteristics of spiritual life". (Your God Is Too Small, p. 59)

"Lord, help me to respond fully to Christ's call in order that I may enjoy Christ fully. Help me to feel deeply, think clearly, and commit decisively!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am willing to take the slow, but sure road to spiritual maturity!

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Colossians 3:1-17, Matthew 13:7,22

"Lost! Lost! Lost! — My Life Is Lost!"

The thorny soil represents the care-ridden mind. Said Jesus, "Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them". (Matthew 13:7) A garden lot may be weeded, plowed, and racked and thus appear to be very clean and productive soil. However, such soil may be filled with weed seeds which may spring up and throttle the life out of the good seed. Jesus gave the interpretation to this kind of soil. "As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful ." (Matthew 13:22)

It is too easy to become encumbered with the cares and concerns of making a living and in the meantime forget that we should be making a life. It is sometimes easy to become more concerned how far we made the dollar go than how far we go in living for Christ and others. In trying to maintain a material standard of living, we can easily lower our spiritual standard of service and sacrifice. Self can replace service as a standard of life. When that happens, life is literally robbed of its meaning.

"A young man, some years ago, lay dying. His mother believed him to be a Christian and was greatly surprised and distressed one day when, on passing his room, she heard him say, 'Lost! Lost! Lost!'. Immediately she opened the door and cried, 'My boy, is it possible you have lost hope in Christ, now that you are dying?'. 'No, Mother, no!' he replied, 'it is not that. I have hope beyond the grave, but I have lost my life! My life has been spent for self. I have lived for this world–and now–while dying, I have given myself to Christ–BUT MY LIFE IS LOST!'." (Shoe-Leather Faith, Merv Rosell, No. 331)

It is good for us occasionally to remind ourselves of these words: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation", (Hebrews 2:3 a) How easy it is for us to neglect the most important things in life. Why? Because the intangible and invisible values of life take time and effort to cultivate. A holy life does not come automatically. It takes discipline, time and effort. A Christian must take time to pray, attend church services (Hebrews 10:25), witness, and read the Bible. The competitive loyalties of worry, riches, and pleasures can destroy spiritual life! Ask yourself: "Am I operating my life by God's agenda or by my own agenda?", Do not allow the good seed of God's Word to become choked by the weeds of worry, riches or pleasure!

"God, do not allow my heart to become overcrowded! Do not allow the 'good' to destroy the 'best' in my life! Help me to 'take time to be holy'. The 'weeds' must go in my life!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Money and pleasure will be expressions of my faith, not substitutes for my faith!

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James 1:22-25, Matthew 13:8-9, Matthew 13:23

"I Like My Mother's Translation Best!"

Jesus said, "Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear". (Matthew 13:8-9)

There is some soil that is rich, deep and clean of weeds. In such soil, there is a bountiful harvest. Jesus said, "As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty". (Matthew 13:23)

The good soil represents the productive mind, the mind that listens carefully to Jesus' words, reasons them out, and considers their implications. Such a person is not quick and impulsive, but deeply contemplative and reflective.

He not only listens, but he understands. Jesus' words do not fall upon deaf ears, but Jesus' words sink deeply into his heart. He ponders them until he understands their true meaning and significance for daily living.

He not only hears, he not only understands, but he applies and practices Christ's words. He knows that ultimately Christianity is a life of action and practice, not simply theory and thought. He realizes that a man will in the last analysis be judged by his actions, not simply by his words. He knows this because he understands Christ's teachings: "There was a man with two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Go and work in my vineyard today, my son'. He said, 'All right sir'–but he never went near it. Then the father approached the second son with the same request. He said, 'I won't'. But afterward he changed his mind and went. Which of these two did what their father wanted? 'The second one', they replied". (Matthew 21:28-31 a)

"There is a story about four clergymen who were discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One liked the King James Version best because of its simple, beautiful English. Another liked the American Revised Version best because it is more literal and comes nearer to original Hebrew and Greek. Still another liked Moffatt's translation best because of its up-to-date vocabulary. The fourth minister was silent. When asked to express his opinion, he replied, 'I like my mother's translation best. She translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation I ever saw'." (Shoe-Leather Faith, No. 101, Rosell)

"God, help me to be a productive-minded person, one who listens carefully, understands thoroughly, and applies constantly the words of Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only! (James 1:22)

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Luke 14:15-24

Business Interests Before Kingdom Interests

What a discourtesy to be invited to a meal; first accept it, and then later reject the invitation on some flimsy excuse. God invites you to His banquet. Will you accept it or will you, like the persons in the parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) make flimsy excuses?

It is clear that the great Banquet stands for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a society of men who desire to do God's will more than they desire anything else. In mercy, God has extended His invitation to every person to be a member of His Kingdom–to come to the Banquet of God! But before a person can become a member of God's Kingdom, he must accept God's invitation, putting the priorities of the Kingdom before personal, selfish interests. Each of the excuses in the parable are the same types of excuses that are heard today.

The first man put business interests before kingdom interests. "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused." (Luke 14: 18) Many there are who put their work before their church, who are more interested in making a living than they are in making a life. The ring of the cash register is sweeter to some than the quietness of the sanctuary. The glitter of gold fascinates some more than the glory of God. Bargaining at the stock market is more important to some than bargaining for the souls of men. Missing a day's work is more disturbing to some than missing a worship service. Getting ahead of the Joneses is more important to some than staying in step with God. Investing in earth's real estate is more important to some than investing in heaven's incorruptible mansions. Earning a college degree is more important to some than earning a degree in faithfulness and service.

Energy and hard work are commendable, but if misdirected can result in rejection from the kingdom. Wealth is not to be despised, if it does not result in poverty of the soul. Position in business and work is honourable, if it does not crowd God from the throne room of one's heart. If a choice must be made between more money on earth or greater treasure in heaven, there is no question as to how one should choose. "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (1 John 2: 17)

"Help me to set my affections on things above, not things on earth. Help me to be wise in my investments, investing in eternity as well as in time, investing in people as well as in things, seeking God's glory primarily and my own interests secondarily."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who lives only for time will be frustrated in time and lost in eternity!

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Psalms 1:1-2, Psalms 16:1-11, 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Interests Of Novelty Before Interests Of Kingdom

We are looking at the flimsy excuses which people give for not entering the Kingdom of God. (Parable of the Great Supper, Luke 14:15-24)

"Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please have me excused'." (Luke 14:19) Sound familiar? "I have bought a new car, and I want to try it out. We are taking a trip on Sunday." "I have built a new cabin and plan to stay there over the weekends during the summer months. I'll worship God in nature." "I have bought a new camper and new fishing equipment. They say the fish are biting good. Might see you next Sunday. Depends on how the fish bite this weekend." "I have bought some new skis. The snow is just right for skiing. Got to take advantage of the snow. Besides, everyone is going to the slopes. Have me excused please." "A new TV series is starting on Wednesday night. Sorry I will miss Bible class. Have me excused." "Spring is in the air. Time to get the garden planted. Please have me excused this time."

Sad it is that the toys of sensual pleasure are more real to us than the delights of spiritual discoveries. The novelty of picking up a moon rock seems to thrill us more than picking up the Bible. Low attendance at a party is more disturbing to us than low attendance at worship services. Missing a favorite TV program disturbs us more than missing a good Bible class. The garden not growing disturbs us more than the church not growing. Learning a new recipe excites us more than learning a new verse of Scripture. Fishing for trout is more exciting than fishing for the souls of men. The excuse of the one who said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out", is the same type of excuse that many give today. The interests of novelty are more important than the interests of the Kingdom. Such people are fools, for they accept the second-best or worse, when they could have the very best! These people miss out on the delights of the Kingdom Banquet!

They miss out on the mental delights. The Christian life delights the mind! While the sinner is feeding his mind on the husks of the world, the Christian is exploring new frontiers of knowledge and wisdom!

They miss out on emotional delights. There is an aesthetic heightening in Christian conversion!

They miss out on spiritual delights. There is a great contrast between the ever-dawning hope of the Christian and the ever-increasing despair of the unbeliever. Poor indeed is the man who puts the interests of novelty before the interests of the Kingdom!

"God, you are the source of all joy! You give me all things richly to enjoy! The pleasures of sin last for only 'a season', but the "Joy of the Lord' is eternal!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will gladly accept God's Invitation to His Banqueting Table where heaven's delights are lavishly served!

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Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 14:25-27

Love Of Maid More Than Love Of Master

The third man in the parable (Luke 14:15-24) put good interests before the superior interests of the Kingdom. "Another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore, I cannot come'." (Luke 14:20) Loyalty to wife and family is commended, but if wife or husband or child becomes the object of one's deepest love, then a man is not worthy of God's Kingdom! Adam walked alone with God before Eve was created. A man must know his God intimately before he can enjoy his family completely. The love of the Master must come before the love of the Maid. Indeed, the love of the maid is enhanced by the love of the Master! "They live best together who live with God; they serve each other best who also serve their fellow men; the atmosphere of a home is most lovely when those who dwell within it never forget that they are also members of the great family and household of God!" (Daily Study Bible, Luke, p. 201, William Barclay) Is your home open to fellow believers (Psalms 133:1)? Is your home open to strangers (Hebrews 13:1-2)? Are you willing to present your children to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)?

"Two men stood on a dock in New York City. They were watching an ocean liner as it left for far-away shores. One of "the men said to the other: 'That ocean liner is carrying a gift from me to the mission fields. It has on it thousands of dollars worth of supplies for a mission hospital'. The other man replied: 'That ocean liner also carries a gift from me to the mission fields. It has on it my only daughter. She is going as a missionary. I have given her to the Lord's service'. Tears came to the eyes of the first man. He said: 'My friend, you have given far more to the Lord than I have. I have given money. You have given your only daughter!'." (This Is the Will of God, by Barker, p. 57-58)

The story is told of a Sunday School class of boys who planned to have a surprise birthday for a small boy who was one of the members of the class. When the class arrived at the home, the boy's mother called in vain for her son. The class finally went ahead with the party without the guest of honor. After the party was over and the class had left, the boy came home and the mother finally got the truth out of her son. The boy had heard the mother call him, but thinking that he was being called to do some work, he ran to the barn where he hid all afternoon!

Don't run and hide from God when He calls you! Accept the invitation to the Kingdom Banquet!

"God, I have too often thought you were calling me to an unpleasant task, and I have gone to the 'barn' to hide. I have hid myself in my material pursuits, in my leisure and novelty and even in something so good as my family! Forgive me! I accept your invitation to the Kingdom Banquet!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow the 'good' to destroy the 'best' in my life!

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Discussion Questions On 'How Do You React To Christ?'

  1. What three basic types of responses to Christ are represented by Herod the King, the Chief Priests and Scribes, and the Wise men? Are these three types of responses typical of human responses to Christ today, and if so, can you give examples from your personal observations of these three different kinds of responses?

  2. Illustrate from your personal experience or from your observation of other people, how it is possible to become so engrossed in one's own affairs that Jesus Christ means little or nothing to him.

  3. List various reasons why persons today are indifferent to Christ and the Gospel. Which is the worse kind of reaction to give to Christ, a reaction of passive indifference or a reaction of active hostility? Why?

  4. What answer would you give to a person who says that he doesn't believe in Christianity because of the superficial. and hypocritical elements which he observes within the organized Church?

  5. What is meant by the statement: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". What is one of Satan's most effective weapons in fighting against mankind?

  6. What is Christ's reaction to a person who seeks to be neutral in his reaction to Christ?

  7. What qualities exemplified in the lives of the Wise Men must be manifest in our lives today if we are to find and to please God?

  8. List the three gifts which the Wise Men presented to Jesus, and tell what each of these three gifts symbolized in terms of the threefold work of Christ.

  9. In His parable of the Four Soils (Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23), Jesus describes four different responses which people manifest toward Him. List those four responses (as symbolized by the Soils), and give an illustration from your own personal life or from your observations of other people of each of these four different responses.

  10. If indifference (as symbolized by the wayside soil) is one of the basic negative responses to Christ, give reasons why some people react indifferently to Christ?

  11. List various manifestations of the shallow-minded response to Christ (as symbolized by the Rocky Soil).

  12. What are some of the 'weeds' or 'thorns I that can easily choke out the believer's spiritual life (as taught in Jesus' parable of the Four Soils)?

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    Discussion Questions On 'How Do You React To Christ?'(continued)

  13. How can the 'productive mind' (as symbolized by the good soil) be described? Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "A man will, in the last analysis, be judged by his actions, not simply by his words". (Note James 2:12-20)

  14. List the three excuses given by the three men in Jesus' parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), and share examples of people whom you have known who have used one or more of these same excuses for not following Christ.

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What is Man’s Problem?

What Is Man’s Problem?

Chapter Two

What Is Man's Problem?
New Labels For Old Sins 16 "God Is Too Big To Be Concerened In Me" 23
Man's Attempts To Explain Away Sin 17 "I Am Not Good Enough To Come To God" 24
The World's Antidotes For Guilt 18 "I Feel Uneasy When I Think About God!" 25
Sin Pays Terrible Wages! 19 "I Have Tried To Live For God Before, But I Have Failed" 26
Restless Until We Rest In God! 20 "If I Get Converted, I Can't Keep It Up" 27
Condemed Until We Make Peace With God! 21 Discussion Questions 28
Is Your Name In God's Book Of Life? 22 Discussion Questions (continued) 29

1 John 1:5-10

New Labels For Old Sins

What one thinks of man will largely determine one's total outlook on life and one's conception of God. For several decades there has been a prevailing belief in man's natural goodness with a subsequent denial of sin or at least a 'watered down' idea of sin. As a result of this belief in man's innate goodness and a denial of sin's seriousness, modern man's conception of God has become greatly distorted. The idea of the wrath of God has become repugnant, and a sentimental preoccupation with God's love has become popular. What has been the result of sentimentalizing God's love and denying God's wrath? A deterioration in morals. An increase in lawlessness. An outcropping of parental permissiveness in discipline. God's moral Law has been replaced with man's own standards. God has been made into the image of man!

The Biblical conception of man is seen in terms of a creature made in God's image, but a creature whose God-imprinted image has been marred by sin. The Bible says that man "is dead in trespasses and in sins". (Ephesians 2:1)

To have an appreciation for God's salvation, we must have an understanding of man's serious plight in sin. Sin produces guilt, alienation, condemnation, and eventually eternal death. During the next few days, we must look at these four consequences of sin.

Sin produces guilt. Man in the beginning overstepped his God-imposed limitation and disobeyed His Creator. Man failed to accept his created role and instead attempted to play the part of God! Attempting to usurp God's rightful place of authority, man fell into sin and became a rebel. The result of man's stubborn independence is sin, and one manifestation of sin is guilt and shame. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Genesis 3:7)

Sin is not a popular conception. Modern-man tries in vain to explain away 'Sin'. Dr. Henry Coffin once said, "Current psychology adds to these moral alibis. Men and women have themselves analyzed, and find emancipation in banishing the ugly names which vigorous religion attached to sins, where these are re-christened with labels with no suggestion of guilt".

Old sins may have new 'labels', but sin is still sin!

"God, give me the gift of honesty! Deliver me from self-deception! I am a great sinner in need of a great Saviour! I do not conceal, but confess my load of guilt! Be merciful to me, a sinner!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I deny my sins, I am deceived; if I confess my sins, I am delivered. I choose deliverance!

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Jude 1:1-16, Colossians 2:8

Man’s Attempts To Explain Away Sin

There are several humanistic philosophies that attempt to explain away the seriousness of sin. One philosophy of sin is that it is "a principle of necessary antagonism which seems to be a part of life. Sin can be regarded as dumb-bells which have to be lifted in order to develop the intellectual and moral muscles". (The Plight of Man and The Power of God, Lloyd-Jones, p. 43) Another view of sin considers sin to be the opposition of "our lingering animal instincts against the demands made by our dawning and ever increasing moral consciousness". (Ibid, p. 44) Some say that sin is not positive evil, but merely a failure of fully developing the best in us. Some say that the failure with man lies in his lack of knowledge and education and training or bad environment. Better housing, increased education and clearance of slums will cure man's problems.

All of these views of sin obviously deny the existence of real guilt in man. In fact, those who hold these views consider themselves as liberated from their forefather's bondage, morbidity, introspection, and despair which were caused from previously holding a too serious view of sin. Those who deny that guilt is a reality, are those who say that so-called sin "is just that stage of immaturity where the child has not yet become the man or where the animal has not yet become entirely human". (Ibid, p. 45)

The old line of Freudian psychology explains away guilt through its "impulse theory". The "impulse theory" is explained (by Mowrer) like this: "As a child, the individual who is destined to be neurotic as an adult, has supposedly been so harshly and unreasonably treated by his parents that he has no alternative but to repress certain impulses, certain instincts (especially the sex impulse and the hostility impulse); and it is this act of repression or dissociation which lays the basis, according to Freud, for that special misery called neurosis". (The Crisis In Psychiatry and Religion, p. 160)

Continues Mowrer, "The alternative view here proposed is that anxiety comes, not from acts which the individual would commit but dares not, but from acts which he has committed but wishes that he had not. It is, in other words, a 'guilt theory' of anxiety rather than an 'impulse theory'". (Ibid, p. 26) "The real evil in mental disorder… is the fear and guilt which result from the presence in one's life of that which one is afraid to tell." (Ibid, p. 64)

“God, help me not to explain away the presence of real guilt in my life, incurred through my willful transgression against your known laws. Help me to confess all in order to be healed of all!”

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To think lightly of sin is to reap heavily the judgement of God!

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Psalms 32:1-5

The World's Antidotes For Guilt

Man still attempts to conceal his guilt, and thus hide his spiritual nakedness from God and from his fellowman. Man seeks to escape personal moral responsibility, conveniently choosing some scapegoat in the form of society, heredity, friends or background. As Lloyd-Jones says, "The responsibility is taken from man and is placed in his economic conditions or his home life or early upbringing, and indeed at times in his physical make-up. The failure is to be pitied only. He is not to be blamed, he is not to be punished. We must speak nicely to him and encourage him to be nice and decent". (The Plight of Man and The Power of God, p. 45)

The world offers its antidotes for guilt. "In a city were two signs side by side. 'Go to Church. Find strength for your life'. Next to it was: 'Where there's life there's Budweiser'. These two signs represent two approaches to life–one is from the inward to the outward; the other is the outward to the inward. One depends on inward salvation from guilt and fear and conflict; the other depends on outward stimulants–pick-me-ups that let you down". (Conversion, E.S. Jones, p. 22)

The result of concealed guilt oftentimes is physical or mental disturbance. To suppress guilt is only to drive it 'into the subconscious mind which only compounds the problem. Concealed guilt can cause one to live a life of unreality and fantasy. Concealed guilt often causes one to minimize serious problems, when these problems should be squarely faced and solved.

Guilt may be hid from others, but it is never hid from God. There is an 'All-Seeing Eye' watching us at all times. The Bible says, "Be sure your sin will find you out". (Numbers 32:23 b) "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?, saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth?, saith the Lord". (Jeremiah 23:24)

Man attempts to resolve his own guilt through self-atonement, but his attempt only complicates the problems. Some feel they can out-balance their guilt by strenuously performing good deeds. Good deeds are important, but they will never resolve guilt or appease the guilty conscience. Guilt must be resolved in some other way than through self-effort.

There is only one way to deal adequately with guilt. "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord '– and you forgave the guilt of my sin." (Psalm 32:5 NIV)

"Lord, when I keep silent about my sins, my bones 'roar' within me. When I confess aloud my sins, my heart is at peace within me. Teach me to weep now that I may rejoice then."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will live responsibly by acknowledging my personal moral responsibility.

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Luke 15:11-24, Romans 3:23

Sin Pays Terrible Wages!

We have observed that sin produces guilt. Sin also results in alienation. Man was made to be filled with God, but sin empties one of God's inner presence, and leaves one void, estranged, and lonely. The Scriptures often talk about man being lost. The ultimate consequence of sin is hell, and hell is separation from everything that is good.

Sin drives one away from God. the very one for whom man is made and the only One who can really help man. "And they (the human couple) heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8)

Sin always has a way of alienating. Sin alienated the prodigal son from his father. Sin alienated the woman of Samaria from society. Sin alienated the thief from his family and friends, and nailed him to a cross. Sin alienates the spirit of man from the Spirit of God. Alienation from God destroys joy and peace and causes emptiness, misery and loneliness.

Merv Rosell vividly describes what sin did to one young girl. "It was the right side of midnight in a Midwest city where I was preaching. There she was on her knees hard against the altar of a great warm church. Beside her. Christian mothers knelt as though the sobbing girl were their own child in trouble. Look at her! How quickly the commerce of sin and Satan can write "counterfeit", "cheap" and "sham" across the beautiful face of a willful child. Lips that God had once penciled with the clean brush of purity… now carelessly coated with the unhappy admission of loss. Fingers now yellow with nicotine and clutching for something steadfast. Clothing studded with cheap jewelry (a cry for beauty when the precious pearl of chastity is gone), yesterday's garments of laughing abandon. Hair once brushed smoothly over unburdened childish shoulders, now in bleached disarray, faded, sheenless. A face lifted with tired eyes hungry for escape… for truth… for God's love… for spiritual answers and hope! Out of that tight throat one heart-rendering whisper. 'Oh God. I'm sick of it all. I've seen the seamy side of life. now is there any peace and forgiveness for me and my father-less child?'. This is one picture of the results of sin that I shall never forget. Thank God we had factual, actual answers for that life. There is no impossible case with God. Today that sin-scarred heart can sing of His complete forgiveness as. she stands in the sun of HIS salvation." (Shoe-Leather Faith, Merv Rosell. No. 329)

"O God. there seems to be no limit on how far sin can go! But where sin abounds. grace super abounds! Thank you! Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is no stain of sin so deep. but what the blood of Jesus goes deeper yet!

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Ephesians 2:11-22

Restless Until We Rest In God!

Notes E. Stanley Jones, "In India a man spoke to Rotary for an hour on 'Nothing'… So the empty take refuge in emptiness, but you cannot change emptiness into fullness by capitalizing it. Emptiness has to be changed into fullness by conversion. An Indian Christian said of a certain man 'He is suffering from nothingness'. Many do". (Conversion, p. 20)

Our age can be described as an age of despair and futility. "Who then speaks most powerfully to and for the men of this generation? Those poets, artists and philosophers who preach despair and sing of bleak encounter with silence and futility and nonbeing." (Ibid, p. 23)

To seek meaning in riches is to be sadly disillusioned. In 1923, nine of the world's most successful financiers met together for a very important meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Twenty-five years after this meeting, things had greatly changed for these nine wealthy men. Out of those nine wealthy men three died of a suicide, one was finally released from prison, one was pardoned from prison so he could die at home, one died abroad–insolvent, one died a fugitive from justice and penniless, one died bankrupt and lived on borrowed money, and one became insane.

There is a great difference in making a living and making a life! It is a tragic thing indeed to be a man without a country, but it is far more tragic to be a man without a faith! A Japanese governor once introduced the great missionary, E. Stanley Jones in this way: "I'm a man here tonight without a faith. I wish I had a faith. I envy those of you who do have a faith. But I'm a lost sheep. I've come here tonight to gain a faith if possible through the speaker. And I hope you will gain one too". This man was a trustee of a Buddhist Temple! (Conversion, p. 18)

Billy Graham shares the following: "When the governor of one of our states entertained us in his home, he asked to talk to me privately. We went into a back room, where he locked the door. I could see that he was struggling with his emotions, but finally said to me 'I am at the end of my rope. I need God. Can you tell me how to find God?'''. (World Aflame, p. 147)

Sin alienates, but God's grace reconciles! It was Augustine who said: "Thou madest us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee". We are made by God and for God and we will be restless until we know God! (1 Corinthians 8:6)

"God, can a stranger become a friend? Can a 'nobody' become a 'somebody'? Can the lost be found? Can the disillusioned find meaning and purpose? Can the sinner become a saint? If the answer is 'Yes', then I am ready for a transformation!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christ has broken down the dividing walls of hostility. I am coming Home–Home to God! (Ephesians 2:14)

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John 3:16-21, John 3:31-36

Condemed Until We Make Peace With God!

Sin causes one to live under the accusing finger of God. One of the results of sin is condemnation. Man was made to be a friend with God, but sin makes God into an enemy to be avoided. The death penalty hangs over man. "The wages of sin is death"–death to the true values to life and eternal separation from God.

The condemned human couple was driven from the Garden. "So He drove out the man; and He placed at the East of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life." (Genesis 3:24)

Nature condemns man when man tries to ignore or resist nature's laws. For instance, nature condemns the man who jumps out of the tenth story window of a building or when one takes nicotine into his lungs. Also, the spiritual laws of nature condemn a man when he lives wild and loose morally. Even the body bears in it the marks of sin and is evidence of a violation against the physical and spiritual laws of nature.

Conscience condemns man when the moral laws of God are violated. Notes Jones: "That future world is impinging on us still and will always impinge upon us, but the bite, the sting, the pressure for conversion comes from the hell of having to live with a self you don't like and can't respect, a self which you hate, but with which you must daily and hourly live". (Conversion, p. 50)

Even breaking one of the Ten Commandments brings guilt. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it." (James 2:10 RSV) Wrote Paul about the Law, "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God". (Romans 3:19 RSV) The Law shows to sinful man "the exceeding sinfulness of sin", and condemns each man before God. He who does not presently believe in the Son of God stands condemned before God. (John 3:18)

The righteous become a kind of condemnation to those who are indulging in sin. William Barclay notes in one of his books that Alcibiades, the spoilt young man of genius of Athens, was a companion of Socrates, but every now and again he used to break out: "Socrates I hate you, for every time I meet you, you let me see what I am". Some feel uneasy around God or God's children because such people realize that they are in the presence of holiness. Because they have rejected the Light, they feel the heat of God's wrath upon them.

"O God, my sin condemns me. I don't deserve the least of your favor. But you came to seek and to save the lost! You came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance! Save me, even me!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus came into the world, not to condemn me, but to save me! (John 3:17)

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2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Revelation 20:11-15

Is Your Name In God's Book Of Life?

We have noted that sin produces guilt, alienation, and condemnation. Sin ultimately produces eternal death. Eternal death is the punishment for unrepentant, rebellious sinners–those "who have refused to submit to His plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever shut away from the face of the Lord, never to see the glory of His power". (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

Jesus said, "Never be afraid of those who can kill the body, but are powerless to kill the soul! Far better to stand in awe of the one who has the power to destroy body and soul in the fires of destruction". (Matthew 10:28 Phillips)

Wrote John, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works… And whosever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire". (Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15)

In hell, memory is retained. Hell is stripped of all pleasant things such as beauty, family, and children. The Bible speaks of the fire of hell. Hell is described as a place of unexpected punishment, for there will be men there who were outwardly moral, cultured and even church-going, but who were unconverted.

Sir Thomas Scott, the former Lord Chancellor of England, said on his deathbed: "Until this moment I thought there was neither God nor hell. Now I know and feel there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgement of the Almighty".

Said Voltaire in his dying words, "I am abandoned by God and man! I shall go to hell! O Christ! O Jesus Christ!". (Shoe-Leather Faith, Rosell, No. 141)

Said Thomas Paine in his dying words, "I would give worlds, if I had them, if the 'Age of Reason' had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone!". (Ibid, No. 141)

Said Francis Newport in his dying words, "Oh, that I was to lie upon the fire that never is quenched a thousand years, to purchase the favor of God and be reunited to Him again! But it is a fruitless wish. Millions of millions of years will bring me no nearer to the end of torments than one poor hour. Oh, eternity, eternity! for ever and for ever! Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!". (Ibid, No. 141)

"God, I know that hell was not prepared for me, but was prepared for the devil and his demons. Heaven is being prepared for me! Please prepare me for heaven!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is not God's will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

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Psalms 8:1-9

"God Is Too Big To Be Concerened In Me"

Man is made by God and for God, thus man's greatest longing is to know God. But how can a person come to know God? A very important step in coming to know God is to face and to overcome the barriers that keep one from knowing God. We must spend some time describing the barriers that keep people–people like you and me–from really finding God.

There are many who say "God is too big to be concerned in me". This is a common barrier. William Barclay notes that in one of H.G. Wells' books there is the story of a man of affairs whose mind was so tensed and strained that he was in serious danger of a complete nervous and mental breakdown. His doctor told him that the only thing that could save him was to find the peace that fellowship with God can give. 'What!', he said, 'to think of that, up there, having fellowship with me! I would as soon think of cooling my throat with the milky way or shaking hands with the stars!'. Notes Barclay, "God, to him was the completely unfindable". (Daily Study Bible, Romans, p. 71, William Barclay)

In our human minds we sometimes become staggered at size and preoccupied with quantity. However, it is not mere size or quantity that is most important to God. It is quality that is of utmost concern to God. That means that Man, which is the highest quality in God's Creation, is most important to God.

Think of a simple illustration of this point. When a wife is watching her husband sail away to a distant land on a huge ship, is she most moved by the massive ship or is she most moved by the small figure which her eyes are fixed on as the ship sails out into the open sea? Of course, it is the small figure, for that figure is her husband! The quality of her husband is infinitely more valuable to her than the large quantity of the ship that her husband is traveling on.

We tend to be staggered by the vastness of the Universe. If we could travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second!), it would take approximately 100,000 years to travel the length of our Milky Way Galaxy! However, it is breath-taking to realize that the Milky Way Galaxy is only one out of billions of galaxies in the Universe! Considering the vastness of the Universe, it is no wonder that David asked, "What is man that thou are mindful of him?". Yet the marvelous thing is this: The Creator of the Universe if mindful of you and me, so much so that the Creator visited and redeemed the world!

"What a staggering thought, that the Creator of the universe became a Man, in order that man might become a son of God! And to think that God loves me as if I were the only one in the whole world to love! I give my little heart to God's Big Heart of Love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To know that God is great enough to rule the Universe and yet loving enough to become a Man, will keep me from saying, "God is too big to be concerned in me".

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Isaiah 1:18-20, John 1:29

"I Am Not Good Enough To Come To God"

There are many who feel that they are not worthy to come to God because of some failure, habit or sin. They feel that they must first give up something or break some habit or quit living such a wicked life before they come to God for help. However, this over-emphasis upon sinfulness has kept many from finding the very thing they need–peace and forgiveness.

Before my conversion, I thought I had to become a better person before God could accept me, but the longer I waited to come to God, the worse I became!

Notes J.B. Phillips, "The more you weep and wail over your sins, and possibly brood over them, the bigger they loom in your mind and the more hold they are likely to have over you. Suppose we take all that for granted and concentrate instead on the boundless resources which become available to us through Christ. To my mind Christians pay far too much attention to the fact of sin and far too little to the possibilities of becoming and living like sons of God, which is what the New Testament promises. When Paul spoke of being 'strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man', for example, I am perfectly certain he wasn't spinning words; he was speaking of actual and realisable experience. In dozens and dozens of places he writes of the shining possibilities of inward transformation by the Spirit of the living God. Surely it is far better to think of these and believe that they are capable of becoming true in our own lives, than to spend time mopping over our unworthiness and sinfulness. This is where the battle really lies, to believe that God is thoroughly capable of transforming and empowering us. Appearances, past failures, feelings, all sorts of things may try to deprive us of really believing in the resources of God. And this is where we must fight; and indeed as far as I can recollect the only battle we are ever told to wage in the New Testament is to fight the good fight of faith. We only tarnish the shining promises of God if we persist in dwelling on our own sinfulness". (Good News, p. 9-10)

An evangelist was speaking personally to a young man one night after the evening evangelistic meeting. This was the conversation. "This isn't your first visit to these meetings", said the evangelist. "No sir, I've been three times," "Are you a Christian?" With a look of despair on his face, he replied, "No, I'm afraid I'm far too wicked to be a Christian", "Are you ever ill, Jack?" the evangelist asked. "I have been." "You don't go to a doctor, I suppose." "Of course I do." "But don't you feel too bad? Don't you wait until you feel a bit better?" "Of course not, I go to him to get cured… Oh, I see what you're getting at."

"Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Instead of being so overwhelmed by my nagging habits and sinful practices, I will get my eyes fixed upon Christ who can transform and empower me to live a new way of life!

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John 16:7-11, Acts 2:36-41

"I Feel Uneasy When I Think About God!"

Some don't want to think about God because this contemplation causes a sense of uneasiness. J.B. Phillips says, "I think, if the truth were told, a great many people would have to admit that they are very far from satisfied with themselves. They may still have their ideals, but it is uncomfortably true that they don't live up to them. They may know what they ought to be, but that is very different from what they actually are. Many people keep themselves very busy not only to gain money and prestige , but simply to avoid facing this unpleasant contrast. It's far easier to reflect comfortably upon all our busyness or the number of our possessions than to think honestly about what sort of people we are". (Good News, p. 3-4)

Some people can't bear to be alone, for they have too much time to think about God!

Notes E. Stanley Jones about conversion: "There is mental conflict in all conversions. Conversion demands conversion upwards. The 'ought-to-be' stands over against the 'is' and demands change. That is disturbing, for it means an alteration of life and its plans and purposes. That means emotional disturbance. It is called 'conviction'". (Conversion, p. 197)

Too many people stop at conviction without going on to conversion. Dr. Jones notes that it is at the point of conviction that there is sometimes a 'hang-up'. He gives a tragic example of this. "In a revival in Princeton University, Aaron Burr came under conviction. He went to the president who advised him to wait till the excitement died down. This was fatal advice. Burr did. Torn by this unresolved conviction, he said to Christ, 'If you let me alone, I'll let you alone'. Aaron Burr came within one vote of the presidency of the United States, but he died in disgrace, unwept and unsung. The citizens of his home town would allow no tombstone to be put up in the graveyard, but someone stole in at night and put up a single marker, 'Aaron Burr'. That was all. As I stood there beside that marker I said to myself, 'If he had only passed from conviction to conversion, what might he not have been?'". (Ibid, p. 197)

One's sense of uneasiness which he feels when he thinks of God should not be a barrier in coming to God. It is the Holy Spirit that produces this sense of need. Conviction should not be spurned but welcomed, for only when one knows that he is a great sinner is he ready to receive a great Saviour. For many weeks John Bunyan heard condemning voices before he was converted. Augustine also experienced deep conviction for weeks before he found peace. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him". (John 6:44)

"O Christ, help me to see that conviction of sin is a prelude to conversion to God, that conviction is like spiritual fever which is meant to drive me to the Great Physician for healing."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My uneasiness which I feel when I think about God, is a sign that the Holy Spirit is drawing my soul to Christ. I will allow conviction to lead me to conversion!

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Jeremiah 3:6-25

"I Have Tried To Live For God Before, But I Have Failed"

Some feel that they have sinned away their day of grace and are thus incapable of coming back to God. Nothing could be further from the truth! The very fact that the backslider desires to know God again is evidence that God's Spirit is dealing with the person and desires the backslider to come to God for restoration.

Said God to backslidden Israel through His prophet Jeremiah, "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God… Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings". (Jeremiah 3:12-13 a, Jeremiah 3:22 a) God promised the same to Israel through His servant Hosea: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him". (Hosea 14:4)

To the lukewarm Laodicean Church, Jesus spoke words of hope: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me'". (Revelation 3:20) The next verse tells us that God's forgiveness to the backslider is so great that the backslider will be re-established in a position of confidence and power: "He who conquers I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne". (verse 21)

Perhaps the greatest example of all of how a backslider can come to know God again and live a life of great power, is the Apostle Peter. "The outstanding apostle Peter, was himself a backslider and a backslider of no ordinary type–he cursed and swore (thereby showing that the subconscious had not been converted) that he never knew Jesus. Did Jesus clamp down on him and say, 'Your day of grace is over'? No, He looked on him with such tender compassion that Peter went out and wept bitterly. Jesus believed in Peter so much that He said: 'When you are converted, strengthen your brethren'. He believed in Peter so much even again, and not only converted again, but would be able in spite of his fall to strengthen his brethren–his brethren who did not fall the way he fell. That was a very redemptive faith in Peter. When Jesus arose from the dead the angel said to the women: 'Go tell his disciples and Peter'–tell Peter especially, a special word of love to a heartbroken man. Peter fulfilled the faith that Jesus had in him–he did strengthen his brethren and the world. An ex-backslider pushed humanity toward Christ with a stronger push than any man who ever lived, save one–Paul". (Conversion, p. 201)

"O God, heal me of my backslidings. I turn from the error of my ways. Save me from death, and cover the multitude of my sins ." (James 5:19-20)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A broken bone that is healed is stronger than the unbroken places. The point where film is spliced is stronger than the strength of regular film. Where I am weakest, God will make me strongest!

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John 10:22-30

"If I Get Converted, I Can't Keep It Up"

Many feel that the standards of Christianity are too high and that they are too weak to attempt to become a Christian. Such people must first realize that Christianity does not involve climbing up the ladder to God, but that Christianity involves God coming down the ladder to man! God takes the initiative. God came to save, to transform, and to empower. Christianity is not a demand but it is an offer. Christ offers new life and new power to realize the standard of Christ-like living. Christianity is not a matter of dogged determination but a matter of surrender, not a matter of trying but a matter of trusting. 'Let go and let God hold you'– that is the secret to victorious living! Christianity is not hard, it is impossible–if you try to live the Christian life by your own strength. But when you surrender and allow Christ to live His life through you, then Christ's supernatural life becomes a glorious reality in you!

Four boys from poor homes were attending a summer boys' camp and they were the only ones in the entire camp who had failed to give their lives to Christ during the camp. When the camp evangelist asked the boys why they had not received Christ, the boys were silent for a few moments, and then one of the boys spoke, "You don't know what it's like down our street, and the sort of lives we have to live. We've talked it over, sir, and we've decided that if we got converted like the others we couldn't keep it up. So you see, sir, we've decided not to be converted". The evangelist said he was completely nonplussed for a minute, but then he stretched out his hand and said to the leader, "Hold on to my hand, will you?". He put his fingers round the evangelist's wrist. "Now, don't let go." "No sir." "Promise you'll hold tight?" The boy nodded and gripped harder. The other boys watched with interest, wondering what would happen. "Now are you ready?" asked the evangelist. "Yes sir." The evangelist gave a sudden jerk and wrenched free. "Now, try again", said the evangelist. "You put out your hand this time." The boy did, and the evangelist put his big hand round the boy's all-too-skinny wrist and said to the boy, "Now, you get free". The boy pulled and twisted, losing his breath and going red in the face with the effort. He could not come unstuck. "But why not?" the evangelist asked, "we came apart the first time, now we're stuck; why is that?". "That's easy, sir; first time I had hold on you, now you've got hold on me." Said the evangelist, "That's just how it is if you come to Jesus. He is strong and He has you in His hand and says, 'None shall pluck them from my hand'". The four boys all accepted Jesus as Saviour and Lord before they went home from that boys' camp, for they knew that Jesus was able to keep them, even on the street where they lived! (Story from "His Touch Has Still Its Ancient Power, Tom Rees, p. 77-78)

"When a little child is walking across a rocky riverbed with his father and the child loses his grip on the father's hand when he slips on the rocks, does the father lose his grip on the child's hand? Never! So, you, Heavenly Father, will hold onto me when I stumble and lose my grip!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I follow Christ, He has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)

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Discussion Questions On 'What Is Man's Problem?'

  1. Why has modern-day man sentimentalized God's love and denied God's wrath, and what have been some of the negative consequences of this attitude?

  2. List four consequences in the life of the person who deliberately and habitually sins against God.

  3. In an attempt to explain away the reality of Sin, what have some modern-day persons done?

  4. List several of the humanistic philosophies that modern-day men have taken refuge in; in an attempt to explain away the seriousness of sin?

  5. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christianity teaches that there are both real and false guilts, and that real guilt comes, not from acts which the individual would commit, but dares not (Freudian view), but from acts which he has committed, but wishes that he had not".

  6. Note ways in which people today seek to conceal their real guilts, and list some of the negative consequences of concealing guilt.

  7. What Scriptures can be cited to show that one's sins cannot be hid from God?

  8. How do some guilt-ridden persons seek inadequately to deal with their guilt? What is the only adequate way to deal with real guilt?

  9. Share examples from your own life or from your personal observations of others of how sin has resulted in alienation.

  10. What evidence can you cite that shows that our present-day age is largely an age of despair and futility?

  11. In what ways does Nature, and the Conscience, and the Ten Commandments, and the lives of righteous people all serve as standards by which ungodly men feel spiritually condemned?

  12. List several Scriptural references that speak of the ultimate punishment of unrepentant persons in eternal hell. How can the place called "Hell" be described?

  13. What response would you give to the person who has failed to know God because he feels that God is too big to be personally concerned in him?

  14. What response would you give to the person who has failed to come to God because he feels that he is too sinful to come to God?

  15. What is meant by religious 'conviction', and why do some people not allow conviction of sin to lead them to conversion to God?

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    Discussion Questions 'What Is Man's Problem?' (continued)

  16. What Scriptural comfort can you offer to a backslidden person who feels that his sins are too great for God to forgive? How did Jesus treat Peter when the latter failed so miserably, and how can the example of Peter serve to bring encouragement to people whose moral failures have been very great?

  17. What response would you give to a person who fails to become a follower of Christ because he feels that he is too weak to live the Christian life?

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How Do You Become a Christian?

How Do You Become A Christian?

Chapter Three

How Do You Become A Christian?
Steps In Coming To Know God 30 Half Conversion Or Whole Conversion? 38
Making The Decision To Follow Christ! 31 Importance Of Repentance 39
Implementing The Decision To Follow Christ 32 Relationship Between Faith And Repentance 40
How To Become a Christian 33 What Is Saving Faith? 41
"Collision With God" 34 How Is Man Saved? 42
A Moral U-Turn 35 Discussion Questions 43
What Is Repentance? 36 Discussion Questions (continued) 44
Obstacles To Repentance 37    

Joel 3:14-16, Jeremiah 29:11-13

Steps In Coming To Know God

Notes E. Stanley Jones, "Setting up a saving relationship with Christ is not essentially different from setting up a warm human friendship. (1) The stage of drawing near. This is the tentative, explorative stage. You are not certain whether you want to give yourself inwardly to the other person. It is the stage of yes and no. (2) The stage when there is the inward decision to give yourself to the other person–the stage of decision. (3) You implement the decision–you actually make the inward surrender to the other person. (4) Having given to the other person, you are now free to take from that person. There is an exchange of selves–you belong to that person, and that person belongs to you. You are one.

There is the stage of drawing near. This is the explorative stage. This is the stage in which one has not decided to say Yes or No to God. Up until this time the person has been relatively unconcerned about God and the Church, but suddenly (or sometimes gradually) a new interest in religion and God is awakened within the person. He finds himself in the 'valley of decision'. It is not uncommon for a sense of loneliness or guilt to grip a person at this time.

A university student once called me and said something like this: "I am such-and-such. I was wondering what your church was like. I used to go to church, but I sort of drifted away. I guess I would call myself a cynic. I can't believe in the literalism of the Bible. For instance, the Tower of Babel. To think that all the languages of the world came from that! I just wondered if your church permits debate". In the very tone of this student' s voice was the accent of questing and searching and hunger for Reality, and yet the student wanted to give the impression of courage, sophistication, and intellectualism.

Another came frightenly into my office to blurt out his guilt. He confessed that he was afraid he was responsible for causing his girl friend to become pregnant. Because he came from a good background he could not bear to face his parents. I turned to the Bible and prayed with him, and he found real peace with God. He later went to a Christian college, after marrying the girl. Today, he and his wife are happily married with several children.

A short time after my father's mother passed away, my father's brother and I were digging a pipe line. My uncle is a good-hearted man, but without religious knowledge or Christian experience. 'Out of the blue' he asked me, "What… what is the soul, and where does it go after a person dies?". My uncle was in this first stage–the stage of exploration and searching.

"You have promised that if I draw near to You, You will draw near to me. May my search end in glorious discovery!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God has been seeking me long before I began seeking Him. If I take one step toward Him, He will take a thousand steps toward me!

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Joshua 24:11-15

Making The Decision To Follow Christ!

A woman called a pastor and said without preliminaries: "I'm a lost person and I've run smack into God. I want to talk with you". (E.S. Jones, Conversion, p. 207)

Once I spoke at 1ength to a man who had shown considerable interest in spiritual matters. After I talked to him, I asked him if he understood. He replied, "I understand quite well". Then I asked him if he was ready to make his decision to follow Christ. He replied, "I want to give it some more thought". He was still at the first stage–the stage of drawing near. He was still counting the cost of following Christ. He was still weighing the various factors in the moral scales of decision. He wanted time to consider whether or not it was worth his effort and sacrifice to serve Christ.

The questions people ask today reveal their spiritual search: "What is man?" "What is the purpose of  life?" "Where did I come from and where am I going?" "Is there a God, and if so, how can a person know God?" "What happens when I die?" "What is truth?"

Hopefully, these Questions will lead many to pass from the first stage of drawing near to the second stage of decision-making. The second stage in the formation of a relationship is the stage of inward decision to give yourself to another person, in this case, to God. In the human-divine relationship there is no decision on God's part whether or not He is willing to receive you as His friend. God's arms are open, ready to receive all as His personal friends! God is actively seeking the friendship of man! It is "Whosoever will" with God! However, on man' part there must be an inner decision to give oneself to God. For many months a person may be debating whether or not to become a Christian. There may be a battle of the will that, on one hand, seeks to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and on the other hand, seeks to care for the eternal soul. The point at which that battle of the will is over and the will has decided to follow God, is the point at which the first stage has passed to the second stage in the process of coming to know God. The second stage is the stage of inward decision. The person at this stage has resolved deep within himself to follow God, even if no other person knows of this decision at this time.

There may be a gradual progress to this point of decision, but when the decision is reached there is no doubt as to its reality. "The ugly larva in its cocoon spends months in almost unnoticeable growth and change; but no matter how great that growth may be, there comes a moment when it passes through a crisis and emerges a butterfly. The weeks of silent growth are important, but they cannot take the place of that experience when the old and the ugly are left behind and the new and the beautiful come into being." (World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 157)

"I see now that emotion is the feeling that accompanies the great decision, but the decision itself to follow Christ is an exercise of my will. Help me to choose once and for all to follow you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I only have one freedom–the freedom to choose my master. I will choose to follow Christ as my Master!

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Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 10:32-39

Implementing The Decision To Follow Christ

The third stage in forming a relationship with a person is the stage of implementing the inward decision. That is, one actually makes the surrender of himself to another person. One who inwardly decides to follow God takes the necessary steps to make that decision real and visible. One who decides to give himself to God makes the giant turn of his life. He turns his back on his past and turns his present and his future over to God. This act of turning is the act of faith–faith that God forgives the past and faith that God will provide in the present and in the future. Someone said that the letters in the word 'Faith' stand for 'Forsaking All I Take Him'. Indeed so! Notes Alan Richardson on faith, "It is the act by which he lays hold on God's proffered resources, becomes obedient to what God prescribes, and abandoning all self-interest and self-reliance, trusts God completely".

Exercising faith in Christ as a result of inward decision to follow Christ, means' giving one's self to Christ. "The one thing you won and the only thing you won is just yourself. It is the one and only thing you will take out of this world with you–you cannot take your money, your home or your loved ones, nothing but yourself. It is the only thing you own. Then you can decide to whom that self shall belong–to yourself? In which case you become a self-centered person, hence disrupted. To the herd? In which case you become an echo not a voice, a thing not a person, a nonentity. To money? In which case you become an insecure person with the insecurity of your money–you go up and down with it. To sex? In which case you become a sex-dominated person–a person of lust, hence disgust. Don't think that if you don't belong to Christ you are free. Nobody is free. We are free only to choose our own masters. It is Christ or something else, that will rule us. When you say deep down, 'I belong to Him', then you do." (Conversion, E.S. Jones, p. 191)

The fourth stage in a relationship is the stage of receiving from the other person. Having given oneself to Christ, now one has a right to receive all that Christ offers. Christ offers Himself as the Gift of gifts and when one has Christ, that person has all else that belongs to Christ, such as the gift of forgiveness (1 John 1:9). To many people, forgiveness is the most beautiful word in the English language. Christ gives the gift of reconciliation in place of one's alienation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Christ gives the gift of regeneration or new life in place of one's old life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ gives the gift of adoption into the family of God (John 1:12), and also the gift of assurance of eternal life. (1 John 5:11-12)

"Master of men, attune my inner ears to hear your call and give me faith to make an inner commitment to You. Let my inner commitment be outwardly expressed in my decisive following of You!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Whoever acknowledges Christ openly before men, will be openly acknowledged before the Father in heaven! I will not be a secret disciple!

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Revelation 22:12-17

How To Become a Christian

Notes C.S. Lewis, "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start". (Mere Christianity, p. 57) By this, it is not meant that Christ's death automatically makes us right with God. That would be to exclude the subjective aspect of human appropriation of God's salvation. Preoccupation with the objective aspect of salvation–that is, Christ's work on the Cross–is to the exclusion of the subjective aspect of salvation–that is, man's appropriation of Christ's work–results in a form of universalism. The doctrine of universalism asserts that because Christ died for all men, therefore all men will ultimately be saved. But man must appropriate God's salvation.

In speaking of man's appropriation of God's salvation, it is important to distinguish between meeting conditions and earning salvation. As Stanley Walters says, "The conditions which lead into Christian conversion are necessary, but not meritorious. On one hand, you can do nothing to merit God's gift of salvation; on the other hand, God does not give it indiscriminately to everyone, but to those who want it and are willing to receive it".

For instance, a gift such as an inheritance may belong to you, but certain conditions must be met before you receive it. You did not earn the inheritance, but you must meet certain conditions to receive the inheritance. Man does not earn salvation or deserve salvation, but he must meet certain conditions to receive that salvation. It is not his automatically.

There are three conditions for salvation. There must be an awakening, which leads to genuine repentance and saving faith.

Stanley Walters notes that an awakening is a proper attitude toward yourself, repentance is a proper attitude toward your sin, and saving faith is a proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Notes Dr. Walters, "These conditions must coincide. When you meet them fully, you may be sure that God will act to justify you and make you a new creation. Confidence in God assures you of salvation (1 John 1:9, 'he is faithful…'), although the Holy Spirit also gives assurance." (Romans 8:16)

We must carefully look at each of these three conditions for salvation. First , there must be an awakening. Before a person can be saved from sin he must acknowledge that he needs to be saved. Awakening is a collision with God, a recognition of personal, spiritual need. What causes a person who is preoccupied with worldly pursuits and pleasures to stop in his tracks and suddenly realize that he is traveling the wrong road of 1ife? That is the awakening work of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8)

"I cannot earn, purchase or deserve your salvation, O God, for your salvation is a gift to be received with gratitude. Help me to humble myself before you, as a little child before his father, in order that I might receive your gift."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Pride pays for a possession; humility accepts a free gift. God offers a gift! I will humble myself before the Giver!

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Acts 24:10-27

"Collision With God"

Before a person can be saved, he must experience a spiritual awakening. He must confront God and recognize his own personal, spiritual need. This 'Collision with God' or inner awakening to personal need is the work of the Holy Spirit. "And when he has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God's goodness, and of deliverance from judgement." (John 16:8, Living Bible)

Notes Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Though men decide not to believe in God and to put Him and His ways out of their lives, though they ignore all consequences and in a spirit of bravado decide to follow the other life, they do not therefore finish with God and truth at that point. The truth continues to remind them of its existence and to worry them. It does so most definitely, of course, in and through the conscience. It warns, it condemns, and it prohibits. The Truth is not static and lifeless. It is actually within us–there is 'the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world'… The truth follows us and worries us". (The Plight of Man and The Power of God, p. 51)

It is said that one of the thousands of listeners at a Billy Graham Crusade suddenly arose from his seat and became rather indignant, because he thought Billy Graham was preaching right at him specifically. He thought the evangelist was describing his own specific sins in the presence of the large crowd, and he was embarrassed and embittered. This man felt singled out because he was convicted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Coleridge said that he believed the Bible to be inspired because, as he put it, "It finds me". Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand".

It was the Holy Spirit who pricked the hearts of Peter's listeners on the Day of Pentecost. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37) It was the Holy Spirit who awakened Felix to his spiritual need: "And as he (Felix) reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come, Felix trembled". (Acts 24:25 a)

God uses the Holy Scriptures to produce a spiritual awakening: "For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword; it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being; it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to do". (Hebrews 4:12-13, Phillips)

"I am naked and exposed before the eyes of Him with whom I have to do! But, God, you only reveal my sins in order to release me from my sins. You only expose my spiritual nakedness in order to clothe me with your righteousness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am not a sinner in general; I am a sinner in specific. Christ is not a Saviour in general; He is my Saviour in specific!

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Luke 15:11-32

A Moral U-Turn

After God awakens a person to his true spiritual condition, he must repent of his sins. What is repentance? To understand the meaning of repentance, we must first note some of the misconceptions regarding repentance.

Repentance does not mean self-improvement. Reformation is human endeavor; transformation is divine renewal. A person may attempt to reform a pig by cleaning him up and dressing him in clean clothes. However, until the nature of the pig is changed, the pig will go back into the mud puddle. Man's nature must be changed by God. Self-improvement is not sufficient. Man must be divinely transformed.

Repentance is not merely regret or remorse. Simply to feel sorrow about events in the past is not to change things in the present or the future. Regret and remorse are both involved in repentance, but repentance is more than regret and remorse. The mourner's bench is good, but one must do more than mourn at a mourner's bench. Combined with mourning must be a genuine change of the will and of the mind.

Repentance is "a moral u-turn. A change of mind toward sin, from one of embracing to one of separation". (Stanley Walters) Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death". (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 RSV) Notes John Murray, "The change of heart and mind and will principally respect four things; it is a change of mind respecting God, respecting ourselves, respecting sin, and respecting righteousness". (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 114)

The prodigal son is an example of true repentance. He changed his mind about sin. He saw the results of sin and came to despise his sinful way of life. He turned his back on his former way of life–he made a moral u-turn and went to his father. His repentance began with regret and remorse, but it ended up in action. Repentance is basically an action of the will–"I will go to my Father".

Repentance involves open confession of sin. Says Weatherhead, "Suppressed sin, like suppressed steam, is dangerous. Confession is the safety-valve". Said one psychiatrist who dealt with the disrupted of Hollywood at high fees, "All these patients of mine need is a mourner's bench".

"O God, allow my remorse over sin's consequences to turn to repentance over sin's commission. Help me to make a moral u-turn, to turn from my old life to Your new life! Through Jesus' power. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will no longer embrace sin, but I will embrace my Saviour! The Father is waiting for the prodigal to return home!

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Luke 24:44-49

What Is Repentance?

What is repentance? "Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor–is what Christians call repentance." (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 59)

The Scriptures teach that repentance must be preached. Said Jesus, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem". (Luke 24:46-47)

Repentance is always the condition for healing and life. Repentance assumes that there is an honest recognition of sin in one's life. Sin is not simply breaking God's laws (10 Commandments), but sin is a breaking of God's heart! Sin is not only a violation of a law, but it is also the breaking of a relationship. To break laws is to break the heart of the lawgiver!

There can be no repentance without first recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of sin. There can be no treatment of a disease without diagnosis of the disease. There can be no healing without acknowledgment of the hurt. There is no conversion without conviction of sin. No treating of sin as a plaything, but as a serious problem.

Repentance is not only recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of sin, but repentance is also recognizing one's inability to save himself from the consequences of sin, in terms of both spiritual death and eternal death. The Bible talks about being "dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked". (Ephesians 2:1-2) Sin causes one to be dead to life's purpose and plan. Sin blinds one to the meaning of life. The consequences of sin is not only spiritual death, but also eternal death, which is separation from God forever.

To have a true spirit of repentance is to acknowledge ones personal helplessness, before one is ready to receive God's help, he must declare moral bankruptcy!

Next, repentance involves confession of sin to God. Confession means "agree with". One must agree with God's evaluation of sin and God's provision for sin. Repentance means rejecting man-made solutions for salvation, and acceptance of God's sole solution for salvation.

Repentance further involves a change of mind, from an attitude of embracing sin to an attitude of forsaking sin. Repentance also involves a change in actions, from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness. Repentance does not mean, however, perfection in performance, but rather a new direction in life.

"O God, I turn my back upon my old way of life, and I turn my face towards Your beautiful face of love and mercy. I see Your outstretched arms, waiting for me. I accept Your wonderful forgiveness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I disagree with my former prideful attitudes of self-sufficiency, and I henceforth agree with God's grace-estimate of my moral condition.

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Acts 3:17-26

Obstacles To Repentance

The Biblical message is the message of repentance. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19) Jesus said, "Unless you repent, ye shall all likewise perish". (Luke 13:3-5)

If repentance is so important according to Jesus, then why is it so hard for so many people to repent? One reason is that people have a wrong attitude toward sin.

There are many who will not repent because they deny the very existence of sin. Many call sinful actions or attitudes mere human weaknesses. Says Dr. Karl Menninger, "The word (sin) went away. It has almost disappeared– the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn't anyone sin anymore? Doesn't anyone believe in sin? Congress voted some years ago to require the President to proclaim each year a national day of prayer, and Truman began it in 1952. The following year (1953) President Eisenhower made his first proclamation and in it he made a reference to SIN. He borrowed the words for his proclamation from a call issued in 1863, by Abraham Lincoln, the country's first Republican and most theological President:

"It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in human sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon."

An article in Theology Today has this to say about Eisenhower's use of the word 'sin':

"None of Eisenhower's subsequent calls to prayer mentioned sin again. The word was not compatible with the Commander-in-Chief's vision of a proud and confident people…  Since 1953, no President has mentioned sin as a national failing." (Whatever Became of Sin, p. 14-15)

Another wrong attitude toward sin which makes it impossible to repent is that attitude expressed in these words: "I feel stupid asking God to forgive me for what I have done, for I know I will turn around and do it again". Those were the words of a young lady with whom I talked on the phone when taking a religious survey. She felt that sin was unavoidable and necessary, and to ask God to forgive her would be hypocritical! In her conversation she revealed to me three wrong attitudes toward sin which made repentance impossible for her. (1) She talked of her pleasures while sinning, failing to realize that there is only pleasure in sin 'for a season'. (2) She had no deep regret over the consequences of her sins, failing to see that whatever a person sows, that he shall morally reap. (3) She failed to see the terribleness of sin, that it was sin which crucified the most beautiful life in the universe to a cross.

"Help me, Saviour, to deny neither the reality nor the seriousness of sin! Help me decisively to forsake sin in all forms and at all times! Save me from my sins, not in my sins!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In my life, the serpent-hissing word 'Sin' must confront the irresistibly powerful word 'Saviour'. When sin abounds, the Saviour super-abounds in my life! Glory!

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Luke 9:57-62

Half Conversion Or Whole Conversion?

There are, what might be called, half-conversions. That is, there are persons who are partly or temporarily changed in their behavior, but who have never really experienced a divinely-wrought transformation. Some people save face by substituting religious activities for genuine repentance. "It is doing religious acts in order to avoid an authentic return to God. It is not outright hypocrisy; it is not a deliberate outward show to convince others of religiosity. It is primarily an effort to convince oneself that he is right with God." (The Psychology of Christian Experience, Mavis, p, 13) Some substitute membership in a church or baptism or participation in the Lord's Supper or congregational confession for personal repentance. Writes E. Stanley Jones, "Many today are converted to phenomena surrounding Christianity, the music, the architecture, the ritual, the eloquence of the preacher, the standing it gives one in a community to be a member of the church, the keeping up of mores from generation to generation–it's the thing to do–and other such phenomena surrounding the Christian movement. But there is no vital saving contact with this saving Person. It's all secondhand and marginal. It lacks luster and vitality. It's an echo instead of a voice. They have not given themselves, so no transformed self emerges… Half the church members are converted to phenomena and not to Christ–arrested conversions". (How To Be A Transformed Person, p. 79)

Some are half-hearted in their repentance because of the pain of facing themselves honestly. Because repentance involves honest reflection upon one's sinful nature, repentance usually is discomforting to ones self image. It is easy to concentrate on ones good, but difficult to face the fact of ones sinful nature and sinful practices.

One who is half-hearted in his repentance is one who "seeks to make a compromised settlement of his life with God in which the Almighty receives certain areas for control while he himself retains others… He becomes Christian partially on the basis of a conditioned commitment. 'I will follow thee; but let me first go… '(Luke 9:61)… The man with a divided heart loves God and he also resents Him. He esteems the eternal principles of righteousness, but he also has a practical regard for 'realism'. He seeks to belong to both the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world". (The Psychology of Christian Experience, Mavis, p. 16-17)

"The fear of the herd is the greatest single thing producing arrested conversions and a dead Christianity. Said a herd-bound soul to a released soul, 'Catherine, I admire your convictions, but why don't you have convictions like the rest of us?'. In other words, 'Why don't you be herd-centered instead of Christ-centered?'." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p. 81)

"Lord, don't allow me to substitute religious ritual for real repentance! Deliver me from my tendency to rationalize my sinful behavior. Help me to confess honestly and whole-heartedly!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'Realism' demands that I realistically face my sins, radically forsake my sins, and readily turn to my Saviour!

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Ezekiel 33:7-16

Importance Of Repentance

"It is upon the rock of halfwayness that most conversions go to pieces when they fail. We don't repudiate our faith; we reduce it to conformity with the crowd. The salt loses its savor, its distinctiveness, and for that reason is cast out and trodden under the feet of men. Men despise the people who are half-and-half, and God can't tolerate them either… if there is no outer difference between you and the world, depend on it, there is no inner difference." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p. 82)

God's call to His people in the Old Testament was repentance: "Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?". (Ezekiel 33:11)

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men must repent and turn to God if they are to live. God's absolute requirement for salvation is repentance: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent". (Acts 17:30 b)

"The word (repent) originally meant an 'afterthought', a second thought. Often a second thought shows that the first thought was wrong; and so the word came to mean 'a change of mind', but if a man is an honest man, a change of mind demands 'a change of action'. Repentance must involve both change of mind and change of action. A man may change his mind and come to see that his actions were wrong, but he may be so much in love with his old ways that he does not change his ways. A man may change his ways, but his mind may remain exactly the same. He may only change because of fear or because of prudential motives; his heart still loves the old ways and, if the chance comes, he will relapse into them. True repentance involves a change of mind and a change of action." (The Daily Study Bible, Acts, William Barclay, p. 24)

Remorse is mere sorrow because of the consequences of sin. Repentance is a godly sorrow over the sin itself, with a sincere desire to change ones life. "A Negro went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and when asked, 'So you want to get rid of drink!' replied, 'Not necessarily, I want to get rid of the thing it do'. He wanted a half-conversion with a whole result." (How To Be A Transformed Person, E.S. Jones, p, 79) True repentance means hating sin, accepting full moral responsibility for one's sinful actions, and turning completely to Christ for forgiveness and new life.

Repentance and faith must work together if true conversion is to result. Repentance is the proper attitude toward your sin, and faith is the proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Faith is putting yourself in the care of Christ who is able to change your life. Faith is a transfer of trust for salvation from yourself to Christ, who alone can save you!

"I change my mind about sin. I see now that the pleasures of sin last only for 'one season'. I change my direction in life. I see now that there is a way that seems right to men, but the end of that way is death!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Honesty demands that I must repent fully if I expect to be changed totally!

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Matthew 3:1-12

Relationship Between Faith And Repentance

To become a Christian, one must be awakened to his true spiritual condition without Christ. Further, one must repent of his sins and exercise true saving faith.

Repentance and faith are two sides of one coin or two halves of one whole. Repentance should always be inseparably coupled with faith. Repentance is forsaking sin, and faith is turning to the Saviour. The moment one forsakes sin, he must turn to the Saviour, for sin can only loose its grip on one's life when one surrenders himself to the stronger hold of the Saviour!

One is saved by faith. Faith is a transfer of trust from one's self to one's Saviour. Saving faith is always accompanied by genuine repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin. Faith is a change of attitude toward the Saviour, from one of rejection to one of acceptance and surrender.

Says Wesley, concerning the relationship between repentance and the fruits of repentance: "God does undoubtedly command us both to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance; which if we willingly neglect, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all; therefore both repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, are in some sense, necessary to justification. But they are not necessary in the same sense with faith, nor in the same degree. Not in the same degree; for those fruits are only necessary conditionally; if there be time and opportunity for them. Otherwise a man may be justified without them, as was the thief upon the cross". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 387)

If repentance is turning from sin, then faith is turning to God. Saving faith is "putting yourself in the care of One who can do something. It is a transfer of trust for salvation from self to Christ". (Stanley Walters)

Saving faith is more than a mere intellectual assent to the existence of God. James wrote, "You say that you believe that there is one God. Excellent! The demons also believe the same thing–and shudder in terror", (James 2:19, Barclay) The devil knows that Jesus is the Son of God, and even trembles on account of this belief, but the devil is still the devil!

Faith is the total commitment of one's total self to Christ. Faith is "not merely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 14)

Faith is throwing yourself upon God, like a drowning man throws himself upon the strength of the lifeguard. Only when one ceases to struggle and abandons himself to the Divine Lifeguard, is he saved.

"Help me to prove to You, O God, and to myself, and to others, that I have truly repented of my sins, by doing good deeds that befit repentance!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Turning from sin, I turn to the Saviour who, in turn, leads me to service. Conviction will lead me to conversion, sadness will lead me to gladness!

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Romans 10:1-7

What Is Saving Faith?

Everyone has faith. One cannot live one day without exercising faith–faith that the driver you meet on the highway will stay on his side, faith that your employer will pay your salary at the end of the pay period, faith that your wife will not sprinkle poison on your food, faith that the sun will 'rise' in the morning, etc. Everyone has faith in someone or something. But the object of one's faith determines the value of one's faith.

The object of the sinner's faith must be Jesus Christ. Christ is perfectly trustworthy. "How did you like the airplane ride?" was asked of a nervous man who went up for the first time. "Very well," he replied, "but I never did put my whole weight down!" Faith means putting your whole weight down on God!

Says John Murray, "Faith is not the act of God; it is not God who believes in Christ for salvation; it is the sinner. It is by God's grace that a person is able to believe, but faith is an activity on the part of the person and of him alone. In faith we receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation… Faith is a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences". (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 106-107)

Some say that it makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you are sincere. But one can be sincerely wrong! To place faith in an unreliable object (regardless of your sincerity) will result in a tragic outcome!

The Scriptures make it clear that one is saved by faith, not by his own works. Notes Wesley, "Indeed, strictly speaking, the covenant of grace doth not require us to do anything at all, as absolutely and indispensably necessary, in order to our justification; but only to believe in Him, who, for the sake of his Son, and the propitiation which he hath made, 'justifieth the ungodly, that worketh not', and imputes his faith to him for righteousness". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 55)

Faith is self-abandonment to God and rejection of all attempts at works of self-righteousness. There are some who feel they must improve themselves or their actions before coming to God. Some say, "I must first do this; I must first conquer every sin; break off every evil word and work, and do all good to all men; or I must first go to church, receive the Lord's supper, hear more sermons and say more prayers". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 59)

"Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not waste God's gift of faith to me. I will exercise it responsibly, and as a result be saved decisively! Because the object of my faith is Christ, the value of my faith is incalculable!

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Isaiah 64:6, Ephesians 2:1-10

How Is Man Saved?

How is man saved? "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, that no one should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB)

Says Wesley, "If thou couldest now do all things well, if from this very hour, till thy soul should return to God, thou couldest perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, even this would not atone for what is past … But suppose perfect obedience, for the time to come, could atone for the sins that are past, this would profit thee nothing; for thou art not able to perform it; no, not in anyone point". (Wesley's Sermons, Vol. 1, p. 66)

The one who attempts to bargain with God and who feels that he can keep his side of the contract, soon learns how weak and corrupted he really is. He who attempts to practice the Christian virtues on his own strength, will end the experiment in despair. True faith involves a recognition of man's weak and sinful creatureship, and a resulting total dependence upon the all-together Holy Creator. "If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, 'Daddy, give me six-pence to buy you a birthday present'. Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction." (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 125) Faith means that man cannot earn God's favor by giving God a gift. Faith is rather total abandonment to God in love, realizing that God is the total owner of all and that man is the grateful recipient of all.

John Murray says that faith is three things–knowledge, conviction, and trust. Before one puts faith in anything, he must have confidence in the character of the thing. "We must know who Christ is, what he has done, and what he is able to do. Otherwise, faith would be blind conjecture at the best and foolist mockery at the worst." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 110) We must not only know the facts about Christ, but we must truly believe the facts to be true. We must not only intellectually know the facts about the Cross, but we must volitionally commit ourselves to those facts. If we have a strong conviction that the facts are true, then we will commit our total being to Christ. It is only when this last step is taken–the step of full commitment–that we have exercised the kind of faith that saves from sin and saves for heaven! We have come to rely upon Christ alone for salvation!

"O Christ, you are together trustworthy in your character, and faithful to your promises. Abandoning all hope for salvation in myself, I cast myself helplessly and hopefully into your mighty arms!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I make a 'leap of faith', I am not leaping into the dark, but into the light of God's everlasting love!

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Discussion Questions On 'How Do You Become a Christian?'

  1. What are four stages that one must take in order to establish a warm human relationship, and how are each of these four stages like the stages that one takes in establishing a meaningful relationship with God?

  2. Relating to one's quest for God, what is meant by the phrase "valley of decision"? What are some of the characteristics of persons who are in the "valley of decision"?

  3. What does it mean "to count the cost" to determine if one wishes to follow Christ?

  4. In your own personal life, what are some of the factors that influenced you (or that are now influencing you) to make a decision to follow Christ?

  5. What is your definition of "Saving Faith"? How is one's inner decision to follow Christ outwardly manifested and demonstrated?

  6. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Don't think that if you don't belong to Christ you are free. Nobody is free. We are free only to choose our own masters. It is Christ or something else, that will rule us".

  7. When one gives himself to Christ in total surrender, what are some of the gifts and benefits that one receives from Christ?

  8. What does the doctrine of universalism teach regarding salvation? What is the proper relationship between the 'subjective' and the 'objective' aspects in salvation?

  9. List the three conditions that a sinner must meet in order to be converted.

  10. How would you describe 'awakening' in a sinner's life, and who is the Agent of  'awakening'?

  11. What are some of the misconceptions regarding repentance? What are the characteristics of true repentance? According to John Murray, repentance involves a change of mind in what four areas? Why is the Prodigal Son (as seen in Jesus' parable) such a good example of true repentance?

  12. What is the relationship between repentance and confession of sin?

  13. List and describe some of the various obstacles to true repentance.

  14. Cite examples of people whom you have known or have observed who have denied the very existence of sin. What rationalizations have these people engaged in, to explain away sin?

  15. What is generally the motivation of people who substitute religious activities for genuine repentance?

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    Discussion Questions On 'How Do You Become a Christian?'(continued)

  16. Name some of the 'phenomena' to which people are converted as substitutes for being converted to Christ.

  17. What are some other reasons why some people have stopped short of experiencing genuine repentance?

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'Realism' demands that I realistically face my sins, radically forsake my sins, and readily turn to my Saviour!"

  19. What are the outward evidences of an inward work of God's grace in a person's life, as a result of genuine repentance?

  20. Cite Scriptural references to support the assertion that there can be no conversion without the exercise of genuine repentance.

  21. Does true repentance involve both a change of mind and a change of actions? Why or why not?

  22. What is the difference between repentance and remorse?

  23. What is the relationship between faith and repentance?

  24. Is "Saving Faith" more than an intellectual assent to the basic truths of Christianity (James 2:19)?

  25. Explain what is meant by the statement: "The object of one's faith determines the value of one's faith".

  26. Describe some of the indispensable characteristics of  "Saving Faith".

  27. Do you believe that the following is an adequate definition of "Saving Faith": "Faith is a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences".

  28. What is the relationship between faith and good works as these relate to conditions for salvation and evidence of salvation?

  29. Is there anything that man can do to earn, purchase or deserve God's salvation? Why or why not?

  30. What three things, according to John Murray, are involved in experiencing true saving faith? Show the interrelationships between these three things.

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44


What Happens When I Become a Christian?

What Happens When I Become A Christian?

Chapter Four

What Happens When I Become A Christian?
Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!' 45 Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings 53
God Can Declare Man Righteous! 46 Chosen To Be Holy And Blameless! 54
"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!" 47 Destined To Be Sons! 55
Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness 48 Enlightened And Enlivened People 56
The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life! 49 Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit! 57
"I Felf Clean Inside" 50 Discussion Questions 58
"I Am Easier To Live With" 51 Discussion Questions (continued) 59
"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"   52    

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!'

What happens when I become a Christian? This is the question we must try to answer. Among the words that described God's salvation of man, two words are prominent: Justification and Regeneration. These are the gifts of God given to the sinner who exercises saving faith in Christ. Each is given simultaneously, but each describes a definite aspect of Christ's saving work. We must spend a few days looking at these two great words.

Someone said that when God justifies the sinner, He treats the sinner just as if he had never sinned! Justification is a legal concept, concerned with the legal status of the believer. The great frequency with which the Scriptures discuss justification, show that the Scriptures put great emphasis upon the idea of 'Law'.

'Justify' in the New Testament sense of the word does not mean to prove a person righteous, but rather it means to treat, to account or to reckon a person as righteous. Justification in the New Testament means "to acquit" or "to pronounce just or righteous". There are four things which can be said about Justification.

First, in considering justification, it is important to realize the seriousness and sacredness of God's Law. God requires that man should live in accordance with His Law. "Moreover, it is part of the very nature of law as we know it that it attaches penalties to the breaking of the law, and in this respect the scriptural law is no exception. Again and again we are told that God views the breaking of the law with the gravest displeasure, that His wrath is extended towards the sinner, and that none can expect immunity, for there is no respect of persons with Him." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Mooris, p. 294)

Second, God must honor His holy nature, and therefore cannot automatically and unconditionally pronounce forgiveness to all men. As P.T. Forsyth so well says, "God could not trifle with His own holiness. He could will nothing against His holy nature, and He could not abolish the judgement bound up with it. Nothing in the compass of the divine nature could enable Him to abolish a moral law, the law of holiness. That would be tampering with His own soul. It had to be dealt with. Is the law of God more loose than the law of society? Can it be taken liberties with, played with, and put aside at the impulse even of love? How little we should come to think of God's love if that were possible… God's holy law is His own holy nature. His love is under the condition of eternal respect. It is quite unchangeable". (Ibid, p. 294)

"O God, how can you treat me as a child to be loved when I deserve to be treated as a criminal to be obliterated? How can you save me, a sinner, and at the same time honor Your own holiness? Only one way! If You, O God, take upon yourself the punishment that a criminal and a sinner deserve! Only the perfectly just can justify the totally unjust!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God respected His justice enough to punish sin, in the person of His exalted Son. God loved His mercy enough to forgive sin, in the persons of His fallen sons! I am perfectly accepted in the perfectly acceptable One!

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45


Romans 3:24-28, Romans 4:5

God Can Declare Man Righteous!

We are trying to understand the meaning of Justification. Third, Jesus suffered for man's sin and in turn gave man a borrowed righteousness. The substitutionary death of Christ must be taken account of, if we are properly to understand the true significance and possibility of justification. God takes into account that Christ suffered for man's sin and thus, God is able to forgive mankind of its own sin. Yet, because of Christ's substitutionary death, God is able to honor His own law of holiness. God's law must be vindicated; sin must be punished. Christ took the punishment of sin and thus the demands of God's law were satisfied. In fact, because Christ has died for man's sins, God must forgive man. God acts righteously or justly in that He honors the substitutionary death of Christ, and dealing righteously, God is therefore Obligated to forgive man. God forgives and yet He maintains the integrity of His character, simply because God, as a righteous Judge, cannot overlook the work of His Son on Calvary. "Even (God's) act of forgiveness which might be thought of as an act of mercy is seen to be also an act of righteousness." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Maoris, p. 273)

At the same time that God, for Christ's sake, forgives man's sins, Christ bestows upon man a borrowed righteousness. The borrowed righteousness which man enjoys is given to man by God, and is the basis of man's justification. The righteousness which man enjoys must be appropriated by faith. It is not the faith itself (the activity of man) which justifies man; it is Christ's borrowed righteousness (the activity and gift of God) that is the basis of man's justification. God looks upon the borrowed righteousness, and acquits man and judges him as righteous. God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy a borrowed righteousness.

Fourth, the work of Christ's atonement enables God to declare man as righteous. God can declare man as righteous because God constitutes man as righteous by giving to man the righteousness of Christ. "God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all… That means that to be justified is to enter into a new relationship with God, a relationship of love and confidence and friendship, instead of a relationship of distance and enmity and fear… He is not in this right relationship because he has meticulously performed the works of the law. He is in it because in utter faith he has cast himself on this amazing mercy and love of God." (The Daily Study Bible, Romans, William Barclay, p. 13-14)

"What a sense of relief to know that I need not prove myself righteous (which I can't because of my sinful life), but that you treat me as righteous (which you can because of Christ's righteous death)! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By placing faith in Christ, I become hid in Christ, and as a result, God no longer looks at my sinful life, but at Christ's perfect life. By becoming hid in Christ, I am found in God!

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46


Ephesians 1:1-7, 1 John 3:1-3

"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!"

We have said that when God justifies a sinner, He treats him as if he had never sinned! God is able to declare the sinner as righteous, not because the sinner is at all righteous, but because Christ is righteous and the sinner, who puts faith in Christ, is hid in Christ. We are accepted in God's beloved Son.

"At the court of kings there was an official called the prosagogeus, the introducer, the giver of access, and it was his function to decide who should be admitted to the king's presence, and who should be kept out. He, as it were, held the keys of access. That is to say, it is Jesus Christ, through what He did, who brings men into the presence of God, who gives them access to God, who opens the way to God." (The Daily Study Bible, Peter, William Barclay, p. 278)

"A minister was on a train, the only occupant of the coach except a young man who seemed very ill at ease. The young man would sit in one seat and then get up and go to another, take up a book and drop it again. The minister went over to him, sat down beside him, and asked what was the matter. The boy shut up like a clam. But at last the dam broke, and he told his story:  "I've run away from home, and I've been away a long time. I've wanted to go back, and I wrote my father asking if he would take me back. But there has been no reply. So I have written my mother and told her that I am not going to wait for a reply, that I am coming home, and that If they will take me back she must hang a white rag on the crab-apple tree, down near the railroad tracks, so that I can see it when the train goes by. If I do not see the white rag, I shall understand and go on by. We are getting near and I am afraid to look–afraid the white rag won't be there'. The minister told the lad that he needn't look, that he would look for him. The boy sat with his eyes closed, the hand of the minister on his knee. As they drew near to where the tree was, the hand of the minster closed tight on the boy's knee, and he said, 'My boy, there is a white rag on every limb of that tree!'."

The Cross upon which Jesus died is covered, as it were, with white rags–the rags of reconciliation. God accepts us as friends, not as enemies, because of what Christ has done on the Cross. "And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach." (Colossians 1:21-22, Phillips)

"I come to you, most holy God, with no confidence in my own righteousness, but with full confidence in the Christ of the empty cross!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can come boldly into the presence of God for I carry on my heart the blood of the reconciling Saviour!

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47


Romans 8:8-17

Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness

What is the difference between justification and regeneration? Justification refers to a Christian's changed status with God. Regeneration refers to a Christian's changed nature. "Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgement of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does–he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, p. 121)

When a person receives Christ into his life, he is made a new person. Regeneration means a sense of newness, and while the actual word is seldom used in the New Testament to denote personal salvation, the concept is implied by a variety of terms and metaphors in the New Testament. Let us look at some of those metaphors, all of which denote newness of life or regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is like passing from darkness to light. Paul received a commission from God to turn men "from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins". (Acts 26:18 RSV) One college girl expressed her experience of Christ in these words: "I felt that I had swallowed sunshine!".

Becoming a Christian is like freedom from slavery. Wrote Paul, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship". (Romans 8:15) Wrote one man after he found Christ, "He lifted me out of the dungeon… I was truly free".

Becoming a Christian is like passing from death to life or like experiencing a resurrection unto life. Wrote Paul, "But God is so rich in mercy; He loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Christ from the dead–only by His undeserved favor have we ever been saved–and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with Him in the heavenly realms–all because of what Christ Jesus did". (Ephesians 2:4-6) "You see how your old, evil nature died with Him and was buried with Him; and then you came up out of death with Him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead." (Colossians 2:12, Living Bible)

Justification establishes a person in a right relationship with God and regeneration gives an inward newness of life to the sinner. Both are the gifts of God and are simultaneously given when man exercises saving faith in Christ. Have you exercised saving faith in Christ? Are you enjoying these wonderful gifts of God? If not, why not?

"O God, give me light for my darkness, freedom for my slavery, hope for my despair, life for my death! Make me a new creation in Christ Jesus!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is not calling me to be a better person; He is calling me to be a new person! God's grace alone can make me new!

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48


2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:21-24

The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life!

We are looking at those metaphors which describe God's gift of regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is called a New Birth. "Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we men have been born again in a life full of hope, through Christ's rising again from the dead!" (1 Peter 1:3, Phillips) "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 RSV) Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". (John 3:5) 'Water' refers to the purification from sinful pollution, and 'Spirit' refers to inner newness of life brought about by the activity of the Holy Spirit. New Testament teaching has its counterpart in the Old Testament: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh". (Ezekiel 36:25-26)

Becoming a Christian is called a New Creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 RSV) (See Ephesians 4:21-24 in the Living Bible.)

Becoming a Christian means becoming qualitatively different–becoming a real person. Says Maurice Bernett, "The basic concept is that the Christian life is a completely new life. It is as different from anything that went before as is the 1ife of man from the 1ife of a sponge. Our modern tendency has been to stress the fact that when a man becomes a Christian it need not make so very much difference, especially in our 'decent society'. We have presumed that because a fellow lives in a society that is flavoured with certain Christian ideals he is therefore a Christian, for after all he exhibits certain Christian tendencies. How utterly absurd. As though my liking for Chinese food makes me into a Chinaman… It is vitally important to announce this for… there are those who do not think there is much difference in these days between the decent, likeable pagan and the Christian. They should mark the difference as the New Testament writers saw it. The easiest thing to do is to dismiss the New Testament metaphors as exaggerations. The fact of the matter is we have never really discovered what is being offered. We have been content with a sham, a farce, a fake, watering down our Christianity and being content with an anemic substitute. Thus we know about Christianity, we sing about it, but plod along with religious burden often unchanged and uninfluenced, miserable because of the unreality of our dreams".

"God, give me the 'vision which transforms'–the vision of your holiness in contrast to my sinfulness, and the vision of your transforming power in contrast to my moral impotence."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow my potential to be determined by the possibilities of divine Grace, not by the limitations of human sinfulness!

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49


Titus 3:3-8

"I Felt Clean Inside"

Out of large numbers of converts who were saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, about 2000 of these converts were asked to tell what happened when they became a Christian. The following five statements were more often given as answers to what happened when they were converted than any other answers:

First, "I felt clean inside". Sin blackens the soul morally, but Christ comes to the soul of the repentant one to cleanse from the guilt and pollution of sin. "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Paul wrote to Titus, "Then He saved us–not because we were good enough to be saved, but because of His kindness and pity–by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit", (Living Bible)

"A woman who had gone through the mazes of psychiatrical analysis and had been left rather picked to pieces without a synthesis, experienced this change and described it this way: 'I feel all clean within. All the old hymns about cleansing which I had laid aside as outworn superstition have come back. I find myself singing them again'." (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35)

Second, "I found peace of mind". Sin causes man to be at enmity with God. Christ has come to speak peace to the restless soul of man. Augustine talked about "our hearts being restless till they rest in Thee". Baron von Hugel has put it this way: "the passion and hunger for God come from God, and God answers it with Christ".

One lonely man in a hotel who was getting ready to pull the trigger of a gun to blow his brains out, reached for a radio dial and the speaker said, "Put down that gun! That is no solution for your problems". The man was shocked into reality and fell on his knees before God and found peace for his troubled soul.

One tragic result of sin is that it drives man from God into hiding. Christ has come to reconcile man to himself–to make peace with man. In one of his books, Barclay recalls the story of an architect who came to Plato and offered for a certain sum of money to build him a house into which none of the rooms would it be possible to see. Plato said, "I will give you double the money to build a house into every room of which everyone can see". (The Daily Study Bible, John, William Barclay, Vol. 1, p. 131) The peaceful mind is the transparent and integrated mind–transparent to all because it is cleansed by Christ's blood!

Paul's favorite title for God is the God of Peace. Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good!

"God of peace, impart peace to my troubled mind. God of holiness, impart cleansing to my polluted soul. God of love, shed abroad your love in my loveless heart! God of the New, make me a new creation! Thank you. A thousand times, thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY:  My passion for God is created by God and is satisfied with God!

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50


Acts 26:1-20

"I Am Easier To Live With"

Third, "I was able to overcome vicious habits". One of the tragic characteristics of sin is that one sin leads to more sins. A practice which may appear relatively harmless can lead to a vicious habit. Sin makes a man a slave to its harsh tyranny. Christ has come to break the power of sin and to set the captive free! Christ enables a man to overcome a vicious habit!

"In London, England," writes Billy Graham, "an alcoholic was placed under the care of a psychiatrist who soon gave up because the alcoholic was getting no better. During our meetings at the Harringay Arena, the alcoholic was invited to attend. He listened in wonderment to the Gospel messages. 'Maybe there is some hope for me', he thought. One night when the invitation was given, he went forward with several others. He was converted, and new power came into his life. That night before he went to sleep, he reached as usual for the nearby bottle of liquor; but something–or rather, Someone–restrained his hand. Getting out of bed, he took the bottle and emptied it down the drain. When he awakened in the morning, through habit he reached again for his usual morning bracer. It was not there, but there was no sense of disappointment. The man called his psychiatrist and said, 'You have lost a patient. Christ has saved me from drink. I am now a new man'. The psychiatrist said: 'That sounds fine. Maybe I can find help where you found it. I am not an alcoholic, but I have my own needs and problems'. The psychiatrist began, too, to attend the meetings and he, too, accepted Christ as his Saviour." (World Aflame, p. 145-146)

Fourth, "I am easier to 1ive with". One of the tragic results of sin is that sin not only makes the life of the transgressor miserable, but sin also makes the lives of those who are intimately associated with the transgressor miserable. The fruits of sin are hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger, complaints, criticisms, and selfishness which is the "constant effort to get the best for yourself'". (Galatians 5:20, Living Bible) Christ has come to replace these evil traits with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These God-given qualities make a person much easier to live with. Christ has come to make a person winsome and gracious, He has come to build strong and lasting relationships.

"The biggest grouch of a certain city called up a friend over the long distance telephone and said, 'Everybody is changed in _________ after that meeting in the high school with Stanley Jones last night. Everybody is different this morning. Of course, it may be that only I am different, but everybody seems different'." (Abundant Living, E.S. Jones, p. 35)

"O God, because I am powerless to break my unholy habits, I come to you for deliverance from sin's power. Heal my will that I may develop holy habits! In Jesus' powerful name!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of the transgressor is hard, for Man is not made to transgress! `I am made for holy living!

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51


Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Peter 1:8

"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"

Fifth, "I am happy for the first time in my life". Sin brings misery and despair. "The way of transgressors is hard." (Proverbs 13:15 b) Christ has come to give real joy and happiness to man. Jesus said to his disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". (John 15:11)

Christ has come to the human race to change the long face and to remove the depressed outlook on life. Christ has come to give us Life–Abundant Life! One man called a Negro man to a train window and said, "Uncle, is there anybody in this town enjoying religion?". The old Negro replied, "Them's that's got it is". (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35) Those who genuinely have Christ have genuine joy! "Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20 b)

"In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donatus: 'It is a bad world, Conatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people Donatus, are Christians… and I am one of them'." (Quoted in World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 139)

Once when I was travelling to an annual Bible Camp meeting, I visited with a man–a simple and uneducated man–who was all aglow with the joy of God. This man told me of his former and miserable life of drunkenness. His wife had left him and he went through several struggles. But God had transformed him and his testimony rang with certainty and joy. He bubbled over with enthusiasm as we rode together to camp. The joy and happiness that he found in Christ was indescribable. He was experiencing the joy of the Lord–joy that was 'unspeakable and full of glory'!

The joy that Christ gives is not dependent upon one's external circumstances. A young woman who became a Christian, lost her husband in an accident, and yet this did not rob her of her joy. Writing about a spiritually needy friend, she said, "I do wish I could share all the joy in my heart with her. She deserves it, and I have enough for ten people!". (Prayer and Life's Highest, Paul Rees, p. 79)

In the journal of a young convert of thirteen were found these words: "Oh, that I had a voice that would reach all the world. I would tell them how happy I am". (Living In Two Worlds, Mary Alice Tenney, p. 72)

"O God, your holiness is my happiness, your presence is my power, your glory is my goal! When your smile of approval rests upon me, I laugh with a holy joy!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God wills that I be truly happy; therefore, I will "rejoice evermore with joy unspeakeble".

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52


Ephesians 1:1-14

Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings

Have you ever got so excited about something as you were relating your experience to someone else, that your mind got ahead of your tongue? There was so much to tell and you could not find the words to communicate your excitement!

That is what often happened to the apostle Paul. Paul was so full of Christ and the riches of Christ that he could not contain himself. Paul's letters to the Churches were love letters to dear friends. Paul was so enraptured with the riches of spiritual blessings that, in his attempt to communicate these blessings, he piled descriptive phrase upon descriptive phrase. From verse 3 through verse 14 of Ephesians 1, there is no period in the original Greek language. It is one sentence! Paul's mind races from one spiritual truth to another, as he becomes lost in 'Wonder, love, and praise'. It is not a logical statement, but a lyrical song of praise.

During the next few days I would like for us to imagine that we are aboard a spiritual airplane. There is a mighty range of spiritual mountains, with towering mountain peaks of various heights to look upon as we fly above the range. Just as a plane flies quickly over a number of mountain peaks in a relatively short time, so I would like for us to get an airplane view of some of the great mountain peaks of spiritual blessing which Paul puts before our view in Ephesians, chapter one.

To glance at the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings is to break out into a shout with Paul, and declare: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". (verse 3)

As we 'fly' above the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings, get all excited about your spiritual heritage as a believer!

During the next few days, we will learn anew how blessed it is to be God's people. How does Ephesians One describe God's people? They are (1) Chosen People, (2) Destined People, (3) Redeemed People, (4) Forgiven People, (5) Enlightened People, (6) Enlivened People, (7) Hopeful People, (8) Empowered People.

As one who has repented of your sins and transferred your faith from yourself to Jesus Christ as your saviour, you have a right to claim your spiritual heritage! Your aspirations toward effective living are fulfilled through the 'working of God's great might'. You are a child of the King, so learn to enjoy your privileges of royalty!

"O God, open my eyes that I may see the unspeakably wonderful blessings which you wish to share with me! I am rich in Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitter experience of repentance leads me to the blessed experience of enjoying heavenly blessings!

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53


Ephesians 1:3-4

Chosen To be Holy And Blameless!

Writes Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him". (Ephesians 1:3-4) Wonder of it all is that God would choose sinful man! The Infinite choosing of the finite; the all-powerful choosing the very weak! The righteous choosing the sinful! God took the initiative to choose to save humanity. Said Jesus, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you". (John 15:16)

It has been said, "Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice". That is, God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group.

We are chosen to be 'holy'. Chosen for the purpose of separation from the world's values and standards. Believers are to stand out as different –with values of God controlling their behavior. This means that, as believers, we are never to look at people as means to our own selfish ends. We are never to look at people as things to be used, but instead as eternal beings to be served. The 'thingification' of persons is always the tragic result in a society that considers gadgets more important than God! Christians are chosen by God to restore compassion to relationships and value to persons! As God's chosen people, we are not chosen to be separated from sinners, but instead, separated from sin.

A chosen people must be a 'select' people, that is, a 'blameless' people. This term refers to the Old Testament animal sacrifice which could only be offered to God if no blemishes were found in it. The animal must be perfectly formed and healthy before it could be used to offer to God. The offering of our lives–be it our home life, our personal life, our recreational life or our work life–must be the best possible. A chosen person must be a person who is willing to undergo the very scrutiny of God! Perfection in love and blamelessness in behavior is the high goal of Chosen People. It is a great blessing to be a chosen person, but with that privilege comes a great responsibility to be holy and blameless.

So the first description of a Christian's spiritual heritage is given in Ephesians 1:3-4. A Christian is a chosen person. Not only chosen, but also destined (verses Ephesians 1:5-6). To this we must next turn.

"O God, like you, enable me to be separate from sin, but never separated from sinners. I cannot be faultless in behavior, but enable me to be blameless in love. For Jesus' sake! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who chooses me to be holy will cleanse me to live a holy life!

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54


Ephesians 1:5-7

Destined To Be Sons!

Secondly, Christians are Destined People. "He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6) Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us as His children! The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every person! God claims the right to be our Father, and we as His children! God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! David asked in wonderment, "What is man that thou art even mindful of him, O God?". But we can ask with equal wonderment, "What is man that thou, O God, art willing to make him a son of the living God, through special adoption? Through that adoption, our sins are cancelled out and we are made a part of God's wonderful family!

Third, Christians are Redeemed People. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8) The meaning of redemption is "to loose'. Man is in bondage to sin by reason of his own sinful nature and by reason of his own willful choice. Man is unable to free himself from the terrible bondage of sin. The man without Christ feels like crying out, "Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?" (Romans 7:24) It is Christ's death that loosed men from the bondage to sin. Christ's death appeased the wrath of God, and at the same time, demonstrated the love of God for sinners. Christ's resurrection revealed God's power–a power so great that sin's chains could be broken! Christ's death was the substitutionary price of redemption, and Christ's resurrection was the availing power to set the sinner free!

Fourth, Christians are Forgiven People. "We have forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us." Guilt drains away vitality, causes mental and physical distress, marks the face, and scars the soul. Shakespeare described the terrible plague of a guilty conscience:

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings 
in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villian.

But "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath God removed our transgressions from us".

"Dare to believe that I am a redeemed and forgiven soul, a soul whose sins are buried in the sea of God's forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me again! In Christ, my dreams become realities! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Loosed from the chains of sin, I shall forever be chained to the heart of God!

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Ephesians 1:9-12

Enlightened And Enlivened People

Fifth, Christians are Enlightened People. "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a, plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10) The mystery or secret of God has been gloriously revealed to Christians. What is that secret? Very simply, yet profoundly, the secret is this: All of nature and all of humanity will be unified and redeemed in Christ! God is sovereign and He will make even the wrath of men to praise Him! Evil will not triumph! Rather, good and justice will have the final word! Right will be rewarded; evil will be punished! The godly will be saved; the ungodly shall perish! God both wills and desires that all men come to repentance, but those who won't repent will be punished. All of nature and all of mankind will either willingly or unwillingly bow the knee to Christ and proclaim that He is Lord of lords!

"In olden times God did not share this plan with his people, but now he has revealed it by the Holy Spirit to his apostles and prophets. And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what He has done for them." (Ephesians 3:6, Living Bible)

Sixth, Christians are Enlivened People. "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-12) The life that is fitting into God's master plan for history is the life that brings praise and honor and glory to the Saviour. What is God's master plan for history? To bring all things and all people into unity and fellowship around the feet of Jesus! Enlivened people are reconciling people. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Christian people should, of all people, be the most alive, for they are people of destiny, purpose. They know where history is going! "Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it will all come out'. Yes, of course. This is the secret of serenity in our work. The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries, Don Demaray, p. 20)

"O God, your perfect will is to save all humanity in Christ! Your permissive will is to allow those who reject Christ to live a Christless eternity! What you perfectly will–my total salvation–help me perfectly to realize! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's revealed plan gives me power to realize life's purpose–to be united in Christ!

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Ephesians 1:13-23

Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit!

Seventh, Christians are Hopeful People. "In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:14-15)

We have already seen that past mysteries are revealed and present life is enjoyed in Christ. Now we see that future riches are assured. The future for the Christian is as bright as the promises of God, and to guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an illusion of the mind, God has given us the promised Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit "is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it". (verse 14)

On October 23, 1975, Merlin Adamson, missionary to Africa for nearly 20 years, died at the young age of 48. He died at the height of his missionary career, a victim of cancer. He was my wife's cousin. Shortly after he died, my wife and I received a small note from his wife: "Of course, we miss Merlin so very much, but it is comforting to know that he is with the One who loves him even more than we do. Heaven seems so much closer now that he is there". It is the Holy Spirit who makes heaven's future treasures real to us now, giving us a foundation for our hope. The Holy Spirit is God's promise to us that lithe best is yet to be".

Eighth, Christians are Empowered People. You must read Ephesians 1:18-23 to better appreciate this. A group of students were asked if they thought Christianity was essentially a demand or an offer. How would you answer that question? After considerable thought, they realized that Christianity is an offer! God has promised that His grace is sufficient for every problem of life. God said that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul affirmatively met life with a resounding 'Yes' when he shouted, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Christ offers adequate resources to meet every crisis of life. Paul declared that we are 'more than conquerors' through Christ. Paul prayed for all believers that their spiritual eyes might be enlightened that they might see "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe", The power that works in the 1ife of the believer, is the same power that was best demonstrated in God's workings with Christ. God's power toward Christ resulted in (1) Christ's resurrection, (2) Christ's ascension, (3) Christ's dominion (militant victory), (4) Christ's headship over the church. That same mighty power works in you!

"God, send your hopeful Holy Spirit to inspire hope in my despairing soul. Send your powerful Holy Spirit to impart power to my weakened spirit. Send your inspiring Holy Spirit to cleanse my cloudy vision from earth's trivia, in order that I may see heaven's treasures alone!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God demands, He always provides. What God provides, I will receive–today!

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Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?'

  1. What does 'Justification', as used in the New Testament, basically mean?

  2. How does God view the breaking of His holy law by mankind?

  3. Why cannot God, out of the motivation of His eternal love, easily and quickly forgive mankind for breaking His holy law?

  4. How can the just character of God be maintained and, at the same time, unjust men be saved from the eternal damnation which their sins deserve? How is the substitutionary death of Christ an answer both to maintaining God's justice and demonstrating God's mercy? Why is God 'obligated' to forgive the sins of the genuinely repentant sinner?

  5. Discuss your understanding of the following statement: "God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy Christ's borrowed righteousness".

  6. On what basis can God declare and treat a sinner righteous? Because a repentant sinner enjoys the 'borrowed righteousness' of Christ, what privilege does such a person enjoy? (Note Colossians 1:21-22)

  7. What is the difference between justification and regeneration?

  8. List and describe some of the metaphors which are used in the New Testament to describe the concept of Regeneration.

  9. What is the difference between becoming a better person (human reformation), and becoming a new person (divinely-wrought transformation), as these concepts relate to motivation for change and quality of change in a human life? (What is the difference between being tolerant toward Christianity as a religion and being personally transformed by Christ as a Person?)

  10. Cite Biblical references that describe divinely-wrought transformation of a sinner in terms of 'cleansing'.

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Peace, according to the Biblical understanding, is not the mere absence of trouble, but it is the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good".

  12. What evidence, both from Scripture and from your own personal experience and observation, can you cite to demonstrate Christianity's claim that Christ is able to break bad habits and to make bad men good?

  13. What evidence is there that a person who is converted to Christ is easier to live with and easier to get along with?

  14. On what basis can a Christian be filled with joy, in spite of the changes and chances of life's circumstances?

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    Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?' (continued)

  15. God's people can be described in eight different ways, according to the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians. List those eight descriptions.

  16. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group". (Note Ephesians 1:3-4)

  17. For what purpose are persons chosen by God?

  18. To what are Christians destined (according to Ephesians 1:5-6), and why is such a destiny so amazing?

  19. What is the Biblical definition of 'Redemption' and how does this concept relate to God's people (according to Ephesians 1:7-8)? Why is an understanding of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection essential to a proper understanding of the meaning of 'Redemption'?

  20. What are the consequences of Guilt, and what does God offer the guilt-ridden sinner?

  21. What is the 'secret' or 'mystery' of God which has now been revealed to God's enlightened people, according to Ephesians 1:9-10?

  22. What revealed knowledge is given to God's people that motivates them to be the most enlivened people on earth?

  23. What is the guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an 'illusion of the mind'? (Note Ephesians 1:14-15)

  24. Is Christianity essentially a demand or an offer? Explain your answer, and share Scriptural references to document your answer.

  25. The power that God demonstrated in Christ, is the same power that God makes available to believers. According to Ephesians 1:18-23, in what four ways was God's power demonstrated in His relationship to Christ?

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The Good News and the Bad News

The Good News And The Bad News

Part II (Chapters 5 – 12)

Specific Analysis Of Salvation (Expository Study of Romans 1-6)

Chapter Five

The Good News And The Bad News
The Compelling Power Of God's Love 60 Unmasking Sin's Perversions 69
Good News — Promised, Provided, Proven! 61 The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard! 70
The Good News Is Poured Out On Undeserving Sinners! 62 Sowing And Reaping — A Spiritual Law 71
Good News Promoted Among Receptive Sinners! 63 Sin Is Irrational! 72
Born To Reproduce 64 Sin Pays Wages! 73
Good News Perfected Among Growing Saints 65 'Down-And-Out' And 'Up-And-Out' Sinners! 74
Good News Personified In Paul's Life! 66 "God Has No Grandchildren — Only Children!" 75
Manifestation Of God's Justice 67 Discussion Questions 76
Unmasking The Character Of Man 68 Discussion Questions (continued) 77

Romans 1:1-32

The Compelling Power Of God's Love

During the last four chapters in Part I of this book, we have engaged ourselves in a general survey of Salvation, in what might be called a topical overview of salvation. It is now time to engage ourselves in a specific analysis of Salvation, in what might be called a Biblical exposition of salvation. To understand the plan of God's salvation for lost mankind, there is no better book in the Bible to study than the Book of Romans. During the next several weeks, it is our plan to study carefully the first six chapters of Romans, in an attempt to understand God's wonderful plan of salvation, as revealed in Jesus Christ.

The Book of Romans is God's book of Love, and it was written by one who experienced God's love firsthand. Paul, the writer of Romans, met Christ as he was travelling to Damascus where he intended to intensify his campaign of persecution against the early Christians. God struck down Paul with a bright light from heaven and Paul became a captive to Jesus Christ. The one-time persecutor of the Gospel now became the all-out promoter of the Gospel! Paul became a slave of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1) God chose him to be a missionary to the Gentile world. Paul's vision was to take the Good News of Christ to every Gentile city in the Roman Empire. Paul felt that he owed a great debt to all men everywhere. Paul felt indebted to God's love, and the only way he felt he could discharge his debt of love was to spread the Good News of God's salvation to everyone in the world–the Gentile as well as the Jew, the barbarian as well as the civilized, the uneducated as well as the educated. (Romans 1:14)

The compulsion of love drove Paul from city to city to organize one church after another. As someone said, Paul was "always haunted by the regions beyond". Paul was on fire with the love of God. To share the Good News of God's love with everyone was Paul's passion and dream.

There are two characters upon the stage of Romans, chapter one: God and Man. The first half of Romans 1 is focused on God's character: (1) God's love, (2) God's mercy, (3) God's justice and holiness. The second half of Romans 1 unmasks the character of man and shows man's sinfulness in all of it's vivid reality.

God's love and mercy are extended to everyone everywhere. God desires all men to accept His offer of mercy and, as a result, be saved. It is only when one suppresses the truth of God and spurns the offer of mercy that he will reap the just judgement of God.

"O God, you chose not only to save me, but to use me! I am saved from sin–negatively wonderful! I am saved to serve–positively wonderful! The love of God compels me to share, and love always finds a way! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A bell is not a bell until you ring it; love is not love until you share it!

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Romans 1:1-4

Good News — Promised, Provided, Proven!

The Good News of God was promised to the prophets in the Old Testament. "This Good News was promised long ago by God's prophets in the Old Testament." (Romans 1:2, Living Bible) The prophets often spoke about judgement of sin, the 'Day of the Lord'–the day of wrath and destruction. But interspersed in these judgement announcements are declarations of hope and restoration. A future day of God's miraculous deliverance through the promised Messiah is focused on–a day of forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, and the universal reign of God. Occasionally even the narrow confines of Jewish nationalism are broken, and the message of God's salvation for the Gentiles is proclaimed!

The Good News of God was provided in the coming of Jesus. The Good News (Gospel) is centered in the Incarnation (the act of God becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ). Paul declares, "It is the Good News about his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came as a human baby, born into King David's royal family line". (Romans 1:3, Living Bible) If there had been no visitation by God, there would have been no redemption of man. One great thinker in the early Church said, "He (God) became what we are, to make us what he is". The source of the Good News is Jesus–God in human flesh–really and truly man, and really and truly God. Jesus is not a demi-god, half god and half man. He is fully God and fully Man. His sacrificial life, substitutionary death, and powerful resurrection provide the basis for the Good News.

The Good News of God is proven in the resurrection of Jesus. "By being raised from the dead he was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God himself." (Romans 1:4, Living Bible) If Jesus had not risen from the dead, there would be no 'Good News'. Why? Because death would have had the final word, and would have proven to be stronger than life. To put faith in a crucified Jesus alone, is to put faith in a great hero, but a hero powerless to deliver one from the clutches of sin and death. The Gospel is powerful because of the powerful resurrection. God had to raise His Son to life to show that the sinless Son of God could not be overcome by the sinful sons of the devil. The resurrection is the badge of Christ's authority to establish His long predicted Messianic Kingdom in the hearts and lives of people. The resurrection validates God's claim of power to change human nature, for the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is available to transform and to cleanse corrupt human nature.

"O God, what was promised by the prophets, provided by the Son, and proven by the Resurrection, help me to appropriate for my personal salvation. The Good News is only good for me personally when I accept it!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Good views are man's fashionable opinions; Good News is God's factual offer! I choose to believe God's facts, not man's opinions!

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Romans 1:5

The Good News Is Poured Out On Undeserving Sinners!

We are in the process of unmasking the characters of God and Man, as revealed in Romans, chapter one.

We have seen that God has taken the great initiative to save sinning humanity. (Romans 1:1-4) The Good News was promised to the Prophets (verse 2), provided in Jesus' life and death (verse 3), and proven in Jesus' resurrection (verse 4).

But not only does God initiate the plan, He also invites the sinner to receive the plan, personally (Romans 1:5-17). The Good News is poured out on undeserving sinners (verse 5a), promoted among receptive sinners (verses 5b-9), perfected among growing saints ( verses 10-12), and personified in the Apostle's life (verse 13-16).

God not only initiates, invites, but God also evaluates (verses 18-32). God evaluates each person's response to the Gospel invitation. The last half of Romans 1 shows us that God reveals His wrath against God-rejectors. Why? Because all men are without excuse! God's character is unmistakably revealed to mankind. Therefore, man's rejection is justifiably condemned, and God's punishment will be progressively executed!

We must now look at each of these carefully outlined truths regarding God's Good News.

God's Good News (described as the kindness of God in Romans 1:5 a) is poured out upon undeserving sinners. "And now, through Christ, all the kindness of God has been poured out upon us undeserving sinners." (verse 5a, Living Bible) There is nothing in mankind that merits God's attention or that deserves God's favor. Man is a sinner both by nature and by choice.

God's kindness is inherent to God's nature. God is reconciled with all of humanity regardless of man's moral condition. He loves all men unconditionally. It is not that God has overlooked sin or that he treats sin indulgently. It is that God has turned His wrath against sin upon Himself and taken the penalty of sin upon Himself upon the Cross. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself through the Cross. It was God dying upon the Cross, and dying for all sinners. He bore our sins in His own body upon the Cross. The Cross appeased the wrath of God and satisfied the justice of God. Because of the Cross, God can both be just in His nature and at the same time justify the sinner. Because of the substitutionary death of Jesus, God can pour out His kindness and unlimited love upon undeserving sinners!

"O God, what more can you do than what you have done! You have initiated the plan of salvation, invited the sinner to receive salvation, and are ready to give the gift of salvation to all who ask! I gladly ask and joyfully receive! Glory to God!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's wonderful salvation is given, in order that woeful sinners (like me) might become worshipping saints!

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Romans 1:5-9

Good News Promoted Among Receptive Sinners!

The Good News (described as the mercies of God in Romans 1: 5b-9 Romans 1:5-9) is promoted among receptive sinners. It is promoted in three ways: (1) promoted through participation in God's mercies personally (verses 5b-7), (2) promoted through partnership in God's mercies promotionally (verse 8), (3) promoted through prayer for God's mercies practically (verse 9).

God has poured out His undeserving kindness and love upon all humanity. God's love is indiscriminately and universally poured out upon the world of men. God's intention is that all men be the recipients of this poured out love. God wants every man to receive this love.

However, although this love is given universally, this love is not automatically received universally. The love that is poured out is the love that must be promoted.

Paul later writes in Romans 10: "Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:13-14, Living Bible)

The message of God's kindness, mercy, and forgiveness is meant for all, but only those who hear the message, and believe the message, can enjoy the benefits of the message. Therefore the message must be spread by messengers. God's love that is poured out upon all undeserving sinners, must be promoted among all receptive sinners.

Romans 1:5b-7 (Romans 1:5-7) tells us that the Good News is promoted through participation in God's mercies personally. Both Paul and the Roman Christians to whom he is writing had personally experienced the love of God in conversion. They had appropriated the benefits of Christ's shed blood. They were experiencing peace with God and the peace of God. Paul testifies that he was going around the world of his day telling all people everywhere about the great things God had done for him, so that others could also believe and obey Christ (verse 5). Paul's dear friends in Rome were al so recipients of God's love, mercy, and peace, and were among God's holy people (verses 6-7). They were able to promote God's love because they had first experienced God's love and forgiveness.

How is it possible for a professor of religion to promote the Gospel if that professor is not a genuine possessor of the love of God?

"How can one promote what he does not possess? How can one sell what he does not use? There can be no powerful promotion without personal participation. O God, make my experience of Christ firsthand, not secondhand. Then I can promote authentically!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There can be no 'doing' if there is not 'being' first! I will minister to others out of the overflow of my personal life in Christ!

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Romans 1:8-9

Born To Reproduce

We have noted that God's Good News is promoted through participation in God's mercies personally (Romans 1:5b-7 Romans 1:5-7). Further, God's Good News is promoted through partnership in God's mercies promotionally (verse 8).

Writes Paul to the beloved Church at Rome, "Let me say first of all that wherever I go I hear you being talked about! For your faith in God is becoming known around the world. How I thank God through Jesus Christ for this good report, and for each one of you". (Romans 1:8, Living Bible) The Good News is best promoted by the united Church–united in love and partners together in spreading the message of mercy to the unreached. Christians are born to reproduce. The faith of the Church at Rome was becoming known around the world. Others were being born into the Kingdom through their witness. So should it be in our Churches today! Vital sharing is the answer to growth!

The story is told of a great camp meeting, at which place God's Spirit was poured out in great measure, especially on the last night. Shouting, singing, and praying went on until the early hours of the morning. The next day Camp was over and many happy hearts boarded a chartered bus to take them home. All on the bus were rejoicing" and praising God together. When these happy people got home, one of the leaders of the group suddenly went into a dark and dismal depression. He couldn't pray and he seemed to have lost all of the blessing of those happy camp meeting days. He couldn't understand his 'dry' spiritual condition in contrast to his over-whelming blessing at Camp. He agonized with the Lord in prayer. Finally the Lord revealed the reason for his depression. The Lord said something like this to the spiritual leader: "You greatly enjoyed My blessing, but you were so preoccupied with your own spiritual happiness and with the blessed fellowship you were having with other believers, that you forgot to share the Good News with that unconverted bus driver who drove you home from camp. While you were so happy, he was so miserable, and he could not understand the reason for your happiness. You can only be blessed when you are sharing the Good News with the unhappy and sin-sick!"

The Good News is promoted through prayer for God's mercies practically (verse 9). Prayer for the practical needs of the witnessing believers helped provide stability and solidarity in the lives of the disciples. Through prayer, Paul made disciples who could become disciplers. It is still true that the Gospel can best be promoted through the practice of discipleship multiplication rather than mere conversion addition.

"O God, Thou art the source of all love. The world of needy people is the object of your great love. Make me the channel of your love. Let your love flow from You to them through me! Thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will give me as much as I am willing to give away, and no more. I must learn to give away my faith!

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Romans 1:10-12

Good News Perfected Among Growing Saints

We are looking at God's Good News as described in the first half of Romans 1. We have thus far seen that God's Good News (described as Kindness) is poured out upon undeserving sinners (verse 5a). Also we have seen God's Good News (described as God's Mercies ) is promoted among receptive sinners (verses 5b-9). We must now see that God's Good News (described as Faith in God) is perfected among growing saints (verses 7, 10-12).

'Saints'–an interesting title to apply to brand new Christians! The youngest believer is called, by God, a 'saint'! A young child about to enter first grade is called a 'scholar'. He is given that title and that status, not because of present scholastic attainments, but because of faith in his future potential. The youngest believer enjoys the status of 'saint', but he must go through the long school of prayer, discipline, and growth before he fully enjoys the attainments of sainthood. The young child may be called a scholar, but he will experience years of intellectual growth before he is actually a scholar. So with the young Christian. He is declared a 'saint' in a moment of time, but it will take a lifetime of growth before he becomes 'saintly'.

Paul writes, "And one of the things I keep on praying for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you and, if possible, that I will have a safe trip. For I long to visit you so that I can impart to you the faith that will help your church grow strong in the Lord. Then, too, I need your help, for I want not only to share my faith with you, but to be encouraged by yours; each of us will be a blessing to the other". (Romans 1:10-12, Living Bible)

Paul was vitally concerned that every young Christian become perfected. What is the source of Christian growth? Paul wanted to visit these young Christians in order that he might impart that faith to them which would enable their church to grow. Faith then is the source of growth. 'Faith' or proposition truth, is communicated by preaching (telling the basics about the coming of Jesus) and by teaching (telling the details of the faith regarding the Lordship of Christ in daily living). Another source of growth which Paul focuses on is the 'inspiration of sharing'. Mutal encouragement derived from one another's faith is a great impetus to Christian growth. Paul, the great saint, wanted to be cheered up in his faith, as young Christians at Rome shared their faith with him.

"O God, Thou art the Author and Completer of my faith. Thou art the Ground of my being, the Source of my life. Thou wilt complete what you have begun in my life. Your goal for me is total Christlikeness. I follow on!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who chooses to call me a 'saint' will work in me to make me saintly–in actions, attitudes, and relationships!

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Romans 1:13-17

Good News Personified In Paul's Life!

The Good News is poured out on undeserving sinners, promoted among receptive sinners, perfected among growing saints, and finally, personified in Paul's life.

First, note the compulsion of the Gospel in Paul's life. "I want you to know, dear brothers, that I planned to come many times before (but was prevented) so that I could work among you and see good results, just as I have among the other Gentile churches. For I owe a great debt to you and to everyone else, both to civilized people and uncivilized alike; yes, to the educated and uneducated alike." (Romans 1:13-14, Living Bible)

Second, note the proclamation of the Gospel in Paul's life. "So, to the fullest extent of my ability, I am ready to come also to you in Rome to preach God's Good News." (Romans 1:15, Living Bible)

Third, note the power of the Gospel, demonstrated dramatically in Paul's life. "For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God's powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way." (Romans 1:16, Living Bible) Paul was fascinated with the Gospel. He believed that all nations could be saved through its power (verse 5). None were too sinful to be transformed by its wonder-working power! Paul felt that if he could be saved, then anyone could be saved! Many times Paul recalled his former life when he cruelly persecuted the Christians: "And I persecuted the Christians, hounding them to death, binding and delivering both men and women to prison". (Acts 22:4) Paul, the passionate persecutor, became Paul, the passionate preacher. He preached with confidence that Christ could save anyone! "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–and I was the greatest of them all." (1 Timothy 1:15, Living Bible) If Christ can save the chief sinner, He can save any other sinner! That is the power of the Gospel in operation!

Fourth, note Paul's description of the Gospel. "This Good News tells us that God makes us ready for heaven–makes us right in God's sight–when we put our faith and trust in Christ to save us. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scripture says it, 'The man who finds life will find it through trusting God'." (Romans 1:17, Living Bible) The Gospel is Good News because all can be saved simply by putting trust in Jesus Christ! God is not willing that any should perish, but that all repent and be saved. Have you been saved?

"Is there any power in heaven or on earth which can transform human nature? None whatever, excepting your Gospel, O Christ! If your Gospel can change Paul the persecutor into Paul the preacher, that same Gospel can change even me!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: B.C. stands for my life 'Before Christ'; A.D. stands for my life 'After Christ'. The transforming Christ makes all the difference in my life!

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Romans 1:17-20

Manifestation Of God's Justice

God has taken the initiative to save man by sending Jesus to live a sacrificial life, to die a substitutionary death, and to provide power through a victorious resurrection.

God has poured out his mercy upon all mankind. The message of salvation is promoted through the lives and words of earnest believers. The way of salvation is made plain for all. All can be saved through simple trust in Christ.

God loves all and wants to save all. But how does God respond to those who refuse the offer of mercy and forgiveness, made possible only through the agonizing death of His only Son?

The love of God and the mercy of God must always be seen in light of the justice of God.

Romans 1:18 says, "But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, evil men who push away the truth from them". (Living Bible) The first half of Romans 1 is filled with brightness and hope! The last half of Romans 1 is filled with darkness and judgement! Why? Simply because, if people refuse God's love and mercy, then people must be inflicted with God's judgement. God's justice is compatible with God's love. Love is one coin. Mercy is on one side of the coin. Wrath is on the other side of the coin. To refuse God's mercy is to invite God's wrath! There is no neutral ground, no razor edge of non-committal upon which man may balance precariously. Every man must choose either mercy or wrath! Either an individual responds to the call of love or he must accept the call to judgement! The God who sooths is the God who a1 so can sear, and both actions are the actions of the holy love!

Evil men who push away the Truth from them or suppress the truth by their wickedness, incite the wrath of God. This is a deliberate act of the will, a deliberate choosing of wrong instead of right, a deliberate choosing of darkness rather than light, a deliberate choosing of Self rather than the Saviour!

The last half of Romans 1 describes the meaning of God's justice: (1) God's character is unmistakably revealed (verses 19-20), (2) Man's rejection of God is justifiably condemned (verses 20b-25), (3) God's punishment of man is progressively executed (verses 21-32).

The offer of mercy is extended to you! Will you accept that mercy, repent, and be saved or will you reject that mercy, suppress the Truth and be lost? Come to Jesus now and be saved! The Good News is for you!

"O God, to refuse your love is to accept your wrath! To accept your mercy is to receive your forgiveness! Now and forever, I choose to accept your mercy. I am saved from present condemnation and from future wrath! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are both lines of love and lines of wrath in God's holy face. I choose only the lines of love!

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Romans 1:21-23

Unmasking The Character Of Man

To understand the message of Romans is to understand the dynamic relationships between God, Man, Sin, and Jesus Christ.

Romans 1 reveals the character of God: (1) God's mercy, (2) God's love, (3) God's holy justice.

Romans 1 unmasks the character of man and shows man's sinfulness in all of it's vivid reality. In this important chapter we see the unmasking of the rebel nature of man's sinful heart, the unmasking of the gross nature of man's sinful actions, and also the unmasking of the judgement of God invoked by man's wrong moral choice.

First, notice the unmasking of the rebel nature of man's sinful heart. Romans 1 makes it clear that all humanity in the beginning knew about the one true and living God. Monotheism (worship of one God) was before polytheism (worship of many gods).

Social evolutionary theory teaches that man began with worship of many gods and late in his evolutionary development man conceived of worshipping only one God. Evolution teaches that man was inferior to begin with and that man has increasingly become perfected–morally, socially, and even physically.

However, the Bible teaches that man started with perfect knowledge and worship of the one true God, but that mankind has increasingly degenerated morally, socially, and even physically. This degeneration is reflected in gross immorality and cruel idolatrous practices.

"It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and deity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse." (Romans 1:19-20, Phillips)

Man takes honor to himself rather than giving honor properly to God. Man refuses gratefully to thank God for His benefits and blessings. "They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such or to thank him for what he is or does." (Romans 1:21 a, Phillips)

Sin must be seen for what it is–a tragic rebellion against the self-revealed God. Sin is willful rejection of the knowledge and truth of God. To unmask the character of man is to reveal the rebel nature of man's sinful heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9 RSV)

"Your revelation is both tremendous and terrible! You have revealed the perfection of God, the problem of man, and the provision of the Saviour! I, O God, am sinful–that part of revelation is terrible, but because your Son is saving, your total revelation is tremendous!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'Inevitable progress' (social evolutionary theory); is man's unfounded opinion; 'dramatic transformation' (divine revelation) is God's proven fact!

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1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Unmasking Sin's Perversions

In yesterday's devotional we looked at the rebel nature of man's sinful heart, as revealed by God. We must now look at the gross nature of man's sinful actions, as outlined in the latter half of Romans 1. Only when man realizes that he is a great sinner is he ready to receive Christ as a great Saviour!

We must see sin in terms of perversion–physical, mental, spiritual, and social perversion.

First, look at sin's physical perversion. Romans describes this as the shameful misuse of the body sexually. Romans 1: 24 b says that sinful mankind "dishonor their own bodies between themselves". "Their women turned against God's natural plan for them and indulged in sex sin with each other. And the men, instead of having a normal sex relationship with women, burned with lust for each other, men doing shameful things with other men and, as a result, getting paid within their own souls with the penalty they so richly deserved." (Romans 1:26-27, Living Bible)

Homosexuality and other sexual perversions are clearly condemned in Scripture, regardless of the liberal teachings of some modern-day clergymen and social reformers. Such a practice is not only a physical perversion, but it reflects a moral degeneration.

Homosexual tendencies as well as overt homosexual practices doubtless reflect serious and complex personality problems that call for sympathetic treatment. But, while Christian compassion is called for in such treatment, Christian tolerance and acceptance of the practice is never called for. Perversion must never be normalized in the name of Christian tolerance and broadmindedness. Sexual perversion, however it my be psychologically and sociologically explained, is always a manifestation of spiritual degeneration. The Christ who condemns such perversion is the Christ who can forgive and deliver the captive of such a practice.

Sin always pays its own penalty. People who defy the laws of God get "paid within their own souls with the penalty they so richly deserve" (verse 27). Not only is homosexual practices condemned, but any sexual perversion is both condemned and costly in terms of consequences. Notes Howard Hoffman, MD., "Today's sexual permissiveness has paralleled a marked increase in all forms of venereal disease. There are more cases of syphilis and gonorrhea each year than the combined number of all other reportable communicable diseases." (Pamphlet on VD, published by Light and Life Press)

"O God, you are everything I wish to be–whole, holy, healthy, and righteous! My body is made for you, not for sin's perversion! I exchange all my perversions for your wonderful purity!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." (I Corinthians 6:13)

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Romans 1:24-32

The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard!

In our attempt honestly to unmask man's sinful nature and practices, as revealed in Romans 1:18-32, we are describing sin's perversions.

Secondly, look at sin's mental perversion. It is a great mental perversion when men exchange the truth of God for a lie! Romans 1:25 says that sinful humanity chooses to believe lies rather than the Truth of God! "Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies." Today there is a torrent of false doctrines and false teachers. Another evidence of spiritual degeneration!

Third, look at sin's spiritual perversion. Men serve creation rather than the Creator! When man rejects the Creator, man, who is incurably religious, begins to serve the creation! "And then, instead of worshipping the glorious, ever-living God, they took wood and stone and made idols for themselves, carving them to look like mere birds and animals and snakes and puny men… So they prayed to the things God made, but wouldn't obey the blessed God who made these things." (Romans 1:23, Romans 1:25 b, Living Bible)

Many today are worshipping the things God has made, refusing to bow their knees to the God who made these things. For instance, God made money to be used to serve His kingdom, but man instead is worshipping money. Many worship the god of Materialism. God made sex to be enjoyed and used within marriage for procreation and recreation, but man has made a god out of sex. Many worship the god of Sensualism. God enabled man to discover and use the scientific method to create untold blessings and to give mankind unlimited conveniences, but man has bowed to the 'sacred cow' of science. Many worship the god of Scientism. Worshipping creation rather than worshipping the Creator–this is evidence of man's spiritual perversion.

Fourth, look at sin's social perversion. Romans describes this as total breakdown of all peaceful human relationships. Romans 1:29-31 gives a long catalogue of social sins, describing sinful man's social degeneration! "Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness and sin, of greed and hate, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, and gossip. They were backbiters, haters of God, insolent, proud braggerts, always thinking of new ways of sinning and continually being disobedient to their parents. They tried to misunderstand, broke their promises , and were heartless–without pity." (Romans 1:29-31, Living Bible)

Is it any wonder that the Bible says that the way of the transgressor is hard?

"O God, I see now that there is a high cost in not serving you. To go against you is to go against myself. To honor you is to honor myself. I choose to serve you and to honor myself!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of holiness is the way of happiness and health! I will distain sin and delight in righteousness!

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Hosea 8:1-14

Sowing And Reaping — A Spiritual Law

Thus far in our study of Romans 1:18-32, we have unmasked the rebel nature of man's sinful heart and the gross nature of man's sinful actions. We must now unmask the judgement of God invoked by man's wrong moral choice. Romans 1 shows the tragic consequences of wrong moral choices. Every man is free to do only one thing–to make choices. "We are free to choose, but not free to choose the results or consequences of our choices. They are in hands not our own. Some go through life choosing to surrender to the right person and to submit to the right things–they get results; the sum total of reality is behind them, they have cosmic backing for their way of life. But some go through life surrendering to the wrong persons and submitting to the wrong things–they get consequences; they are up against reality, they are frustrated, in trouble, with themselves and others."(Victory Through Surrender, LS. Jones, p. 124-125)

Whatever a man sows, that is what he shall reap! Wrote the great psychologist, William James, "The hell to be endured hereafter of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way". (quoted in Conversion, E.S. Jones, p. 33)

The high cost of not serving Christ is vividly described in Scripture. If one "sows the wind", he will "reap the whirlwind". (Hosea 8:7) No one can really break the moral law of God; one can only defy that moral law, and in the process, get broken morally.

The brilliant 19th century actor, Oscar Wilde, who won highest academic honors, fell to the temptation of unnatural vice, and finally came to prison and disgrace. In spite of his brilliance and literary fame, he sowed seeds of sin and eventually reaped a harvest of shame. He wrote, "I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes the character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace". (Victory Through Surrender, E.S. Jones, p. 13)

Sow righteousness and reap results. Sow tears of repentance and reap the joy of salvation. Sow righteousness and reap mercy. Sow total surrender to Christ and reap lifetime fulfillment. Sow love and reap love. Choose Christ as your God and you will get glorious results for time and for eternity.

"O God, I see now that when I serve you I get some heaven here and a lot of heaven hereafter. The heaven I make for myself on earth will be multiplied infinitely in eternity! When I serve Self, I get some hell here and a lot of hell hereafter. I choose to be a double winner, not a double loser!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Every little action of this day either helps make or unmake my character for eternity! I will live carefully!

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Genesis 6:5-8, Isaiah 1:16-20

Sin Is Irrational!

Romans 1 reveals a progression downward in sin's judgement. First, there is a distorted mind. Refusal of God first results "in man's mind being emptied of God's knowledge and filled instead with darkness and irrational thoughts. Romans 1:21 b says, "Their thoughts have become complete nonsense and their empty minds are filled with darkness". (Today's English Version) The Jerusalem Bible translation of this verse is: "They made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened". One of sin's own judgements is a distorted, irrational mind. Think of the irrationality of man's modern-day philosophies.

How irrational is Secularism which claims that temporal values are all important, and that spiritual values are non-existent or at least unimportant!

How irrational is Materialism which says that life consists in the abundance of things which a man possesses!

How irrational is Sensualism which says that the gratification of man's physical desires is all-important!

How irrational is Humanism which says that man is innately good and the object of worship and adoration! 'Glory to man "in the highest'!

How irrational is religious Liberalism which denies the deity of Jesus, denies the virgin birth, denies the need for Jesus' vicarious atonement. Man is his own savior!

How irrational is Moral Relativism which denies the reality of any objective or absolute moral standards by which to determine right or wrong! Each man becomes a law unto himself! Every man does that which is right in his own eyes! Every man becomes his own judge in matters of moral decisions!

The mental distortions of modern-day philosophies reveal the fact that sin has taken its toll! Evil imaginations and evil systems of thought are manifestations of an evil heart. "Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done" (Romans 1:28, New Living Translation)

Second, there are misplaced values. Refusal of God next results in man's preoccupation with his own worldly wisdom, which is foolishness to God. "Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools." (Romans 1:22, New Living Translation) "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God." (1 Corinthians 3:19-20)

"O God, there are ways that seem so right to unconverted men, but the end of those ways is death! Don't let anyone capture me with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Colossians 2:8, New Living Translation)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of reason is the way of God. Honest reasoning leads me to the feet of Jesus!

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Proverbs 8:32-36

Sin Pays Wages!

We are looking at the progression downward in sin's judgement. Third, there is a God-allowed moral abandonment. Refusal of God eventually results in God lifting His restraints to allow man to do his own wicked thing! One of the most frightening words of judgement in all of Holy Writ is Romans 1:24. "So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies." (Romans 1:24, New Living Translation)

Fourth, there is sin-inflicted moral damage. Refusal of God then results in sin bringing its own hurtful judgement to the mind and body of the unrepentant. "Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap." And the reaping is in this life as well as in the life hereafter. Sin pays wages, now and in eternity! The way of the transgressor is hard! The sinner gets paid within his own soul with the penalty that he so richly deserves. (Romans 1:27, Living Bible)

Fifth, there is finally God-sent death. Continued and persistent rejection of God finally results in eternal death for the sinner. We have seen that sin's judgement is progressive. The mind first becomes distorted by rejecting God's revealed knowledge and truth. Error is entertained and true values are replaced with false values. False values then lead one into a life of immoral practice. The man who persists in sin becomes calloused in his conscience, insensitive to spiritual danger, and devastating in his evil influence. "They know what God's verdict is; that those who behave like this deserve to die–and yet they do it; and what is worse, encourage others to do the same." (Romans 1:32, Jerusalem Bible)

God will eventually execute the death penalty upon all unrepentant and calloused sinners! Sin brings its own judgement in sin's divesting work on the body, mind, and spirit. Added to the this judgement will be the direct and final judgement of Almighty God on rebellious mankind.

Is there any hope for man? None, independent of God! The dark picture of man's perverted nature is matched by the bright picture of God's Good News! Man the hopeless sinner can become Man the hopeful saint! A bad man can become a good man! The hell-bound can become the heaven-bound! The perverted can become the purified! Have you trusted Christ to save you from your sins? If not, why not? To persist in unbelief is to reap judgement! To exercise faith in Christ is to reap eternal life! Come to Christ now!

"O God, sin pays wages. Sin gives the sinner what he deserves–death. But you, merciful Father, give gifts. You give the repentant person not what he deserves–eternal life! I gladly accept what you offer, not what I deserve!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who refuses to repent because of the judgements of sin in the body, must someday reap the judgements of the Saviour in the soul! I will repent in time, in order to be saved in eternity!

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Luke 18:9-14, Isaiah 64:6

'Down-And-Out' And 'Up-And-Out' Sinners!

Romans, chapters 1-3, is written primarily to contrast the righteousness of God's character with the sinfulness of man's character. The universality of sin among all humanity is the devastating conclusion of these three chapters.

In chapter one of Romans "Paul had painted a grim and terrible picture of the heathen world, a world which was under the condemnation of God. With every word of that condemnation the Jew thoroughly agreed. But he never for a moment dreamed that he was under alike condemnation. He thought that he occupied a privileged position. God might be the judge of the heathen, but he was the special protector of the Jews. Here Paul is pointing out forcibly to the Jew that he is just as much a sinner as the Gentile is and that when he is condemning the Gentile he is condemning himself. He will be judged, not on his racial heritage, but by the kind of life that he lives", (Barclay's Romans, Daily Study Bible, p. 41)

Chapter one is a description of 'down-and-out' Gentile sinners, morally perverted and grossly immoral. Chapter two is a description of self-righteous, hypocritical Jews who prided themselves in their racial descent, and claimed God's special favor because Abraham was the father of their faith.

The Jews' claim to moral excellence and spiritual eliteness is vividly described in Romans 2:17-20. "You call yourself a Jew; you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, alight for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth ." (NIV)

Chapter one and chapter two of Romans reveal two sides of one coin. The 'coin' is sin. One side of the 'coin' is the life of sensuality. The other side of the 'coin' is the life of self-righteous morality. Both ways of life are condemned by God. Neither the down-and-out sinner nor the up-and-out sinner can gain God's approval. Both the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit bring God's judgement. Irreligious passion and religious hypocrisy both bring God's severe judgement. Sinful actions and sinful attitudes are alike condemned. The sensual sins and the sophisticated sins alike are scrutinized. Neither the life of paganism nor the life of religion can gain God's approval. The repulsive life of sensual perversion and the respectable life of self-righteous morality are equally offensive to the all-holy God, and both ways of life lead to the same eternal destination!

"O God, forgive me for secretly thinking that my own 'righteousness' in some way makes me more acceptable to you. I exchange the filthy rags of my own self-righteous for the pure garments of thy holiness and righteousness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The worst enemy of Christ-centered Christianity is self-centered religion!

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John 8:17-47

"God Has No Grandchildren — Only Children!"

There are two major flaws in attempting to gain God's approval by a life of outward morality.

First, the man of self-righteous morality is shallow in his understanding of the nature of sin. He can easily condemn the immoral behavior of 'out-and-out' sinners. Adultery, stealing, cheating, murder, and other such actions are easily and rightly condemned. But the man of morality finds it difficult to diagnose the universal disease of all mankind–the disease of self-centeredness. "The thing that is deeply wrong with human nature is not that some people commit adultery, and some steal, but that all of us are self-centered–the decent and the indecent, the nice and the nasty. Manners, polish, refinement, and culture only cover the disease, like rouge on the face of a woman dying of anemia. They can't affect the deadly disease underneath," (Questions People Ask About Religion, William Sangster, p. 58)

The second flaw in the man of self-righteous morality is his hypocrisy. Of the self-righteous Jews, God says, "You are just as bad (as the Gentiles). When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are talking about yourselves, for you do these very same things… God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws, but don't obey them. They know what is right, but don't do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it", (Romans 2:12-15, Living Bible)

At the time of my conversion, I was an 'up-and-out' sinner. I was living a morally respectable life, with no noticeable 'bad' habits, and attending Church services three times a week. I read the Bible, memorized Bible verses, 'said' prayers, and performed my share of 'good deeds'. I believed that because I was a fifth generation Free Methodist, I was morally acceptable to God and that God would automatically let me go to heaven. I, like the morally upright Jews described in Romans, felt that God favored me. I reasoned that because I didn't indulge in grossly immoral sins, that surely I was acceptable enough to God! The day came, however, when I realized that God has no 'grandchildren', only children. A second-hand experience of God, through my godly mother, would never suffice! I needed personally to repent of my sins–my sinful attitudes, my pride, my self-righteous claims, my dependence upon morality alone to save me. I realized that 'up-and-out' (religious) sinners needed God just as much as 'down-and-out' (irreligious) sinners. One kind of sinner can go to hell as quickly as the other kind!

"O God, I see from your Word that it is not the circumstances of my birth that make the difference; it is the crisis of my spiritual rebirth that determines my destiny for time and eternity!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is born once, dies twice–in time and in eternity! He who is born twice–physically and spiritually–dies only once in time!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Good News And The Bad News'

  1. According to Romans 1:14, what was the scope of Paul's preaching? What was Paul's passion and dream, according to Romans 1:15?

  2. According to Romans 1:2, to whom was the Good News of God's salvation promised? According to Romans 1:3, through whom is God's salvation provided? According to Romans 1:4, what event proved that Jesus alone is the Instrument of God's salvation?

  3. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If there had been no visitation by God, there would have been no redemption of man".

  4. What is the motivation for God to pour out His kindness upon mankind? (Romans 1:5)

  5. If God's love has been poured out indiscriminately and universally upon the world of men, why are not all persons enjoying God's love and salvation?

  6. Is it possible (according to Romans 1:5-7) for one to promote God's love and salvation among others if he has not first personally experienced God's love and forgiveness? (Is first-hand experience of God imperative if one is to be a witness for God?)

  7. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God will give me as much as I am willing to give away, and no more; God will continue to pour out His blessing upon me only as long as I make myself available to God as a channel of blessings to others".

  8. Tell what is meant by the phrase: "The Gospel message can best be promoted through the practice of 'discipleship multiplication' rather than mere 'conversion addition'.

  9. What place does the practice of prayer have in the promotion of the Gospel among believers (note Romans 1:9-10)?

  10. How (according to Romans 1:10-12) is 'faith' and 'the inspiration of sharing' each a great impetus to Christian growth amidst the fellowship of God's people?

  11. What is involved in the process of a new believer (who is called a 'saint') actually attaining the reality of sainthood as a mature believer?

  12. What can you say, according to Romans 1:13-17, about the compulsion of the Gospel, the proclamation of the Gospel, the power of the Gospel, and the description of the Gospel?

  13. What will persons reap if they spurn the mercy of God? What is the relationship between the love of God, the mercy of God, and the justice of God? (Note Romans 1:18)

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Good News And The Bad News' (continued)

  14. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The God who sooths is the God who also can sear, and both actions are the actions of holy love!"

  15. What evidence (from a study of Romans 1:19-23) is there that monotheism (worship of one God) was before polytheism (worship of many gods) in the history of the human race? Is the evolutionary theory compatible with the teachings of Romans 1, especially as it relates to man's social and moral development?

  16. How would you describe (according to Romans 1:23-32) the tragedy of sin's affects, in terms of physical, mental, spiritual, and social perversion?

  17. What evidence is there, from an observation of modern-day society, that men are "worshipping creation rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:23, Romans 1:25)?

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "We are free to choose, but not free to choose the results or consequences of our choices".

  19. One of sin's judgements (according to Romans 1:21) is a distorted, irrational mind. List and describe some of man's modern-day irrational philosophies.

  20. When sinful men continue to rebel against God, what frightful reaction on God's part is possible (according to Romans 1:24)? What is the final judgement of God upon unrepentant persons (Romans 1:32)?

  21. List the five steps downward in sin's judgement, according to Romans 1:21-32.

  22. If chapter one of Romans describes 'down-and-out-sinners' who are morally perverted and grossly immoral, what does chapter two of Romans describe?

  23. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The repulsive life of sensual perversion and the respectable life of self-righteous morality are equally offensive to the all-holy God, and both ways of life lead to the same eternal destination!"

  24. There are two major flaws in attempting to gain God's approval by a life of outward morality. Describe those two major flaws.

  25. What is the difference between an 'up-and-out-sinner' and a 'down-and-out-sinner'?

  26. What is meant by the statement: "God has no grandchildren, only children".

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