Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of The Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God with Us

A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

B. In Joy

II. God in Us

A. To Convict

B. To Forgive

C. To Cleanse

D. To Comfort

E. To Keep

III. God For Us

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

CONCLUSION: God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit!

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of the Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: "E. Stanley Jones has told a story of a little boy who stood before a picture of his absent father, and then turned to his mother and said wistfully, 'I wish Father would step out of the picture." (Sangster's Special- Day Sermons; page 17)

This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

"The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel. Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (E. S. Jones; page 8 of 'Word Became Flesh')

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God With Us

"The greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God. This is the comfort which the Advent tidings bring – and it is all in that one word Immanuel: for Immanuel means 'God with us', with us in Jesus, God going through the darkness with you, God saying, 'My friend, you must not carry the trouble alone any longer – cast it down at My feet: I will take it and carry it, and the hardest part shall be my part.' The word Immanuel means that where we, with all our poor human words of comfort, break down utterly, God begins. Immanuel means that when you feel nobody wants you, God does. Immanuel means that when your heart is crying to every would-be comforter, 'Ah, you don't understand, you can't see things from my side of them, you are outside' – Immanuel means that God is right inside. Immanuel means God with you and in you, God making the pain a sacrament, the conflict a crusade, and the broken dreams a ladder up to heaven. And so, through Christ, God speaks home to the heart of Jerusalem." (The Gates of New Life; page 197, 198; James Stewart)

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A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained 
Too deeply for mirth and song; 
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, 
And the way grows weary and long? 
O yes, He cares; I know He cares, 
His heart is touched with my grief; 
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, 
I know my Saviour cares. 

Jesus is called 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". He feels and he knows every burden you carry. The Bible exhorts you "To let all your anxieties fall upon him for his interest is in you." (1 Peter 5:7, Moffatt.)

When Jesus' friend, Lazarus died, and Jesus saw Lazarus' sisters in great grief, 'Jesus wept', and not only wept, but did something about the problem – He raised Lazarus to life.

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it!" (Stewart; page 197) So Jesus raised him to life.

An embittered father, who had lost his son in the war, asked a minster: 'Where was God when my son died?' Replied the minister, 'The same place He was when His own son died.' There is no experience that God can't understand.

God is with you in loneliness, for Jesus understands what it means to have his one- time follower's leave and forsake him. Jesus went through His trial all alone – with even his disciples leaving him. You need never walk alone. Jesus said, 'Lo, I am with you always.'

God is with us in times of poverty. Jesus experienced the depths of poverty. Born in a manger, working hard, long hours in a carpenter shop to 'make ends meet' for the family that he was to provide for, after Joseph died, while Jesus' brothers and sisters were still young – these are experiences that enable the poor to so closely identify with Jesus. Said Jesus, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head." (Matthew 9:20) Jesus left the 'ivory palaces' of heaven, and emptied himself on earth for man. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes be became poor, that ye through

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his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

B. In Joy

Jesus identifies with us in our joys. In fact, Jesus enjoyed life so much, that his sour critics called Jesus a wine-bibber. "The Son of man came eating and drinking (showing jolly spirit) and they (the critics) say, Behold a man gluttonous, and wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Jesus often ate and dined at sinners' homes.

Jesus showed gaiety of spirit at the wedding at Cana of Galilee, and wanted the guests and hosts to be so happy, that he changed water into wine, to save the hosts (who were probably poor people) embarrassment and shame.

The spirit of Jesus is reflected in the writings of Jesus' followers: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4) "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:18-19)

II. God In Us

A. To Convict

If it were not for the mercy of God's conviction of sin and of our need for Christ, no man would be saved. God is in every man to create a need for Christ. "John Nelsen, weighed down with a deep sense of sin, went to hear John Wesley. Though unknown to the field preacher, Nelson felt that Wesley was aiming his message directly at him, as one standing alone before a preacher. 'As soon as he got up on the stand, he stroked back his hair, and turned his face towards where I stood, and I thought fixed his eyes upon me. His countenance struck such awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that it make my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock: and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me. When he had done, I said, "This man can tell the secrets of my heart"'." (Mavis; Personal Renewal Through Christian Conversion; page 45)

B. To Forgive

God is in us to forgive us all our sins. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalms 103:12) God has hid our sins in the sea of forgetfulness, never to remember them against us

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again. Says God, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 6:12)

I believe the most important word of the English language is "Forgiveness".

C. To Cleanse

"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. .. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7)

William Carvosso, saintly class-leader in the Methodist Church for over 60 years, had prayed earnestly for 'inward holiness'. The Spirit directed him to the promise in Ezekiel 36:25-27. At length, one evening, while engaged in prayer meeting, the great deliverance came. 'I began to exercise faith, by believing, "I shall have the blessing now." Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I spoken than refining fire went "through my heart – illuminated my soul -scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole." I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed me from all sin. I cried out, "This is what I wanted! I have now got a new heart." … O what boundless happiness there is in Christ, and all for such a poor sinner as 1." (Entire Sanctification; page 73)

D. To Comfort

Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans." The Holy Spirit is in us to enable us to cope successfully with life. He enables us to 'Brave Life Together'. The Spirit imparts courage and rest and power. There is rest for the weary. Said Jesus, "Come to me and I will give you rest – all you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke – for it fits perfectly and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens." (Matthew 11:28)

"True comfort of Christ is a strong, bracing, reinforcing thing. It is like a wind to a boat that has been becalmed. It is like the gift of a job to a man who has been for years out of work. It is like the clasp of a friend's hand in a time of need. This is certainly the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament; and when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the 'Comforter', He is really giving a promise that God will stand by a man in the day of his need, and brace his heart and nerve his arm, and make him more than conqueror." (Stewart page 193; in The Gates of New Life.)

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"A very sensitive and dedicated Christian, after a deep disappointment in some of her trusted colleagues, threw herself on her bed and cried, 'O Jesus, if it weren't for You I'd not be a Christian five minutes'. He held her steady through that letdown." (Word Become Flesh; page 339; E. S. Jones)

E. To Keep

The Holy Spirit is in us to keep us from sin and evil. "The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong, guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) Declared Paul: "I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return." (2 Timothy 1:12) "His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you even until the end of the world."

Says E. Stanley Jones: "For sixty years I've thought of one subject, have spoken about that one subject, and have written about that one subject – that one subject, a Person, Jesus Christ. After thinking and talking about one subject for sixty years, one should be bored and should want a moral holiday, want to get away and think of something else. On the contrary, I was never so excited, so exhilarated, so full of surprise as .now. Something new breaks out from Him every day, a surprise around every comer, horizons cracking, life popping with novelty and meaning – and value. The Truth is making me free, free to find more Truth and yet more Truth. And so on forever and forever." (Word Became Flesh; page 51). "The testimony of Evan Hopkins can help us." The year of his deeper crisis was 1873. In 1913 – just four decades later – he was at Keswick. He opened one of his addresses by saying: 'I think I ought to be the most thankful man in this tent, because I am privileged to testify that the blessings last. It has lasted with me forty years. I shall never forget that sacred spot where the first consecration meeting was held, in London in May, 1873. I had been converted thirteen years, brought to the Lord through a coast guardsman, and I had learned the need of my own heart during those years. At the time that I refer to I was immensely stirred to seek this blessing. We had heard about it and there in Curzon Chapel, Mayfair, under the gallery, sixteen well-known Christian people met together… this was just the beginning of the movement, and I ought to be one of the most thankful men in this tent, because of God's gracious keeping power for forty years. I want to bear testimony to that fact, and give Him all the glory. There have been many failures. I am not glorying in self, but what was revealed to me that day – the all-sufficiency of Christ – as precious to my soul as it ever was.'" (Prayer and Life's Highest; page 87; Rees)

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III. God For Us

The Bible asks the important question, 'If God be for us, who can be against us'? 'Immanuel' means that God is for us.

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

God promises: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalms 32:8) "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:6)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

"The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) "There hath no temptation taken you but such as in common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)

Said Jesus: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33)

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

"Susanna Wesley had a prayer: 'Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy presence. '" (Barclay's Matthew, Vol. 2, page 180)

God is for us, in helping us to carry out our daily tasks. One college youth was having difficulty disciplining himself to do his college studies, and he made this a special subject of prayer, and discovered that he was able to do a much greater job.

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Brother Lawrence, who worked as a monastery cook in the 17th century, was a simple man who learned to take God with him in the simplest tasks of life. He wrote:

"Lord of all pots and pans and things .... 
Make me a saint by getting meals 
And washing up the plates!" 

He further testified: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." (Practicing The Presence of God; page 6)

"Mrs. Billy Graham admits 'that I do most of my praying "on the hoof'. She says that sometimes a busy homemaker simply cannot get down upon her knees often. ' but to know that you can wash dishes, iron, clean, shop, drive, and in whatever you have to do Jesus Christ is there beside you, urging you to talk over your problems with him – that is a joy and a comfort it is impossible to describe.'" (Alive To God Through Prayer; Donald Demaray, pg 89)

"After thirty-five years of service, the superintendent of nurses in a Philadelphia hospital retired. Her service had been outstanding because of her radiant personality, her thoughtfulness, her self-forgetting service, her courage and her hope. A banquet was held to honor her on her retirement. Hundreds of persons, doctors, nurses, other hospital personnel, former patients and friends gathered to do her honor. Speeches gave glowing tribute to her service. Then she arose, and told of an incident that took place thirty-five years before that changed her life. It was the last year as a student nurse. At Christmas time she found the schedule of duty did not permit her to get away from the hospital, while other girls had Christmas leave. She was homesick and irritated, and her attitude was reflected in everything she did. On Christmas Eve, a little boy was brought into the ward where she was on duty. The day after Christmas she was going about her duties, when she entered the room to help the little boy.

Suddenly the lad spoke up and said, 'I guess you never heard of the baby Jesus, did you?' She was stunned by the remark and snapped, 'Why did you say that?" The little boy looked up from his pillow and said, 'Cause you couldn't look so cross and sad if you had heard of the baby Jesus!'

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The now-retired superintendent of nurses said she ran from the ward. In the seclusion of her own room, she fell on her knees and promised God that as long as she was a nurse, she would never give any patient reason to think that she had never heard about Jesus. The incident, she said, changed her life. Her devotion to her work, and her enthusiasm for her task were dated from that hour, now sacred in her hall of memories." (Sermon Builder; page 13, 14 of Dec. 1972)

CONCLUSION: Remember – 'Immanuel' has come – God with Us (in sorrow, pain, loneliness, and poverty), God In Us (to comfort, to forgive, to cleanse, to comfort to keep), God For Us (in making decisions, in meeting satanic attacks, in carrying out life's tasks).

God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit! Glory!

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The Meaning Of The Incarnation

Questions

  1. From your knowledge of World Religions and of Christianity, give illustrations to demonstrate the truth of the following statements: "Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one gospel."

  2. Based on the fact of the Incarnation, do you really believe that there is a Personal Divine One who truly understands your own heartbreaks, perplexities, loneliness, pain, hardships, poverty, broken dreams, and disappointments? (Read 1 Peter 5:7 in as many translations as possible, and share with other believers how this promise has given great comfort to you during a crisis in your own life). Tell with what degree of conviction you believe the following statement: "There is no experience that God can't understand."

  3. What evidence is there from an observation of the life of Jesus and the writings of Jesus' followers, that God is pleased when believers are full of joy, pleasure, and happiness? (Note John 2:1-25, Philippians 4:4; 1 John 1:4; Ephesians 5:18-19)

  4. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is in every man to create a need for Christ."

  5. Would you agree that the most important word of the English language is the word "Forgiveness"? Why or why not? (Note Psalms 103:12; Hebrews 8:12)

  6. Have you, as a believer, ever had an experience when you felt that the precious "blood of Jesus" was deeply cleansing your inner motives and desires, enabling you to become more committed to Christ and more compassionate toward your fellow men? (Note Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 John 1:7)

  7. What is the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament?

  8. Share as many Scriptural promises that you can which assure you of "God's Keeping Power" – i.e., God's ability and desire to keep you safe from evil and to preserve you blameless in godly character until God calls you Home to Heaven. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:12; Philippians 4:7)

  9. In spite of all your personal mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and sins, can you today personally testify to God's faithfulness in keeping you secure in His love – amidst all the changes and chances of your past experiences?

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  10. Share from your personal experience, times and ways in which God has given you divine guidance amidst life's decisions, both large and small. (Note Psalms 32:8; Proverbs 3:6)

  11. Share a time in your life when you sensed the protecting presence of God, amidst sore trials and pressing temptations. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:31-32; John 16:33)

  12. Tell to what extent you identify with the prayer of Suzanne Wesley:

"Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence."

Have you sensed the reality of God's presence just as greatly while you perform your daily routine jobs, as you have during the times of your Holy Communion in God's sanctuary? What "holy disciplines' are you developing in your Christian life which are helping you to "practice the presence of God?"

"Besides your practice of the "discipline of the Quiet Time" of daily devotions, are you learning regularly and consciously to pray to God throughout the routine of your daily responsibilities – in other words, learning to "pray on the hoof'?

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Freedom From Worry

Freedom From Worry

Chapter Eight

Freedom From Worry
Constructive And Destructive Effects Of Anxiety 61 "Tyranny Of The Urgent" 65
Reasons Why Christians Should Not Worry 62 Finding And Maintaining Relaxation 66
Steps In Deliverance From Worry 63 The Cause And Cure Of Various Tensions 67
Finding Victory Over Worry 64 Discussion Questions 68

Matthew 6:25-34

Constructive And Destructive Effects Of Anxiety

In our Scripture reading for today, Jesus is warning Christians against the danger and folly of worry and anxiety. Says E. Stanley Jones: "The probabilities are that fear, worry, and anxieties are the greatest single trinity of evils a man can take into his life. He must root them out at all costs." (Abundant Living; pg. 65)

When Jesus said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, not yet for your body, what ye shall put on", He was not advocating carelessness or indolence. The word used to translate 'Take no thought' is a word which indicates something which divides, separates or distracts. Thus, to 'take no thought' means that we are not to have a distracted, separated, double mind. Such a mind is a worried and fretful mind. There is no peace or integration, but such a mind is divided into sections and compartments. Such a mind keeps a person from seeing things as they really are. No cool, objective thinking can be engaged in when there is a worried, divided mind.

Jesus wants us to be delivered from a care-worn, fretful, worried life, which takes away all joy and delight. Christians are to be people with a long view, people who plan well and work hard, but people who also throw all their energies into serving God, not wasting their energies needlessly on worry.

Of course, there is a heal thy type of anxiety which adds zest, tone, and direction to life. There is a saying which goes: "He who runs in fear, runs best." The student, for instance, who has some anxiety, will study better then the student who has none. "up to a certain point, fear on the part of a surgeon may make him more skillful and careful lest he cut in wrong places, but fear pushed beyond a certain point could paralyze him. There is a healthy fear that gives us skill and drive." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 65)

Fear, worry, and anxiety can even cause physical disorders. Ecclesiastes 11:10 (Moffatt) says, "Banish all worries from your mind, and keep your body from pain." "Doctors have put a tube down the nostrils of a patient into his stomach and have measured the effects, of states of mind on the stomach secretions. The secretion of hydrochloric acid often doubled during states of worrying." (Abundant Living; pg. 69) Says one doctor: "Anxiety places more stress on the heart than any other stimulus, including physical exercise and fatigue… Not work, but worry makes us weary. Sleep refreshes our exhaustion from work, but not the weariness that stems from worry." (None of These Diseases; S.I. McMillan; pg. 60,89)

"Father, I am made by you and for you – not for fear, worry, and anxiety. Help me to cast all my care on you, knowing that you care for me. Deliver me from that nagging fear which makes me tremble on the brink of an unknown future. Cleanse me from the acid of anxiety that erodes away my sense of security and well-being. Give me a childlike trust that cancels my paralyzing worries. Release me and set me free – free to enjoy life in all its fullness."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: While planning carefully for the future, God will help me not to be full of care in the present!

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61


Psalms 37:1-11

Reasons Why Christians Should Not Worry

Jesus said, "Take no thought for your life… Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matthew 6:25) If God gave something so great as life, is He not able to give provisions sufficient to sustain that life? If God willed that a person should be born, is God not able to give food to feed the body and clothes to warm the body? The God who created life is able to sustain life. Why then should Christians worry?

"Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:26) If God cares for the hard-working birds, how much more will He care for the hard-working Christian? If God feeds the birds from the bounty of nature, how much more will God feed His own children! There is no need to worry.

"Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" (Matthew 6:27) It is not conceivable that anyone would think that he could add one cubit or 18 inches to his height. 'Cubit' can also possibly refer to lengthening one's life. By worrying, no one can add height to his stature or add years to his life. Life will take its course, so why should one worry? In fact, worry can actually take years from one's life. Therefore, don't worry. It is costly, Worry will not help the situation. There have been cases where people died from an operation, not because the operation was that serious, but because they were obsessed with worry!

"And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Matthew 6:28-30) If God looks after the short-lived flower of the field and favors it with such unsurpassed beauty, how much more will God care for man, whose duration is much longer and who is the very capstone of God's creation. worry is unnecessary.

"Therefore take no thought saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink: or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things to the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." (Matthew 6:31-32) One morning when Luther was blue and discouraged, his wife appeared, in black. At Luther's inquiry as to what the mourning meant, she replied, "Haven't you heard? God is dead." When we worry and fret, we declare that God is weak or unable to cope with life's circumstances. Worrying is a characteristic of the pagan – not the Christian!

"Father, you work providentially, not accidentally; purposefully, not fatalistically; assuringly, not uncertainly. Then why should I worry? Help me no longer to worry, for worry contradicts my faith in a God of infinite love, power, and wisdom. Help me to rest assured that all circumstances are used by you to bring about my good and your glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I do not have to hold the world together through my worrying, for God sovereignly rules the world from His eternal throne!

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62


Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7

Steps In Deliverance From Worry

In his excellent devotional book 'Abundant Living', E. Stanley Jones shares some helpful insights on how to overcome worry and fear. Some of the following points are taken from his list.

First, look fear in the face and desire deliverance. Running from fear only complicates the problem. Do the very thing that you fear most, and fear will soon take wings. One must genuinely desire deliverance. "A girl had a large purple lump on her forehead. This lump had come as the result of a great fear. When counseled by Dr. Fox she surrendered the fear and the lump disappeared. On seeing her again Dr. Fox remarked about the lump being gone. 'But', said the girl, grabbing her middle, 'I've got terrible pains in my stomach.' She was afraid to let go of her fears, for she lived by the attention which these illnesses brought her." (Abundant Living; pg. 71) There must be a will and desire to live and to be delivered from all anxiety, worry, and fear. If a man makes up his mind rot; to worry, half the battle is won.

Second, remember that Christ overcame all sin, including the sin of worry, on the cross, and that He is thus able to help you overcome your nagging fears and worry. Notes Jones, "When fears and sicknesses and sins come upon you to overwhelm you and to beat you into submission by their very overbearing presence, just calmly look each one in the eye and say, 'I am not afraid of you. You have been and are decisively beaten by my Lord. Will you bend your neck? There, I knew it! The footprint of the Son of God is upon your neck." (Abundant Living; pg. 73) "One man had 'A Worry Tree' in his front yard, where he hung his worries before he came into the house. For the Christian, that 'Worry Tree' is the cross. Hang your worries there." (Ibid; pg. 353)

'Remember' not only Christ's victory over your sins through His resurrection, but also remember your own past victories over frustration and adversity. It is a good 'practice to keep a dairy or a journal in which you record God's daily blessings in your life. When you tend to worry, refresh your memory and encourage your spirit of faith by reading of God's recorded victories in your dairy.

Third, realize that fear itself is usually worse than the thing you fear or are worried about. Said a great father to his son as his son was leaving the nest of the home, "Johnny, the thing to do, my lad, is to hold your own end up, and to do it like a gentleman, and please remember the biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come."

"Father, sensitivity to life and to people and their needs is both my greatest asset and my greatest liability. It is my asset, for sensitivity to people gives me a selfless drive to reach out redemptively to help others. It is my liability, for sensitivity to people's needs often causes me to become worry-worn and fretful. As I become deeply involved with people and their problems, keep me released from anxiety and worry."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will cast my cares upon Christ today, for He cares for me!

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63


Matthew 6:34; James 4:13-17

Finding Victory Over Worry

We continue to look at the steps in overcoming worry.

Fourth, relax in God's presence. There is nothing that will relax the mind and relieve the nerves like meditating upon the greatness of God. Transform worry energy into prayer energy. Take your gaze off of the object of fear and worry and fix the gaze on the object of love. Relax in God and don't try to hold up the world by your own strength. "In India we have a bird called 'Pity-to-do-it'. It goes around all day saying, 'Pity- to-do-it'. And they say that at night it sleeps with its feet in the air to keep the sky from falling! It is a champion pessimist and worrier. It doesn't relax night or day, according to the story: hence it is thin and scrawny and fussy." (Abundant Living; pg. 77) "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5) The story is told of a Bishop who was so worried about the affairs and problems of the world that he could not sleep. As he lay awake, tossing and turning, the Lord spoke to him, "Bishop, you go to sleep and I will stay awake all night and watch over the problems of the world!"

Fifth, meet troubles one day at a time. Said Jesus, "Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day." (Matthew 6:34 Phillips) The Jews had the following saying: "Do not worry over tomorrow's evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive, and you will have worried for a world which will not be yours." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew, Vol 1; Barclay)

"According to our Lord, the vital thing is not to spend every day of your life in adding up the grand total of everything that is ever likely to happen to you in the whole of your life in this world. If you do that, it will crush you. That is not the way. Rather, you must think of it like this. There is, as it were, a daily quota of problems and difficulties in life. Every day has its problems; some of them are constant from day to day, some of them vary. But the great thing to do is to realize that every day must be lived in and of itself and as a unit. Here is the quota for today. Very well; we must face that and meet it; and He has already told us how to do so. We must not go forward and tack tomorrow's quota on to today's, otherwise it may be too much for us. We have to take it day by day." (Sermon On The Mount; Martyn Lloyd-Jones; pg. 149,150) Sixth, become involved in tasks. Those who are most involved in loving projects, are those who think and worry less about their own problems. There is great energy generated within you when you are creative and outgoing in your loving involvements with others.

"Father, as I seek to live a sacrificial life within the context of a society that has a high standard of living, I find myself becoming either anxious or covetous of worldly possessions. Don't allow the cares of my daily life, with its consequent worry, to chock out the good seed of your Word in my life. Help me to live contentedly."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God has not given me a spirit of fear or worry, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)!

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Mark 1:35-39

"Tyranny Of The Urgent"

Related to the common problem of worry and anxiety, Charles Hummel, in his famous booklet 'Tyranny of the Urgent', shares some most helpful insights. Following are a few excerpts from that excellent booklet.

"When we stop to evaluate, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically the problem of priori ties… Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or year and became oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks…

"Jesus' life was never feverish; He had time for people. He could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well. His life showed a wonderful balance, a sense of timing…

"Jesus prayerfully waited for His Father's instructions and for the strength to follow them… He discerned the Father's will day by day in a life of prayer. By this means He warded off the urgent and accomplished the important (Mark 1:35).

"Many of us have experienced Christ's deliverance from the penalty of sin. Are we letting Him free us from the tyranny of the urgent? He points the way: 'If you continue in my word.' This is the way to freedom. Through prayerful meditation on God's Word we gain His perspective, P.T. Forsyth once said, 'The worst sin is prayerlessness. We usually think of murder, adultery, or theft as among the worst. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency – independence from God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God's guidance and strength we are saying, with our actions if not our lips, that we do not need Him. How much of our service is characterized by 'going it alone'?

"In prayer, Jesus impresses on our minds the assignments He wants us to undertake, The need itself is rot the call; the call must come from the God who knows our limitations…

"If the Christian is too busy to stop, take spiritual inventory, and receive his assignments from God, he becomes a slave to the tyranny of the urgent.

"In addition to your daily quiet time, set aside one hour a week for spiritual inventory. write an evaluation of the past, record anything God may be teaching you, and plan objectives for the future. Also try to reserve most of one day each month for a similar inventory of longer range. " (Excerpts from 'Tyranny of the Urgent' by Charles Hummel)

"Father, teach me to number my days, that I might get a heart of wisdom. Let me see time in light of eternity, and make present decisions in terms of their effects upon the future. Help me to plan for tomorrow without becoming preoccupied with tomorrow. Help me to give attention to details without losing sight of the 'big picture'; to accomplish the important without becoming a slave to the urgent. In Jesus' name,"

AFFIRMATION FUR THE DAY: He who waits upon the Lord before trying to work for the Lord will both save time and multiply effectiveness in service!

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Isaiah 26:1-15

Finding And Maintaining Relaxation

Here are a few suggestions as to the art of finding and maintaining relaxation.

Make an initial surrender of yourself to Christ. writes one medical doctor and psychiatrist: "After all, one of the greatest contributing factors to nervousness in the Christian is that self has not been crucified with Christ, leaving a struggle between the Spirit and the flesh because the patient does not walk in the Spirit, but makes provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14)."

Find a place of solitude. Establish a daily quiet time, preferably in the early morning. Says the above-mentioned doctor, "When Christians leave out daily fellowship with Christ, they suffer from spiritual malnutrition. If the Christian fails to take the daily requirement of spiritual calories because of worldly attractions and too many religious duties, he soon becomes anemic and run-down, his resistance is lowered, and he is an easy prey for disease (evil powers}."

Speak to your body parts and tell them to relax before prayer. Let go of your inner soul frustrations and let God renew your mind (Romans 12:2).

Pray through a Scripture (a Psalm of praise like Psalms 145-150 or a prayer like John 17). The ACTS formula is helpful as a guideline in praying. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (i.e., intercessions – prayers for others; petition – prayer requests for yourself). In addition to prayer, be sure to read some verses from the Bible and underline ones you intend to memorize.

Allow the Holy Spirit to daily cleanse you from anxiety and worry. Confess all sins. The same doctor goes on to say, "If the heart is not cleansed daily of its cares and troubled thoughts, these problems accumulate and bring the Christian into a chronic nervousness, which, of course, is not a nerve disease at all, but a conflict in the soul between the old self-will (which should have been crucified) and the Holy Spirit, who came into the soul to make His abode there… Each trouble, as it arises, must be taken to the Lord and put into His care."

Throughout the day, when worry arises and bids for your attention, turn your attention to God – thus turning worry energy into prayer energy (Philippians 4:4-7). Remember, what gets your attention gets you! Learn to stay your mind on God, and you will be kept in perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3).

"Father, help me to translate my worry energy into prayer energy, for prayer is the way of peace and poise and purpose. Break the tension of my nerves, by speaking peace to my troubled heart. Unscramble my thoughts and help me to stay my mind upon you alone. In thy constant presence is my perpetual peace!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will practice the presence of God and make every contact with people a prayer contact!

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Psalms 57:1-11

The Cause And Cure Of Various Tensions

One of the greatest antidotes for worry and anxiety is prayer. "The spirit of prayer should be Alert Passivity which means that while your spiritual, mental, and physical sensibilities are awake and alert to God, yet they are also relaxed and receptive. I say relaxed and receptive, but the two attitudes are really one, for relaxation is receptivity. And yet there are two sides to real praying. If we are only relaxed we are weak. Dr. Alexis Carrel says: 'Lowering of the blood pressure is also dangerous. Brain and other organs demand a certain tension of the blood.' That is the alert side. But the brain and other organs demand a certain relaxation to be at their best. Prayer puts relaxation and tension together, and is therefore the perfect instrument of human well-being." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 232)

Let's look at a few common forms of stress and suggest a few ideas and Scriptures that may be helpful in countering these various stresses.

There is stress because of a lack of money. Develop a trust in God who, as a caring Father, provides for our daily needs (Matthew 6:25-34; Proverbs 11:28).

Stress usually accompanies decision-making. Trust God for wisdom during trials (James 1:5) and for guidance during times of difficult decisions (Proverbs 3:5-6).

There is stress because of the challenges of daily work. The Bible tells us to commit our work to God and God will bring success (Proverbs 16:3; 1 Corinthians 15:38).

Stress is often times caused because of wayward children. Surrender your children to God and allow God to work in their lives. Allow your children to make their own moral decisions, after you have carefully and lovingly instructed them in the ways of Christ. If you have brought up your children in the ways of Christ, those children will likely serve the Christ you serve, eventually.

There is stress because of hard circumstances. Put your trust in the unchanging God who wills your ultimate good, and who uses all of your circumstances to accomplish that goal (Romans 8:28).

There is stress because of loneliness or disappointment. Realize that you are never alone; thus you need never feel lonely (Matthew 28:20).

There is stress because of concern for other people's actions and problems. "If you are fussily trying to manage other people in their supposed interests, surrender that fussiness – it is pure selfishness. That attitude ties up yourself and others… We tie ourselves up if we try to live other people's lives for them," (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 243)

"Father, 'in quietness and confidence shall be my strength' In the quietness of my present contemplation, speak peace to me with your still small voice. In the face of disquieting circumstances, give me confidence that there are no troubles too great but what your strength is greater yet! My troubles, surrendered to You, become your triumphs! Glory and praise to your power!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With Christ at the helm of my little 'ship', I will make it safe to the harbour of Heaven!

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Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Worry'

  1. How can a Christian live a careful and prayerful life, with attention given to long-range planning, and at the same time not become care- worn, anxious, and worried about tomorrow?

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians are to be people with a long view, people who plan well and work hard, but people who also throw all their energies into serving God, not wasting their energies needlessly on worry."

  3. Give examples of same 'healthy' types of anxiety.

  4. What are some of the harmful physical manifestations of worry and anxiety?

  5. What examples from the world of nature did Jesus draw upon to illustrate the futility of worry, according to Matthew 6?

  6. List six steps that are given as aids in overcoming worry.

  7. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Do the very thing that you fear most, and fear will soon take wings."

  8. Share your experiences of overcoming fear and anxiety by focusing your attention on Christ and His love, rather than on yourself and your problems.

  9. How does living life one day at a time help in overcoming the problem of worry and anxiety (Matthew 6:34)?

  10. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Those who are most involved in loving projects, are those who think and worry less about their own problems. There is great energy generated within you when you are creative and outgoing in your loving involvements with others."

  11. What is meant by the phrase 'Tyranny of the Urgent'?

  12. List several steps in learning to relax.

  13. What alternative is there, according to Philippians 4:4-7, to expending worry energy?

  14. What place does prayer have in effectively coping with worry and anxiety?

  15. List several common forms of stress and effective ways to cope with each form of stress that you mention.

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68


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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Why Believe In Jesus Christ?

Why Believe In Jesus Christ?

Chapter Six

Why Believe In Jesus Christ?
No Man Like This Man! 76 The Answer To Man's Dreams! 82
The Initiating Love Of God! 77 The 'Personalism' Of Jesus 83
The Master Teacher 78 Symbolic Meaning Of Jesus' Genealogy 84
The Amazing Miracle Worker! 79 One In Christ Jesus! 85
The Day Death Died! 80 Discussion Questions 86
The Greatest Catcher Of Men's Hearts! 81    

Colossians 1:13-17

No Man Like This Man!

Many who have testified of a personal experience of God have spoken of 'God' in terms of Jesus. Those who seem to 'know' God best are those who speak most often of Jesus. Christians claim that the greatest fact of Reality is this: What Jesus was as a human, God has always been eternally! Doubtless the eternal God is more than the human Jesus, but God is no less than Jesus! Christians claim that Jesus was God in human form! Jesus gives God a face! When one sees Jesus, he sees God! These are startling claims!

Testifies E. Stanley Jones: "In the Congo when those in charge were about to pull up the idol from the idol-pit, the people fell back terror-stricken. They cried: 'If we look on the face of "our father," we will die.'" "But," continues Jones, "as we look on the face of 'Our Father' in the person of Jesus, then we do not die, but live! We see God not terrible but tender, not forbidding but forgiving. We see in Jesus God as He is–really is!… God is like Jesus in character. Transfer every characteristic of character from Jesus to God, and you do not lower your estimate of God–you heighten it… Jesus is God simplified, God approachable, God understandable, God lovable." (Word Became Flesh; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 24, 37)

"There is a picture of a face of Jesus surrounded by dark clouds. Apart from Jesus there are dark clouds of mystery surrounding God. But in the midst of these clouds I see that one dear Face. We smile at the boy who when asked by his mother what he was doing replied: 'I'm drawing a picture of God.' 'But no one knows what God is like, I said the mother. 'They will when I get finished,' said the boy with finality. All attempts to tell or draw what God is like are childish. Except one–Jesus!" (Ibid; pg. 48)

Why believe in Jesus Christ? Because Jesus is believable! Jesus is believable because His unique claims were backed by His unique life and teachings, and ultimately by His victory over death!

Why believe in Jesus? For at least five reasons. Using a series of rhyming words, it can be said: (1) No man ever sought like this man. (2) No man ever taught like this man. (3) No man ever wrought like this man. (4) No man ever fought like this man. (5) No man ever caught like this man. We must look at Jesus' life in view of these five wonderful facts.

"God, because You are infinite and I am finite, I need a visible, approachable God! I need a forgiving God, not a forbidding God! I need a tender God, not a terrible God! I need a God who has lived with mankind and who understands mankind! If Jesus is God, I need Him! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus' claims are unique! If they are true, He is the greatest personality in History! I will honestly examine His claims!

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Luke 15:1-7

The Initiating Love Of God!

First, no man ever sought like this Man. Who could ever imagine that God, in human flesh, would actually take the initiative to seek out sinful man! No other religion besides Christianity teaches that God, through Christ, actually stepped down to rescue lost mankind! "I have sought thy nearness, with all my heart I called thee, and going out to meet thee, I found thee coming toward me." (Springs of Devotion; pg. 13) Draw near to God, and He draws nearer to you!

But Jesus' seeking love seeks even those who are running from God! This initiating love of God is movingly portrayed in Francis Thompson's 'Hound of Heaven.'

"I fled Him down the nights and down the days: 
I fled Him down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways 
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears 
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
But with unhurrying chase, 
And unperturbed pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 
They beat - and a Voice beat 
More instant than the feet - 
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

And then there comes the time when the fugitive was beaten.

"Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke! 
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me, 
And smitten to my knee, 
I am defenseless utterly."

And then there comes the end:

"Halts me by that footfall; 
Is my gloom, after all, 
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? 
'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 
I am He Whom thou seekest! 
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me!'"

(Quoted by Barclay in Romans; Daily Study Bible; pg. 165-166)

Jesus is like the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes into the wilderness to go after the one sheep which is lost, until He finds it (Luke 15:4).

"O, thou 'Hound of Heaven,' you loved me when I was loveless; You sought me when I was lost; You cared for me when I was indifferent; You pursued me when I was running away from Life. Thank you for hounding me with such Love! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Religion is the record of Man's proud attempts to reach God; Christianity is the story of God's loving pursuit of sinful Man!

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Matthew 7:24-29

The Master Teacher

Second, no man ever taught like this Man. Jesus was a Master Teacher. Jesus adapted His teaching to His audience. He was direct, simple, and forceful in His teaching. Step by step He introduced truth in the most interesting way. The crowds followed Him to hear Him. He masterfully used illustrations and parables. He allowed men to think for themselves. He stimulated thinking rather than offering pat answers.

He taught openly. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret." (John 18:20)

Jesus taught authoritatively. "The people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29) No second-hand pronouncements of tradition, or quotations from ancient Rabbis, but rather firsthand declarations of the bedrock facts of Reality! Jesus came straight from God and He spoke directly about God. Who better knew about God than He who had dwelt eternally with God!

Jesus' teaching was authoritative because of its source. Said "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father taught me." 8:28) "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me." 7:16)

Jesus taught uniquely. Jesus taught that He Himself had brought the Kingdom of God (the Rule of God) to a present reality! "The Kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:21)

Jesus taught compassionately. At the heart of Jesus' teaching was the flame of holy love. Jesus was moved with compassion as He looked at the multitudes who were wandering as sheep with no shepherd.

No man ever taught like Jesus, for Jesus taught His followers to call God 'Father.' Because of commitment to Jesus as Saviour, Jesus' followers had the right–a daring thing–to address God, using the tender and intimate title of 'Father,' the very word which Jewish children used to address their human fathers!

Jesus taught by example. Jesus' teaching was not speculation or theory or abstract principles. His teaching was practical, experiential, concrete! He practiced what he preached!

"God, dare I call you 'Father'? I see you in the stars and feel your power in the wind. I know you are Mighty Power, but are you Fatherly Love? If Jesus is God, then my question becomes exclamation!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If Jesus is God, then everything Jesus taught about God is true! Glory!

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Luke 11:14-21

The Amazing Miracle Worker!

Jesus' uniqueness is becoming increasingly apparent. No man ever sought like this man. No man ever taught like this man. Thirdly, no man ever wrought like this man.

The miracles which Jesus performed were not merely acts of compassion, as important as compassion was to Jesus, but primarily they were demonstrations and signs of Jesus' Kingdom power. Both Jesus' Words (parables) and Jesus' Works (miracles) must be, seen as complementary ways in which Jesus communicated the present reality of the Kingdom. The miracles were further proof of the Kingdom's inauguration.

Notes A. M. Hunter: "The miracles are tokens of the coming of God's Reign in Jesus. They are the Kingdom of God in action–God's sovereign grace and forgiveness operative in Christ. 'If I by the finger of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.' The miracles are signs, after all, but only signs for those whose spiritual insight enables them to discern the sovereign saving activity of God in Jesus… Jesus regarded not only His 'teaching with authority' but also His 'mighty works' as wrought by the Spirit of God through Him. His 'powers' are manifestations of the Supreme Power. His signs are the creative works of the Spirit operating through Him to save sick and sinful men and women. 'The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.'" (The Work and Words of Jesus; A. M. Hunter; pg. 59)

The miraculous nature of Jesus' works is altogether 'reasonable' if Jesus is God in human form! As one writer so ably said: "If the universe is dominated by a Spirit, miracles are possible; if by a Spirit that is Love, probable; and if that Spirit becomes incarnate, this miracle would make further ones very probable."

The miracles which Jesus wrought were dramatic signs–acted out parables–to demonstrate that Jesus had come to spearhead an attack against the powers of sin, sickness, and Satan. Said Jesus, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." (Luke 11:21-22 NIV) Jesus' miracles are foretastes of the kind of power that will be exercised by God for the purpose of totally and eventually destroying the kingdom of evil. Jesus is the 'strong man, fully armed, who attacks and overpowers' Satan. Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil. The miracles are God's power in action!

"God, the work of Jesus is becoming focused in my understanding. I see that Jesus came to destroy evil and to impart good–to save helpless creatures like me from the harmful works of the Enemy! Thank you for your manifest Power! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If Jesus is God, then He should do the works of God–destroying the works of Satan!

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Hebrews 2:14-18

The Day Death Died!

If it is true that no man ever sought like this man, that no man ever taught like this man, that no man ever wrought like this man, it is also true that no man ever fought like this man. Jesus fought and won against Satan! Said Calvin, "There is no tribunal so magnificent, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, and trodden them under His feet."

The Death of Jesus on the Cross was altogether unique. The greatest of all paradoxes is this: Through the means of death, death was forever destroyed! The day Jesus died was the day death died!

"Through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus' parables were parables of the Kingdom. Jesus' miracles were demonstrations and signs of Jesus' Kingdom power. Jesus' death was a redemptive death–the necessary means by which God was given opportunity to demonstrate Jesus' power over death. Jesus' death was a substitutionary death for the guilty sinner. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. Therefore, he who puts his trust in the Christ who paid the penalty for sin, puts his trust in one who proved to be more powerful than death! For Jesus arose from the dead!

The death and resurrection of Jesus are inseparably connected. They are the means by which God irrevocably defeated the powers of darkness! The death of Christ became the death warrant of Satan! Satan overstepped himself when he crucified the Lord of Glory! For Satan crucified one in whom the very power of God was resident! Jesus' power was so great that not even death could silence Him. "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8)

'Death cannot keep his prey, 
Jesus, my Saviour! 
He tore the bars away, 
Jesus, my Lord!
'Up from the grave he arose, 
With a mighty triumph o'er his foes; 
He arose a victor from the dark domain, 
And he lives forever with his saints to reign; 
Hallelujah! Christ arose!'

"God, your ways are amazing! I would never have dreamed that you would destroy death by dying, and that you would give healing through suffering! Thank you for your death and resurrection! Amen ."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died, I may live! Jesus' darkest day makes possible my brightest day–victory over sin, death, and hell!

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John 1:5-13; Acts 2:47

The Greatest Catcher Of Men's Hearts!

Jesus sought, Jesus taught, Jesus wrought, Jesus fought. Because of the Incarnation and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God was able to establish His Church. No man ever caught like Jesus Christ!

The Rule of God assumes the Realm of God. Subjects in the Realm of God's victorious Kingdom compose the true Church of God. God is forever reconciled to Mankind through the Cross and Resurrection, and God is progressively realizing His purpose of reconciliation in each sinner's life.

It is the purpose of God that each person becomes a member of the Kingdom of God. It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That is God's perfect will for all men, made possible through the 'Great Acts' of God in Christ. However, God has a permissive will also. He will permit men to reject His offer of eternal life. 'Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice.' Who are the choice or elect ones? Those who choose to receive Christ.

Does Man's rejection of God's call affect the validity of the Kingdom of God? Does Man's rejection destroy the Kingdom? Indeed not! "God's Reign exists, however men respond. It claims the obedience of men truly; but it is there before the claims are made, and it is still there if men reject them." (Introduction to New Testament Theology; A. M. Hunter; pg. 26)

Jesus is the greatest Catcher of men's hearts, and souls, and loyalties. Jesus may be either accepted or rejected; He cannot be destroyed. His message is like a fire or flame that can never be extinguished. Throughout the centuries, men have tried to destroy the light of the Gospel, but the Gospel continues to send forth its glowing message to all men.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, popular historian, notes that Christianity is today more widely distributed geographically and more deeply rooted among more people than it or any other faith has ever been. He observes that during the past four hundred and fifty years and especially in the last century and a half, Christianity has been more influential in the life of the human race than at any previous time. ('A History of Christianity'; Preface XV, XVII)

The Church of Jesus Christ has grown in spite of almost every conceivable obstacle. Jesus is the Universal Christ who attracts peoples of all ages, all cultures, all backgrounds. Jesus' winsome spirit catches men. He is almost irresistible!

"God, now I see that my seeming resistance of Jesus Christ has really been a rejection of caricatures of Jesus Christ. I would be a fool not to receive the Christ of the Bible! I will receive the True and reject the false! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Though millions have come to Christ, there is still room for me!

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Luke 1:26-38

The Answer To Man's Dreams!

In the last devotional the popular historian, Kenneth Latourette, stated that "Christianity (during the last century and a half) has been more influential in the life of the human race than at any previous time ."

There is abundant evidence that Jesus is God! If Jesus were not God, could He have influenced so many so much, throughout all of history?

Through prophetic inspiration, Isaiah wrote, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Who other than Jesus Christ could fit this description? The uniqueness of Jesus is even found in His genealogy, as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. In tracing Jesus' genealogy back to King David, Jesus is presented as the long-looked-for Messiah, the Deliverer of Israel, the 'Anointed One' from Heaven. Jesus is seen as the answer to Man's dreams!

David's kingdom was glorious and powerful. During Israel's days of decline, the Jews longed for a kingdom like unto David's to be restored to Israel. Eventually this hope of kingdom restoration was transferred into a spiritual hope. The Messianic expectation borrowed the language of kingdom glory, a glory like unto the glory of David's kingdom, excepting that the glory of the Messianic kingdom would be much greater. Therefore it was natural that Mary should hear the angel announce Jesus' coming in the language of kingdom glory: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:31-33)

The kingdoms of earth rise and fall; Christ's kingdom abides the same forever! Christ is the only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords! (1 Timothy 6:15) One writer described Jesus' influence in this way: "Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever have sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life, Jesus of Nazareth."

"God, I am a part of the universal longing of Mankind. I too long for a Great Deliverer, a Wonderful Counselor, a Prince of Peace, an 'Anointed One' from Heaven! If Jesus is all this, then I want Him to be the Lord of my life! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is the 'Son of the Highest' will have highest place in my life!

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Matthew 1:1-17

The 'Personalism' Of Jesus

The genealogy of Jesus, mentioned in yesterday's devotional, significantly reveals something about the nature of God! Can a long list of hard-to-pronounce names be significant or interesting? Dr. Paul Tournier, famous Christian counselor, believes so! He says, "When I was young I used to think that they (the long genealogies) could well have been dropped from the Biblical Canon. But I have since realized that these series of proper names bear witness to the fact that, in the Biblical perspective, man is neither a thing nor an abstraction, neither a species nor an idea, that he is not a fraction of the mass, as the Marxists see him, but that he is a person." (quoted by William Barclay in Daily Study Bible; Hebrews; page 61)

The genealogy of Jesus helps us to realize the importance of the individual from the Biblical perspective. Throughout Jesus' ministry, He was always concerned with individuals. It is true that He was moved with compassion on the multitudes, but His compassion went beyond the multitudes to the lonely individuals. He saw each person as unique and worthy of His personal attention. Even in the midst of the crowds, He took time for the individuals. Surrounded by a crowd, Jesus healed the woman who had been sick for twelve years with an incurable disease. As the crowds thronged Him, Jesus spotted the curious Zacchaeus, and he became the object of Jesus' special attention and love within the privacy of Zacchaeus' home. The healing of the blind man near Jericho vividly shows Christ's personal compassion. "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging; and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him, that he should be brought unto him." (Luke 18:35-40)

There is no problem too small but what Jesus is interested in it! Jesus' heart is touched with your personal grief. He cares when your nights are long and when your days are fraught with care. He cares for each person and desires to fold each to His loving bosom. It is important to know that Jesus cares for individuals, and the genealogy of Jesus helps us to realize the 'personalism' of Jesus.

"God, I thank you that I am not 'lost in the crowd,' but that I am an object of your special love! You are so powerful that you can rule the vast universe, and yet so personal that you care for me personally! Thank you for Jesus who has shown me your 'personalism'! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If God, through Christ, is so personable, I will never be satisfied until I know God personally!

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Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 1:21

Symbolic Meaning Of Jesus' Genealogy

Each of the three sections in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17) symbolically represents one of the three stages in the history of mankind, and, indeed, in the history of every individual.

The first section of the genealogy which is from Abraham to David is the section which describes Israel's greatness. It represents the first stage in Man's history–the stage of man's greatness. Man, created in God's image, was made only for greatness and fellowship. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized Man's beginning. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, and his spirit was unblemished.

The second section of the genealogy is from Solomon to the Exile and portrays Israel's decline and decay. It represents the second stage of man's history–the Fall into sin. Even though man was born for greatness, man lost his greatness through self-will and rebellion against God's law. Alienated from God, Man started on a course of action that produced civilizations and cultures saturated with crime, lust, hate, greed, and war. As G. K. Chesterton once said of man: "Whatever else is true of man, man is not what he was meant to be." Man was made for communion, but is plagued by feelings of separation and rejection. Man was made to only enjoy peace, but hears constantly the clamour of disharmony. Man was made for love, but is too often a creature of hate. Man was made to be integrated, but is a bundle of frayed nerves. Man's innocence became blemished by guilt, and his capacity for nobility became shriveled by self-centeredness.

The third section of the genealogy is from after the Exile to the Coming of Christ. Christ is the one by whom Israel could have regained her true greatness. This section represents the third stage of man's history–Redemption and Reconciliation. Notes William Barclay, "Man can regain his greatness." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew Vol. 1; pg. 4) Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to rescue the perishing, to restore the downtrodden, to befriend the lonely, and to heal the sick in soul. He came not to condemn, but instead to save (John 1:17). He came to "save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Christ came to make an integrated life out of a shattered life, to make a strong character out of a shallow life, to make a confident and radiant life out of a guilt-ridden life. Through Christ, mankind can come once again to know true greatness. Notes Barclay, "In his genealogy Matthew shows us the royalty of kingship gained; the tragedy of freedom lost; the glory of liberty restored. And that, in the mercy of God, is the story of mankind, and of each individual man." (Ibid; pg. 4)

"God, the history of mankind is the history of my personal life. I was born for greatness, but I have lost my greatness through my sin and rebellion. Allow me to regain my greatness through personal repentance and faith. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Rescuer of the Human Race came to rescue me! I, who am lost, will allow myself to be found!

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Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:13-18

One In Christ Jesus!

The appearance of four names in Jesus' genealogy reveals something very significant, and foreshadows what was accomplished through Christ's ministry. What are the four names? Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. Ruth, the Moabites. Thamar, an adulteress. Bathsheba, the woman whom David seduced and took deceitfully from Uriah. The appearance of these names in Jesus' genealogy symbolically declares that Jesus came to earth to destroy the man-made barriers!

First, there are no longer barriers between male and female. The appearance of women in Jesus' genealogy shows that God considers women important–so important that women are named in the ancestry of the Son of God! Jesus came to destroy all contemptible attitudes towards women. We see the tenderness of Jesus as He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus. Jesus won the heart of the despised Samaritan woman. In restoring life to the son of the widow of Nain, we see the great love of Jesus for this woman.

Second, there are no longer barriers between saint and sinner. Great joy is experienced in heaven when only one sinner repents (Luke 15:7). Christ takes the despised woman of Samaria and makes her an honored messenger of love. Christ takes a demon-possessed outcast and makes him a respectable citizen. Christ takes a high-browed Pharisee and makes him a humble and faithful follower. Christ takes a doubting Thomas and makes him a flaming evangelist. Christ takes a thieving Onesimus and makes him a faithful servant. Christ takes an adulterous outcast and makes her a pure and respectable lady. Christ takes the dying thief and makes him a son of paradise. He takes the guilt-ridden publican and makes him a free and justified believer. Christ restores a wandering prodigal to the status of full sonship. Christ breaks the shackles of sin and sets the prisoner free! Christ seeks and finds the lost sheep. He restores the downtrodden! "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)

Third, there are no longer barriers between Jew and Gentile. Christ came to break down all racial barriers. All in Christ's genealogy were not Jews! Ruth was a Moabites. Wrote Paul, about Christ's mission: "For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us." (Ephesians 2:14) We are one in Christ Jesus!

"God, I thank you that you love all indiscriminate1y–Jew and Gentile, male and female, saint and sinner. Teach me, like Jesus, to destroy the barriers that divide persons from one another. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus is the Universal Christ! I will seek to follow Christ, and be universal in my concern for all humanity!

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Discussion Questions On "Why Believe In Jesus Christ?"

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "What Jesus was as a human, God has always been eternally!" (Why or why not?)

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is like Jesus in character. Transfer every characteristic from Jesus to God, and you do not lower your estimate of God–you heighten it." (Why why not?)

  3. Give at least five reasons (as listed in the chapter) for believing that Jesus is God.

  4. What makes Jesus' unique claims regarding his own deity believable?

  5. In terms of 'initiating action,' what does the Christian Faith claim, that no other Faith claims?

  6. What elements in Jesus' teaching made His teaching so unique?

  7. What was the primary and the secondary significance of Jesus' miracles?

  8. What great paradox in the Christian Faith is revealed in Hebrews 2:14-15?

  9. What is meant by the expression: "Jesus' death was a substitutionary death"?

  10. Why are the death and resurrection of Jesus inseparably connected, as these events relate to man's personal salvation?

  11. What is meant by the phrase, "No man has ever Caught like Jesus Christ"?

  12. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Most non-Christians who appear to be rejecting Jesus Christ are not really rejecting Christ; instead, they are rejecting caricatures of Jesus Christ." (Give reasons why you agree or disagree with this statement.)

  13. Cite evidence from Scripture and from history that shows that Jesus was the long-looked-for Jewish Messiah.

  14. What does the genealogy of Jesus teach us regarding the person of Jesus and the nature of His ministry?

  15. What is the symbolic meaning of each of the three sections in the genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17?

  16. Discuss three barriers that Jesus came to destroy, as foreshadowed by the significant appearance of four names in Jesus' genealogy, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17.

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The Sacrifice of a Loving God

The Sacrifice Of a Loving God

Chapter Eight

The Sacrifice Of a Loving God
He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross! 96 The Greatest Love Story 102
He Was Born To Die! 97 "Whosoever" Includes All! 103
The Cross Appeased God's Wrath 98 A New Quality Of Life 104
The Cross Satisfied God's Justice 99 Discussion Questions 105
The Cross Demonstrated God's Love 100 Discussion Questions (Continued) 106
The Golden Text Of Scripture 101    

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross!

When God identified with mankind, in the person of Jesus, He identified at the lowest level. Not only did Jesus identify with sinners in life, but Jesus identified with sinners in his very death. "He took man's sin as His own and died as a malefactor on a cross. The visitation meant identification, and the identification meant not identification with man at the top, becoming the best of men, but becoming the worst of men–a sinner, dying between sinners. 'He became sin for us.' That identification was gradual, beginning at inner renunciation of being equal with God, coming in a virgin's womb, and going deeper at every step until He hit rock bottom on a cross: 'My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'" (Word Became Flesh; – E. Stanley Jones; pg. 153)

Just as mankind (in the person of Adam) freely chose to disobey the Father, so the second Adam, Jesus Christ, freely chose to obey the Father.

He freely chose to come to earth to give His life a ransom for sinners, and to destroy the devil's works (1 John 3:8). Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus often said, "My hour has not yet come." What did He mean? He meant that God's appointed time for Him to die a redemptive death had not yet come. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, the time has come, Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." (John 17:1)

Said Jesus, "No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord." Jesus willingly gave his life for the sins of the world.

As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate said to Jesus: "Don't you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?" Then Jesus said, "You would have no power at all over me unless it were given to you from above." (John 19:10-11 Living Bible)

Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' free choice.

He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross, but instead He died alone for you and me!

The death of Christ was an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell! Christ's death on the Cross (a) appeased God's wrath, (b) satisfied God's justice, (c) demonstrated God's love.

"O God, was ever such love manifested as on mount Calvary! You sacrificed all in order to save all! I will glory in 'the old rugged cross'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus willingly laid down His own life for me, I will gladly lay down my self-will for Jesus!

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1 Corinthians 1:20-25

He Was Born To Die!

A painter once painted a picture of the boy Jesus in Joseph's carpenter shop. Mary is looking on as Jesus is working with Joseph. The sun is just going down over the Palestinian hills; and as Jesus is building an oxen yoke, He is crossing two boards. The crossing of the boards forms a long shadow that is in the shape of a cross. Upon seeing this shadow of a cross on the floor of the carpenter shop, a sudden look of fright and sadness comes over the face of Mary–as if Mary can see into Jesus' future destiny on a cross!

Of course, we know that this painting is only the creation of an artist's mind. There is nothing in the Gospels which indicates that Mary knew ahead of time that Jesus would die on a cross. However, the Gospels do indicate that, figuratively speaking, the shadow of the cross was cast across the pathway of Jesus, during His entire ministry before He finally died upon the Cross.

Jesus was born to die–to die a death that would enable millions to live! At the heart of Jesus' ministry was a cross! Notes William Sangster, "Those devils and weaklings who met at Calvary would have said, 'We did it.' He cries from His Cross: 'I did it! It is finished!' If they were right, the Cross would be a gibbet, a symbol of shame, something to hide and speak of only by compulsion and with bated breath. In point of fact, we placard it to all the world. No steeple so high that it will not bear it; no point of earth but is honoured to be the stump of His Cross: it lies in a cache on the summit of Everest. It is His message, not theirs, which it bears at the last. That free and evil men sought and secured His death cannot alter the fact that He knew what they were doing– and let them do it. You cannot martyr God… Hold in mind… who it was who hung and suffered there, and you will not think of it as martyrdom.

"If He was man, it was murder; if He was God, it was an offering.
"If He was man, it was martyrdom; if He was God, it was sacrifice.
"If He was man, they took His life from Him; if He was God, He laid down his life freely.
"If He was man, we must stand up and take our hats off; if He was God, we must fall down and give Him our hearts." (Daily Readings; pg. 253)

"In the cross of Christ I glory, 
Towering o'er the wrecks of time; 
All the light of sacred story 
Gathers round its head sublime."

"God, the symbol of shame has been transformed by your Son into the symbol of glory; earth's darkest day has become earth's brightest day; life's greatest tragedy has become life's greatest triumph! I will henceforth glory in the Cross! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus died that I might live; I will live that others might not die–spiritually!

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Isaiah 53:4-12; Romans 5:9

The Cross Appeased God's Wrath

On the Cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." What did He mean? Only eternity will fully reveal the meaning of that phrase. Jesus did not mean by this phrase "the work of human cruelty is done." Jesus was saying, "The work of reconciliation and salvation has been accomplished for mankind." The death of Jesus accomplished certain important things.

First, the Cross appeased God's wrath. In speaking often of God's love, we sometimes forget the fact of God's wrath. Both the Old and New Testaments picture God as a God of love, but the Bible also speaks of God's wrath against sin and evil. Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke of 'the wrath to come' (Matthew 3:7). John wrote in his Gospel: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) James declares that the one who makes himself a friend of the evil world also makes himself 'the enemy of God' (James 4:4). Those who live by the passions of their flesh are 'children of wrath,' says Paul (Ephesians 2:3). The wrath of God will come upon the 'sons of disobedience.' (Ephesians 5:5-6)

God is a God of love, but His love demands that His own holiness be honored and that sin, which offends God's holiness, be punished. However, unlike the wrath of the pagan gods, there is no irrational passion in God. God's wrath is controlled, directed, and tempered by God's love. Wrath and love are compatible in God's nature. He hates sin but He loves the child of sin. "There is a divine wrath, but if we may put it this way, it is always exercised with a certain tenderness. Even when He is angry with man's sin God loves man and is concerned for his well-being in the fullest sense. There is a divine love, but it is not a careless sentimentality indifferent to the moral integrity of the loved ones. Rather it is a love which is a purifying fire, blazing against everything that hinders the loved ones from being the very best that they can be." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; Leon Mooris; pg. 176)

Jesus became sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross. On the cross Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus represented all the sins of all the world when He was on the cross. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Because Jesus became sin, God could not look upon Jesus, for God cannot look upon sin. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." (Habakkuk 1:13) Jesus took God's wrath against sin upon Himself, by becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin. Thus, Jesus' death saved mankind from God's just wrath.

"Jesus, thank you for honoring God's holiness and, at the same time, being my shield against God's just wrath. Thank you for bearing my sins in your body on the Cross. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children.

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Romans 5:9-21; Romans 8:33,34; 1 Peter 3:18

The Cross Satisfied God's Justice

Imagine the following: Court Room Scene, You standing before Judge.

– You are guilty of a great crime. You cannot pay for it except by death, for this crime holds the death penalty.
– A friend of yours offers to take your just penalty for you–to die in your place.

Therefore:

  1. Justice has been met, insofar as the law is concerned

  2. Double punishment for one crime would be unjust (so if your friend dies, you don't need to die for your crime).

  3. If the truly guilty one is willing to accept the substitutionary offering of the friend, then the punishment for the crime has been met and the guilty one is free and declared henceforth clear and innocent (as far as the just requirements of the law are concerned).

Of course, in real life, such a thing would not likely take place. But this simple analogy speaks to the issue of God's justice.

So serious is sin that, in the process of punishing sin, the sinner would also be destroyed. The wage of sin is death for the sinner. The Cross is not only the answer to appeasing God's wrath toward sin, but also the answer to saving the sinner from suffering the just penalty for sin which is death.

This is a moral universe, where right must be rewarded and wrong must be punished. If God could forgive the guilty one by a mere 'wink of the eye,' then God would no longer be just and the universe would no longer be a moral, safe, and reliable place to live. All basis for morality (right and wrong) would then be destroyed.

God wanted to save mankind, but a universe run by justice and by a just God must appropriately punish sin. The wage of sin is death; therefore, the sinning one must die. If God were to remain just in His character, He could not allow sin to go unpunished. The Cross is the answer to this moral dilemma. If God should die on a cross, then sin would be justly punished through that substitutionary death, and yet the sinner himself could be saved. The Cross allowed God–the great Judge of the universe–to remain just in his punishment of sin and yet merciful and loving in his treatment of the sinner himself. God, because of the Cross, can be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Jesus took the penalty for man's sins so that man could be forgiven justly.

"Jesus, thank you for dying on the Cross, thus allowing God to maintain justice in His character, and, at the same time, allowing God to exercise kindness in His treatment towards sinners like me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am free from the penalty of sin, not free to continue sinning, but free to serve the Saviour!

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John 3:16; Romans 15:13; Romans 5:8

The Cross Demonstrated God's Love

We have noted that the cross appeased God's wrath and satisfied God's justice. Concerning the latter, it is important to realize that one cannot make himself just before God by any good thing that he can do (any more than a murderer can do anything to justify or clear himself from his crime). Wrote the famous Charles Spurgeon: "Christ has made a complete atonement; and there is none other plan by which sinners can be made at one with God, except by Jesus' precious blood. I may make sacrifices; I may mortify my body; I may be baptized; I may receive sacraments; I may pray until my knees grow hard with kneeling; I may read devout words until I know them by heart; I may celebrate masses; I may worship in one language or in fifty languages; but I can never be at one with God, except by blood; and that blood, 'the precious blood of Christ.'" (The Passion and Death of Christ; pg. 36)

Thirdly, the cross demonstrated God's love. The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God! The cross is the greatest of all revelations concerning God. For the revealed cross in history is the result of the hidden cross on the heart of God! The cross shows that at the heart of the universe is self-giving, sacrificial love. God is love and the cross on Mount Calvary gives concrete expression to that truth. Because God is suffering love, the cross is an absolute necessity. Only as man could see Jesus on the cross of Calvary could man see the Christ of the ages who has always borne a cross in His heart!

Jesus reveals the nature of God. Everything Jesus was, God has always been. When Jesus was suffering on the cross, God was suffering on the cross!

Jesus' suffering on the cross for sin shows that God suffers for sin. God hurts in our hurts, He bleeds when we bleed, He shares our guilt. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4)

Jesus I love for humanity was supremely expressed when He suffered for man's sin. "But God commendeth His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

John 3:16 condenses the deep and marvelous truths of redemption (as someone pointed out):

"God"……………………………. greatest lover
"So loved"……………………….. greatest degree
"The world"………………………. greatest number
"That He gave"……………………. greatest act
"His only begotten Son"……………. greatest gift
"That whosoever"………………….. greatest invitation
"Believeth"………………………. greatest simplicity
"In Him"…………………………. greatest person
"Should not perish"……………….. greatest deliverance
"But"……………………………. greatest difference
"Have"…………………………… greatest certainty
"Everlasting life"………………… greatest possession

"'Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.' Looking at the Cross, I am looking at the very heart of God! Jesus, the Cross is thy magnet to draw me to God!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'precious blood of Christ' is God's most precious gift to mankind–and to me!

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John 15:13; Galatians 6:14

The Golden Text Of Scripture

There are many great love stories, but the greatest love story of all– the most dramatic, and the most unbelievable–is the love story which is summarized in 25 words, John 3:16! It is the golden text of Scripture! It is the Gospel 'in a nutshell.'

But the greatest love story of history is not appreciated as it should be, because of our familiarity with it. Dr. Roland Bainton, famous historian and former professor at Yale Divinity school, notes: "When I was in the divinity school, a student from the English Department used to come over and chat with me on Saturday nights. He had been brought up in such a secular atmosphere, that he had never heard the story of the Crucifixion. I read it to him for the first time in his life. He wept. I was ashamed that I did not weep. Because I suffered from the secularism of familiarity."

Although we can never plumb the depths of its meaning, let us again look at the heart of the Gospel as revealed in the most familiar verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Let us move into a simple exposition of this verse during the next few days.

"FOR GOD"–Divine Initiative. This Divine Initiative is what shows clearly the great contrast between Christianity and the other world religions. For instance, Hinduism has Scriptures showing men's austerities in storming heaven's gates to disturb God's calm aloftness through human persistence. But Christianity declares the startling fact that God always takes the first step–the initiating step. It is not God's reluctance, but man's reluctance, that must be overcome. It is not man searching for God, but God searching for man! It is not man climbing up the ladder to find God, but God climbing down the ladder to find man! In India, there is a picture of an armless God. But the God of Christianity is not armless. Jesus is God's arm reaching out to lost humanity!

"GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD"–Divine Redemption. Make no mistake about it. God hates sin, the actions and attitudes that degrade men, but God loves men. It is man that God came to love, to redeem. Jesus came not to destroy but to save, not to condemn but to forgive, not to subtract but to add. "I am come that they (mankind) might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," said Jesus. Saint Augustine said, "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love."

"God, I thank you that I don't have to storm heaven's gates to get your attention. You loved me when I was loveless! You sought me when I was indifferent! Let me never 'get over' such love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow Calvary Love to break my heart anew!

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Romans 5:6-11; John 15:13

The Greatest Love Story

We are looking at the golden text of Scripture, John 3:16. This verse describes the greatest love story known to mankind!

"THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON"–Divine Substitution. Jesus is God. Therefore, when Jesus died, God died! Jesus took man's penalty. God is righteous and just. God must be consistent in His actions if He is to be consistent and reliable in His character. "The soul that sinneth it shall die"–that is the righteous law of God. For God to remain consistent in His character requires God to exact the penalty for sin which is death. Sin must be penalized.

But God is not only just; He is by nature Love. God's just character requires the death penalty for sin; God's loving character desires the saving of mankind. How can mankind be both saved for heaven and justly punished for sin? How can the apparent contradiction and requirements of God's justice and God's love be reconciled? There is only one answer and that answer was hidden in God for generations, 'until these last days.' The "mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" has been revealed. How can God remain just and at the same time justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men? Only by Divine Substitution! God must take the penalty of sin upon Himself, justly punishing sin in his own body and fulfilling the law's demand for the death penalty. Such sacrifice –and such love!

"During the Civil War a company of irregulars known as 'bushwhackers' were arrested by the Union soldiers. Because they were guerrilla fighters and not in uniform, they were sentenced to be shot. A courageous young boy in the Union army touched his commanding officer on the arm and pleaded, 'Won't you allow me to take the place of one of the men you have just condemned? I know him well; he has a large family who needs him badly. My parents are dead and I have few friends. No one will miss me. Please let me take his punishment!' The officer hesitated but finally gave his consent. Pulling the husband and father to one side, the young man filled his position in the death line. On the stone that marks his grave in a little southern town are these words: 'Sacred to the memory of Willy Lear. He took my place.'" (Daily Bread; Jan. 1971; Jan. 28)

"God, you took my place on the Cross! I should have been there, suffering justly for my own sins, but instead, you were there shedding your own blood. Your perfect sacrifice means that I can be perfectly forgiven! A thousand 'Thank Yous'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Cross is the perfect solution to maintaining God's justice and at the same time revealing God's saving love!

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Acts 2:21; Acts 10:34-43; Romans 10:11-13

"Whosoever" Includes All!

Jesus died for all. Therefore, all can be saved, if they will!

"WHOSOEVER"–Universal Offer. "Whosoever" includes all the little children of the world. Children are tragically neglected and abused too often, but Jesus is the lover of children. Jesus said that one must express childlike simplicity and faith if he enters the kingdom of heaven! In contrast to the ancient world which mistreated children and used them as mere human tools, Jesus introduced a new standard into the world when "He took them (children) up into His lap and loved them."

Jesus loves the exploited people of the world. The exploited in Jesus' day were the slaves. The vast majority of the ancient world was composed of slaves. Many of Christianity's converts were slaves!

Jesus favors the unfavored. The unfavored in Jesus' day were women! Jesus is the greatest champion of women! He liberates women without destroying either their personhood or their womanhood–a far cry from the results of the modern women's liberation movement! Women in the ancient world were treated simply as objects to use and to possess. Jesus treated women as persons. Note the number of women in the New Testament who were loyal followers of the Lord. Jesus came to break down the artificial walls of division. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

"Whosoever" includes the rich and poor alike. James, the blood brother of Jesus, wrote: "Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation (as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God); and the rich (person ought to glory) in being humbled (by being shown his human frailty), because like the flower of the grass he will pass away." (James 1:9-10) (Amplified Version)

"Whosoever" includes both the moral and the immoral. "Celsus, an early opponent of Christianity, objected to this attitude, saying that other faiths invited in the respectable, the moral, the upright, but this faith scandalously invites in the riffraff, the immoral, the drunken, the dishonest, and welcomes them! It does! But the riffraff become respectable, the immoral become the moral, and the drunken become the sober, and the dishonest become the honest, and live and die for it!" (How To Be a Transformed Person; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 124)

"God, I see that 'Whosoever' includes the young and the old, male and female, free and slave, black and white, rich and poor, moral and immoral, learned and illiterate. You are not willing that any should perish!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died for all, all can be saved–and that includes me!

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John 12:44-50

A New Quality Of Life

We continue to mine the wealth of John 3:16, perhaps the greatest verse in the Bible!

"BELIEVETH IN"–Individual Appropriation. Belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation. What is belief? To believe, according to the Amplified Bible, is to "trust in, rely upon, adhere to." It is releasing one's weight upon God! It is commitment of one's heart and mind and life to the all-sufficient power of Christ. It is transferring one's trust from self to Christ!

"Believeth" is in the present tense in the Greek New Testament (John 3:16). The present tense is the continuous tense. This means that it is the person who persistently, habitually, and continuously believes in the Son who will not perish but who will have eternal life. Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and faith. God's faithfulness and power to save and to keep are never in question. It is a question of the continuance of the believer's commitment, trust, and belief. Can faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful men? Indeed not!

"SHOULD NOT PERISH"–Individual Protection. Those who appropriate the grace of God through a continuing commitment to Christ are those who are continually renewed inwardly and outwardly, and thus saved from disintegration and degeneration. Those who don't believe are those who are gradually perishing–in attitudes, in relationships, and in physical constitution. To persist in unbelief is ultimately to perish eternally!

"BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE"–Individual Assurance. Eternal life is not a mere duration of existence, but it is a new quality of life! When I asked a 27 year old alcoholic, a son of a medical doctor, if he wished to have eternal life, he answered, "If I have to live forever like the h– of the life I have lived the last 27 years, then I don't want eternal life!" But he failed to realize that eternal life is a present and new relationship with Christ! It is not confined to time, and it is not limited by physical death. Physical death becomes merely a 'bridge' releasing one into the nearer presence of God, where one can express his new life without the confining limitations of time! Christ is the object of your faith, and new life is the result of your faith!

"God, help me to believe in you, not momentarily, but continuously, in order that I may continue to enjoy a new relationship of love and life! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am saved by believing, and I remain saved by believing–believing in the Son!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'

  1. How was Jesus' ultimate and deepest identification with mankind manifested?

  2. Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, when He often said, 'My hour has not yet come,' what did He mean?

  3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' own free choice. If Jesus had not chosen to come to earth to die, He still would have been holy and sinless. He was under no obligation (except the obligation of 'Love') to come to earth to give His life as a sacrifice for sinners."

  4. Describe what is meant by the statement: "Jesus was born to die."

  5. Was the death of Christ an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell? Why or why not?

  6. Describe what you think Jesus meant when He said (while He was dying on the cross), "It is finished."

  7. In what ways did the Cross (death) of Jesus both appease the wrath of God and, at the same time, demonstrate the love of God?

  8. How is the wrath of God unlike the wrath of the pagan gods?

  9. What are the two contrasting attitudes which God has toward sin and toward sinners?

  10. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children."

  11. Why did Jesus, while He was dying on the cross, cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

  12. The Cross (Death) of Christ is the answer to a great 'moral dilemma' which God faced. What was that 'moral dilemma,' and how did the Cross (Death) of Christ resolve it?

  13. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God!"

  14. What did Dr. Roland Bainton mean when he said that he suffered from 'the secularism of familiarity'?

  15. In terms of 'Initiative,' how is Christianity so different from other world religions?

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'

  16. Do you agree or disagree with Saint Augustine's statement: "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." What evidence is there that God loves you so personally and intensely?

  17. How can God remain just in His character and, at the same time, justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men?

  18. What evidence is there from a study of the New Testament (and especially from a study of the Gospels) that Jesus' love is universal rather than exclusive, that Jesus wants to save all persons instead of only a select few?

  19. If belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation, what is the Biblical meaning of 'belief'?

  20. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and personal faith."

  21. Can the faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful persons who drift away from God? Are believers ultimately saved without meeting any moral conditions other than the conditions of initial repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? What is the final condition that believers must meet if they are ultimately to enjoy eternal life in heaven? (Does the use of the Greek 'present tense' for 'believe' in John 3:16 help answer the above questions?)

  22. Is 'eternal life' only a future life to be enjoyed in heaven, or is 'eternal life' a present life to be experienced by sincere believers here on earth? Give a scriptural basis for your answer.

  23. What is the basis of your personal assurance of salvation?

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