INTRODUCTION – Let My Laughter Resound!

Let My Laughter Resound!


INTRODUCTION

Notes the missionary/evangelist/writer, E, Stanley Jones; “There are three levels of laughter: the lowest level, the one who laughs only at his own jokes; a little higher, the one who laughs at the jokes of others; third, the one who can laugh at himself. I would add as the highest, the one who laughs at the rhythm of things – a constitutionally happy laugh.”

One of E. Stanley Jones’ popular statements is this: “There is more unalloyed joy in being a Christian to the square inch than there is to the square mile outside of him.”

A well-known writer, Elton Trueblood, once wrote a book entitled ‘The Humor of Christ’. There are statements (and parables) from the lips of Christ that, when they were heard for the first time, must have brought either a smile or an outright laugh from the hearers of Christ. We have read many words (first spoken by Christ) so many times that we fail to appreciate the humor in some of Christ’s words.

Here is one (of many) statements that must have caused a reaction of laughter among Christ’s listeners: “You strain at gnats while you swallow camels!” A vivid description of the hypocritical actions of some religious leaders!


“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”

Table of contents: Let my laughter resound!

Introduction Practicing the Means of Grace

Introduction to Practicing The Means Of Grace

Introduction to Book Two – Means Of Grace

By

Ron Christian, Compiler

It is not difficult for one to become a Christian. It does not take very much time for an individual sincerely to pray the "sinner's prayer" to become a believer. But, after one becomes a Christian, it takes much effort and considerable time for that Christian to become strong and mature in the "Christian Way." Fortunately, God has graciously given several "means" or "channels" by which a God-follower can become a maturing believer. Just as there are several "means" by which a small child grows to maturity (such as the intake of nutritious food and plenty of fresh water and a good "dose" of vigorous physical exercise, etc.), so there are several "means" by which both younger and older believers can become more mature in the "Christian Faith."

What are some of those "means" by which a sincere believer can "grow into maturity"? Regular church attendance, warm fellowship with fellow believers, daily and personal "Quiet Times", earnest prayer, regular Bible reading and study, meditation, reverent worship (both private and corporate), participation in Holy Communion and Water Baptism, involvement as a member of a small "Christian Growth Group", fasting. Any 'spiritual activity' (private or public) which helps 'connect' you with the resources of God's power and wisdom could be called a "Means of Grace".

One of the most important (and sometimes neglected) "Means of Grace" is Church Attendance. The Bible says, "Let us not neglect our Church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming BACK A GAIN IS DRAWING NEAR." (Hebrews 10:25, Living Bible) The Christian should desire to be with those who are like himself. In the natural world animals of like kind group together. Birds Dock together, fish swim together, bees swarm together, cattle herd together, beavers work together, and ants travel together. Why should not God's highest creatures worship together? God has made us to fellowship, and what better place is there for us to fellowship than at God's House periodically?

In a secular newspaper appeared the following:

"Dear Member:

Don't wait until the hearse hauls you to Church. If you do, you will go, regardless of the weather. There will be beautiful fowers there, but you won't enjoy them. The priest may say some good things about you, but you won't be able to hear them. There will be beautiful music, but you won't enjoy it. There win be heartfelt prayers, but they will not touch your heart. There will be friends and relatives there, but you will not worship with them. You will go, no matter how many hypocrites are there. You will go, no matter how

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much you are needed at home. You won't be concerned about whether to attend Church or not. You'll never get another chance. Aren't you glad to be alive and well and have the choice of whether or not to go to Church?"

Notes C.S. Lewis, "Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say, landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to Church, you are really listening into the secret wireless from our friends. That is why this enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery."

LOOKING AT PEOPLE'S FLIMSY EXCUSES!

Even professing Christians, who should know better, sometimes swallow Satan's excuses! Do any of the following excuses sound familiar to you?

  • "I need to relax on Sunday mornings and therefore I don't have time to attend Church services." Remember, one of the characteristics of the perilous times during the last days of history is a pleasure- obsessed society where people are "Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God". (2 Timothy 3:4)

  • "I need to be with my family and relatives on Sunday. If I am enjoying my family rather than attending Church services, God will surely understand." Said Jesus, "If you love your father and mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worth of being mine." (Matthew 10:37)

  • "I need to work and therefore I can't come to services on Sunday." Most who work on Sundays don't need to work on Sundays. Most employers would be glad to arrange a schedule in such a way that sincere Christian employees could periodically, if not regularly, be off on Sundays.

  • "I need a vacation occasionally and don't have time to worship God in Church on Sundays." It is always appropriate to take a vacation away from our regular jobs, but it is never appropriate to take a vacation away from God! Prayer and worship have been proven to be the most recreating activities known to man, for through prayer and worship a new spiritual energy and vitality are gained which transfers to the physical and mental realm, raising all of life to a higher level of vitality!

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  • "I am ill and therefore I can't go to Church." This is sometimes a valid reason rather than a flimsy excuse, but 1 am convinced that many illnesses have a psychological or spiritual basis and that many illnesses could be treated best (and perhaps even healed) within-the atmosphere of a caring fellowship of Christians in Church.

  • "I have business pursuits that I am involved in which take me out of town on weekends. Therefore, 1 can't come to Church." Let every businessman know that there is no business as important as God's business. God's business is inseparably connected with the Church, so attending Church regularly is doing God's business! When occasionally it is necessary for a businessman to be out of town on a weekend, he should always be in God's House worshiping – somewhere!

  • "I don't understand what is being said at Church, so I simply study my Bible at Home." Although there are many different levels of maturity represented within a typical congregation, all of which the minister must take into consideration when he preaches, nevertheless the Holy Spirit is the interpreter of truth and is able to apply truth to each person – regardless of the level of maturity, assuming that each believer is open and honest!

  • "I am discouraged because of my circumstances and therefore 1 don't feel like going to Church." The discouraged can find encouragement, the despairing can find hope, the sorrowing can find comfort – at God's House with God's people on Sunday morning and Sunday evening! The last place a discouraged person should stay away from is the sanctuary of the Lord on Sunday! Church services are never a substitute for daily healing which can be found in the daily quiet times if they are not receiving healing at the regular worship services! Don't wait until you 'feel' like going to Church. Action precedes feelings! Act in faith by going to Church and you will soon feel the comfort and encouragement which obedience brings the Church is a center for encouragement! Read Hebrews 10:25.

  • "I am 'trying out' several churches before I settle on attending one Church regularly." These are the legitimate words of a few people whose presence in a new community and whose sincere desire to be in God's will, allow them to search out a 'Church home'. People who use this excuse don't want to be 'tied down' to anyone Church; they don't want to be obviously visible in anyone fellowship and they reject ecclesiastical authority and personal accountability for their faithfulness in Church attendance. To be in non one's flock gives them

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    a sense of 'freedom', but this feeling of freedom is seldom blatantly admitted by professing Christians who resort to the following oft- repeated excuse: "I am trying to find a Church where I feel "comfortable and where I can be fed."

Those who resort to such excuses seldom 'land' and 'stay' in anyone Church for very long. (I know personally of one family who has been in at least seven different churches during the last few years! No Church quite suits them! They leave one Church only to go to another one that is 'better' and 'more spiritual'!

People who are waiting to find a 'perfect' Church will never find it! The sincere Christian who is coming new into a community does not take long to find a good Church Home, and when he finds it (after a legitimate amount of time involved in 'Church Shopping') he 'sticks with' the Church of his choice. He stays with it, through 'thick and thin'!

There can be no deep loyalty to God without deep loyalty to God's Church – visibly and locally identifiable! In the nearly twenty seven years I pastored (working with hundreds of people), I knew few, if any, couples who were successful in their Christian lives who were sporadic in Church attendance!

Rev. Sidney Laing of Dublin, Ireland, got tired of listening to the same old excuses from people who don't attend Church. At the end of his tether, he wrote the following item, titled "Ten Reasons Why I Never Wash," for his Church bulletin:

  • I was made to wash as a child.
  • People who wash are hypocrites. They reckon they are cleaner than other people.
  • There are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one was right.
  • I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.
  • I still wash on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas.
  • None of my friends wash.
  • I'm still young. When I'm older and have got a bit dirtier I might start washing.
  • I really don't have time.
  • the bathroom is never warm enough.
  • people who make soap are only after your money.

(Quoted in "Holy Humor Inspirational Wit and Cartoons" by Cal and Rose Samra; p. 58)

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Why should Christians meet regularly in a building and have a local organization called the Church? Because God (through Christ) established the local Church as one of the most important "Means of Grace" by which believers grow and become mature in the "Christian Faith' (i.e., by which believers develop a more intimate relationship with Almighty God). Hebrews 10:25 makes it very clear that one way by which you help another believer to grow in his personal faith in Christ is by your faithful (habitual) attendance at a local Church. Jesus Himself regularly (weekly) attended the Jewish Synagogue. "And he (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and as his custom (habit) was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read." (Luke 4:16)

Notes Clark Pennock, "One can view the Church from several angles. On the one hand it is an institution. The Church is an organization. It has an address, it is a place where people can be welcomed and introduced to Christ through many activities. The Church as institution involves buildings, ceremonies, officers, and rituals. It is set up to facilitate in personal relationships in the context of the praise of God. What makes it special is its goal to be a structure that mediates the grace of God to people. It does so in all sorts of ways, through sermons, by baptisms, in the Eucharist, in fellowship, singing, Christian education, and through group prayer. All of these activities are means of grace that can transmit life-giving reality to those who come into contact with it. The Church as an institution is likely the chief way in which people are confronted with Christ and come to participate in the renewing work of the Spirit.

"But the Church is a community as well as an institution. It would be in trouble if it were not. It is also an organism in which people are built up and gifted by the Spirit. This is in fact the goal of the Church as an institution, to bring people into a saving relationship with Christ and involve them in the renewing work of the Spirit. The institution is a means of creating a community, which is the body of Christ, that can grow and develop.

"Finally, the Church is also a bridge that stretches out its arms to the world, which God wants to reconcile as well. It is not meant to be the circle of the saved but rather the first fruits of the new creation, which portends the harvest of all nations. It is the light meant to lighten the world. This ought to be a major orientation, to reach the nations with the gospel and to disciple the peoples of the world. The Church exercises a priestly mediation between Christ and a lost world. If the goal of the Church as an institution is to create community, then the goal of the Church as a community is to gather in the nations. As God's servant people, the Church exists for the sake of the world. It is a function of God's mission in the world. By being new community in the midst of the world, the Church impacts the old order as salt and light and by reaching out in word and deed, through prophecy and prayer fulfills its own calling to be apostolic.

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"The Church is not always what it ought to be. It often exists as mere institution with very little life or mission. It is frequently not all God means for it to be. Therefore, it needs to be revitalized, to become alive and vital as in the beginning. It needs to receive afresh the gift of Pentecost in order to become experientially vital again; to be-filled with praise and joy, mediating the kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit; for the grace of God again to become a personal possession; not for its own sake but for the sake of the world. As the Psalmist prayed, 'May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power upon all nations' (Psalms 67:1-2, RSV)." (Theological Crossfire; Clark Pinnock and Delwin Brown; pg. 199,200)

It is doubtful that a vital relationship with God can long be maintained without regular attendance at the public worship services. I noticed, after working with many scores of young believers for more than 20 years (as a local pastor), that those young believers who became committed to regular Church attendance were the same ones who generally grew into spiritual maturity. The opposite was also true: those young believers (or, for that matter, older believers) who 'dropped out' of Church attendance also 'dropped out' of vital relationship with God. Such persons became lukewarm Christians and sometimes back slid completely. Church attendance (as a "Means of Grace") alone is not sufficient to maintain a vital relationship with God, but it is almost impossible to enjoy a relationship with God without commitment to consistent Church attendance. I have never yet met a mature Christian who does not habitually attend public Church services.

We are living at a time in history when we need to reaffirm our confidence in and declare our love for the local Church! The Church is most precious to Christ! The Church is the Bride of Christ! Christ loved the Church so much that He died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Early Church followed the example of Jesus: "After Jesus returned to heaven, "they (the disciples of Jesus) returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and spent all their time in the temple praising God." (Luke 24:52-53, New English Bible) Is it any wonder why the believers in the first century of the Christian Church grew so fast and were so effective in their witness? They availed themselves of the God- given "Means of Grace"! "Growing a Godly Life" today still depends upon a Christian's conscientious involvement in those "Means"!

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LOVE FOR ZION

I love thy kingdom, Lord, 
The house of thine abode, 
The Church our blest Redeemer saved 
With his own precious blood. 
I love thy Church, 0 God! 
Her walls before thee stand, 
Dear as the apple of thine eye, 
And graven on thy hand. 
For her my tears shall fall: 
For her my prayers ascend; 
To her my cares and toils be given. 
Till toils and cares shall end. 
Beyond my highest joy 
I prize her heavenly ways; 
Her sweet Communion, solemn vows, 
Her hymns of love and praise. 
Sure as thy truth shall last, 
To Zion shall be given 
The brightest glories earth can yield, 
And brighter bliss of heaven. 

T. Dwight

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Introduction Encountering the Living God

Introduction to Encountering The Living God

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

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 judgment to come, Felix trembled." (Acts 24:25 a) Every person's inner moral condition is 'naked' and exposed before the 'eyes' of Almighty God! The 'all-seeing eyes' of God search the 'thoughts and motives and desires' of all human beings! However, God's exposure of a person's sin is not for the purpose of mere shame and humiliation. God exposes one's spiritual nakedness in order to clothe him with the 'garments of Christ's righteousness'.

After God awakens a person to his true spiritual condition, God calls that 'exposed sinner' to repentance. Repentance does not mean mere self-improvement. Mere 'human reformation' is not sufficient to heal the 'sin-sick soul'! A person may attempt to reform a pig by cleaning the pig up and by dressing the pig in clean clothes. However, until the nature of the pig is changed, the pig will go back into the mud puddle. A person's 'nature' must be changed by Almighty God. Self-improvement is not sufficient. A sinner must be divinely transformed. Also, 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 in the future.

What is repentance? Repentance is a 'moral u-turn' . "A change of mind toward sin, from one of embracing to one of separation". (Stanley Walters) Repentance involves open confession of one's sins to Almighty God. A sinner must make a 'moral u-turn'. He must turn from his old life of sinning. C. S. Lewis describes repentance: "Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that yon 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; pg. 59) Repentance recognizes that sin is not only a violation of law (of God), but that it is also the breaking of a relationship (with God). Repentance is not only recognizing the fact of sin and the seriousness of

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sin's consequences, but repentance is also recognizing one's inability to save himself. To have a spirit of true repentance is to acknowledge one's personal helplessness. Before a sinner is ready to receive God's help, he must declare his own personal 'moral bankruptcy'! Repentance involves both a 'change of mind' (from an attitude of embracing sin to an attitude of hating sin) and a 'change in actions' (from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness). Repentance does not mean, however, perfection in moral performance, but rather a new direction in life. To truly repent one must 'disagree' with his former prideful attitudes of self-sufficiency, and he must henceforth agree with God's grace-estimate of his moral condition.

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men and women 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) Remorse is mere sorrow because of the consequences of one's sins. Repentance is a 'godly sorrow' over the sin itself, with a sincere desire to change one's life. True repentance means hating sin, accepting full moral responsibility for one's sinful actions, and turning completely to Christ for forgiveness and new life. The turning away from a life of sinful attitudes and actions is called repentance; a turning towards the Saviour for salvation is called 'saving faith'. The 'turning from' and the 'turning to' should take place almost simultaneously.

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 of and surrender to the Saviour. 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) Faith is the total commitment of one's total self to Christ. 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 instead abandons himself to the Divine Lifeguard, is he 'saved'. 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! Faith is self-abandonment to God and rejection of all attempts at works of self-righteousness. There are some who feel they must improve on their actions before they can come to God or be accepted by God. But the popular Gospel song well states the truth: "Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee

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whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come!"

Ask yourself if you have had a spiritual awakening, if you have truly repented, if you have exercised saving faith .. John Wesley, 18th century clergyman of the Church of England who is credited as 'Founder of Methodism', struggled hard and long before he discovered the way of simple faith (accompanied with true repentance) as the means to genuine salvation from sin. There were several 'dead-end-roads' which John Wesley traveled before he found the 'right road' to Christ. Even today, there are far too many who are traveling on those 'dead-end roads'.

There is the 'dead-end road' of Mysticism. Mysticism is an 'individualized' attempt to know God, unaided by any of the 'Means of Grace' (such as Christian Fellowship, the Bible, Prayer, Lord's Supper, Baptism). Mysticism teaches that a person can be 'united with God' without personal repentance and without obedience to any of the written laws of God. Mysticism centers on emotions and 'personal experience' without the need for any rational understanding of the objectively-revealed (propositional) truths of God. Mysticism involves personal withdrawal from any human association, and disdains any need for personal accountability to any group. Mysticism seeks personal Communion with God, and seeks to avoid 'contact' with other persons. Thus, the way of mysticism is the way of self-preoccupation, with little or no concern for ministering to the needs of other 'hurting people'. Mysticism, with its extreme emphasis on one's subjective relationship with God, minimizes the importance of obedience to God's objective commandments, and denies the Biblical teaching that 'good works' are the legitimate expressions of a true faith in God (i.e., mysticism denies that a 'saving faith' is a 'working faith').

After John Wesley was delivered from the snares of mysticism, he declared that, of all the enemies of Christianity, mysticism was the most dangerous.

There is the 'dead-end road' of legalist, which is an attempt to gain God's acceptance through strenuous human effort and law-keeping and human performance and personal moral achievement A legalist is one whose focus on a life of 'good works' is an attempt to make himself acceptable unto Almighty God. A legalist (rightly) acknowledges the importance of 'good works', but a legalist (wrongly) believes that it is 'good works' which justifies a person before God. John Wesley, along with many other earnest seekers (including Martin Luther), believed that one must greatly improve his own life and conduct before God could accept him into His family. One scholar characterized John Wesley's search for God through 'legalism' in this way: "He believed that a changed life was not the fruit of forgiveness, but its cause. Good works" Wesley said, come before forgiveness and constituted the title to it; they (good works) did not come after and represent its effects." (Quoted in "Age To Age, A Living Witness", by Leslie Ray Marston; pg. 27) At this stage in John Wesley's spiritual quest he failed to discern God's 'order of salvation', regarding the proper relationship between God's grace, and

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the Sinner's response to grace through repentance and faith, and the consequence (i.e., the fruit or evidence) of true saving faith which is a life of 'good works'. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear that a sinner is save BY God's grace THROUGH man's faith FOR good works. "Because of God's kindness (grace) you have been saved through trusting Christ (faith). And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others" (i.e., a life full of 'good works'). (Ephesians 2: 8-10, Living Bible) The 'performance of good works' is important as evidence that one has truly believed in Christ as His Savior, but 'good works' are never meritorious (i.e., 'good works' can never make one worthy or deserving of God's favor and forgiveness and acceptance). Because one has been wonderfully 'saved' by Christ alone, the saved person deeply loves Christ and wishes to please Christ as an act of gratitude for salvation from sin. 'Good works' are the natural 'fruits' (manifestations) of love for the 'Lover of sinners'.

Wrote the apostle Paul: "The Scriptures tell us Abraham believed God, and that is why God canceled his sins and declared him 'not guilty'. But didn't he earn his right to heaven by all the good things he did? No, for being saved is a gift; if a person could earn it by being good, then it wouldn't be free- but it is! It is given to those who do not work for it. For God declares sinners to be good in his sight if they have faitb in Christ to save them from God's wrath." (Romans 4:3-5, Living Bible)

Not only were the ways of mysticism and legalism 'dead-ends roads' for John Wesley, but Wesley also learned that the way of ritualism was a 'dead-end road'. There was a time, before John Wesley received personal assurance of sins forgiven, when he sought to be right with God through the careful observance of religious rituals and ceremonies and rites and ordinances. Wesley finally learned (like many religious persons in our modern-day need to learn) that religious ceremonies such as Baptism and the Lord's Supper cannot 'save' a person. Of course, if one takes seriously the meaning of the words found in these ceremonies and turns wholeheartedly to the Living Christ to whom these ceremonies point, then that person would discover a personal relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. However, as is too often the case, these and other religious ceremonies and rituals are often endlessly and mechanically and thoughtlessly entered into without any accompanying personal volitional commitment and emotional response on the part of the person who is engaging in these ceremonies and rituals. There is nothing inherently 'evil' or 'harmful' about religious ceremonies and rituals, but the latter must always be seen as the 'means' by which a person enters into a personal and dynamic and trusting relationship with the Living Christ. It is too easy, as in the case of the Pharisees of Jesus' time, to begin believing that the mere observance of religious ceremonies automatically brings God's favor and establishes a relationship with God and assures one that he has a "passport' to heaven. It is possible for 'religiously-oriented person' to attend Church services weekly, and to be baptized, and to participate

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regularly in the observance of the Lord's Supper, and yet not to be 'born again'. Was not Nicodemus, the Jewish Rabbi, although he was a very religious person (whose observance of ritual and ceremony was exemplary) a man who desperately needed to be 'born anew'? (John 3)

John Wesley, whose observance of religious ritual and whose performance of good works and charitable deeds were most exemplary, learned the hard way that the 'religion of respectability' and the 'religion of formality' and the 'religion of rugged disciplines' could not bring peace to his heart and mind, nor assurance to his soul and spirit. Wesley discovered that mere 'morality' and 'ethics' and 'harmless living' could not give one a 'right standing with God'. When Wesley finally found the 'open-ended road' of faith which led him to a saving knowledge of Christ, he reflectively wrote about the futility of the way of religious 'formality': "Religion is commonly thought to consist of three things – harmlessness, using the means of grace, and doing good … Accordingly, by a religious man is commonly meant one that is honest, just, and fair in his dealings; that is constantly at Church and sacrament; and that gives alms … True religion, the consequence of God's dwelling and reigning in the soul … does not consist in any or all of these three things; but a man might both be harmless, use the means of grace and do much good, and yet have no true religion at all." (Quoted in "Blueprint For A Christian World"; Mary Alice Tenney; pg. 44)

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

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

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

The Jews' claim to moral excellence and spiritual eliteness is vividly described in Romans 2:17-20. "You call yourself a Jew; you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are

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instructed by the law; you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth." (NIV)

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

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

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

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

After experiencing the 'dead-end roads' of the intellectualism of the rationalist, and the rigid discipline of the legalism, and the subjectivism of the mystic, and the religious performance of the formalist, John Wesley finally discovered the way

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of faith and repentance which led him to a deep and abiding assurance of forgiveness and reconciliation and peace with God. Following a period of great sorrow and distress and "heaviness of heart", on May 24, 1738, John Wesley finally experienced the assurance for which he had long sought through the ways of rationalism, mysticism, legalism, ritualism, and religious formalism. In his 'Journal' he describes his all-important 'encounter with God': "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in A1dersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

As John Wesley finally learned, and as the Bible clearly teaches (especially in the Book of Romans), there is only one 'open-ended road' which brings one into the 'Kingdom of God' – the road of faith in Christ alone.

Included in this 'Introduction to Book One' ('Encountering The Living God') is an illustrated presentation of the 'Plan of Salvation' showing (1) The Fact of Sin; (2) The Seriousness and Consequences of Sin; (3) The Insufficiency of Man's Self-Efforts to Save Himself; (4) The Sufficiency of Christ's Provision of Salvation; (5) The Conditions of Repentance and Faith which sinners must meet in order to receive God's gift of personal salvation; (6) The necessary follow-up Steps which new believers must take in order to become established in the 'Christian Life'.

Carefully 'contemplate' the following illustrated presentation of the 'Plan of Salvation' , and if you have not personally taken those all-important 'steps' of genuine repentance and faith (trust in Christ), be sure to take those 'steps' soon. And, after you have 'made your peace with God', you may find that this illustrated presentation of the Plan of Salvation will help you (as a 'tool') to share the 'Good News' with your friends and neighbors and associates and relatives.

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A Great Man Once Said,

Until He Finds "Rest In God"!

The Big Questions Of Life:

(1) WHO AM I?

(2) WHERE DID I COME FROM?

(3) CAN I FIND PEACE OF MIND?

(4) WHAT Is My PURPOSE FOR LIVING?

(5) WHERE AM I GOING AFTER I DIE?

(6) CAN I KNOW GOD IN A PERSONAL WAY?

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Every Person Has A God-Shaped Vacuum Within Him!

Many Are Trying To Fill That Vacuum With Substitutes For God:

Pleaseure!

Money!

Religion!

Power!

Morality!

Drugs!

Property!

Sex!

Alcohol!

Entertainment!

("Oh God, don't let me be disilusioned into thinking that the earth's treasures and pleasures can satisify me")

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How Serious Is Sin?

"For The Wages Of Sin is Death!" Romans 6:23

Definition:

"Wages: That Which Is Paid for Work or Services."

Sin Brings Misery and Unhappiness!

"Fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:25)

"I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

"When I kept silent about my sin, my body
waste away through my graning all day long."

(Psalms 32:3)

"Our iniquities, like the wind,
take us away"

(Isaiah 64:6)

"There is no peace", says my God, "for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:21)

"There is a way which seems right to a man, but it's
end is the way of death."

(Proverbs 14:12)

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Sinning Leads To Eternal Separation From God!

Revelation 20:11-15

It Is extremely Important
To Know That Your Name Is
Written In The Book Of Life

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Focus On: Actions Attmepting To Solve Human Problem: Resultant State Or Relationship
Outward Circumstances Give up business which has evil companions; abandon evil reading; move into new locality; establish new evnironment. Outward Reformation
Personal Habits No longer Drink or Smoke, or Lie, or Curse. Personal Reformation
Personal Discipline Exercise, Eat well, Develop the arts, perform good deeds, self-improvement Self-Improvement Cultivation
Personal Sins Confession; Repentance, Faith in Christ alone; Restitution, 'Means of Grace' Outward and Partial Transformation (Conversion)
Unsurrendered Self Total Surrender of Self (emotions, intellect, will) in Faith to Sovereign Lord. Inner Purity and Love, and outer Power to witness. (Increasing conformity to Christ-likeness.

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Can My Sins Be Forgiven?

"As far as the  east  is from the  
west , so far has He removed our
transgressions from us!"

(Psalms 103:12)

East West

"I will forgive their iniquity, and their
sins I will remember no more!"

(Jeremiah 31:34)

"The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins!"(Matthew 9:6)

Forgiveness Is The Loveliest Word In The English Language!

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For Whom Did Christ Die?

1 Timothy 2:4-6 1 Timothy 4:10

2 Peter 3:9

John 6:33 John 6:51 Colossians 1:20

EVERYONE!

Romans 5:18 Romans 11:32

2 Corinthians 5:19

Titus 2:11 John 7:37-38 John 3:14-17

Revelation 22:17 Acts 17:30

1 John 2:2

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Agreee Or Dis-Agree? True or False?

T God wants to save all persons. It is not God's will that any person perish. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).
T Christ died for all persons, thus providing a universal atonement which is adequate for the whole human race generally and every man individually. (1 Timothy 4:6) (1 John 2:2)
T Man is corrupted by sin or totally depraved, but God extends to every person a grace which enables him to turn to Christ for forgiveness. (Isaiah 45:22)
T Because every person is a free moral agent, he may, if he chooses, resist the grace of God (Joshua 24:15; John 1:11, John 1:12)
T Every person everywhere is commanded to repent of his sins and bel ieve in Christ (Acts 16:31; Acts 17:30)
T No person is excluded from salvation unless he excludes himself by willful unbelief.
T Because Christ died for all persons, all persons are in a saveable relationship with God, but only those persons who initially exercise personal faith in Christ and continue to exercise personal faith in Christ as Saviour will actually and ultimately be saved.
F Before the human race was created, God unconditionally chose some persons to be saved and some persons to be lost.
F God gives the gift of saving faith only to those persons whom He has chosen to save.
T Ultimate assurance of personal salvation is impossible apart from conscious, deliberate perseverance in faith.

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God Is A God Who Has Given Human Beings Everything Richly To Enjoy! 1 Timothy 6:17 b

A Beautiful World To Live In (Genesis 1:1)

  • Light

  • Firmamant (Heavens)

  • Land and Seas

  • Trees and Plants

  • Sun, Moon, Stars

  • All Creatures Big and Small

  • A Creative Job to Perform (Genesis 2:15)

  • A Loving Companion to Enjoy (Genesis 2:18)

All Things Bright and Beautiful

(Genesis 1:31)

"It was good"

A Trusting Relationship with God (Genesis 1:26-27)

A Big World To Rule Responsibly (Genesis 1:28)

"It is not good for the man
to be alone. I will make a 
helper suitable for him."

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Sin Marred God's Beautiful Creation!

What Is Sin? ? ? ?

Disobeying Holy Laws of God (Genesis 3:1-5) (1 John 3:4)

Gratifying Selfish Desires Apart From God (Genesis 3:6) (Galatians 5:19)

Breaking Loving Relationship With God (Genesis 3:8) (Romans 3:21)

What Is The Essence Of All Sin? ? ? ?

Self-Centered PRIDE

Do Decent People Need Saving?

"The thing that is deeply wrong
with human nature is not that some
people commit adultery, and some
steal, but that all of us are self-
centered - the decent and the
indecent, the nice and the nasty.
Manners, polish, refinement, and 
culture only cover that disease,
like rouge on the face of a woman
dying of anemia. They can't affect
the deadly disease underneath.
To be saved is to be saved from that
disease. We all have it; therefore
we all need to be saved." 
- William Sangster -

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What Is The Extent of Sin? ? ?

All Have 'Missed The Mark'

Definition: Harmartia (Greek word for 'sin')

'Missing the Mark' as when a spear is thrown at a target.

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

Jews And Gentiles Alike Are All under Sin! (Romans 3:9)

All Persons are Sinners by Nature (Psalms 51:5) (Genesis 6:5)

All Persons are Sinners by Choice (Isaiah 64:6)

Sin Is Both

(Matthew 5)

Outward

Murder
Adultery
Stealing

Inward

Anger
Lust
Coveteousness
A Wrong Action
&
A Wrong Attitude
(Cheating, Lying, Stealing,
Adultery)
(Anger, Lust, Hatred, Resentment,
Greed, Jealousy

(Ephesians 5:3-7) (Matthew 15:19)

Sin Is Failing To Do What Is Good!

"Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, Sins." (James 4:17)

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What Are The Results Of Sin? ? ?

Shame! (Genesis 3:7)

Hiding From God! (Genesis 3:8)

Guilt! Blaming Others! (Genesis 3:12-13)

Fear! (Genesis 3:10)

Knowldege Of Evil! (Genesis 3:22)

Knowledge Alienation From God! (Genesis 3:23-24)

Sin Is Separation From God (Isaiah 59:2)

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What Conditions Must I Meet To Experience God's Salvation? ?

Awakening - Right Attitude Towards Your Condition
("I am a sinner and in need of a Savior!")

(John 16:8-11)

Repentance - Right Attitude Toward Your Sin
("I am deeply sorry for my sins and want the direction of 
my life to change!")

(Luke 15:11-32)

Faith - Right Attitude Toward Your Saviour
("I trust Christ alone to forgive my sins and to change my
life!")

(Romans 5:1-5 Living Bible)

Surrender - Right Attitude Toward Your Self
("I turn over the full controls of my life (my will, my
intellect, myemotions) to Christ, and will allow Christ
initiallyand daily to exercise His Lordship in my life!")

(Galatians 2:20 Luke 14:25-33 Living Bible)

Let's Look At These Conditions More Carefully:

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Awakening! John 16:8-11

God's Holiness

Man's Sins (John 1:4-9)

____ A 'Collision' with God!

____ Realizing I Am On The Wrong Road!

____ Admitting I Have A Spiritual Need!

____ No Longer Rationalizing My Sins!

____ Seeing My True Moral Condition!

____ Recognizing That I Need To Be Saved!

"The Word that God speak......... exposes the very thoughts and motives
of a man's heart."

(Hebrews 4:12-13 Phillips)

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Repentance! (Luke 18:9-14)

____ A Moral 'U – Turn'

____ Sincere Sorrow Over My Sins (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

____ Accepting Responsibility For My Sins

____ Turning My Back On My Old Way Of Life

____ Humble Confessing To God That I Have Been Wrong

____ Acknowledging My Personal Moral Bankruptcy

Definition Of Repentance:
A change of mind, from an attitude of embracing sin to an
attitude of forsaking sin, resulting in a change of direction,
from a life of practicing sin to a life of practicing righteousness.

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Faith

(Romans 4:1-5 Living Bible)

____ Turning From Sin To The Saviour

____ Transfer Of Trust From Myself To The Saviour

____ An Intellectual Assent To Truth Coupled With A Life Commitment To The Saviour

____ Putting My 'Weight' Down On The Saviour

____ Total Commitment Of My Total Self To Christ

Definition Of Faith:
Entrusting yourself totally to God, like a man sinking in quick sand who
ceases to struggle to save himself and instead clasps the saving hand of
the man who is standing on the solid ground near by.

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Surrender

(Luke 14:25-33 Living Bible) (Galatians 2:20)

'The Way'

Following Christ
Matthew 7:13-14Matthew 16:24

____ Forsake My Own Selfish Ways

____ Follow In The Footsteps Of Jesus

____ Turn Over the 'Title Deed' of MyLife To Christ

____ Put Christ on The Throne Of My Life

____ Allow Christ To Use My Talents In His Service

____ Learn To Live A Life Of Obedience & Love

"Were the whole realm of nature mine that were a present far too small! Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my ALL!"

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The Way To Eternal Life

  • Wealth Cannot Buy It!

  • Worldly Pleasures (Emotions) Cannot Bring It!

  • Human Reason (Intellect) Cannot Grasp It!

  • Human Effort (Will) Cannot Achieve It!

But

Faith Alone Can Receive It!

(Ephesians 2:8-9)

(Everyone Places His Faith In Someone Or Something)

The Object of Your Faith Determines

The Value of Your Faith.

Christ Alone Is A Trustworthy Object For Your Faith.

(Titus 1:1-2)

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Review:

  • God Is Good – "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:3)

  • Man Is A Sinner – "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

  • Sinning Has Serious Consequences – "Evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterwards to the death penalty from God." (James 1:5) (L.B.)

  • All Human Attempts At Salvation Are Futile – "There is a way which seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12)

  • Christ Alone Can Forgive Sins And Give Salvation – "Jesus said, 'Iam the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.'" (John 14:6)

Each Individual Must Meet Certain Conditions To Be

Saved!

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6. Each Individual Must Meet Certain Conditions To Be Saved

____ Awakening ("I Need A Saviour!")

____ Repentance ("I Turn From My Sins!")

____ Faith ("I Place My Trust Alone In Christ For Salvation!")

____ Surrender ("I Am Willing Obediently To Follow Christ Forever!")

When You Sincerely Meet These Conditions In Your Heart Christ Will!

A. Forgive you (the sins you remember, and the sins you don't remember!)

B. Make You God's Child (John 1:12)

C. Cone Into Your Life And Establish Fellowship (Revelation 3:20)

Let's Make A Commitment To Jesus Christ Now !

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A Prayer For Salvation:

"Dear God, I acknowledge that you are altogether trustworthy in your
character, and faithful to your promises. Abandoning all hope for salvation
in myslef, I cast myself helplessly and hopefully in your mighty saving arms!
I realize that I am a sinner and in need of a Saviour! I acknowledge that
you alone can forgive my sins. I am genuinely sorry for my sins, and I desire
to change the direction of my life, from a life of embracing sin to a life
of forsaking sin! I now confess all my sins to Jesus Christ, the sins I
remember and the sins I don't remember. I place my trust in Christ alone
for my Salvation. Thank you for forgiving my sins as you promised. Thank
you for coming into my life. I intend to live for you the rest of my life
with You as my Helper! In Jesus Name! Amen."

Is There Anything About This Prayer You Don't Understand?

Does This Prayer Honestly Express The Desire Of Your Heart?

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You Prayed:

"I now confess ALL my sins to Jesus Christ"

1. Was Your Prayer A Sincere Prayer?

2. If So, What Has Happeded To Your Sins?

3. How Do You Know Your Sins Are Forgiven?

(Remember We Are Saved by Faith, Not By Feelings!)

Assurance Of Eternal Life!

1 John 5:12 Says:

"He ("Jim, Sue, John, Mary, etc.) that Has

(present tense reality) the Son Has Life —- Now!"

(Eternal Life is not only a Future State Of Continuing Existence, but Eternal Life Is a Present Quality of New Life in Relationship With Christ!)

___ New Attitudes

(John 10:10) (2 Corinthians 5:17)

___ New Desires

___ New Relatoinships

___ New Direction

___ New Goals

New!

New!

New!

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What Must I Do Now That I Am Saved?

Follow  Christ …. One Step At A Time!

  • Daily Confess All Sins To Christ … To Experience Cleansing (1 John 1:9)

  • Daily Read The Bible …. To Learn Spiritual Truths (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11)

  • Daily Pray To The Father …. To Develop Love Relationship (Matthew 7:7-11)

  • Share Your Faith With Your Friends … To Help Fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)

  • Attend Church Regularly … To Receive Encouragement From Fellow Believers (Hebrews 10:25)

  • Learn To Practice Tithing … To Honor God And To Support His Work (Malachi 3:8-10)

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