Tuesday, February 28, 2023

How Does One Become a Christian?

Do you really want to be a Christian? If so, it is a very simple procedure, and yet there is much confusion as to how in the world today. One popular church discipline says that the doctrine of Faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort. But listen to what the Bible says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). There’s quite a difference in the two. There is no question whatsoever that salvation is by faith, all admit that. The question is, IS SALVATION BY FAITH ONLY? To answer that question, we must define faith. What kind are you talking about? Are you saved by a vain faith? Are you saved by a dead faith? Are you saved by an active faith? Isn’t it noteworthy that in the book of conversions (Acts), that each person saved was saved when their faith led them to be baptized. There was never a saved person in the New Testament dispensation who had not been baptized. Baptism was then, and is now, the consummating act that puts one into Christ. In fact, the Galatian letter tells us just that. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

How do we gain faith? The Bible answers that question in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” For an example of grace, faith, and works read Joshua, chapter 6 and 2 Kings 5. You will gain a clear understanding of how these three ties together. The first two things that every soul must do is to hear about God and the gospel of Christ, and then believe God and the teaching of Christ and the inspired apostles as they direct us in what we must do in order to gain salvation.

Repent or Perish
Surely people do not think when they say that faith alone will save, that this is really true. If so, this would mean we would be saved while in sin, for it would mean they could be saved without repenting. Repentance is a change of heart, determining to change our life. Can a person be saved without a change of heart or mind? The very idea of conversion demands it. Then if repentance is necessary, then salvation is not by faith only. There are three specifics necessary to remission of sins and becoming a child of God. Faith is necessary. This is the mental assent of mind, or faith in the savior, a deep trust. Then there is repenting, or turning away from sin and turning to God. Jesus said, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). The process of salvation is climaxed by the faithful act of baptism which Paul says in Galatians 3:27 puts us INTO Christ. Therefore, faith alone is not enough. James said the demons believed (James 2:19). Will the demons be saved? We should all agree that the Bible says no!

If you came to me and demanded to be baptized, I would ask you a simple question. “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” I would not ask: “Do you believe that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned your sins?” I would not because I find no such command or example in the Bible. But over in Acts, chapter 8, I do note that the Eunuch demanded baptism after hearing Jesus preached to him. What did Philip say when the Eunuch asked? “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then what happened? The next verse of scripture says, “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” An important point here is that Philip and the eunuch went down INTO the water. That eliminates sprinkling and pouring because Bible baptism is immersion.

The reason I would not ask if one believed that God for Christ’s sake had pardoned his sin, is that pardon comes, not when one believes, but when one is baptized unto the remission of sins (Read Acts 2:38). But if we confess Christ as Lord, we are saying that He is the Son of God and is the master of my life, and if one believes that, baptism is no problem. Confession of faith is outward profession of the inward trust one has in Christ.

Believing in Christ is so very important because if one truly believes in Jesus, then they will have no problem keeping the commandments of Jesus. Baptism is a commandment of Jesus. It is a commandment not to the Christian to be baptized but to the alien sinner. Cornelius, an alien, though he was a good moral man, was commanded to be baptized in Acts 10:48.

Is baptism really commanded? Listen to what the Bible says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16); “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21); “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19); “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). These scriptures are but a few from the Word of God that clearly shows that faith must be accompanied with action on our part. Baptism is necessary for remission of sins and the hope of everlasting life. Have you been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Blessings of Being a Christian

The Forgiveness of Sins
When I entered my earthly family by natural birth, there were certain privileges and blessings which came with this birth. Once I was born others knew what my family name would be. No one had to ask if the other 2 children in the family were my siblings. That was understood. They did not vote me into the family. Being a child of my parents and receiving the blessings and privileges of the family were mine. It was something that was understood.

When I became a child of God, I received certain blessings also. In Ephesians 1:3 it says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Every spiritual blessing that man has can only be if one is in Christ and one gets into Christ through baptism. Again, notice what Paul says in Galatians 3:26-27: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” When I was baptized into Christ God also promised to forgive me of all my sins. In Acts 2:38 it says: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” I never had to wonder if they were forgiven, for He promised me that they would be and I simply believed it. What a wonderful thing it is to know that I did not have the burden of sin any longer. I was in God’s family, and remission of sins came also.

Fellowship with Christ
A Christian has, as one blessing of being a Christian, the fellowship with God and Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” These very same Corinthians had been baptized into Christ, and therefore had forgiveness of sins as is stated in Acts 2:38, and now fellowship with Christ. On Pentecost those that were baptized, having their sins completely forgiven understood that they were now in full fellowship with Christ.

They were so happy, Peter writes: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. So, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-42,46-47). What a wonderful thought! Remission of sins; fellowship with God and His Son and membership in the Lord’s body. Having fellowship with God is saying that one is right with God and participates with God in the blessings that only He can give to an individual. To be eternally saved we MUST be IN Christ. 

Fellowship with Other Saints
Another beauty of the Christian life is the fellowship in the local church with those of like faith. This also brings the hope of eternal life. One terrible thought of eternal hell is that we will have to spend eternity with the thieves, the whoremongers, the liars, adulterers, murders and all the other wicked people of all ages. There are many wonderful experiences we gain by being in fellowship with good people. And where is this fellowship found? In Christ - in the body of Christ, or the church of Christ. Fellowship means joint participation, and to have this mutual participation in the work of the Lord with other saints is a privilege indeed. If you have not yet been baptized into Christ, you are missing one of the greatest blessings in the world!

When we obey the doctrine of Christ in all things, then the greatest blessing of all for the Christian is where we will spend eternity. The Apostle Paul comforts the Thessalonian brethren with this very thought. Paul says: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Only Christians can have this comfort - the comfort of knowing that our eternal resting place will be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Mission of the Church

Do you know what the mission of the church is today? Some may be confused as to what the mission of the church really is in a society that places emphasis on the physical needs of people. I want to discuss exactly what the mission of the church is so that we can gain a better understanding of what the church is really supposed to do.

A Spiritual Mission
Jesus said: “I came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ had a mission and that was to save man from the awfulness of sin! When the apostles went out preaching under the commission, what did they preach? Their preaching centered on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, for He had come to save man from sin. What is it that your preacher preaches about each week where you attend? Is the emphasis placed on the same things that the apostles placed the emphasis on in the first century? I encourage everyone to sit down and read the book of Acts. Notice the sermons that were delivered by Peter and Paul. Everyone was centered on Jesus Christ. They did not preach on politics, economics, psychology, or social issues. They preached a crucified and risen savior of the world, our redeemer. These apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but we today have their inspired Word, the spirit revealed in the Bible, so why would our preaching be any different? What they preached, they recorded for us in the Bible. So as Jesus sent His apostles out to preach salvation through Him, we too must preach that same message today, the message of salvation. Therefore, our mission, which is the church’s mission, is in effect the mission of Christ, which is a “spiritual mission.” Please think about this because why would we want to preach or teach things that were not taught back in the first century concerning spiritual matters?

Christians Are Interested in All Phases of Life
The church of our Lord is made up of individuals that have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, through baptism (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; and Galatians 3:27). Once this happens, then one can wear the name Christian, and a Christian must be a Christian twenty-four hours per day. A genuine Christian, and there are many pretenders who are not genuine, is interested in economics, political affairs (usually), the social things of life and of course their relationship to God or religion. But the genuine Christian is primarily interested in that relationship with God. A devout servant of the Lord understands that each and every day they “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

The spiritually minded, genuine Christian, is interested in the salvation of his soul and the souls of others. It is the soul that never dies, and this is clearly understood. However, many modern churches of today have the concept that it is not good enough that we simply make more Christians so that the community will be better, but rather that the church must get caught up in, and engaged in politics, economics and philosophy. I would like to remind us of this very important fact: The church in the first century DID NOT engage itself in the political, economic, and philosophical interests of life. The early church preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to save men’s souls. That is exactly what we should be doing today. Because of that, I encourage all of us to take a good hard look at what we might be doing in the name of religion. Are we truly practicing only those things which are approved of in the New Testament of our Lord? If not, why not? Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

The Emphasis of the Early Church
Everyone should consider and think about the type of preaching that the apostles did in the first century, the only kind of preaching that we can read about in the pages of our New Testament. In Acts, chapter 2, Peter’s message was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In Acts, chapter 3, it was the same. In Acts, chapter 9, Saul of Tarsus was converted and was told to be baptized to wash away his sins. He told of his conversion in Acts, chapter 22 and what Ananias told him what he needed to do to be saved. Paul was told to: “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).

Philip preached in Samaria, and it was said that he “preached Christ unto them.” He did not preach the philosophy of men. Paul later condemned that idea in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1. The emphasis of Peter, Paul, and Philip’s preaching, along with the rest of the apostles was on Christ. The mission of the church today is the very same. It is a “spiritual mission”, a mission in which we must preach Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Mission of Christ

Have you ever thought about what the mission of the church really should be? Is it social, or political, or economic? Is it the purpose and mission of the church to feed the hungry, or to solve all the political problems of the time? Is it to raise the people to the top of the social ladder? This is something that all of us should think about. I would like us to think back to the purpose of Jesus’ mission in the world. Why did Jesus come to earth? John 10:10 says: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Luke writes: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Now that is a mission statement if I have ever heard one. We should be able to determine from that passage of scripture that Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth was to save man from sin so that we can have eternal life if we obey what He has asked of us.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). He also said: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus came to save man from sin. That was His purpose for going to the cross. Now, the gospel is God’s power to save. Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Our preaching must be directed to that end. I would encourage you to take a look at the church where you attend. Can it be said that the mission of that church is the same as that what Jesus taught, “to seek and save the lost?” 

Jesus Came to Save Man from Sin
When Jesus came to the world, mankind was in sin without a way of salvation. True, the law of Moses pointed to the way of Christ, but up to that time the Jews relied on the law - which was God’s law - but it could not take away sin. The Bible says, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect” (Hebrews 10:1). It took the blood of Christ to take away sin. Jesus came for that purpose, and when we preach the gospel today, it is for the purpose of telling mankind about the saving power of God and to make men know of the Christ who came to die for sins. Our mission is not to entertain or preach philosophy. It is not to teach economics, but to spread the good news that Jesus died for our sins, and in believing and obeying Christ, we can have the salvation of our eternal spirits.

Only Jesus could do what He came to do - to die for man’s sins. He was both human and divine. He was and is God’s Son, being deity Himself, the one who could save. Jesus came to save us and left a message (the Bible) for us to deliver to the world. Christians are the ones responsible for spreading the message of salvation. Thus, our message is a spiritual one. It is our sincere conviction that our preaching must be to try to get men to listen to Jesus, the savior of the world. Such is the true mission of the church.