Becoming A Believer

Misunderstandings certainly do abound concerning what it means to be a Christian. Some people believe simply being born into a Christian family makes you a Christian. Others think that being a Christian means having to rigorously follow a set of prescribed ethical rules or laws. Many would consider themselves Christian simply because they believe God exists. The truth is, none of these things make you a Christian. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say on the matter, beginning with the problem at hand.

The Problem

Most human beings like to sort things into nice, neat categories to help us understand the world around us. For example we often divide people into two groups – those who are ‘good’ and those who are ‘bad’. Of course, the standards by which we judge good versus bad conveniently place us in the ‘good’ category. We are good(ish), but the guy who intentionally cut us off in traffic – he is bad.

While we might define good on a sliding scale, God measures things according to a very different standard – perfection (Matt 5:48). When the standard for ‘good’ is perfection there is no chance anyone will ever be judged as ‘good’ (Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10). The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This means God calls every person who has ever lived a sinner, and the Bible tells us that any sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Compounding our predicament is the fact that God is a perfectly just judge, and the mandatory sentence for sin happens to be death (Romans 6:23). No matter how we might identify ourselves, in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and our sin is worthy of judgment. This is a BIG problem.

The Solution

You might think it reasonable, as many do, that you could fix this problem and make things right just by doing more good things. Here is the logic: “If I do more good things than I do bad ones, the balance on the scales of justice will fall in my favour, and God will receive me.” However, if perfection is, in fact, the standard, you will never measure up – no matter how many good deeds you do. The Bible puts this argument to rest by informing us that even the very best of our good deeds are tainted, just like dirty filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). This would leave us in the most desperate and hopeless of situations if it wasn’t for some wonderfully good news. God loves us!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Those are the words found in the most Googled Bible verse of all time – John 3:16. God loves us, and has demonstrated His love toward us by sending His Son to die and pay the penalty for our sins. He received our punishment, and He died on our behalf. He didn’t do this because we deserved or earned it – far from it (Titus 3:5). Instead, while we were still sinners deserving of judgment, He freely sent His Son to willingly die for us (Rom 5:6-10, Ephesians 2:8-9). This is love on the grandest of scales, and is the solution to our sin problem.

My Response

If God freely satisfied justice and took upon Himself our punishment, what is there left for us to do? Mark 1:15 says it best, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Our response to His free gift is to believe in what God has done, and to repent of our sins. Believe that we are sinners, and that Jesus freely absorbed all our sin and punishment. Repent, which is to turn away from our sin and turn to God. Repentance and faith go hand in hand.

So how do we take the first steps of repentance and faith? First you need to know it is God who gives you faith to believe, and it isn’t something you need to manufacture (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 12:3). However, faith is made evident by our words and our actions. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” We can take our first steps of repentance and faith by praying to God. Once we start the journey God is always faithful to carry us through to the end (Philippians 1:6). Here is a sample prayer you could pray:

“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner deserving of punishment. However, I believe You died on the cross and paid the punishment for my sin. I also believe You rose from the grave to make me a new creation and have prepared for me a place in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”

Am I Ready?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to know if you are ready to take the first steps of repentance and faith:

1) Do I understand and believe that I have sinned and that my sin makes me worthy of God’s judgment?
2) Do I understand and believe that Jesus took the full punishment for my sin upon Himself by dying in my place?
3) Do I understand and believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and is Lord of all?
4) Am I ready to surrender control of my life to Jesus, and confess He is Lord and Savior of my life?

If the answer to these four questions is ‘yes’, you are truly ready to respond to God’s invitation to repent and believe.

Sermon: Our Identity

To make up for my lack of updates I have taken the liberty of posting a recent sermon I delivered at Life Church. It happened to be a service in which we were baptizing a group of new believers. What better time could there be to talk about our identity in Christ than right before a bunch of baptisms?  The scriptures used in the sermon were Col 3:1-3 and Gal 2:20.  Enjoy.

Play

Attributes of God: Freedom

 

It is about time we got back to our series on the Attributes of God.  So without delay we will delve into God’s next attribute – his freedom.  Freedom is an attribute God shares (i.e. it is communicable) with his creation.  Therefore, we should have some sort of understanding, although limited, in what it is like to be free.  A good place to start the conversation is to set about the task of defining freedom.

By definition someone is said to be free when they have the liberty to act, speak, or think as they desire.  From this definition you can see that freedom, in an absolute sense, is pretty much impossible to achieve.  No matter what, there will always be some degree of limitations on our freedom.  So the concept of freedom, on a human level, tends to be understood and accepted as relative.  Let me see if I can help clarify this with two examples.

I live in what many would classify as a ‘free country’.  However, even those who are blessed to live in a country that enshrines the freedom of its citizens, they must acknowledge that it is a restricted/conditional freedom they enjoy.  For example I have the freedom to say whatever I want, but I do not have the freedom to randomly shout, “FIRE” in public buildings.  Although our freedom of speech is restricted we maintain we live in a free country simply because we exercise more freedom than those who live in countries that censor everything their citizens say.  This is an example of limitations on our freedom due to being under authority.

Having established that I live in a free country, I can go jogging, if I was so inclined, whenever I want.  However, my friend, who also lives in the same country as I do, does not share in this same freedom.  How is this possible?  The reason I have this freedom and he does not is because he is confined to a wheelchair.  The governing powers have not limited his freedom to go for a jog, rather his ability has restricted his freedom.  We are both free, but I have the ability to exercise more freedoms than he does.

Having demonstrated that on a human level freedom is relative and absolute freedom is pretty much impossible, let us talk about God’s freedom.  When we speak of God’s freedom we are talking about the attribute whereby God does whatever he wills (Psalm 115:3).  Unlike the human experience, God is not limited in his freedom.  Since there is no authority higher than God (Heb 6:13) and he is not limited in ability (Luke 1:37), God experiences freedom in the highest sense of the word.  Let me be clear here when I say God is free I am saying there are absolutely no external restrictions to his freedom (Dan 4:35).

Now the thinkers out there are likely jumping up and down crying foul at my last statement.  Obviously tension arises from the fact that the Bible clearly tells us there are things God can’t and will not do.  For example God can’t lie (Heb 6:18) ergo he is not free to lie.  At first glance that may appear to put a restriction on God’s freedom.  However, this tension is resolved when you take a closer look at our original definition.  Freedom, by definition, is based on your will or desire.  Essentially freedom is the liberty to do what you want.  Given all of the aspects of God’s divine character and nature exist and work together in perfect harmony, his divine will must also be consistent with his nature and character.  In other words God would not desire something that ran contrary to who he is (2 Tim 2:13).  It isn’t that he does not have the freedom to lie, he simply would never have the desire to lie in the first place.  Since God is not restricted in authority nor limited in ability, and his will is eternally consistent with his character, he alone enjoys absolute freedom.  God alone has the liberty to do whatever he wills.

More In The Series

1) Intro to the Attributes of God

2) Goodness of God

3) Omnipresence of God Part 1

4) Omnipresence of God Part 2

5) Omniscience of God

6) Omnipotence of God

Second Longest Word

Below you will find the guest post I just did for www.bloggingtheologically.com.  Be sure to stop by and thank Aaron for allowing me to write a guest post for him while he is away on a well deserved vacation.  I hope you enjoy.

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I am about to disclose something that might out me as a closet nerd.  A risky proposition to be sure, but I am willing to take this bullet for the common good.  Having been adequately warned, allow me to share my dirty little secret with you.  I secretly enjoy exploring the etymology of words, specifically the etymology of obscure and peculiar words.  This little quirk of mine manifests itself in the strangest of ways, not the least of which is my tendency to ask, “Do you happen to know the second longest word in the English language?”

I know it’s an odd question.  Convention would be to ask about the longest word.  However, who really cares about a fabricated 45 letter monstrosity (see note below) describing an occupational lung disease?  No one, that’s who.  But when it comes to the second longest word, well that is an entirely different story.   Not only does the 29 letter 18th century word have an amusing origin, but it holds relevance for our daily life.

Floccinaucinihilipilification (click HERE for pronunciation) was coined by the pupils at Eton College.  As they poured over their Eton Latin Grammar text they came across a list of words which in order were: flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili.  All of these Latin words had similar meanings in that they described something of little or no value.  As academics with too much time on their hands tend to do they thought it would be fun to slap all four words together and stick –fication on the end to produce a new noun.  Presto change-o four small words used to describe tiny insignificant things were recycled to form one mega word.  By definition Floccinaucinihilipilificationdescribes the act or habit of regarding something as unimportant, having no value, being totally and utterly worthless.  

Now some might argue that floccinaucinihilipilification describes its own usefulness as a word – utterly worthless.  However, I disagree with that assessment.  Although you will not find it in the Bible, I believe floccinaucinihilipilification is very much a Biblical term.  How, you might ask, could I say that?  Well, the Pauline equivalent can be found in Phil 3:8.

Phil 3:8  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Here we have Paul comparing all of the advantages of his heritage, citizenship and education to rubbish – literally dung – when viewed in the light of the magnificence of knowing Christ.  Paul does not claim the rewards of this world to be of second importance to the knowledge of Christ.  On the contrary, he is practiced at regarding all things – the world’s goods, substance, riches, fame, pleasures and pomp – as valueless in light of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

Lest we think Paul is alone in his floccinaucinihilipilification of worldly benefits, let us look to Solomon.  Here was a man who knew the best the world had to offer, and his ultimate verdict was, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”  With all of the world’s imagined worth, imagined pleasure and imagined gain, Solomon could, to quote the Rolling Stones, “get no satisfaction.”  In all of his testing and indulging Solomon discovered something vitally important; the world without Christ is a very unsatisfying place.  Fellow Christian, it would pay for us to remember this lesson well.

Although I have been ‘nerding out’ in this post, I do hope you look beyond that to see the ultimate point of my ramblings.  The Christian life is one marked by judging many things as worthless, not inherently, but comparatively when weighed against all we have in Christ.  Whether it’s the pleasures or the pains (Rom 8:18) of life, both are eclipsed by the glory to be found in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This truth should be both treasured and paraded through our hearts as often as possible, lest we forget, and allow the cares of this world to choke out the truths we once held dear (Matt 13:22).  Imagine the freedom to be experienced when you place all things in their proper perspective in Christ.  Armed with your newfound knowledge, you too should go out and ask someone if they know the second longest word in the English language.  It is a powerful concept, and it just might lead to a wonderful witnessing opportunity.

Editors Note:  The longest word in the English dictionary is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.  The president of the National Puzzlers’ League created it for the purpose of representing a very large word.  It is another name for a lung disease normally called silicosis.

Blogging Theologically

I just want to welcome everyone who read my guest post over at Blogging Theologically.  I would like to thank Aaron for allowing me the opportunity to invade upon his cyberterritory for this brief moment.  You are welcome to look around, visit often and hopefully find something that either helps or entertains you.  Unfortunately, when it comes to updates I am not as studious as Mr. Armstrong (how someone can find the time to post daily is beyond me), but I do update enough to hopefully keep things interesting.  Enough with the pleasantries, click on some pages and drive up my hit count.  :p

Jason