A Right Relationship With God
How do you feel about your relationship with God and Jesus Christ? God wants us to have a relationship with Him but He wants that relationship to be based on His terms, not ours.
The apostle Mark began his book about the life of Jesus by declaring, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (NKJV, Mark 1:1) The word "gospel" comes from the Old English word "godspell" meaning "good news". Mark was writing to declare the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had come to the Earth to save mankind from sin and death. (Luke 19:10, John 8:12)
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the prophesies given throughout the Old Testament that one would come to bring salvation for all mankind. In Genesis 12:1-3, God told Abraham that he would bless all nations through Abraham's seed. In the Gospel of Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus Christ is recounted all the way to Abraham thus showing him to be that promise. This and numerous other prophecies were given so that God's people would know who Jesus truly was when He came. The records of these prophecies and Christ's fulfillment thereof are preserved "that you may believe." (NKJV John 20:31)
Why did Christ have to die? Hebrews chapter 10:1-4 examines this question:
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. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (NKJV)
The blood sacrifices of the Old Testament, foreshadowing that which was to come, could not bring about forgiveness of sins. These sacrifices had to made continually until a perfect sacrifice could be made to bring about true salvation. Hebrews 10 continues with the words of Christ in verses 5-7:
“ Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’” (NKJV)
Christ came to do the will of God and bring about a new covenant with all of mankind that they could be free from the burden of sin. The Hebrew writer quotes the Holy Spirit in explaining this covenant in Hebrews 10:16-18:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
There are many joyful accounts of conversion in the New Testament but the very first comes on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2 tells us that the apostles were all together in Jersusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Being an important feast to the Jews, there were, “God-fearing Jews from every nation” also in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:5) The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in the house where they were staying and allowed them to speak and be understood in all languages. (Acts 2:1-4)The people gathered around these men who were speaking with bewilderment and listened as Peter began to preach Christ.
“Now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17
Before anyone can become a Christian, they must hear the word of God. The teaching of the scripture is the only way to understand who Christ is, what He did for us and what we must do to follow Him. These people gathered in Jerusalem, whether they knew it or not, had started down the road to salvation by hearing Peter’s message.
“For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
Hearing the message is a good start but it is not enough. As Paul said in Romans, that hearing needs to be turned into faith. The people gathered on Pentecost probably knew of Christ and may have even seen his miracles or heard some of his teaching. Peter’s message put the details of Christ’s life together with the prophecies and teaching those Jews had been taught.
The Ethiopian Eunuch is another great example of this found in Acts 8:26-40. The Eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah when Philip came to him. Phillip asked if he understood what he was reading and the Eunuch replied by asking, “How can I unless someone guides me?” The Eunuch understood that he needed to understand the truth in order to develop faith.
Faith can sometimes be difficult to describe but in Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is what fills the void between the tangible and intangible. While we cannot touch Jesus and we were not around when He lived, we can examine the scriptures and know, through faith, that He is our risen savior.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out...” Acts 3:19
If we truly believe the teachings of God’s word, we will inevitably come to the realization that we are sinners and separated from God. (Romans 3:23) We cannot follow after Christ and continue to live in our sins as we have in the past. (Romans 6:1) The folks gathered at Pentecost came to this realization after Peter had finished his sermon and asked the question, “…what shall we do?”
The first thing Peter told them to do was to repent. It is important that we understand what repentance really is. It is not simply acknowledging what we have done or feeling bad for having done it but rather it is a turning away from our sins. Until we are willing to give up our old ways we cannot follow after Christ.
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Confession is another interesting topic in Christianity. Many denominations require you to confess that you are a sinner. That is certainly a good confession to make but we have to remember that our repentance comes from our conscience and the scripture convicting us of our sin. God already knows we are sinners. What did the first century converts make confession of?
If we go back to the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, we will see that when the Eunuch ‘s chariot came near water he asked what hindered him from being baptized. Philip said to him, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The Eunuch’s reply is so simple and yet so powerful. He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” What a powerful thing to confess that you believe in the risen savior and His power to save you from sin.
“For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” Galatians 3:27
Let’s go back to Pentecost and see Peter’s full answer to the crowd’s question. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is the final step in converting a lost sinner into a child of God. Baptism is symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the old, sinful man is killed, buried in the water and raised in a new life. (Romans 6:4)
Let us be certain of what this baptism really is. It is not a sprinkling or pouring of water but an immersion of water. Every indication in every example of conversion in the New Testament points to immersion in water. Peter told the people that they needed baptism, “for the remission of sins” not for admittance into the local church or as a purely symbolic gesture. Baptism is a very important act with very real results.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
Once a person has been raised from the watery grave of baptism a new life has begun. Salvation has been found but it can be lost again. A few verses previous in Revelation 2:5 we see the commandment:
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp-stand from its place—unless you repent.
There are many in the world who teach that once you are saved, you are saved forever. The scripture does not support this doctrine at all. We are free to accept Christ and reject Him yet again. Hebrews 10: 26 tell that is we sin deliberately after we have been saved, there no longer remains a sacrifice for us but rather fearful judgment.
The beauty of God’s plan is that we can fall away from Christ and still be reclaimed. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:13
So where do you stand with God? Have you heard his word? Have you believe it? Has that faith led you to repent of your sins and follow after a life of righteousness? Have you confessed your faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you been immersed in the waters of baptism for the remission of sins? Are you living a faithful life of service to God?
The church here at Southside stands ready to help you begin your walk with God at any hour of the day. Through study, prayer and obedience to His will, we can find peace in this world and an everlasting home in Heaven when this life is done. We welcome you to join us on the path He is lighting for us. May God bless you as you seek His will.