Category Archives: Christianity Series (The Conversion)

A Time for Self-Examination

The point of all this is that each of us who calls himself or herself a Christian should be led to self-examination. And what we should ask ourselves is: “Am I a true Christian, or am I a Christian in name only?” This is a serious question and a necessary one. For if Israel—with all the spiritual advantages that Paul mentions in Romans 9—could be composed of thousands or even millions who were not true Israel, it is certain that the visible church of Jesus Christ in our day is filled with many who are actually unbelievers. 

Paul told the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5a). 

Peter told his readers, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10a). 

How can we test ourselves? How can we be sure we are Christians? There are a number of specific questions to be answered that pertain to the matters I have just been discussing. 

1. Do I believe on Christ? The first requirement is faith, because faith is our point of contact with the gospel. Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31a). Ask yourself, “Have I believed on Jesus?” Not, “Have I believed on him in broad cultural terms?”—like anyone in the western world might be expected to do, especially if he or she has been raised in a Christian home or has attended a Christian church. But rather, “Have I been touched by knowledge of Jesus’ death for me, and have I committed myself to him? Am I serious about following after Christ, obeying his commands, and pleasing him?” 

2. Am I following after Christ? The first question leads to the next: “Am I actually Jesus’ follower?” The way Jesus called his followers was by the words Follow me. And when they did follow him, their lives were inevitably redirected. Some had been fishermen, but when they began to follow Jesus they became fishers of men. One had been a tax collector, but after he had followed Jesus, he became concerned with the currency of heaven. Nobody who has begun to follow Jesus Christ has ever been entirely the same or walked in the same paths afterward. 

So ask yourself: “Has my life been redirected? Is there anything I am doing now that I did not do before or would not be doing were I not committed to Jesus? And are there things I have stopped doing? Is Jesus my very own Lord and Savior?” 

3. Do I testify to Christ? This is a harder point for true self-examination, because it is easier for some to talk about Jesus than for others. It is easier for some to talk about nearly anything than for others. Nevertheless, this is an important question and one worth asking. If you never speak to anyone about Jesus, how can you suppose that you really care about him and love him, not to mention caring about and loving the other person, who needs to receive the Savior? 

Nominal Christians do not talk about Jesus. They are content to let everyone believe as he or she likes. They wouldn’t think of trying to impose their beliefs on others. But not all who are Christians are true Christians, just as “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” 

Examine yourself. Do you testify of Jesus? 

4. Am I learning about Christ? The last of the four questions I have posed for determining whether or not you are a genuine Christian is: “Am I trying to learn more and more about Jesus Christ? Do I know more about him today than I did at the time of my conversion? Or at this time last year?” 

I know people who claim to be Christians who never go to a Bible study, never take notes of a sermon and, as far as I can determine, never seriously study the Bible on their own. If you are one of them how can you think of yourself as a Christian when you have no interest in learning about the one who gave himself for you? How can you consider yourself a believer when you really don’t care about Jesus? 

Over the last few years I have been talking with diverse Christian leaders, and the one thing most of them say is that they see no hope for the United States or for American Christianity apart from a revival. The drift is so obviously downward. But what is a revival? A revival is the reviving of the alleged people of God, and it is preceded by an awakening in which many who thought themselves to be Christians come to their right senses and recognize that they are not new creatures in Christ and that all is not well with their souls. Revival begins in the church, not in the world. It begins with people like you. 

I, too, think we need a revival. But I do not see it happening. I want it to happen. I do not see it. But if it happens, why should it not begin with us? With you? May God grant it for his mercy’s sake.

Cultural Christians and True Christians

This is true for those who call themselves Christians. That is, not all who call themselves Christians or who are thought of as Christians are true Christians.

Some years ago an English writer named Leslie Stephen said that the name “Christian has become one of the vaguest epithets in the language.” This is true, perhaps even more so today than when those words were spoken. To many Jews, the name Christian is nearly synonymous with “goy” or “Gentile,” so that for them the world is divided basically into two great parts: Jews and Christians. Other people speak of “Christian nations,” by which they usually mean the western nations, those of Europe, the United States, Canada, and some others. They do this even though the cultural life of these nations is inconsistent with Christian teaching and only a small proportion of people in some of those countries ever attend a place of worship on Sunday.

What is happening? Obviously, it is a case of there being many who bear the name “Christian” but who are not actually Christians.

What is a true Christian?

The name itself gives us a clue, since it literally means “a Christ one.” Let’s approach it by its origins. The first time this name was used was in ancient Antioch of Syria in the early days of the expansion of the gospel beyond Palestine. Antioch was an immoral place. It had several great temples at which cultic prostitution was practiced, and the moral tone of the city was so bad that Antioch had become a byword for depravity in the ancient world. The city was on the Orontes River. So, on one occasion, when an orator in Rome wanted to describe the worsening moral conditions of his city, he observed that the Orontes had been diverted so as to flow into the Tiber. It was the equivalent of calling the Orontes a sewer that was carrying the filth of the eastern city into Rome.

In this degenerate city, God planted a body of genuine believers whom the pagans of Antioch began to call Christians. The Christians did not call themselves Christians. They had other names for themselves. They called themselves “people of The Way,” “saints” (or separated ones), “disciples,” “brothers,” and other descriptive titles. Jews did not call them Christians, because Christ means “Messiah,” and the Jews would never have called the sect of the Nazarene by that name.

No, the believers were first called Christians by the heathen, and for obvious reasons. The believers were enamored of Christ and followed so closely after Christ that the pagans could hardly think of a believer without thinking of the Jesus he or she was following. They were “Christ’s people.”

Theologically, this has several parts. It means that:

1. Christians believe in Christ. The Christ of the early Christian community, and of all true Christians everywhere, is the Christ of the New Testament, which means that he is the Son of God who became a man for our salvation. This is the one on whom the Christians believed. Moreover, this belief was no mere intellectual conviction. I have often said that faith (or belief) has three elements. The first is its intellectual content: who Jesus is and what he has done for our salvation. The second is the warming of the heart: being moved by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. The third is personal commitment, the most important part of all. It means giving oneself to Jesus, becoming his, taking up his cross, being a disciple.

This is what the believers in Antioch had done. They had committed themselves to Jesus so thoroughly that the pagans who looked on said, “They are Christ ones, Christians.”

2. Christians follow Christ. There was a second characteristic of these first Christians, which is also characteristic of all true Christians at all times. It is wrapped up in the matter of commitment, as I have just indicated: Christians are followers of Jesus. That is, if they have believed on him in a saving way and not merely by some mere abstract intellectual assent to his deity, then they are following after him on the path he sets before them. That path is the path of obedience, and as they walk along it they become increasingly like the one they are following and obeying.

This is an important dimension of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian means to believe on Jesus, surely. But it also means to be following after Jesus and thus becoming increasingly like him. A true Christian is someone who is becoming like Jesus Christ.

3. Christians witness to Christ. I think there must have been another reason why the early Christians were called Christians, and it is that they were apparently always talking about their Savior. The name of Jesus was constantly on their tongues, his gospel consistently on their hearts, and his glory uppermost in their minds. They were always looking for others whom they could tell about him, and they were always praying and working at their witness so that these others might be saved.

It is significant in this respect that the first great missionary movement of the church began in Antioch. We are told about it in Acts 13: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (vv. 2–3). Paul undertook three missionary journeys at the direction of this church and with accountability to it, for at the end of each assignment he reported back to the congregation what God had done to save other Gentiles and some Jews through him.

We cannot forget that Jesus himself said that his followers would be witnesses: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

4. Christians learn more and more about Christ. Here is a fourth thing that is characteristic of true Christians. They want to learn more about Jesus. We are told of the Christians at Antioch that after Barnabas had gone to their city to encourage the infant church in its faith, he then went to Tarsus in Turkey to look for Paul, whom he remembered from earlier days (Acts 11:22–25). When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch so that “for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (v. 26a). It is significant that it was immediately after this, after the Christians at Antioch had been carefully taught about Jesus, that they “were first called Christians” (v. 26b).

As they learn about Jesus Christ, Christians naturally become more like him, intensify their love for him, and witness about him to others.

Christianity Series INTRODUCTION

Introduction

A couple of years ago I was looking in hurt for a real God – not just somebody I sang hymns to, I needed to know God and not church. What we did in church, I now believe, was clear from my confused view all the dense undergrowth we can accumulate through childhood and into manhood. I call this undergrowth “religion”. It increasingly encumbers many of us who are brought up to go to church on Sunday. We learn the right prayers, and when we kneel, and we pick up some of the jargon; but we still do not know whether God is real. And we do not know how to make contact with Him. We sit half listening to head-full’s of sermons about all kinds of mystical propositions. So preachers/pastors/bishops intoxicated by theology and yet themselves unsure, fail to tackle the simple, basic truths.

Does God really exist? How may we know? Is He still alive today? Does going to a church building on Sunday make me a Christian? So there I was, in a bit of a mess, needing help. And where was the church? Where was my pastor? Where were my brothers and sisters? Well, the church was too busy trying to figure out why I left and what happen. My pastor was too busy trying to figure out how to build a church building. My brothers and sisters were trying to figure out how to get my position or their next thirty minutes of fame. What I had perceived to be my spiritual world came crashing down. I was at the cross roads of life, do I turn left and go back to where I came from (the world and Satan grip) or do I turn right and push my way to find the truth. Is God really real? Is this all Christianity is all about?

After much battling within myself, I turned and proceeded right. Over the next seven months God took me with such clarity through all the undergrowth that I soon began to see the light shining ahead and I could not wait to break through into the warmth and the glow. Then I hit the last boulder in my path full conversion God has prepared us for. The biblical tests we all have to pass, it dawn on me that I had not passed them all. Not only had I not passed them, but the church had not prepared me for the conversion that I needed to make. So many people year after year take their children out of public schools, because of the poor teaching, discipline and lack of care from the teaching staff. The church has beaten them hands down in their poor performance to educate their students how to become disciples. No accountability from the self confessed head of the church (the pastor) thru the pews to the parking lot attendant. Church had taught me how to do church, but to live a converted live, no instructions was given. No one was willing to be naked, and not ashamed.

Through these teachings over the next few months, I pray that God will remove the undergrowth from your life as He did mine. Christianity does not end with acceptance of Christ as the church today so bluntly teaches in so many ways and then the conversion is prosperity, speaking in tongues or just being good. Christianity is a conversion from one state of being to another. God has given us everything we need to make the trip, but we need teachers and not sermon pushing pimps.

GOD ON INTEGRITY

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) knew they were deceiving the church when they sold some property and agreed to act as if they were giving all when they were only giving part. But the story does not give the impression that they thought what they were doing lacked integrity. After all, they were doing something good and generous.

If it happened today, Ananias would wait until the organ was playing “I Surrender All” and then humbly come forward, laying his check at Peter’s feet, mumbling, “I wish I had more to give, Peter, but this is all I have.”
Imagine the scene in the Early Church: Ananias’ heart was thumping rapidly under the thrill of his public display, but Peter was not smiling. Somehow he knew!

“Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3, 4)

Poor Ananias. His racing heart stopped, and he could not breathe. Peter’s grim visage gave way to darkness as Ananias’ life ended, and the young men came and carried Ananias out — as they later did his dead widow.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira shocks us because they suffered death for such a “small” infraction. So they misrepresented the percentage they gave of their profits — why death? After all, they did give — which is more than many people do!

The answer is, the Church cannot prosper with deception among its members — and God wanted to make this clear for all time. Deception wounds the Body of Christ — makes it dysfunctional — and is a sin against God! This is why Peter cried to Ananias and Sapphira at the moment of their deaths, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4).

Integrity is one of the greatest needs of the Church today. The Church needs people who not only refrain from blatant lying, but are free from hypocrisy. Paul says, in fact, that honesty is necessary for growth in the Church: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Literally, the divine medium for authentic church growth is truthing in love — speaking and doing truth to one another.

The Church’s great need for integrity is directly linked to the needs of our lost world, for the world longs for liberation from dishonesty. Sure, it cultivates and promotes deception, but deep down inside many people long to escape the pretense. A substantial number of people outside the four walls of the Church will eagerly embrace the faith of believers who model the honesty and integrity for which they long.

Helmut Thielicke, the great German theologian and pastor who maintained his integrity all through Hitler’s Third Reich, said: “The avoidance of one small fib . . . may be a stronger confession of faith than a whole ‘Christian philosophy’ championed in lengthy, forceful discussion.”

A truthful spirit is a great evangelistic tool. I have known people who were magnetized to Christ because they saw this quality in a church or individual. Integrity will be for some a tantalizing cool drink in the secular desert of delusion.

Men, the experience of Ananias and Sapphira tells us that our integrity matters to God. We need to declare with Job, “till I die, I will not deny my integrity” (Job 27:5).

Being the Man

Most of us have read Ephesians 5:21-30 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. and Colossians 3:18-21 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Instead of focusing on these popular verses about marriage, let’s look at the qualifications for a man to be an elder, bishop, or deacon. These verses describe what it means to be a godly man; they aptly apply to God’s expectations for men as fathers and husbands.

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)……Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 1 Timothy 3:2-5, 8-9)

Men, are you thinking that these expectations are just a little more than you can handle? Take heart you don’t have to accomplish all this instantaneously. Just as a child to school day after day, week after week, and year after year to acquire the knowledge necessary to live a productive life, so every man go to God must day after day, week after week year after year to obtain the power and desire to be a godly husband and father. If you faithfully seek Him with all your heart, He will help you become the man you can be.

This passage from 1 Timothy 3 calls for men to be “above reproach” (v.2). The King James Version uses the word “blameless.” God wants men to admit their shortcomings instead of concealing them, to be led by the Spirit at every moment, and to repair any damaged family relationships through humility, repentance, and prayer God wants men to live at peace. His Word says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12.14). A blameless man will pursue peace, especially with his family.

God desires men to be emotionally balanced in their family relationships—to be “temperate, self controlled” (1 Tim.3.2). Godly men do not live lives of extremes—one minute being anger and the next completely clam. They live on an even keel, like rocks in the midst of life’s storms they are a refuge for their families and provide courage, strength, and support. They seldom stray from the straight and narrow path; they keep their ship and its passenger’s safe as they maneuver through the rocky shoals of life.

They are also “able to teach” (v.2). God wants men to be spiritual leaders in their families. Their first course of action is to live and teach by example. They must practice what they preach and do what they say they’re going to do. If they fail this basic test of leadership, the entire family structure will implode, leaving chaos and emotional wounds. Jesus Christ must Teacher. They must daily feed on spiritual truths from the Word of God.

If you ask the average Christian woman what she wants in a husband, she will tell you she wants a husband who loves the Lord and shows it by living his family unconditionally. Remember, men, you will teach your family more about God by what you do at home than all the other activities you are involved in –no matter how religious they are.

Deuteronomy 11 reminds us, Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19

No matter what time of day it is, God wants men to be teaching their families about God. Morning, noon and night—day in, day out—at home or away, in the car or on the couch, we are to be teaching God’s ways. For the Christian, vacation or retirement from the faith is not an option.

1 Timothy 3 also calls for men not to be “violent but gentle” (v.3) The gentle, loving hands of a godly man can do more healing than a roomful of doctors. Families need to experience God’s love through their husbands and fathers. God wants men to be compassionate, able to place themselves in another’s shoes, willing to walk the extra mile whenever the need arises.

Jesus Christ is the gentle Lamb of God who calls people to “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). Godly men need to practice this trait of our Lord; in return, God blesses their families with stability and peace in spite of life’s changing circumstances.

Men filled with the Holy Spirit know how to handle family fights. They how to confront issues fairly. They know how to defuse family situations before they blow up, and they know when to raise the white flag when surrender necessary. Fighting and quarrels will happen in families; it’s a matter of how you fight and in what spirit you fight.

I remember talking to a couple years ago. I asked them how often they fought. The husband proudly told me that they never fought. Never? Boy, I was impressed! I wondered what I was doing wrong. I thought maybe I wasn’t being the proper Christian husband or maybe my wife wasn’t being the proper Christian wife. What a shock I received the following year when I heard that this “perfect” couple was getting a divorce! I found out that they seldom communicated, and when they did, one demanded his or her way while the other hid in a self-imposed shell of pity and anger. No, they didn’t fight in the traditional sense. Their war was hidden in their emotional bunkers of the heart. When the real shooting began, the marriage quickly vaporized into a string of skirmishes that ended with both sides losing.

A godly man is “sincere” (1 Tim.3:8) or as the New King Version states it, “not double-tongued.” He speaks truth, not lies; compliments, not insults. A man’s words are often a barometer of his spiritual condition.

Proverbs 10:19-21 says, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.
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God wants men to speak in a measured way and use words wisely. I’m not saying that husbands should limit how much they talk to their families. Rather, they should think before they speak and pray for God’s Spirit to be evident in their conversations. In the heat of the moment, don’t give in to lusts of the flesh and say something you will regret later. A man whose heart is connected to God will have words like fresh water, words that feed and nourish the ears and hearts of those who hear him speak. This kind of family man will help his family grow spiritually, bringing them into a closer walk with God.

Man, a godly husband is not perfect, but he tries to be. Many men lost in church today are inadvertently leading their families down the same thorn-infested path they are following. God will hold the man responsible for leading his family astray. Men the buck stops with you!

Relationships

Listen to audio click here Relationships

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35

If you want to see the true character of people, look at their home life. It is unlikely that you get an accurate assessment just by observing someone in church, work, or in a social setting. The true character of an individual is revealed at home—seeing how the person interacts with his or his spouse, kids, and even the family pet. For most of us, it’s not too difficult to put on our best faces for a couple of hours a day. But at home, we let our guard down and reveal who we really are. When the makeup and masks come off, what does your family see? What do you see? What does God see?

Most lost in church struggle with interpersonal relationships—especially among those who know them best: their family. Your family knows what makes you tick—and what ticks you off. They know your weaknesses, sore sports, and fears. And your family knows when your walk does not match your talk.

Too many families are dysfunctional today. Could it be that many of them are among the lost in church? If so, they unable to lock into the divine power that enables them to love and forgive unconditionally, and the know how to stick it out when the pressures of life bear down upon them.

I learned no matter how close your walk is with the Lord you will stumble, you will fall, and you will make a fool of yourself. The difference between the lost in church and the true church is simple: The lost consistently fall from grace and don’t repent; the true fall less often and when they do, they seek God’s and each other’s forgiveness

In addition to not having the Spirit to help them with their relationships, the lost in church have misplaced valves. They know the priorities that God has set for mankind, but few actually put that knowledge into action. And remember, saving faith requires us to act upon the knowledge we have—not just give it lip service. This list of priorities based on scriptural principles will help to create a God-centered marriage and other relationships.

God
Spouse
Kids
Job
Friends
Self

Many church families today are dysfunctional because of mixed-up priorities. Their list may look something like this:

Job
Self
Kids
Church
Friends
Spouse
God

This is where I was for the first part of my adult life:

Self
Job
Kids
Friends
Church
God

After being married awhile:

Self
Job
Kids
Spouse
Friends
Church
God

When I being to learn about God:

God
Job
Self
Kids
Spouse
Friends

When I became active within the church:

Church
Job
Self
Kids
Friends
Spouse
God

After Church:

God
Spouse
Kids
Job
Friends
Self

God
No matter how you look at things, Jesus must come first in your marriage and family relationships. There’s nothing more important than centering your life and family on God. Remember, He is a jealous God, and He take the step, sometimes painful steps, to bring you in line with His desires. Exodus 20:5 (NIV) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, Your life will never function properly when you are out of His will. So if things aren’t going the way you like, carefully examine your priorities. Realize that God may be trying to get your attention. He loves you too much to allow you to foul up in this critical area; however he will never force any of us.

Wife
The second priority in your Christian walk must be your spouse. Genesis 2:24 (NIV) For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Ephesians 5:28-30 (NIV) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body.
You are spiritually joined with your spouse. Scripture likens the earthly love between a husband and a wife to the love Jesus has for His bride the church.
It is critical that you place your spouse above your children. This doesn’t mean you don’t take care of your children or that you show them less love. Nor do you neglect their emotional needs. On the contrary, it means you show you spouse the love he or she deserves so your kids can grow up learning what true love means. Try to plan time with each other at least once a week if possible in order to nature your relationship. Your children will benefit from the security of having parents who love each other.
Children
Part of the Christian life is putting others before yourself. Your children are not only gifts from God; they are your responsibility.
Psalms 127:3 (NKJV) Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Isaiah 54:13 (NKJV) All your children shall be taught by the Lord, And great shall be the peace of your children.
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Mark 9:37 (NKJV) “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
Of course, parents must provide the necessities like shelter, food, and clothing. But they must also give their children tenderness, compassion, time and a Christian witness—in the word, love. Too many parents, especially fathers, provide financially for their families without providing the emotional and spiritual support that creates a healthy, happy home. Those lost in church are often negligent in thus matter as they try to keep up with the Joneses. Money and possessions can never substitute for time and love. I’ve never seen a mansion give a kid a hug or an expensive toy cheer him on at a sporting event or a vacation repair the damage from a year of neglect.

Job
Of course, we must work and to provide the necessities of life. It’s part of the original curse from Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion.
Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV)
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
Although your job falls near the bottom of the totem pole, it often takes you from your family for a portion of each day. Now in the world we live in father and mothers, husband and wives. For some of us God maybe calling you to a new job or career, an occupation that will give you more time with your family. For others he may be calling you to stay at home with your children and raise them in the knowledge of the Lord. There are still others to whom the Holy Spirit is telling you to slow down cut back and take time to get to know the family again.

Friends
You may have noticed that I prioritized friends before self. Proverbs 17:17 (NKJV) A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity. Your circle of friends and acquaintances should be a fantastic place to show Christian witness. They need to see the godly priorities in the life and your personal walk with God. They need to know that you keep your word and that you will stick with them through thick and thin. Your influence can make a difference in someone’s going to heaven or hell. Friends can also be an excellent source of encouragement for you during the dark trails of life.

Self
We’ve come to the last word on the list: You! Does this make you less important everyone else? Of course not! Does it mean you don’t need to take care of yourself? No! Scripture clearly speaks to this issue.

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

We must give up what we want to do what God wants. We must leave behind our sinful ways and follow Him in righteousness. Giving up our desires places God in the captain’s seat of our lives. Who do you think is more qualified to fill the position, you or Jesus?

Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Jesus wants us His people to give to others, to have an attitude of humility instead of pride. He wants the church to act more like a family rather than a business where it’s “every man for himself.” The lost in church try to succeed with their families, yet fail miserably. They fail because they are trusting in man-made techniques rather God’s.

How Does One Become A Christian?

I remember reading about a town in West Virginia that had been covered with posters asking, “Have you been converted yet?” It spoke about a radical and important change which would deeply affect their way of life, and warned of dangers it they had not converted. They were also promised of the lasting difference it would make in their lives. Ever since, they have cooked by natural gas rather than the old fashioned sort of gas which was made from coal.

As it happens, the gas industry had been using the word ‘conversion’ correctly, and when Christians use the word in its spiritual sense, the process is almost identical. Conversion (to natural gas or to Christ) leaves the exterior as it was—the same cooker, the same fires; the same nose, hair and so on. But in both cases there is a new inside. Something is taken away and discarded, and there is a radical replacement —something essential is changed. And in both cases there is subsequently a new power. Natural gas burns with a greater heat than manufactured gas, and in the spiritual realm there is little doubt that conversion leads to an altogether ‘warmer’ kind of religion.

But what exactly is conversion—religious conversion that is? Its common usage is to describe a person who changes from one religion to another (Muslim to Christian, for instance) or even from one denomination to another (particularly Roman Catholic to Protestant, or vice versa). So one might be tempted to think that if one remained in one denomination all one’s life there was no need at all for conversion.

But according to the words of Jesus, conversion is absolutely vital for everybody. ‘Unless you are born again …you will not see the Kingdom of heaven.’ So obviously it is an important process to understand. We shall be considering it from two angles or perspectives, the divine —what God does, and the human—what man does.

The divine aspect of conversion

Martin Luther tried desperately to convert himself, submitting his body to awful indignities, denying himself even food and rest in a sincere and determined attempt to satisfy God’s standards. He failed miserably. What he, and many others down the centuries, eventually found was that it was not a new start in life they needed, but a new life to start with. After all, it takes a Creator to make new life. And that is the miracle which Jesus described very vividly as being ‘born all over again’. It is God’s answer to the kind of prayer King David prayed after he had sinned and failed God so badly: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew aright spirit within me.’ There is the double aspect of conversion: a new ‘inside’ in an old ‘outside’… and a new source of power.

And without that change, without conversion, according to the words of Jesus, we shall never see the Kingdom of God. We need to be converted, he said, ‘and become like little children’. We need, in other words, to start life all over again, but this time with a new power and a new principle within us. It was this that Nicodemus had to learn. This gifted Jewish leader came to Jesus secretly, by night, to enquire about his teaching, and was told, quite abruptly, ‘You must be born again’. It would never be enough for the respectable and devout Nicodemus simply to follow a new code of doctrine or ethics. He, like all the rest of us, needed a new nature. He needed to be converted.

The human aspect of conversion

So how does conversion come about? If it is a divine act, do we simply wait for it to strike, like lighting from heaven? Or is it, as some people suggest, just a matter of temperament? Are some of us by temperament ‘once born’ people, and some ‘twice born’? Is there a human element in the process? Indeed there is. In fact, in one respect it is not true to say that ‘only God; can convert someone. The New Testament talks of men ‘converting’ sinners from the error of their ways. It even talks of sinners converting themselves. Jesus told Peter that when he had converted himself (that is the literal translation) he should strengthen his brethren. Surprisingly, not once is the Lord the subject of the verb ‘convert”! The human side of conversion is rather more complex than one might imagine. There are at least five elements in it.

1. Repentance of sin
This aspect of conversion I dealt with in earlier teachings, so perhaps here all one need to say is that turning to God (which is what conversion is) assumes a turning from sin. We turn away from the old life, with all that involves, and turn to the new life that Christ gives.

There is no-half-way in this process. It involves a willingness to be rid of everything evil thing, however dear it is to us, and even some neutral things (like certain relationships, hobbies or pursuits) which while harmless in themselves have got between us and God. In this latter area there are no hard and fast rules, beyond this simple test: is this thing so integrally a part of my life that I cannot keep it and still turn completely to God? Repentance is simply the willingness to turn, without condition.

2. Faith towards Jesus
This, as I talked about earlier is a total trust in Christ’s competence to do what he has promised. In his life, death and resurrection, he has totally mastered evil. ‘Faith’ means believing that he can repeat that mastery in me create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.

3. Baptism in water
Baptism is a part of the process of conversion, although it is often, but wrongly, regarded as separate from it. It is not something extra, added later, but part of the single process of Christian initiation. It baptism and conversion are two separate and distinct things, there are a number of statements in the New Testament that become inexplicable: Mark 16:14, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Ephesians 6:25, Titus 3:4 and 1 Peter 3:21.

These are strong statements and they make high claims for baptism. Indeed, taken literally they seem to imply almost a magical power to this rite, as though to baptize someone is to make him a Christian. However, there is no need to take so obviously extreme and misleading a view. All of the ‘difficulties’ in these verses disappear when baptism is seem as one element of conversion.

Once we get rid of the ideal that we are first converted and then baptized, we can see how the two words can correctly be used to describe the same event. Baptism is part (indeed, the most obvious and visible part) of conversion, and is therefore part of Christian initiation. In passing, if someone is converted but not baptized, we may correctly see the process of conversion as incomplete.

Baptism, in that case, completes the conversion. Basically, baptism is two things, a burial and a bath. It is the disposal of the old life, ‘buried with Christ in baptism’, and the starting clean with the new one, coming up out of the water into the new, risen life. Nothing could possibly represent more vividly that that what conversion is all about.

4. Filling with Holy Spirit
Now we turn to the element of power in conversion. The principle involved here is rather similar to that in baptism, and most common error about it is the same one —that conversion and ‘being filled with the Spirit’ are two entirely separate things. Indeed, like many young Christians, I believed for many years that to be filled with Spirit was a remote target set for the believer, only to be achieved—if at all—after years of emptying my life of self and sin. It came as quite a shock to discover that the Bible taught a rather different view: being filled with Spirit, like baptism, is meant to be part of the process of conversion.

If we take references to being filled with the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles, we shall find a consistent pattern emerges. In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, it was not only the apostles who were filled with the Spirit. But on that same day Peter, being himself now filled with the Spirit, promised precisely the same experience to all those who heard his words, believed them and were baptized. ‘The promise is to you, and your children, and to as many as the Lord your God shall call…’ The Holy Spirit’s power was offered as part of conversion, not a target to be reached at some remote, later date.

Read Acts 8; 9; 10 and 19. However her in Acts 19 we have the remarkable case of the disciples at Ephesus. Of the five elements of conversion that I suggested earlier, these disciples had experienced only one —repentance through the ministry of John the Baptist. They had not fully believed Jesus, they had not had Christian baptism, they had not been fill with the Spirit and they had not become members of the Body of Christ in fellowship. Paul led them to belief in the One to whom John the Baptist pointed, he baptized them and then he laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

There is the full spectrum of conversion of conversion, and until these elements are present no one can be described as truly converted. Certainly receiving power through the gift of Holy Spirit is a vital part of being converted to Christ. He baptizes in Spirit, he fills with Spirit, he pours out Spirit. The neglect of this element in conversion may account for the presence of so many ineffective Christians in churches. They have not received ‘power’.

5. Understanding the Church
God aim from the beginning was to make one Body (Church, Called out Believers, Those set apart)—not many bodies—to glorify him forever, and individualism (which is a form of self-centeredness) into a community. This ‘body’ is not simply a concept. It expresses itself on earth in local churches (not buildings) groups of people (the church) coming together for teaching fellowship, to the breaking of bread, exhortation of gifts, and the prayers. We are baptized into one body not many. We have minimized our responsibility of being the church to going to church. We have lost the understanding being the church is a life style of holiness, and adopted the trick of going to church that leads to an hour or two of holiness. We have reduced the King of kings to the pimp of prostitutes, where churches are using gifts intended for holiness in an unworthy manner for financial gain in competition for the tithes of the saints.

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. Luke 16:8

As many Christians act without skill or finesse when it comes to financial matters compared to their secular counterparts. Many downplay budget, investing, and business principles as though they are unspiritual issues for the church (the Body).

McDonald’s success stems from the very principles of God as uniting many members into one body. You will never find two McDonald completing against each other, however strategically positioning them to reach as many people as possible. Working together for the end results of the corporation.

Why can’t Christians take action strategically and seize opportunities with discernment?

Become the Disciple, Follower, Saint, Christian, Member of the Church (Body not the building) God has ordained to you to be!

Salvation is for eternity.

I read about this Professor who was the pioneer of heart transplant surgery, talking about his successes. He remarked, with obvious satisfaction, that some of his patients lived for a further eighteen months, and one had even survived for three years. He was thrilled to have saved a person’s life for eighteen months or three years.

But when Gods saves he saves for eternity: totally, and permanently. And that must include holiness: ‘You shall be perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect.’ God has never done anything by halves. Salvation is forever, or it is not salvation at all.

There are two final comments I would like to make about salvation. The first is that it is a process, not a crisis. Salvation is continuous, and the process is not yet complete in any of us. If I am asked, ‘Are you saved?’ the answer is, ‘I am being saved’—I am in the process of salvation. The important question is where am I in the process? And am I making progress, or standing still?

The other comment is that salvation, although it is a process, is not mechanical. It is not like an assembly line. Salvation is personal because it is a Person. It involves recognition of sin, repentance, grace, faith, assurance, holiness and it lasts forever. But it all centers in a Person, and without him it is nothing. Salvation, in one word, is Jesus.

Psalms 102:12
But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
Psalms 93:2
Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Acts 15:18
“Known to God from eternity are all His works.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Salvation is to holiness.

Salvation is not only ‘from’ sin, but ‘to’ holiness. In other words, it is not simply a negative exercise. The Bible talks about being ‘saved to the uttermost’, but very often preachers interpret that as though it meant ‘from the guttermost’. We are saved for a purpose, a destiny: and that destiny is holiness.

It is a sobering thought that we are as holy as we want to be, no more and no less. I do not believe that there is a ‘package deal’ in holiness, to be received once and for all, perhaps at a convention, and then forgotten. Holiness is a moment by moment relationship with God, not a static thing.

Nevertheless, I know that there are occasions when one has been filled with the Spirit and holiness no longer seems an unattainable, distant ideal, but a present reality. At such times one has known that it is possible not to sin; indeed, it would be impossible, so real and intense is the presence of God. It is God’s will that should become our normal, day-by-day experience.

Holiness is not the same as happiness. In fact, sometimes unhappy experiences can lead us into happiness. Sometimes he chastises us to lead us into holiness. Sickness, pain, disappointment may do for us what prosperity and ease can never achieve, and help to make us holy.
Holiness (Necessary for Salvation)

Exodus 15:11
Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 28:36
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

1 Chronicles 16:29
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

2 Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalms 30:4
Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Psalms 93:5
Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.

Romans 6:22
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

2 Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Ephesians 4:24
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

1 Thessalonians 4:7
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

Salvation is with assurance.

It is God’s will that you should know you are his. When people ask ‘Are you saved?’ he does not expect his children to answer, ‘I hope so’, ‘I’m trying’ or I’d like to think I am.’ He wants us to be sure of it, not with arrogance but with faith; not sure of ourselves, but sure of him and his promises.

This assurance comes through his word of promise at first, but it also, and perhaps more profoundly, comes from our consciences, as they begin to assure us that at last we are free of this destructive thing called sin, that there is a charge in our manner of life, and that we are children of God. Above all God wants to plant in our hearts the power of his Holy Spirit. It is by this gift that his children can call him ‘Father.’ After all, it is the birthright of children, and he intends it for us.

There are people who believe in God and trust in Christ. Through faith they have received the grace of salvation. But they still lack assurance. They worry and fret about their standing before God, and so their testimony is weakened. For such people the great need is to ask God to take them one step further, to pour his Holy Spirit into their hearts to bear witness to the fact that they are children of God, bound for heaven.

Assurance (Necessary for Salvation)

Deuteronomy 28:66
And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:

Isaiah 32:17
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Acts 17:31
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:2
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

Hebrews 6:11
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

Hebrews 10:9
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Salvation is through faith.

Prepositions can e crucial, and they are in discussing salvation. It is by grace, through faith. Faith is only the link; grace provides the power. So—what is faith? The first thing to establish is that it is not a matter of feeling. Martin Luther once said, ‘I do not feel that my sins are forgiven, but I know they are because God has said so in his Word.’ Faith is not feeling, although wonderful feelings may follow faith in Christ. In a sense, when the Holy Spirit takes hold of a person he releases his feelings in a new way, freeing him from inhibitions that have been bottled up before, and prevented him from experiencing love, joy and peace. But it is not the feeling that is the faith; the faith creates the feeling.

Nor is faith primarily a matter of thought. Thought is involved of course. There is a certain minimum intellectual content necessary for faith: the deity of Jesus for instance, his death and his resurrection. But if you recite the Creed and say ‘believe all of that with my mind’ you are ‘believing’ no more than the demons…and they do a bit more, the Bible tells us: the thought of it makes them ‘tremble.’

So, what is faith? Faith is to take those truths and apply them personally: to say, ‘Jesus died for me—rose for me—and is coming back for me.’ The devils cannot share that belief, that kind of faith.

Faith is, in a sense, an act of trust in which the believer takes his life and puts it into the hands of Christ. It is a daily thing—committing myself into the hands of another. In ordinary life we do it all the time—every time we board an airplane or a bus, every time we put ourselves into the hands of a surgeon. Faith is just that putting my ruined life into the hands of Jesus and giving him responsibility from that point on.

Faith (Necessary for Salvation)

Genesis 22:3
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

Psalms 6:8
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

Psalms 7:10
My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.

Psalms 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Matthew 8:10
When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Matthew 9:22
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

Luke 5:20
And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

Luke 7:50
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Acts 6:8
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Salvation is by grace.

A man once said, ‘It took me forty-three years to discover three things. Firs, that I could do nothing to save myself. Second, that God did not require me to do anything. Third, that Christ had done it all,’

By nature human beings are suspicious of anything that is offered free of charge. I read a story of a very wealthy man who stood in front of his house trying to give away hundred dollar bills. He found hardly any takers. Most people avoided him, or moved away. They could not believe that there was no trick in it.

It may be that we are to proud to accept ‘charity’, or afraid of hidden ‘strings’, but this suspicion and distrust is a terrible barrier. Old people refuse to seek financial help from the social services. Others in all kinds of need are reluctant to ask for what is freely offered, often because of pride: ‘I’ve always stood on my own feet, and I’m not going begging now.’

That is one reason why it is so hard for people to accept God’s grace, for grace means two simple things: bad deeds are no hindrance, and good deeds are no help when you come to God for salvation.

It does not matter what dreadful things you may have done in the past. They cannot put you beyond redemption. And it does not matter what good deeds you may have done in the past either. They cannot save you. Indeed, they may be a hindrance, if you come to God not empty-handed (as he requires) but with one hand full of your own goodness. It takes both hands empty to receive grace. As one song put it:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.

Salvation is ‘by grace’. It may take us a whole lifetime of struggling before we realize that there is no salvation that way, and learn that there is nothing a man can do to save himself. God requires nothing of us; Christ has done it all.

Biblical Accounts of God’s Grace!

Psalms 84:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Proverbs 3:34
He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.

Joel 2:13
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Luke 2:40
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 7:42
Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

John 1:16
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Grace (Necessary for Salvation)
Acts 15:11
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Romans 3:24
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:15
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Ephesians 2:5
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.

2 Timothy 1:9
who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Hebrews 13:9
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

Salvation is after repentance

What is ‘repentance’? We covered this in depth last week (see last week’s teaching), but I want to expound on it. Does it mean sorry —desperately sorry, perhaps —for what we have done? That is remorse, and it is a commendable feeling, but it is not repentance. Most of us are sorry about consequences of our sin: the punishment, the damaged relationships, the recriminations and the scandal. Repentance, as a schoolboy once said, is being sorry enough to stop. Martin Luther put it slightly more theologically: ‘the truest repentance is to do it no more’. A well-known evangelist used to make his appeal at the end of a meeting in these terms: ‘Don’t come out to the front to accept the Savior unless you’re prepared to leave your sins on your seat.

That is what repentance is all about: being willing to let our sins go. It shows we really want to be saved. What is quite impossible is to have our sins and have salvation. The two are mutually exclusive.

Take a moment to meditate on these verses and see it God speaks to you.

Biblical Accounts of Sin!

Matthew 18
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Have you forgiven or do you need forgiving?

John 1
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Have you allowed Jesus to remove your sin?

John 5
14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. Are things getting worse? You still sinning? Yes you!

John 5
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Are you still pointing the finger, instead of dealing with you own sin?

John 8
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. Who is really your master?

John 9
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? It’s not even about you! Are you stopping God’s work from manifesting because you won’t deal with the sin?

http://www.kennypittman.org

Salvation is from sin

We have all got troubles. Indeed, sometimes one begins to think there is nothing but trouble in this world. Over the years I have become more aware of people and their problems and troubles. Loneliness, fear, boredom, ignorance, poverty, egos, pride, selfness, hypocrisy —troubles abound; but what are the problems and troubles?

What is the cause of it all? SIN! That is God’s explanation of all our troubles. If you are coming to God to get all the others troubles sorted out, but do not bring him this one, you are unlikely to find a real solution. We present our problems, but God’s diagnosis is that the root problem, the heart of the disease, sin. Sin numbs our ‘spiritual nerves’ so that we do not feel acutely the evil of sin, nor the presence of God all around. We become spiritual insensitive.

When we come to God with our day-to-day troubles and problems, I believe he wants to deal first with the root of all our troubles, sin. That is the deadly disease, of which all our other problems are merely the symptoms.

That is why sin is such a deadly disease. It is not just a question of wrong things we do—the breaking of God’s laws. It goes much deeper. It is what we are, inherited from out parents and their parents before them … a congenital disease. And it is a progressive disease, too, steadily eroding our God-given facilities, blinding us to truth and goodness, until finally we are spiritually dead, no longer able to relate or respond to God at all, or even to goodness. It is from that fate, which Jesus describes as ‘hell’, that we need saving from experiencing love, joy and peace. But it is not the feeling that is the faith; the faith creates the feeling.

Nor is faith primarily a matter of thought. Thought is involved of course. There is a certain minimum intellectual content necessary for faith: the deity of Jesus for instance, his death and resurrection. But if you recite the Creed and say ‘I believe all of that with my mind’ you are ‘believing’ no more than the demons…and they do a bit more, the Bible tells us: the thought of it makes them ‘tremble’.

So, what is faith? Faith is to take those truths and apply them personally: to say, ‘Jesus died for me — rose for me — and is coming back for me.’ The devil cannot share that belief, that kind of faith.

Faith is, in a sense, an act of trust in which the believer takes his life and puts it into the hands of Christ. It is a daily thing—committing myself into the hands of another. In ordinary life we do this all the time—every time we board an airplane or bus, every time we put ourselves into the hands of a surgeon. Faith is just that: putting my ruined life into the hands of Jesus and giving him responsibility from that point on.

According to the definition of most Christians and religious institution the ‘devil’ is a ‘Christian’. People are told just to believe in God and everything will be alright. The bibles say, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble”! James 2:19 What are you doing more than the ‘devil’?

If you are saved from your sin why are you still walking in it? You may not be gay, but you are a liar! You may not be a murderer, but you are a gossiper! You may not be an adulator, but you are vindictive!!!…etc!!!!

Salvation is from sin! Not a reason to continue sin!

http://www.kennypittman.org

What Does ‘Saved’ Mean?

A swimmer gets into difficulties several hundred yards from the beach. His struggles are noticed by an alert life-guard, who dashes out into the surf and swims powerfully to the spot where he last saw the drowning man. By now he has stopped struggling. He is lying just below the surface motionless. The life guard pulls him to shore, and begins mouth to mouth resuscitation. Half an hour later the first breath of life animates the man’s chest. He is alive. He has been saved.

In situations such as this it is natural to use the word ‘saved’. Someone was in peril, at the point of death. And by the efforts of a third party they were rescued from their plight…saved. Yet when we use the same verb in talking of religious experience, or ask ‘Are you saved?’ it seems in some way artificial. After all, these pleasant, respectable, law-abiding people in the pews—where is the need for them to be ‘saved’? The word seems too stark, too extreme.

And so does the word ‘salvation’, which has the same root with such words as safe, saved and salvage. It is a very ‘big’ word, with many shades of meaning, and it is at the very heart of what we believe. So we are going to examine seven factors involved in ‘salvation’, in ‘being saved’.

1. Salvation is from sin.

2. Salvation is after repentance.

3. Salvation is by grace.

4. Salvation is through faith.

5. Salvation is with assurance.

6. Salvation is to holiness.

7. Salvation is for eternity.

Salvation (or Save)
The most common words for the process by which God fits someone for heaven are salvation or being saved. As Earl Radmacher notes,

The word salvation has its root in the Hebrew word yasa, {meaning} “to be wide or roomy” in contract to “narrow or restricted.” Thus words such as liberation, emancipation, preservation, protection, and security grow out of it. It refers to delivering a person or group of people from distress or danger, from a “restricted” condition in which they are unable to help themselves.

The Greek nouns for salvation are soteria and soterion; the adjective is soterios, from which we derive the word soteriology. The meaning of soteria and soterion is “deliverance”, “preservation,” or “salvation.” Salvation is often used of physical deliverance (Luke 1:69, 71; Acts 7:25; 27:37), such as Paul’s desire to be delivered or released from prison: “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19).
Spiritually, salvation refers to the process by which God, through the work of Christ, delivers sinners from the prison of sin. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 1:13). He later says, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom. 10:10). Peter announced: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Salvation is a broad term that encompasses three stages: Salvation from the past penalty of sin, from the present power of sin, from the future presence of sin. These are often called, respectively, , and glorification. So we are going to examine three stages involved in ‘salvation’, in ‘being saved’.
1. Salvation from the Penalty of Sin (Justification)

2. Salvation from the Power of Sin (Sanctification)

3. Salvation from the Presence of Sin (Glorification)

As we continue this week in our studies we are going to look closely to what the Word of God says about salvation. Now that we understand what God expects of us through repentance we can move into salvation. As I dig into the Word, take time to study yourself. My study results will be posted randomly the next two weeks. This lesson will be for the week of the 22nd.

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Conclusion on Repentance

Contrary to the Roman Catholic view, the performance of works is not a condition for salvation. The extreme Reformed view, in the final analysis, has no conditions for receiving the gift of salvation. And, in opposition to the view of many Churches of Christ, there are not four conditions for salvation (justification). Soterioloically, true faith and repentance are part of one and the same act; confession and baptism are results of (not conditions for) salvation. Those who truly believe will have the natural desire to openly confess Christ and follow His command to be baptized.

Not just baptized with water, but baptized with the Holy Spirit. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. Mark 1:8 Repentance of sins leads to being baptize with water. This baptism is an outward appearance of our wiliness to change our lives, a new way of thinking, and a conversion. This prepares us to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This baptism is an inward manifestation that empowers us to resist the enemy. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Temptations come into every believer’s life—no one is exempt. Temptation is not sinful; the sin comes when the person gives in to temptation. Believers must not be shocked or discouraged, or think that they are alone in their shortcomings. Instead, they should realize their weaknesses and turn to God to resist the temptation.

God’s plan for our salvation (being SAVED) includes the obedience of repentance, which is a voluntary act (something we must do) turning away. His plan also includes us allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest within us (something we must do) staying in prayer and His Word. This leads us to live a saved life, which Jesus Christ died for without question.

Since saving faith is an act of trust in and obedience to Jesus Christ regarding the gospel, it is evident from its very essence that saving faith (which involves repentance) will naturally tend to produce good works—a nominal, noncommittal, purely intellectual-type faith will not. Therefore, whereas we are saved by faith alone, saving faith is not alone but is inclined to produce good works.

I pray that this study will bring you to a deeper understanding of your salvation in Christ. Far too often we try to understand Scripture without using Scripture. This has leaded us to a Christianity which will accept a faith without or before repentance.

John 10:28-30
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

Once we are determined to live for Christ as a follower of Jesus no one has the ability to shake us from the covering of the HAND!

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Biblical Usage of Repentance! Pt4

Acts 20:21
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
“I kept back nothing.” Even though he faced dangers everywhere, Paul fearlessly gave the believers everything they needed for their spiritual development. Actually he said, “I did not keep silent in fear of hiding something from you that might be beneficial” (compare v. 27). Repentance is essential to your Salvation!

Acts 26:19-20 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. Paul recorded his progress from Damascus to Jerusalem, to Judea, and beyond. Ultimately, his field of endeavor, under the sovereign leadership of God, was the Gentiles. Though the locations changed and the nationalities changed, the message was the same at every stop: “Repent . . . turn to God . . . do deeds consistent with repentance.”

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Many people are sorry only for the effects of their sins or for being caught. In the original Greek, “sorrow without repentance” literally means “the sorrow of the world.” When people do not channel their grief over their behavior into life-changing actions, it is unproductive grief. It leads to self-pity. But godly sorrow is practical and action-oriented. When a person realizes what he or she has done wrong, that person should not only regret the error but also turn back to God. Only God can empower people to change their ways. Only God can save people from the way sin imprisons them and paralyzes them. Only God can help us turn away from sin and seek salvation.

2 Timothy 2:25
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
At first, this might seem to suggest that there is some question as to God’s willingness to grant repentance to these people. That, however, is not the case. The fact of the matter is that God is waiting to forgive them if only they will come to Him in confession and repentance. God does not withhold repentance from anyone, but men are so often unwilling to admit that they are wrong.

Revelation 2:5
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Paul had once commended the church at Ephesus for its love for God and for others (Ephesians 1:15). That love is pictured at the height from which the church had fallen. Jesus called this church back to love. They needed to repent of their lack of love and do the things they did at first—love as they had originally loved, with enthusiasm and devotion. If they refused to repent, however, Christ said that he would come and remove the church’s lampstand from its place. For Jesus to remove a church’s lampstand from its place would mean the church would cease to be a church.

Allow these scriptures to resonate in your heart today, as you study also; be attentive to the other scriptures surrounding each scripture. We must do these things so; you may mature and be bold in your choice of being a Christian. Most Christians are feeble in their stance for God because they are pathetic in their study time with God in His Word.

Remember, my motto is study to live, don’t study to teach, but teach what you live.

http://www.kennypittman.org

Biblical Usage of Repentance! Pt3

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
The word translated refreshing refers to restoration of strength and nourishment. Strength is restored when hope is restored. Peter challenged the people to repent and be converted, to change their thinking about Jesus as their Messiah and to serve Him.

Acts 5:31
God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Reconciliation with God is impossible without the sacrifice of Christ and the repentance of people. “Repentance” means to turn away from sin. More than just feeling bad about one’s sins, it means desiring to make a change in one’s purpose and direction, along with a heartfelt desire not to sin (see also 2:38). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, taking sin’s penalty upon himself, people can come to God in repentance and receive forgiveness for their sins.

Acts 8:22
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
This conditional statement relates not to God’s ability to forgive sin but to Simon’s willingness to repent. Simon has to cleanse his heart from the intent to buy the gift of the Spirit, and he has to change the course of his life to be in harmony with God.

Acts 11:18
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
The response was one of praising God as the congregation remarked on the fact that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of turning from sin and receiving eternal life.

Acts 17:30
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Paul began to wrap up his message, building this statement on all that he had presented thus far and gently correcting where the Greeks had been incorrect: And since this is true, they needed to make some changes. Their thinking had been incorrect. They should not think of God as an idol who could be constructed by human hands. God is profoundly bigger than any idol.

Acts 19:4
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
The disciples reveal that they are not true to the teachings of John the Baptist, who made it known that he was the forerunner of the Messiah. They should have listened to the words of John and accepted Jesus as their Messiah. For that reason, Paul refers them to the ministry and the teachings of the Baptist (Matt. 3:11; Acts 1:5; 10:37; 13:24–25).

Allow these scriptures to resonate in your heart today, as you study also; be attentive to the other scriptures surrounding each scripture. We must do these things so; you may mature and be bold in your choice of being a Christian. Most Christians are feeble in their stance for God because they are pathetic in their study time with God in His Word.

Remember, my motto is study to live, don’t study to teach, but teach what you live.

http://www.kennypittman.org

Biblical Usage of Repentance! Pt2

Biblical Usage of Repentance! Pt2

Mark 1:15
The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The Good News is decisive. “Repent” People expect that preaching will lead to a call for a decision. In this case, Jesus calls people to turn 180 degrees from the direction in which they are going and begin to walk back toward God. “Repent” has been reduced to a whisper in popular preaching. I believe that in our day, the message is really turned around—that is, we put faith before repentance. When you turn to Jesus Christ in faith, you are actually turning to Him from something else, and that turning from something is repentance. If there was not that turning from something, then apparently there was not a real turning to Christ. It is true that if there is a real turning to Christ, there will be a manifestation of a change in the life showing that the believer is turning from something.

Luke 3:3
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He called upon the nation of Israel to repent of its sins in order to receive forgiveness, and thus be prepared for the coming of the Messiah. He also called upon the people to be baptized as an outward sign that they had truly repented. John was a true prophet, an embodied conscience, crying out against sin, and calling for spiritual renewal.

Luke 5:32
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. In this passage, repentance is pictured as a patient who recognizes that illness is present and that only Jesus, the Great Physician, can treat it. A humble approach to God for spiritual healing is the essence of repentance.

Luke 13:3
I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Again Jesus explained that all people are sinners who must repent or they too will perish—spiritual death with eternal consequences. Jesus’ point here is that everyone stands at the edge of death until repentance occurs. The death in view here is spiritual, not physical.

Luke 24:47
And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Verse 47 describes a program of worldwide evangelism. Luke was writing to the Greek-speaking world. He wanted them to know that Christ’s message of God’s love and forgiveness should go to all the world—and that this had been God’s plan from the very beginning. Christ’s gospel has a worldwide scope. God wants all the world to hear the good news of salvation.

Acts 2:38
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Repentance for the Judeans involved rejecting their former attitudes and opinions concerning who Jesus was. In faith they had to accept Him for who He declared Himself to be while on earth, a declaration that was confirmed by His resurrection and ascension. be baptized: When a person recognizes who Jesus Christ really is, the result is the desire is to do what He commands. The first action that Jesus requires of a new believer is baptism (see Matt. 28:19, 20), the outward expression of inward faith. The idea of an unbaptized Christian is foreign to the New Testament (v. 41; 8:12, 36; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8). for the remission of sins: Is Peter saying that we must be baptized to receive forgiveness of our sins? Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified by faith alone, not by works (see Rom. 4:1–8; Eph. 2:8, 9). The critical word in this phrase is the word for, which may also be translated “with a view to.”

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Biblical Usage of Repentance! Pt1

Now that we know the meaning of repentance, we now need to go to the Word of God to help us apply it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

One of the most challenging tasks faced by Christians today is to maintain the vitality of Christ’s life. And too often our approach to teaching and learning is institutionalized, as we model on the public school rather than on what is unique in the nature of our faith. Let’s get back to the basics and teach and learn from God’s inspired (God-breathed) Word and not from the options of Gammy Award Winning Pastors and Rock Star Status Praise and Worship Leaders.

For the next four days I am going to give you God inspire scripture from the Old and the New Testament. Take time and meditate on His Word, that you may have clear understanding of His plan and the purpose of repentance.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This prescription for answered prayer is reflected again and again in the Scripture. First the supplicant must be “called by My name.” The only other condition is “humble themselves.” The words “pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways” describe what humbling ourselves means. It means abandoning hope in ourselves to rely completely on God. And it means abandoning (repenting) our own sinful ways to respond wholeheartedly to God’s known will.

In actuality these are not so much conditions that God requires as they are a description of the person who will in fact pray! Only those with a sense of personal relationship (“called by His name”) who take relationship with God seriously (“humble themselves”) will turn to the Lord for supernatural help.

Isaiah 1:16-17
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

The people must turn from their selfishness and treachery, and begin to show love and honesty in their everyday dealings if they want to be pleasing to God (16–17). He is ready and able to cleanse them, but whether he will depends on them. They must be willing to stop pleasing themselves and obey him instead.

What they should do is wash themselves through repentance and forsaking of evil, then practice righteousness and social justice. And the same is true today.

Isaiah 55:6-7
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

If man is hungry and needs satisfying, he is also wicked and needs salvation. God’s calling and seeking must be matched by those of the sinner. This is a classic statement of repentance, challenging the mind ‘repentance’ and the will, the habits (way) and the plans (implied in the Hebrew for thoughts). It is both negative (forsake) and positive (turn), personal (to the LORD) and specific (for mercy); and its appeal is reinforced by the shortness of the time and the sheer generosity of the promise.
The wicked man must stop doing sin and the unrighteous man must stop being sinful in his thoughts. To repent of our wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts, we must turn around and go the other way.

Ezekiel 33:18-20
If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Yet, O house of Israel, you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to his own ways.”

The good, the bad, and the repentant. For those who sincerely despair over their sin, it is never too late to repent (33:10–11). God does not delight in judging his people (33:11). Past righteousness won’t save those who sin; past unrighteousness won’t condemn those who repent (33:12–20).

Jonah 3:10
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

When the message was sent to them, they were so ripe for judgment that a purpose of destruction to take effect in forty days was the only word God’s righteous abhorrence of sin admitted of as to them. But when they repented, the position in which they stood towards God’s righteousness was altered. So God’s mode of dealing with them must alter accordingly, if God is not to be inconsistent with His own immutable character of dealing with men according to their works and state of heart, taking vengeance at last on the hardened impenitent, and delighting to show mercy on the penitent.

The concept of repentance is important in both Old as well as the New Testaments. We can sum up the basic meaning: repentance means “a change of heart and life.” While repentance is popularly linked with sorrow and prayer, the basic meaning is one of a change of life direction. A person who repents turns from his old ways to wholeheartedly commit himself to doing the will of God. Is repentance linked with salvation? Yes. But the life-change expressed by “repentance” is a result of saving faith in God, not a condition of our salvation.

Allow these scriptures to resonate in your heart today, as you study also; be attentive to the other scriptures surrounding each scripture. We must do these things so; you may mature and be bold in your choice of being a Christian. Most Christians are feeble in their stance for God because they are pathetic in their study time with God in His Word.

Remember, my motto is study to live, don’t study to teach, but teach what you live.

http://www.kennypittman.org

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