Understanding Sin and Repentance...
For a huge number of people, the concept of "sin" seems rather quaint... residual traces of the days of simplistic religious beliefs. Many of those that do hold to the concept of a 'higher power', do not believe that there is an absolute moral law. And if there happens to be a God against whom we sin, He is too loving to actually hold our 'mistakes' against us, much less punish us for them. If pressed, possibly the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the 'not perfect' category, but a far cry from 'sinners', or really bad people, usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world. An almost universal 'Santa Claus' mentality holds to the idea of rewards for those who's good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those for whom the opposite is true. The subjects of sin and salvation are the warp and weft of very the fabric the Bible is woven out of yet, even when many Christians think of sin, they simply think of a violation of the Ten Commandments. The problem is that none of these views come anywhere near agreeing with the Biblical definition of sin, judgment, or even heaven and hell. This is simply because few know, or understand how the Bible defines sin
Repentance ...The Missing Message
What you believe about Biblical repentance is, quite literally, a matter of life or death. On innumerable occasions, the Scriptures record God as warning that He will only have mercy on those whose repentance is real, but will destroy those who do not repent and turn from their sin. Do not be fooled by the watered down Gospel message of “just “believe and be saved”, heard in so many churches today. Scripture presents Repentance and Faith not as the same thing, but literally as two sides of the same coin. You can't believe without truly repenting, and you cannot experience “Godly sorrow” without believing. Additionally, you are very likely to hear that the Greek word translated ‘repent’ or ‘repentance’ means to simply change your mind. However, what you are not told is that the Scriptures explicitly links repentance to sin.
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car
Salvation... Part I
You can be wrong about a lot of things but if you are wrong about the Gospel of Jesus Christ you are in trouble. A large percentage of the modern church will tell you that in order to receive salvation and life eternal, you merely have to "believe in Jesus Christ" or "receive Christ as your Savior". Unfortunately, although the words come from the Bible, by themselves these instructions are horribly abbreviated. They neither tell you what you are saved from, and what you gain by being "saved". Nor do they accurately convey all that is involved in a person being saved. Diametrically opposed to most modern methods of preaching the Gospel, the message should begin with the wrath of God. The bad news has to come before the good news. Telling someone that they can be saved is completely ridiculous if they neither know they are lost, nor what it is they need to be saved from. Telling someone that there is a pardon available is an absolute waste of time, if the person does not know they are already condemned. Besides which, God releases us from the demands of eternal justice on the basis that someone else paid our fine. However receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not a passive ‘acceptance’ that makes a door-to-door salesman of the Savior. He DOES NOT meekly stand by waiting to know whether we will patronize Him or not.
Salvation... Part II
Acknowledging Jesus Merely as Savior is Insufficient.
If you have not enthroned Christ as Lord, and do not defer to Him as King, you cannot possibly attain salvation. Simply because no one can live in his kingdom without acknowledging him as king. Why Jesus would want anyone in His kingdom when they show no allegiance to Him as King and do not bother to obey Him, which means they have, in effect, rejected His Sovereign authority. The Biblical way to salvation is to see Jesus Christ as not only savior, but also as Lord. To pledge to obey Him as best you can the rest of your life.
The Cost of Commitment
It does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. The consequence of not counting the cost at the beginning is that people will fall away. Like the man with the tower, they won't be able to finish it; or they are in danger of giving up in a spiritual battle for which they are not prepared.
Is The Sinner’s Prayer Effective?
The goal should never be getting someone to pray a prayer, but rather to follow Jesus. When we emphasize deciding for Christ instead of living for Him, we often get spiritual miscarriages instead of spiritual births. Our sense of safety can’t come from simply saying a prayer.
Why NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart
The most fundamental, vital question that anyone can ask is what must I do to be saved?... the answer to which is perhaps the most crucial point of the whole New Testament. Yet there are no end of well meaning Christians who, in answer to that life and death question, will inform you that You have to ask Jesus into your heart. The burning question is whether this phrase accurately communicates the truth of Scripture.
The Myth We Are Saved By Faith Alone
I strongly suspect that, if one were to ask the vast majority of Christians what one has to do to be saved, you would get a number of answers like "accept Jesus as your personal savior", "ask Jesus into your heart" etc. However, while the terminology may vary, the answers would almost all boil down to all you have to do is believe... all you have to do is have faith. In other words, at the very moment the sinner puts his, or her, faith in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as his/her savior, that person has entered into a covenant relationship with God, has received God's forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life. It is certainly a fact that the Bible teaches that faith is an essential ingredient, without which it is impossible to please God, but it never ever teaches that faith is the only requirement for salvation. In fact the Scriptures point to a number of things by which a person is saved.
Faith and Facts
The word "faith" is often deeply misunderstood, often seen as "pie in the sky", totally unsubstantiated by facts. However, what many Christians and non Christians alike, do not always realize, is that while the Bible is very big on faith, it is a faith based on facts. Perhaps the best definition of faith comes from Hebrews 11:1, which says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". The words assurance and conviction are key to understanding Biblical faith. When we are dealing with things that we cannot perceive with our five senses, the only way we can know that these unseen things are true, is by the evidence. If we do not have evidence, then all that is left is hope. However, the Bible provides evidence aplenty that it is the Word of God, and that Jesus did rise from the dead.
The New Birth
These days, almost everyone talks about being born again; but virtually no one knows what the Word of God teaches about the new birth. While you don’t have to do all things people think they must do... get an education, get married, have children, carve out a career etc, and you don’t have to have all of the things people think they must have ...a home, a car etc... The one thing you have to do during your lifetime is be born again... your future for an entire eternity hangs on it.
The Next Step
If you are reading this, then I'm going to assume that you have put your confidence in Jesus Christ as the God who took on flesh and who traded places with us (during His death on the Cross) when God judged and punished our wrongdoing ... and that, accordingly, you are related to God in a new way. What we need to do now is to look at four things: 1) what is the character of your new relationship with the living God, 2) what can you expect to happen in your life now, 3) why should you go forward from here in a relationship with God, and 4) what specific attitudes and actions can you initiate to cultivate this relationship, to nurture it, and to develop it to its fullest expression in your life?
The Two Ordinances
Water baptism (by immersion) and The Lord's Supper (communion) are the only two ordinances instituted by our Lord. While neither one is a means of salvation or prerequisite for church membership, both should be observed by all Christians. These rites are outward symbols of inward spiritual grace but do not of themselves create spiritual change. We can however publicly and privately demonstrate our belonging to Christ by being baptized and having Holy Communion.
Also See Section
Living The Faith