INTRO: Once in a while, when I am in a somewhat reflective mood, I think about what being a Christian has meant to me over five decades. Just a few days ago something triggered my thoughts along those lines once again. And while I was thinking, it occurred to me that it would probably be a positive thing to share some of my conclusions about what being a Christian has meant for and to me. And I do this in the hope that it can reassuring to others who may not be at the five decade mark and may be wondering about the worthwhileness of hanging on to the end. I really have nothing new to offer ... just reassurance or confirmation. My joy in being a Christian is found in...
I. THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS
A. There are few things more bothersome than the guilt of sin
1. I dont set out to sin ... I dont make plans to sin ... I dont intend to sin
2. having said that, however, I know that I do sin
3. I dont think I am under the dominion of sin, but Im sure that I do sin from time to time - in impetuousness, in neglect, in passion of the moment
B. 1 Jno 1:9-2:2 - Notice especially 2:1
1. later in this letter John writes of habitual sin (1 Jno 3:9)
2. here, however, he is writing of the reality of the Christian life
3. and the wonderful thing for me is to know that I do have an advocate with the Father and that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus continues to cleanse me!
II. THE JOY OF RELIABLE GUIDANCE
A. To be confused about direction in life is, for me, very uncomfortable
1. I look around me at people of the world, and they look a lot like ants scurrying in every direction (morally and spiritually)
2. I have suspect that most of these people prefer direction, plan
3. but without a reliable, authoritative guide they continue to be so random
B. 1 Thes 4:1 - In a word, here is the great purpose of the New Testament
1. to instruct how we ought to walk and to please God
2. left to myself, I am going to stray, make mistakes, be inconsistent
3. however, if I devote myself to the design and plan God has for my life (our lives) and if I mold my thinking and actions to His guidance, I will not be confused and uncertain ... the older I become, the more certain I am that most of the answers I have needed for life are found in the pages of scripture
III. THE JOY OF PURPOSE
A. A day without purpose is a boring day for me
1. and there is just so much novelty one can experience ... then what?
2. we are faced with the age old question, Why am I here?
3. eat, drink and be merry ... for tomorrow we die??? - but after a while, this becomes so unsatisfying ... no feeling of accomplishment, etc.
B. 1 Pet 4:1,2 - Purpose? to live to the will of God
1. or, 1 Cor 6:19,20 - to glorify God by living as His child
2. now, under this heading would come practical, moral and spiritual pursuits ... always under His guidance; always with Him in mind; always seeking to fulfil His purpose in every compartment of life
3. if I lose sight of this overarching life purpose, I know that my life will become fragmented, unproductive, anxious! (so, Eph 1:11,12)
IV. THE JOY OF RELATIONSHIPS
A. Relationships: we all have them; we are involved with people
1. but of what sort are they? of what depth are they? to what purpose are they?
2. most of us touch other lives ... move on to touch others ... move on, etc.
3. in fact, most interactions are not relationships at all ... casual
B. Acts 2:42-44 - Togetherness in the church, in the body
1. my family in Christ is my who I am, what I am about, my siblings
2. I have been enriched by relationships I could never have had if I had not been a Christian ... there is a sense of family in Christ which simply cannot be experienced elsewhere!
3. I am able to play back mentally the faces of so many ... and to savor!
V. THE JOY OF SECURITY
A. For most people, when life is over, there is no happy anticipation
1. they live for this life, to this life ... and put all their eggs in this basket
2. contemplation of what next is either ignored or scary - a big ?
3. so many just hope for nothingness - because their lives are so material
B. 1 Pet 1:3-5 - Here is my hope - here is my security
1. I am not excited about the prospect of dying - I do enjoy living this life
2. but I am doing my best to live this life as a child of God - anticipating that there really is life beyond death ... and I am putting my eggs in that basket
3. my what next is the security of heaven with my Father!
CLOSE: My point for us this morning? Its o.k. to be a devoted Christian! It just makes good sense to be a devoted Christian. And I believe with all my heart that God wants us to enjoy life through our faith.
Cecil A. Hutson
March 13, 2005
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)