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December 2, 2007 AM

HEB 13:20,21

INTRO: Are you satisfied with who you are spiritually? I have thought a great deal about that question recently. Just why the question has occupied so much of my thinking in recent days I am not certain. I think, though, that it may be the coming of the end of a year and the imminent beginning of a new one. Or, it may be that I am growing older and realizing that immortality is not to be found in this physical life ... thus, I need to find ways to encourage others (and, yes, myself) to reach higher with our spiritual goals. For most of the last week I kept thinking about the words "the God of peace...make you perfect..." I know that the word "perfect" does not mean "sinless perfection". Yet, there is some respect in which the writer prays for readers to be complete, mature.

    1. "Be all you can be"
      1. the first time I heard that I was most impressed by it
      2. I'm not certain service in the army is the answer to the idea
      3. but I am certain that most of us can be more than we are!
    2. Problem: are we satisfied with less than we could be?
      1. it takes dedication and effort to be better than average
      2. excuses for being "average" are easy to make - and sound reasonable
      3. are you o.k. with who you are spiritually?
    1. We convince ourselves we can be no better
      1. "I'm only human" keeps replaying in the mind
      2. and, yes, we are human ... but does that excuse mediocrity?
      3. Phil 3:14 - have we lost interest in the prize!
    2. We become lethargic as the years go by
      1. "it's time for someone else to do it" may be our thought process
      2. yes, others should be stepping up to kingdom tasks needing attention
      3. 1 Cor 9:24 - but we cannot stop running and expect to win the prize
    3. We mistake physical age for spiritual maturity
      1. "I've been a Christian all of my life" may be what we tend to say to self
      2. and that can be a great advantage if those have been growth years
      3. Heb 5:12 - but attained age is no guarantee of spiritual maturity!
    4. We just grow weary with the complexities of life
      1. "I'm just tired of the struggle" we may find ourselves saying
      2. and make no mistake about it ... life can be a struggle as we encounter every sort of discouragement imaginable
      3. Phil 4:12,13 - are we depending too much on our own resources?
    5. We become so busy that we fail to grow toward spiritual maturity
      1. "my plate is so full, and there's no end in sight" is what many of us face
      2. yes, being busy is a fact of western, competitive life - and many of us just keep saying "yes" to more and varied obligations
      3. 1 Ki 20:39,40a - what will we lose because we are "busy here and there"?
    1. "Take time to be holy"
      1. this may be one of our most needed steps to real maturity
      2. time to pray; time to read; time to meditate; time to serve
      3. "leftovers" of time won't be enough to take us beyond spiritual mediocrity
    2. "Speak oft with thy Lord"
      1. we are closest to people with whom we have good communication
      2. if we are not frequent in prayer, true maturity will not be able to flourish
      3. Ps 55:17 - do we recognize this need as did the psalmist?
    3. "Abide in Him always"
      1. we tend to let spiritual things be a compartment in our lives - entering the compartment as needed
      2. we must learn to see ourselves living beyond the present physical limits
      3. Phil 3:1-4 - making Jesus our life, not just a part of our life, is the goal
    4. "And feed on His word"
      1. somewhere I read "you are what you eat" - no question, diet is important
      2. so many folks want to reach high spiritual goals without proper diet
      3. Jas 1:21 - Ps 1:2,3 - I have little doubt that most of us want to be spiritually mature ... but to be so we must take the time to ingest the word
    5. "Make friends of God's children"
      1. do not discount the value of close Christian associations here
      2. most of our worldly associations do not encourage spiritual maturity ... may, indeed, discourage it - we need strong Christian
      3. 2 Pet 1:1 - people of like faith give strength, encouragement, stability and such to each other - make it easier to live in a world hostile to faith

CLOSE: Reaching our spiritual possibilities should be our collective and personal goal. We say we must live in the world but not be of the world (Jno 17:14-16). And that is true. Is it possible, though, that we find ourselves being more "of the world" as we live "in the world"? The admonition of the writer of Hebrews is this: "let us go on unto perfection". There is our challenge.

Cecil A. Hutson

02 December 2007

God's Plan of Salvation

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 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 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 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)

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!

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)