Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Week Special (Part 4): Do You Really Believe in Jesus?

Perhaps the most taken for granted fact in a christian's life is one's belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Many of us acknowledge the reality of knowing there is a Sovereign God in heaven and many of us profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father, who was sent to die for us. Ask a professing christian you meet on the street if they believe in Jesus Christ, and you will not find a single one who will say "NO."

Many know about Jesus. Even non-believers hate His name. Many of us know His story from what we sporadically read in the Bible or in christian storybooks somewhere. The life of Jesus offers hope for those who are lost. Although, that part of the story even gets so misunderstood at times. Often we think of Him as a God who is so loving and gracious that He came to save us from all our misery. Part of it is true, but we usually tend to hold on to the part where we make Him our imaginary heavenly vending machine!

It seems like most of us who acknowledge that we believe in Jesus, believe only in His ability to help us in our times of need. We believe in Him because we cling to the idea that there is a God upstairs who loves us to pieces and will take very good care of us while we're living on this earth. We believe in His awesome power to heal, to bless, to give, to provide, to lift up, to make life here on earth easier and better. We believe in His abounding love, and magnify His mercy and grace in the midst of life's passions turned mishaps.

Yes, we believe in Jesus who died on the cross to save us, but save us from what? From our difficulties? From financial hardship? From our diseases and disorders? From broken relationships? From loneliness? From trouble? From disasters and maybe from death? If we really consider it carefully, we believe in Jesus Christ mostly because we believe He can provide us with the things we need to enjoy life here on earth - abundance, protection, good health, healthy relationships, good life, happiness, prosperity. We cling to the gospel of "Living Our Best Life Now!"

Many times during the ministry of Jesus here on earth we hear Him say "Believe in Me," or "Believe Me." Believing in His words and in what He preached may sound so easy to do for most of us, but it's not until we come face to face with what it is really that He wants us to believe in that we find it difficult to do so.

Jesus clearly states in John 14:1,

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in Godbelieve also in Me." (NASB)

The Bible also tells us this in John 14:6,

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life
no one comes to the Father but through Me."(NASB)

Jesus established His authority as He said those words to us. He is the way, the truth, and the life! There's is no other way to God the Father but through HIM. This truth may easily be acknowledged by most of us, but we simply take it for granted. How? Because many of us also believe that if we can be good enough, we can eventually come to the Father. Many still believe that someone else can help us pray our way to heaven. Many still call on the intercession of another name believing that they can help us get to heaven someday.

We say we believe in Jesus and that He is what He said He is - the Way, the Truth, and the Life - but we blindly continue with the stupor of calling on someone else's name to help us find the right way to get right with God. We pray for so and so's intercession for our souls. We call for this and that to help save us. We fall on our knees and cry out to this and that to help pray for us. We call on the name of so and so to save us. 

Jesus invites us... "Believe in Me"... but the reality of it isn't really easy for most of us...

"Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERSbut WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)

There's no other name that we can call, pray, and invoke to pray for us, let alone save us! If we want to consider intercession by anybody, let the Word of God show us this truth... 

"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:26-27)

Our needs, our weaknesses, our salvation, our help, our everything relies only in God and God alone... in God the Father's mercy, in God the Son's sacrifice, in God the Spirit's intercession.

Let's carefully consider that and test our hearts... do we REALLY believe in Him?

Believing in Jesus and Him being the only Way and the Truth could be very difficult for a lot of people. If we believe that He is the Way and He is the Truth, then His way is the only way to go. Jesus speaks of a difficult truth that could make a lot of us angry and resistant, but I'd like to share this truth today...

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

      Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”" (John 3:1-8)

Jesus himself told us about a needed new birth. He tells us this because...

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)  

Many of us will resist that truth, and this is why Jesus challenges us to "BELIEVE in Him"...

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

When we profess that we believe in Jesus Christ and in His words, we ought to take great consideration of this profession. It comes with a great requirement of FAITH! Not everyone will find Jesus' truth easy to accept, but that is not new for there were many who resisted Him during His time, too. 

Before we can ever believe in anything or anybody's word, we ought to get to know them first, right? This is why we ought to open up our Bibles and read God's Word because it will point us to Jesus and to His Truth... He himself tells us this is John 5:46-47...

"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" 

My dearest, it is but time for us to stop swaying with the stupor that the prince of this world has led us to. We have been blinded for far too long...

"Submit yourselves therefore to God
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

God reveals Himself to us in His Word. He has spoken to us at present through his Son, and we should learn to listen to HIM and HIM ALONE! No other authority must be greater in our lives than that of Jesus Christ - The Word of God!

This year's Holy week reminds us of God's work for humankind's salvation. If we profess to believe in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, then we ought to see the fruit of it in our life. The Word of God presents that we would KNOW if we are of God because of the evidence in our life. As in any legal case, only the evidence counts to prove that something is real. When we profess to believe in Jesus Christ, let us then examine ourselves to see if that fact is real in our lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week Special (Part 3): Our Assurance of Heaven

"There's a bridge to cross the great divide

A way was made to reach the other side
The mercy of the Father, 
cost His son His life
His love is deep, His love is wide
There's a cross to bridge the great divide."

That is the chorus of an old song that I love, it's called "The Great Divide" by the group Point of Grace. It talks about the great divide that is between man and God. The bible mentions this truth in Isaiah 59:2,

"But your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden His face from you
so that He does not hear.
." (NASB)
The song speaks of the truth that "God is gracious but sin that is in us would still separate us from God." 

The song's chorus simply explains it all. The Word of God has established that we are all sinners, and thus, separated from our God. There is this great divide between sinful man and Holy God. But there is hope for there was a way made to reach the other side! The cross of Jesus Christ bridges that great divide between us and God. This was the only way given by the Father for man to be reconciled to Him. This is the way He has provided that we may be assured of heaven - where we live eternally with God. This was a promise and an assurance to man that IF we cross this bridge He's provided, we are sure get to the other side. There's no doubt about it, the CROSS will get us there.

Many of us, unfortunately, would find this idea ridiculous. We somehow cannot accept the truth that there is only one way to reach the other side. We somehow find it difficult to acknowledge that we can be sure of our place in heaven. Most of the time we cling to this idea, this belief that we have to do something in order to be pleasing to God and be accepted into Heaven.

When we carefully think about our deepest desire to be in heaven, we would have to come to a point of acknowledging eternity. The Bible tells us that God Himself has planted eternity in our hearts! (See Ecclesiastes 3:11). May we understand, though, that no earthly body will ever be found in heaven...

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.." (1 Cor. 15:50, KJV)

Since we all want to get to heaven someday, we ought to understand that we need to have eternal life in order to be there. For what good will it be if our souls will find its end in the second death which is the lake of fire (as we found out in Part 2 of this series)? 

We all need to have eternal life. How to we get eternal life, then? I'm so glad you asked. A Bible verse that has been so taken for granted will answer this for us...

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

God's only Son gives us this eternal life! Jesus Christ, God's only Son, became mankind's Savior...

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all meninstructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.." (Titus 2:11-14)

Jesus Christ died for us in order to redeem us from perishing. He was sent by God the Father to save mankind from the wrath to come. Jesus Christ is our bridge to God the Father...

"...we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son..." (Romans 5:10)

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36)

Jesus' words declared it for us, "Whoever believes in the Son of God HAS eternal life..." The moment we believe what God has done for us - that we are separated from Him because of our sins; but that He loved us and didn't want anyone to perish; that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us - is the moment we have eternal life. 

Nowhere in the Bible will we read about needing to do something else for ourselves in order to get to heaven. Believing in God's plan of Salvation and believing in the work of Jesus Christ alone, IS THE ONLY WAY and ONLY REQUIREMENT to get to heaven! Our assurance is not found in what we can do in this lifetime, but instead it rests in the Savior, JESUS CHRIST.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)

Jesus didn't say we "might" have eternal life or we "will" (in the future) have it if we believe in Him. He instead said we "have" eternal life once we believe in Him! That is an immediate thing. That is our assurance of heaven... it is rooted in Christ Jesus, it is rooted in His Word.

John 3:16 is a very simple statement to understand, but it's one that is very hard to swallow, to sink in, to accept, to BELIEVE in. This is where the battle lies... it is a matter of FAITH in His words and His promises. This is where Jesus loses most of us because majority of mankind believes in "self" to work something out. It takes the Holy Spirit to work in a person's heart in order to understand all this clearly, and to accept that as it is. 

There's really no magic formula, no 10-step-process to follow, no 5-sets of this and that, no doctoral degree needed in order for man to be assured of his place in heaven with God. There is only that one big leap of faith, though, that may only come by the mercy and grace of the Almighty God.

Many of us acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, many even have the ability to call Him "Lord", but not everyone who really does will get to heaven. Because there is only ONE way to heaven. There is only one bridge to cross. There is only one Cross that bridged the great divide. 

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Do you believe in the Son of God who died on the cross to redeem you from your sins and give you eternal life? Can you say today that you are sure that you are going to heaven when your earthly body dies? Do you have that assurance that you have a place in heaven with God?

Believing in Jesus Christ is more than saying "I believe in Him...", for the truth of His work is harder to swallow than most of us think.

We will look into this saving work of Jesus Christ in the next part of this series, and see why it is going to be harder to believe in Him than we might think...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week Special (Part 2): Hope for the Hopeless

Hope is defined in dictionaries as "looking forward to with confidence or expectation". It's a beautiful thing to have in life at one point or another because it allows us to persevere through the times when we are awaiting the fulfillment of whatever it is we are hoping for.

Hopelessness, on the other hand, is having "no possibility of solution; impossible". This is the state of our souls if we are to carefully consider the truths that we have gone through in the first part of this series. By now we should realize that the Bible has made it clear that we ALL are sinners and are deserving hell - the second death, as payment for our sinfulness. This is a reality we all cannot escape. The Bible clearly states that ALL of us have sinned before God, no one is exempted, no one was spared. How did this happen? I'm glad you asked... 

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Romans 5:12)

"For as in Adam ALL die..." (1 Cor. 15:22)

Now since this is our case, we all must realize that what we have in us are plainly deadened souls. The Bible states that we are dead in our sins and transgressions. (see Ephesians 2:1). We have gone through our attempts for holiness in Part 1 and we ought to realize by now that our striving and our effort to become righteous and pleasing before God is to no avail.

What then is our hope for heaven? All human beings long for it, you know, that place of peace, rest and forever happiness that is untouched by anything evil. Heaven is a place our inner being call "home". Why? Because God's presence is there. The very reason He brought us into existence is to enjoy fellowship with Him and to glorify and exalt Him as our Creator, our Master, our Lord. 

Our souls long for it every second of our lives without us realizing it. This is the void we all are trying to fill with just about anything we manage to scavenge on this earth - wealth, fame, pleasures, relationships... this longing and void for something will remain and it will reach full gear when we break free from our bodies and live for eternity. Yet, when we all die, we face the reality of God's wrath towards sinners. This is what we all need to be saved from - God's wrath is poured out to transgressors and unrighteousness. 

You may say to yourself, "I don't believe that, because God is a loving God." I totally understand where you're coming from. But may we allow Scripture to explain to us where this Love lies and what this Love truly means? God reveals himself to us through His Word and this is what we see...

"The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!" 
(Psalm 50:6, emphasis added)

"God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every dayIf a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.
(Psalm 7:11-13 ESV, emphasis added)

"God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry [with the wicked] every day." (Psalm 7:11 KJV, emphasis added)

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." 
(Romans 1:18, emphasis added)

"I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, 
because I am holy..." (Leviticus 11:44)

God Almight Holy Lord Images
We ought to understand that the nature of God is not limited to his being a God of Love. He is a righteous judge as well as a Holy God. That is why His anger burns against unrighteousness because His holiness cannot tolerate any drop of sin!

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their spanc is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

(Psalm 90: 7-12)

This is how God's LOVING nature becomes evident and magnified. Because we are all subject to God's wrath and are objects of His continuous anger (remember SIN in us?), God's Sovereignty reveals the Love that God shows towards man. This is the Love we all tend to misunderstand and we all tend to abuse...

 "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." (Isaiah 30:18)

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

This is the love of God... He does not want any of us to perish, thus He shows His mercy towards us. He showed compassion to a world that is dead. He said this of Himself that He is our SAVIOR and thus, He himself provided a way for man to be reconciled to Him, for man to come to repentance, for man to be saved from His wrath! His love is about our Salvation. It was never about Him becoming tolerant to sin. It was never a license for man to continue sinning.

So, what is our Hope? It is this promise that we should not perish, but have everlasting life! This everlasting LIFE (and no longer Death) is what we Hope for... what we look forward to with confidence and great expectation! 

More wonderful is the fact that Hope works hand in hand with Faith. For the Bible defines Faith this way...

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

When we hold on to "Hope", we are holding on to something we do not yet see. We look forward with eager expectation. Faith, however, raises our Hope to a different level! It gives EVIDENCE to what we do not see. Do you know what an evidence does to a presumed thing?  It gives proof, a clear indication, and gives the knowledge on which we base our belief. It makes the promise sure. It gives the one who hopes CONFIDENCE on the promise, on the thing we all hoped for.

My friends, do you know that we CAN know for sure if we are going to heaven or not? Though many believe and say "I really hope to get to heaven someday..." or "I'm trying my best to at least get to heaven one day...", the Word of God has a promise, a Hope for the hopeless to embrace, that speaks of assurance of our place in heaven - forever reconciled and in fellowship with God! 

We will look into this ASSURANCE of HEAVEN in the next part of our series... 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week Special: Letting Go to Know the Truth...

Oftentimes the Truth is very hard to swallow. When everything we believe in becomes questionable in contrast to what the Truth presents to us, it becomes a struggle of the mind, heart and soul. Letting go will always be difficult, but if it means getting in line with God's TRUTH, then by all means, LET GO...

I'd like to share this song I've come across today. It speaks specifically to a heart that might be searching to know the Truth... May you and yours be blessed now and always!

Holy Week Special (Part 1): Trying-Hard-Holiness

Holy Week is the time of the year when christians remember the awesome sacrifice that Christ Jesus gave for mankind. God's magnificent sovereign plan is displayed in the events that transpired during the celebration of the Holy Week. 

Most often that not, we usually consider this particular week of the year a solemn one as we contemplate on the events of Jesus' death and resurrection. Some may believe that this is a time of the year when we can act a little better than we have been, and try to please God with whatever "good" we can do to the best of our abilities.

Most of our attempts on "holiness" involves trying to do "good" during this time of the year, and for some it means trying to meet all the expectations of the church as to what to do and what not to do during the entire week.

Many of us will be sincere in our attempt to make Holy Week more holy this year. We probably will find ourselves trying hard to be more pleasing to God by praying more often; abstaining from doing what we love to do for the entire week; attempting to forgive those who have hurt us; becoming more generous to those in need; going to church more often that we usually do; spending more time with our families in order to show them we love and appreciate them; attempting to get rid of bad habits; sacrificing the things we hold dear such as getting on facebook, surfing the net, watching TV, going to the mall and the like for the entire week.

There's so much we attempt to do in order to have an amount of "good" in us during the Holy Week. Most of us will find our sincerity get the better of us and be able to have us become a better person during the Holy Week to say the least. 

That's really a wonderful thing to do in order to celebrate the Holy Week, but there's more to it than that. We can be sincere in everything we actually do for the Holy Week, but we can be sincerely wrong with means to our goal.

The Word of God clearly states that we are ALL under SIN, we are ALL sinners...

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23)

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3:10)

Jew or Gentile, God's Word convicts us all as unrighteous. There is no one exempted. There is no one pleasing before God. This is why we find most of us attempting to do good in this lifetime, and especially during the Holy Week, order to at least be pleasing to God. Many of us will convince ourselves that we MUST be good, we must do good in order to gain God's approval of us and at least find ourselves pleasing before the LORD. We all try to do what's "good" in the hopes of getting into heaven later on in life.

My dearest, I know we want to get to heaven by doing all the good we can possibly do before leaving this earth, but please allow me to share what God's Word clearly states regarding our good works...

"But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6, emphasis added)

It's a matter of believing that the Bible is the Word of God or not. If we do believe that it's the Word of God then we must not continue to deceive ourselves that our good works (or our "righteousness") will suffice to meet God's requirement of being holy and pleasing before Him. The Word of God makes it clear that ALL our good works are as filthy rags before God. Worse, there is not a chance that a sinner like us will ever be in Heaven to live for eternity with God because God's Word is also clear that the payment for the sin in us is death...

"For the wages of sin [is] death..." (Romans 6:23)

We might say, "But we all die, so that's our penalty there," and we believe that a loving God won't surely send anybody to hell. In case you didn't know, though, the Bible clearly states that there is a second death that finds its end in HELL... 

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Revelation 20:14)
Image Source

I know that's difficult to accept and we all might say that this truth seems to be so unfair and that it leaves us all so hopeless! Oh, but let's be aware of what God Himself has said in Isaiah 45:21:

"Tell ye, and bring [them] near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? [who] hath told it from that time? [have] not I the LORD? and [there is] no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; [there is] none beside me." (KJV)

"Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me." (ESV)

When we believe in the God of the Bible, we must submit ourselves to this truth and this truth alone. No amount of our "good works" will ever suffice to make us "holy", let alone "holier"! 

It is a vain attempt to try to get our own selves into heaven by doing what we think is "good"! Our Trying-Hard-Holiness doesn't meet God's requirement and demand of payment for our sin. No matter how sincere we are in following and doing every good work to a T, it will never get us to the place of being right with God nor will it ever have us land a place in heaven.

There is no sense in attempting to make this year's (or any year's) Holy Week more Holy for us because we will never be able to come close to becoming holy at all. Apart from what God has done, all our human effort counts to a zip when placed on God's fair and just judgment scale.

My dearest, let's not allow ourselves to drown in our trying-hard-holiness. This Holy Week, as we celebrate what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ, may we find the REAL and the ONLY Way to get right with God and get to heaven in the truths we find in God's Holy Word. 

I invite you to follow me as we go through the Holy Week contemplating on what really is VITAL for our souls to realize and to find in order to get right with God and earn a place in heaven.

There is a HOPE we all can hold on to, you know. It's not a hopeless case. Just in case you have missed it above, God didn't only say He's a JUST God, but He as well made it clear that HE is a SAVIOR

In Part 2 of this Holy Week Special, we will try to understand what this HOPE means and where it truly lies... 


Blog Widget by LinkWithin