The Gospel of Jesus Christ (How to be saved)
As someone who loves genealogy, I find my ancestors fascinating. I love finding new cousins online, and I often think about the fact that we are all cousins, as we all descend from Adam and Eve. That gives us all a common set of ancestors. It also gives us something else in common: sin. When Adam disobeyed God by eating the fruit he lost his special relationship with God. He "fell from grace", often referred to as "the fall of man". His sin brought physical and spiritual death into the world. He died spiritually right then, and physically years later. Since we all descend from Adam, we all have inherited his sin nature. We are born with it. Often it doesn't "manifest" itself until we reach a certain age (usually in the teens), then we start to act sinfully. Whether or not we sin in minor ways or major ways, we are all sinners by our very nature.
It is this sin nature that separates us from God. Man attempts to approach God on his own terms, by doing good works, or by being a "good person", or by following certain rituals, or religious practices, but none of that is of any real value by itself. We can't go to God on our terms, we must go on His terms. At first glance it seems that his terms are harsh. The Scriptures says that all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. This is true. The scriptures also say that the "wages of sin are death". That is harsh! However, he has given us a very simple way out. His son Jesus. Jesus (who was eternal in heaven with God the father) came to earth and became a man born of a virgin. He lived as we do (in the flesh), but unlike us he was perfect. He was both God and Man at the same time, he came first to his own people, the Jew. He was received by many as the promised Messiah (savior), but for the most part he was rejected. He allowed himself to be crucified for the sins of the world. He died on the Cross for my sins and your sins. Three days later he was resurrected from the dead.
The "Gospel" by which we are saved is this, in the words of the Apostle Paul:
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you... that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
This is the "Gospel". If you believe this with all your heart, then you are saved. Not by any good works, or good intentions, but by God's grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Just believe it and you'll be saved. Is it really that simple? It is, and it isn't. The simple truth is that most people have a hard time believing the simple truth. How do I believe?
If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Is that it then, I believe, then I'm saved, now I can go about my business as usual? Well, yes and no. Being saved is that simple, but it is anything but "business as usual" afterwards. There are several things you should do after you believe. Some of these you may want to do before you believe, if you are still undecided. After believing you will want to join a church, get baptized, read the scriptures, pray, and live for Christ (not necessarily in that order).
Find a local church, one that is a "Bible Believing" church. That means one that preaches the Gospel, as well as teaches and believes that the Bible is the completed Word of God. Unfortunately many churches today don't believe the bible to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Avoid this kind of church. There are many "Christian" Denominations, and unfortunately many of them are not teaching from the Bible, or are adding to the scriptures from other sources. My wife and I go to an Independent Baptist Church and they are a bible believing church. I can't personally speak for other denominations, so I can only recommend you check out a church and see if they stick to the five fundamentals. If they do not, then they are working outside of scripture, and you should find another church.
Get baptized. Baptism is a ritual cleansing that a new believer does after believing as a public demonstration of faith, and a symbolic cleansing away of your sins. Through baptism you are symbolically dying, being buried and resurrected just like Christ.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Study the scriptures. The Bible (both Old Testament and New Testament) is the inspired Word of God. Read it daily, study it, pray about it. Your best bet as a new believer would be to read the Gospel of John first, then Romans, or Romans then John. Don't expect to have it all figured out right away, but you should steadily grow in your knowledge of the scriptures.
Pray. Talk to the God as often as possible. Praying is not about repeating a scripted prayer, but about communicating directly with God. Tell him what is on your mind, thank him for all that he has done for you, pray for the things you need. Be reverent, humble, faithful and loving.
Go to church. Going to church, or being a good person is not the same as being saved. Many go to church, but do not really believe the gospel. They go because they think they are supposed to, or for social reasons. Many are good people, and do works of charity and service, but without Christ they are lost.
Salvation is so simple that many can't accept it because of the simplicity of it. It is simply believing that the Gospel is true. Believe this with your heart and mind and you are saved. If you truly believe, then you will be born again. You will let the Lord work in you and change you from your sinful nature. What does it mean to be "born again"? Think about it. It means a new start. When you accept the salvation the Lord gave you, then you become a new person. You decide to let the Lord change you into a better person and to take you from your sinful, lost state into a new creation. God will work wonders in your life if you let him. Faith is the key. It is that simple. You are saved by faith, and faith alone, but what you do after you believe, and are saved, is also very important.
Do I have to keep the commandments, the law, what do I do?
The short answer is that we are not under the law, so we are not bound by it, we are under grace. The law is useful for instruction and for pointing out what is sinful, but we aren't required to keep it in order to be saved. The Law was given to show what was sinful and to instruct the Jews how to live. It wasn't for salvation.
When studying the Bible, keep in mind that it is a progressive work. Commandments given in early times are later fulfilled. The entire scripture should be studied. The law (commonly called the "Law of Moses") pertaining to morality, sacrifices, temple worship, cleanliness, etc were given to Israel, to God's chosen people, the Jews. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. Gentiles (non Jews) were never a part of it. We are saved by grace, not by law. Israel is still God's chosen people, but when they rejected the Messiah, that opened the door for the rest of the world to be saved. God hasn't finished with Israel yet, but the Church age is almost over. Jesus is returning soon, just as he foretold.
The Bible is a large book, and it contains a great deal of information, history, laws, commandments, etc., and is very confusing and even intimidating to some. Consider the two greatest commandments as spoken by Jesus:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
This tells us that it is most important to love God, and next to love your neighbors (i.e. other people). Here are some good words from Peter that explain basic Christian qualities and growth as a Christian:
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8
There are many who call themselves Christian who really aren't. Jesus said you would know his followers by their fruit (i.e. what they do, how they act, what they teach, etc). Here is what Paul said would be the fruit of the spirit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Those who call themselves Christian, and then go out and preach violence, blow up abortion clinics, or harm homosexuals or advocate such hatred are not Christian at all. Abortion and Homosexuality are wrong and sinful, but violence and murder is also wrong. We are to love our neighbors, even if they are sinners, for are we not also sinners? I don't like to use a worn out cliché, but "Hate the sin, love the sinner" comes to mind here.
The often misused quotation "Judge not lest ye be judged" is also applicable here. Non Christians often use this to tell us not to "judge" them, or their activities. Our job, as believers, is not to judge non-believers at all, or to point out any specific sins. Instead, it is to present the good news to non-believers, and that includes the fact that all are sinners, even us, though we have found forgiveness in Christ. However, that isn't what "judgment" is. Jesus was referring to hypocrisy in that verse, saying it is wrong to judge someone if we ourselves are guilty of the same, or worse sins. You've all heard what he was talking about, you can't see clearly to get the speck out of your neighbors eye, if you have an entire beam in yours! However, as believers, we are clearly advised to judge each other in doctrine and in related ways. If a believer is sinning, we are supposed to help them out of it. If they are preaching or believing false doctrine, we are supposed to correct them. This kind of judgment is required of us by scripture.
I've been asked how someone as intelligent as I am could believe any of this. All the science that I've studied (and I love science) has convinced me that nothing would be here if not for a creator. It can be boiled down to a simple saying that I like: "Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?". Well, we know an egg can't just appear by itself, who would keep it warm until it hatched? We know a Chicken couldn't appear all by itself. Where did it come from? Did it evolve from some other life form? That really makes no sense, there is no way that could have happened. It had to be created by someone. Therefore there has to be a God. The Holy Bible is the only doctrine that makes any sense to me, it is the truth, my heart and mind tell me that is so. I believe by faith, and also reason. There is much I do not understand, but I trust in God. Each day I grow a little bit in my knowledge of the scripture, and it is an amazing book, full of truth and wonder.
I was lost, but now I'm saved. I hope you become saved as well. If you've taken any of what I've written here seriously, please contact a Bible believing church near you and go and fellowship with them, find out more and secure your place in Eternity!
May the Lord bless you, and may you walk with Him.
Marty & Karla