There are many religions and gods in the world. Knowing which path to take can be confusing and frustrating. The decision to follow Christ may not be easy, but it is simply and leads to the most fulfillment. Faith is the initial requirement to enter into a relationship with God. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) describes faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is a supernatural substance that is not seen or measured in the earthly realm. Faith itself is proof that the spiritual realm exists.
Think about trusting a physician to perform a risky surgery, hiring a babysitter to look after a newborn, or finding a mechanic to fix an engine. As you research and weigh options, you rely on reputation and track record to help finalize your decision. As you move forward, you choose to trust without knowing the final result. In the end, you put faith in the other party to keep their word and honor their commitment.
This is the same process of choosing to trust the God of the Bible. The difference is He always keeps His promises, always honors His word, and He has given the guarantee of eternal life for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament (covenant) required the blood of goats and rams as an offering to cover the sins of the people. Each year, these sacrifices were offered by high priests who presented burnt offerings and confessed their own sins before interceding for Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14). His blood completely removes sin, providing a sacrifice once and for all. Those who put their faith in Him will never be condemned (Romans 8:1).
The virgin birth, sinless life, death and resurrection was for our benefit, to break the curse that came through Adam's failure (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Eternal life in Christ is a promise to every generation regardless of who we are or what we've done. Jesus is the only Man worthy to stand in the presence of God without fault. Therefore, confidence in our salvation comes from who Jesus is, not from how good we can be (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thank God for sending His Son to satisfy the debt we could never repay!
Take a moment to read the conversation between Jesus and Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3:1-8. Being born of the Holy Spirit is a miracle and a mystery we cannot fully understand on this side of eternity. Many theologians have tried to interpret and expound on the "point of conversion", but the Savior assures us no one can explain it. The process requires our faith, but all power to regenerate the human spirit belongs to God.
Following wholehearted repentance and an open confession of belief in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), the miracle of new birth takes place and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, in our heart (Rom. 8:10-11; Gal. 4:6). When we receive the Holy Spirit we are immediately identified as children of God and given full rights as heirs to the Kingdom (Rom. 8:16-17). This is a supernatural shift from spiritual darkness to light, from spiritual death to eternal life. By the grace of God and the power of His Spirit, we are now living in Christ. The old life is gone and a new life has begun (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Water baptism is often described as "an outward expression of an inward change." Upon accepting Jesus and being born again, one of the first fruits of righteousness the Holy Spirit will lead us to is full immersion baptism. This represents new birth, the cleansing of sins, and shows we openly identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Jesus, thinking himself unworthy of the task. But He said to him, "It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires" (Matthew 3:15). The Savior also said, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved..." (Mark 16:15-16a). If the perfect Son of God - needing no justification - submitted to water baptism in obedience to the Father, then His disciples should do the same.
Water baptism is an important step in our faith walk. This demonstration strengthens our identity as a follower of Christ, connects us with a community of believers, and prepares us for greater works in the Kingdom of God.
There are several distinct baptisms in Scripture: Water baptism is performed by human hands (i.e. pastor) and is required for every born again believer (Matt. 3:13-15; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5). When we're born again, baptism into the Body of Christ is carried out by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.12:12-13; Eph. 4:4-6). Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is performed by Jesus and the Spirit is the substance into which the Christian is baptized (Mark 1:8).
All baptisms recorded in Scripture are for our benefit. The anointing is available to every born again believer regardless of their denomination or position in the church (Mk. 16:17; Acts 2:39). Depending on God's work in the believer's life, as well as their faith to receive, this baptism may not be an automatic consequence of regeneration. Also, I believe the sign of praying in other tongues is a different manifestation from the gift of tongues, or unknown languages, which requires an interpretation (1 Cor. 14). Nevertheless, this remains a great debate among theologians, Charismatics, and Pentecostals.
For clarification, when we're born again, the Spirit comes to live in us (Rom. 8) - we're also baptized into the Body of Christ and water baptism is the outward sign that this divine transaction has taken place. When Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, He then comes upon us (Acts 1:5, 8a) - the initial outward sign of this divine transaction is audibly speaking in other tongues. Although this anointing enables us to walk in greater dimensions of the Spirit's boldness, intercession, and discernment, I encourage you to seek God. Never seek signs or gifts.
It is impossible to mature, gain knowledge, and be effective in the Body of Christ without regularly submitting to these disciplines. Studying Scripture gives us spiritual wisdom (Prov. 2:6), devotion to prayer increases intimacy with God (Matt. 6:5-13), fasting sharpens our spiritual senses to help us discern the enemy and resist temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). Healthy habits of prayer, reading, and fasting keeps us continually focused on the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). These are not optional and since Jesus faithfully and consistently practiced them, we should do the same as His followers.
In case you're wondering if there's a "formula", the Scriptures simply command us to pray without ceasing (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17); read daily (Matt. 6:11); fast in confidence (Matt. 6:16-18). Outside of Christ's example, there's no set standard of measurement. Our dedication to these disciplines will result from personal conviction and our desire to walk with Him. The more we apply ourselves, the more we will want to do! Praying, reading, and fasting draws us closer to God, builds confidence in His character, and distinguishes His people from the world.
Suffering is part of our identity in Christ. This may be the least favorite thing to hear up front, but it's beneficial to know in the long run. The Christian life is not a life free of struggles, pain, or loss. In fact, Jesus said we will have troubles, but we can find peace in Him (John 16:33). James 1:2-4 tells us to consider our trials a joyous occasion since they provide the opportunity for our faith to be tested and for patience to mature us in Christ. There will be times we experience delayed answers to prayer or watch the opposite of what we pray come to pass. Don't lose faith in these moments!
Although it is God's will to bless His children, we must understand that having everything we want in this temporal, earthly life is not the reason we are saved. Throughout our walk with God, we must manage our expectations according to the Scriptures (1 John 5:14-15). The foundation of our faith is strengthened when we choose to trust in Jesus regardless of our situation or circumstances. He is faithful through every season and every storm. He is an anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:19).
Humans are incapable of producing anything good in and of themselves (Rom. 7:18-21). But if we are truly born again of the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of righteousness (Rom. 8:9:14). Christians are called to live as a reflection of the Father (Matt. 5:14-16). We are commanded to put on our new nature in Christ (Col. 3:10), be transformed in our mind (Rom.12:1-2), and resist the world's sinful passions (1 john 2:15-17). As the Spirit dwells in us, He gives us the power to resist temptations and to cease willful, habitual sin.
Repentance is not just an altar call to recite the "sinner's prayer." Rather, true repentance commands us to completely turn away from unholy living (2 Cor. 7:10). We have a responsibility to respond to Spirit's conviction (James 4:17; Eph. 5:15-17) and, by His power, work to build Christlike character (2 Peter 1: 5-11). Although we will still struggle with flesh and the temptation to sin throughout our Christian walk, we can have confidence that Jesus, our High Priest, intercedes for us and His blood never loses its power!
In Exodus 40:34-38 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, the presence of God filled the Tent of Meeting (or Tabernacle) and the Temple. Thus, under the Old covenant, the Jews were required to dwell in proximity to the presence of God. In Acts 2:1-4, we see the Spirit of God infilling and baptizing His disciples. Under the New covenant, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:20-21). The Church (capital 'C') is people indwelled by the Holy Spirit; church (lowercase 'c') is the building where the Church gathers.
You will hear, "Forsake not the gathering..." quoted often among avid churchgoers. However, it is not God's will that we attend services out of religious ritual or rote routines. He intends for us to gather together as one Body and family to draw strength, to serve, motivate and encourage one another. Churches and small groups provide accountability, spiritual covering, and the resources to meet needs. We also gather for intercessory prayer, to legislate the Kingdom of God in the earthly realm. His presence and power is available to us in a greater way when we come into proximity and agreement with other Saints.
The unseen warfare surrounding our mind, will, and emotions is a reality that Christians will either deny or face head-on in their walk with God. Until we pass into eternity, we will battle against the enemy of our soul (the devil, demons, evil spirits) and contend with our fleshly desires (1 Pet. 5:8-9; Rom. 7:14-25). Generational curses, unhealthy patterns and cycles, demonic oppression, and carnality are real and present issues that can threaten our peace and affect everyday life.
Prayer, reading, and fasting (mentioned above), as well as praise and worship are weapons that build resistance against the flesh and destroy the schemes of demonic forces. In Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in us and upon us, we wage war against anything contrary to the Word of God. We contend for what we know the Savior died for us to experience - abundant life now and for eternity!
Believers describe Christianity as relationship rather than religion, an experience rather than a belief system. Just like other worldviews, Christians believe their faith, their God, and the promises of the afterlife are true and superior to all others. As the revelation of Jesus Christ demands a response, His true followers have accepted Him as Savior, Son of God, 100% Man, 100% God, King of kings, Lord of lords, Ruler of everything.
Christians believe in one God in Three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - equal in infinitude, power, and wisdom, unique in expression and relationship to mankind. The God of the Bible is the only God to reveal Himself as Creator of the universe, who stepped into time, took on flesh to die for His creation, and rose from the dead to give them eternal life. Anyone who rejects Christ, dies in their sin and spends eternity separated from God. This is fundamental Christian doctrine. Everyone has freewill to decide if this is a reasonable, provable, practical, and applicable explanation for our existence.
Becoming a Christian requires the substance and evidence of faith. Everyday is an opportunity to accept Christ and denounce all other lovers and idols. Heaven is real. Hell is real (refusing to believe this won't stop you from going there!). The love of God is real and He loves those who do not believe in Him. The invitation is still extended, mercy is still extended, and there is room at the cross. The invitation to enter into relationship must be accepted to be saved. So, choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:14-16). Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2)!
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Don't worry about anything; pray about everything!