Baptism has nothing to do with salvation

SPIRITUAL MYTH #6 “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation”

baptismYou often hear it said in evangelical circles, “Once you give your life to Christ, you need to be baptized as the first act of obedience.  However, baptism has nothing to do with your salvation.  You are saved simply by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and repeating the sinner’s prayer.”

I think that’s a partial myth that needs to be debunked.

There are actually two sides of the mythical coin associated with the ordinance of baptism.  One is that baptism in and of itself saves you.  Parents tell their children, “Of course you are a Christian, we had you baptized shortly after you were born”.  The implication is that infant baptism, performed against your will, was sufficient to forgive your sins and guarantee you eternal life in heaven.

Some treat immersion as an adult in much the same way.  They will say, “Of course I’m saved.  At age twelve, I was baptized by immersion at the end of a new member class.”  Again the idea is conveyed that baptism alone makes a person a Christian.  This misconception is termed, “Baptismal regeneration” in theological circles.

Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly teaches that salvation is granted to those who choose to place their trust in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and not their own goodness.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” John 3:16, Romans 3:28, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 11:1 all make it very clear – the first step of obedience is to place our faith in Christ.

The other side of the coin is the very popular misconception that since we are saved by grace through faith, baptism has nothing to do with salvation.  Baptism is just an act of obedience.  We trust Christ then, sometime later, we are immersed in water as a symbol of what happened to us when we were saved.

But the ordinance of baptism is more than an act of obedience.  It’s more than a symbol or, “an outward sign of an inward grace.”  Baptism was originally intended to be a means of receiving Christ’s grace.  It’s a God-given benchmark that testifies to the fact that we are beginning a new life in Christ.

When Jesus healed people, He often requested an act of obedience as a test of faith.  “Go show yourselves to the priests”.   “Go wash in the pool of Siloam”.   “Stretch forth your hand”.   When the needy persons obeyed, they were healed.   Their efforts didn’t heal them, Jesus did.  But their step of faith was when they were made whole.

In New Testament times when needy sinners put their faith in Christ they were not commanded to repeat the sinner’s prayer, raise their hand or sign a card, although those responses can be helpful.  Those who believed in Jesus were instructed to repent of sin and be baptized.  And they responded by doing so as soon as possible.

It’s not a myth that we’re saved by faith in Christ.  It’s a myth that we receive salvation by just repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Read through the conversion stories in the book of Acts and ask two questions: (1) What was required of those who wanted to accept Christ as Savior? (2) When did they respond to Him by being baptized?  Here are a few examples:

Acts 2- Those who believed the first gospel message were told to, “… repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins”.  Three thousand people were baptized that very day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Acts 8 – When the Treasurer of Ethiopia believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah he requested that the evangelist Philip baptize him immediately, in a pond along the road he was traveling.

Acts 16 – The Philippian Jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. Then he and his family were baptized in the wee hours of that D7K_3325-1981462688-Omorning.

Acts 22 – Three days after Saul of Tarsus had been humbled by Jesus’ appearance to him outside Damascus, Ananias asked him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

Someone may protest, “Are you saying that a person can’t be saved without being baptized?”  What about the thief on the cross? He was saved and Jesus said nothing to him about being baptized.”  Yes, but he was still living in the Old Testament dispensation – the blood atonement and bodily resurrection hadn’t yet been completed.  Jesus, God in the flesh, promised the dying thief he would be in paradise when he requested it.

“Well, what about a dying soldier who makes a death-bed confession?  What about a person who is physically unable to be baptized?  Won’t they be saved if they just put their faith in Christ?”

We certainly hope so.  We can only trust God’s grace is sufficient in those instances.  But the assurance of salvation is promised to those who demonstrate their faith by repenting of sin and being baptized into Christ.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, Cincinnati Christian University professor, points out, “Baptism is not the first step a convert takes as a Christian; it is the last step the sinner takes to become a Christian.”

If you were trained to instruct converts to receive Christ by repeating the sinner’s prayer but they refused to repeat the prayer, would you conclude they are saved?  You would probably have doubts about the legitimacy of their faith.  Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

God offers the free gift of salvation through the atoning death of His Son on the cross.  A believer’s response is repentance and baptism.  To refuse to obey is evidence of insufficient faith.  James said, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Simon Peter taught that just as the flood waters buoyed up Noah’s ark and saved his family, “…this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:21)

Dr. Beauford Bryant, Milligan college professor, often said, “Baptism is a tomb and a womb.  A tomb where, by faith, we die with Christ and a womb where we’re born again into His Kingdom.”

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-5)

Your “Third Week Of March”

bathshebiaWhen Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address http://www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have david repentswished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).

You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.

Meet Jesus

meetingHave you personally met Jesus? Do you know of someone who needs to meet Jesus? This is one of the most fascinating accounts of someone meeting Jesus for the very first time. He is introduced to Jesus by a follower of Jesus named Phillip. God intervenes in Phillip’s plans by sending an angel to communicate his instructions to Phillip. Let’s pick up with Acts 8:26-29

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road-the desert road– (Desert means uninhabited, not dry barren sand.)  that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, (So this man would have been a black man, a highly influential, wealthy black man) an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

So Phillip ran up alongside the chariot. Can you imagine how you would have felt as you are reading a scroll riding through this totally desolate area and a man comes running up alongside of you. He is reading from an OT scroll of the book of Isaiah. That, in itself, gives you an indication of the importance and wealth of this man. How many people in those days do you suppose had a copy of Isaiah or any O. T. book, for that much? All the copying would have been done very meticulously by hand. It would have been extremely valuable and very rare. Let’s pick up on the conversation.

Acts 8:30-34 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. (That’s a good question to start with.) “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: (Actually from Isaiah 53) “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”  The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

There is both a note of anguish and frustration in the pleas of the Ethiopian. “Would you please explain who this scripture is talking about?”

So verse 35 states, Phillip began at that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about JESUS. He introduced him to Jesus. So let’s take a moment and go to the same chapter and meet Jesus just like he did. For some of you this might be for the very first time. There couldn’t be a better place in the O. T. to meet Jesus

Isaiah 53 begins with, vs. 1-2 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He, (that is Jesus), grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

1. The first thing we discover about Jesus is that he had NO BEAUTY.

He, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior of the world, was just an ordinary child and person from all appearances. There was nothing about His looks that made Him stand out or appear to be special. He was not one of the “beautiful” people of his day. He didn’t win the Jewish Idol contest because of His looks or special talents. He was not a celeb. There was nothing about Him that deserved neither special attention nor abusive treatment. Yet that was exactly what he got.

Isaiah continues in verse 3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

2. He was also DESPISED AND REJECTED

He was despised and rejected for no justifiable reason. He had done absolutely nothing wrong to deserve such treatment. The Bible actually says that. Literally, He never sinned. He never disobeyed the Father. He was morally and spiritually perfect. It’s not that He was never tempted to do so. He was tempted in the exact same ways we are yet He never gave in.

Now, let’s pause right there for a minute. What He was is the exact opposite of what man is like. Man is tempted and man gives in. Not just some or many or most, but all of us, all people from the beginning in the garden. The Bible clearly says, “all have sinned.” And sin brings with it a punishment. When there is disobedience there is a punishment due because, you see, God is a just God. He is fare and when He tells us not to sin or else we will have a price to pay, He must stick to his promise.

In fact, the price or punishment for sin is death. Not physical death. Everyone will die physically. But spiritual death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Death is eternal separation from God in a place called hell. Everyone sins and all of us are deserving of and face that future.

There is one way, however, to avoid that consequence. Are you ready for it? Live a perfect life. That’s right, never sin. Obey God perfectly from birth till death. Does anyone qualify? Has anyone lived the perfect life to this point yet? There is one though, who does. His name is Jesus, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior. Though perfect, He offered Himself as a Savior by taking man’s punishment for him.

Isaiah continues in Vs 4-6 “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

3.  He was PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS

We are guilty. We face a punishment. We deserve to die. We have earned eternal separation from God in hell. Yet Jesus says, “I will take your place. I will pay your price for you because it is impossible for you to pay it. I will meet My Father’s requirements of a perfect sacrifice on your behalf. I will die so that you won’t have to die. You won’t have to face eternal separation from My Father.”

Can you hear Phillip say to that man of immense royalty, “This is what Jesus did for you.”? And can you also hear him say to you, “This is what Jesus did for you too?”  

4. He did it to bring PEACE AND HEALING. Verse five says, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

I know, you are thinking, “How does punishment bring peace?” He took our punishment for us so that we could be at peace with God. He met God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice on our behalf so that there need not be anything that stands between us and God. He did all this so that we could be reconciled with God. You see, sin alienates, it separates, it makes one at odds, it destroys harmony. But Jesus took our place so that our relationship with God could be brought back together, made one again, so that we could know His peace.

And be heals. How do wounds heal? Well, in the same way. He took our punishment so that with His wounds God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice could be met and our broken relationship with Him could be healed. He was hurt so that we don’t have to keep on hurting. Being at odds with God hurts. He took the hurt for us.

No sooner had this man from Ethiopia heard this than his heart just overflows with excitement. “This is what I want. This is the explanation I have been looking for. This is the answer I have been needing all along. What’s keeping me from being baptized?” That’s what he actually said. Back in Acts we read, (Acts 8:35-37) “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Like we have just done. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

Phillip had been telling the Ethiopian about Jesus. So where did the man get the idea that baptism was something he needed to consider? What in the world does baptism have to do with the message of Jesus from the book of Isaiah? Maybe Phillip had given a summary of Jesus’ life and ministry that included an account of Jesus’ baptism by John. More likely he had mentioned some of Jesus teachings on the subject of baptism. Or maybe he told him about the beginning of the church and how that 3000 were baptized. We don’t know exactly what he said but we do know that he taught him the urgency of being baptized and that no response to Christ is complete without baptism.

So, this elated man sees this pond of water and says, “Hey, let’s get on with it. I’m ready. What are we waiting for?”

So what did he do? Acts 8:38-39 “And he gave orders to stop the chariot. (Driver, would you pull over in that parking spot.) Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, (Certainly a picture of baptism by immersion) the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”

“He went on his way rejoicing.” He had met Jesus. He had come to know about Jesus for the first time. Jesus was the answer he was looking for. Jesus offered him everything he needed for life and eternity. Even though he was already wealthy he found in Jesus something wealth could never provide, a peace filled, healthy relationship with the God of the universe. And he willingly accepted what He offered and surrendered. And as a result he had something to be joyful about. He had a joy that would last him forever.

So, there seems to be only one thing left for me to do and that is to ask the question, is there anyone reading that that is ready to do as this man from Ethiopia did? You have heard the message of Jesus, maybe for the very first time, perhaps numerous times. But have you made a personal response to Him yet. Have you accepted Him as the one who paid your price for you, your Forgiver and Savior? Have you acknowledged your faith in Him and made a determination to turn from sin and to the father. And have you said, “Here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptized?”

If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

Infidelity in Marriage – What Really Causes Affairs? By George Fellows

“Just what are the real reasons for infidelity in marriage? We all have quite skewed opinions on this, but the more you delve into it the less clear cut it gets. The reality is often quite sad in fact, quite fraught with ordinary human frailty and wrong headed thinking rather than pure lust and ego.

This is a list I have compiled from my own research into the matter and I am convinced that men and women have basically the same reasons despite most people thinking that men do it out of lust alone.

  • Cultural differences – Sometimes people’s backgrounds of culture or ethnicity are so far apart that there is a gap between them, a distance that seems impossible to cross. This can sometimes lead to one partner falling into something more culturally familiar and leads to an affair.
  • Disappointment in partners growth – When we get together we do so because we share something and to begin with we grow together and in the same ways. Somewhere along the way however our growth as people can stagnate or change paths. Our personalities change and suddenly one day one partner cannot see the same lover they fell in love with.
  • Unrealistic expectations – This one speaks for itself. What we perceive of marriage being like is often such a lofty ideal that the reality of hard work in a relationship becomes too much of a strain because of our unrealistic beliefs.
  • Curiosity – As terrible as it sounds some people simply have to know if the grass is greener and are not satisfied until they know. Most tend to find it is not as good as they think and it ends at that but the temptation is always there.
  • Lack of Fun – A lack of excitement and falling into a rut can drive most people crazy. This is easy to remedy in most cases but sometimes communication breaks down so much that this can be a tipping point when an exciting person enters their life that can lead to infidelity in marriage.
  • Lack of physical intimacy – Despite what most women think this is the same for both genders in many cases. Physical intimacy is a part of marriage and love and is not simply lust driven but acceptance driven. Being intimate and fulfilled in that regard is essential to a good marriage and when this falters it can spark very bad thoughts in some men and women who seek it elsewhere to fill the hole.
  • Unable to accommodate a partner’s needs or expectations – Sometimes a relationship is hard and if you cannot accommodate certain needs or expectations of your partner they might see opportunities elsewhere.
  • Poor Communication – So many problems can be solved by talking them through and communicating clearly the needs and desires that should be in a marriage. Sometimes this communication either never existed or broke down somewhere along the way driving them to someone else who could provide what they felt is missing.

You see, I believe that it is rarely that a man cheats on his wife just because his young 20 year old secretary has a tiny waist. It is rare that the poolboy just has such a hard toned body that a woman gives in to him and creates Infidelity in Marriage. These cases may happen but they are usually in the realms of Hollywood and their desire to show the bad guy/girl and not the real emotional drive behind such a thing.”

These, no doubt, are not all the reasons affairs happen. Understanding all the reasons is not of greatest importance. The most pressing need is to understand how to affair proof your marriage. I highly recommend you go to this link and listen to the recording on “Faithfulness.”

http://relaxedchurch.sermon.net/da/119860962/play <http://relaxedchurch.sermon.net/da/119860962/play>

The subtitle is “How to affair proof your Marriage.” It could prevent lots of heart break and heart ache.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day and the rest of your life

“IT’S TRUE: it is more blessed to give. Men and women who scored high on a so-called generosity scale are far more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages, especially among couples with children.

Researchers from (our own) University of Virginia National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2870 men and women. Defining generosity as, “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” (such as simply making them coffee in the morning), researchers asked men and women how often they behaved generously toward their partners, how often they expressed affection, and how willing they were to forgive.

Among the parents who posted above average scores for marital generosity, about 50% reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14% claimed to be “very happy.”

“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”’

The New York Times magazine, December 11, 2011

 

Ryan’s Story

I grew up in a church family.  I attended regularly throughout my childhood and teenage years.  I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed into the Lutheran church in my early teens.  My parents were instrumental in teaching me about God and Christ, and always instilled the practical aspects of faith for daily living.

While I was always aware of God, and knew the teachings of the Bible, I never really had the relationship with him that I knew I should be cultivating.  In retrospect, I think that perhaps life never showed me just how much I need Him.  As I came into adulthood, not having a personal relationship with Christ made it easy for me to begin to question His purpose in my life and to feel like life was my journey that I was equipped to deal with independently.  In my twenties, I became busy with life; certainly too busy for Him, as I worked, earned my degree, dated, cultivated friendships, and distracted myself with frivolous pursuits.  I thought I was building the life that I wanted.

As I became more interested in myself, and more driven by my own ego and pleasure, I began to completely disregard God’s will for my life and ignored everything that would bring me closer to him, including the wisdom of my parents and my wife.  It’s hard for me to say this now, but I began to question that the Lord had a place in my life at all.  I was certainly not willing to bend to it if it did exist.  In shunning Him, I began a slide that took me to depths that strained all of my relationships and made me question everything about myself.

In the last 8 years, I’ve filled my life with all of the trappings of modern existence.  I was constantly in pursuit of one false idol after another.  They all lead to emptiness and despair.  Being constantly unfulfilled, and with all of the stresses of life, despite what appeared to be a successful business, wonderful family life, and a world of opportunity and promise, I suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety.  I was always too proud to deal with them, and as they subsided, I never took time to examine my life and why I was never happy.  As I time went on, I became unable to cope with daily things, and began to feel like I had no anchor and no direction.  I was completely lost.

In an effort to change my circumstances, and become happy, I made a terrible decision and separated from my wife.  She was the woman I loved, the mother of my children, and the person who had been the most positive influence on my life since I had come to know her 10 years prior.  I know now that this was God’s plan for me.  I had to clear the slate to find him.

Almost immediately after my wife  and I separated, I realized that nothing was better for me.  In fact, thing became far worse.  I began to suffer physically, losing 20 lbs. and became a shell of my former self in all other aspects.  I lost the ability to function at work and withdrew from everyone as I became more hopeless.

On February 25th of this year, as I sat alone in my apartment and estranged from my family, I began to cry.  I remembered all of the people who had loved me and still did.  Most importantly, I remembered God.  I spent that night alone with Him, unloading myself and asking for forgiveness for all of my pride and mistakes….everything I had misjudged and done improperly or with the wrong intentions.  I asked him for guidance and strength to find my way back to my life and my family.  I had finally realized after all of these years, that I could no longer do life without him.  I prayed for hours and began the relationship that I am ready to affirm in public (today in baptism).

Without God’s daily presence in my life now, I don’t know where I would be.  What I do know, and what many who know me can attest, is that I am different in Him.  With his power I have transformed in my thinking, and doing.  I have defeated my issues regarding happiness and contentment.  I have learned to be the father I have always wanted to be but struggled with.  I have become a better husband and began to repair the damage to the relationship I have with my wife.  Walking with God has helped me to love and give with the right motivations, and to build and rekindle relationships with strong Christian men and women who I learn from and hopefully give back to.

Because I opened my heart to God and let him back in, I will always look at 2011 as the year in which I gained my life.  I realize now that I am never alone, and with Him, I am always taken care of and given my needs regardless of my circumstance or the mountain I have to climb.  He has a plan for me and I am happy to know that all I have to do is be patient and look to him.

There is one verse that I have looked to many times on this journey and would like to share:  ‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’-Isaiah 40:31.

(Ryan’s story was shared before his baptism on November 27, 2011 at new Venture Christian Church)

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES CHRISTMAS MAKE?

Are you ready for Christmas?  All the kids say, “Yes!”  All the adults say, “No!” Because the adults feel a lot like the 12 days of Christmas, right?  If not right now, then you will soon. Are you experiencing a lot of craziness? Are things out of control?

Some of you are saying, “I have meals to prepare.  I have presents to wrap.  I have presents to buy. I need to put up the Christmas tree.”  In spite of all that you have done, still have to do and the entire crazy scene, in a few short weeks the whole world shuts down and they focus on a single event, ready or not.  The freeways will be empty.  Offices will be closed.  And the whole world focuses on this single event.

Why is Christmas such a big deal? What difference does it make? How can a baby born 2000 years ago on the other side of the world have such an impact on the entire world in 2010? 

It’s because it was no ordinary baby.  The Bible says, God came to earth.  That’s what Emmanuel means, God with us. That’s bigger news than when man landed on the moon. God invaded earth.  And that event split history into A.D. and B.C.  Every time you write a check, what’s your reference point?  The birth of Jesus Christ.  2010 — from what?  From the birth of Jesus Christ. 

But He was no ordinary baby.  If He had stayed in the crib, we wouldn’t be here today.  He grew up and He taught some powerful things about God because He was God. 

So?  Even if He was God.  What difference does it make?  It makes a big difference!

I want to be as simple and as straightforward and as brief as possible.  The Bible says that because Jesus Christ came at Christmas time, here are some things that can be true in your life.  I want you to remember this in 2010 and forever.  It has to do with your past, present and future. Pretty much all of your life. I am going to explain one reason today and the other two in coming posts.
 
Here’s the first reason why Christmas is such a big deal. BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST CAME AT CHRISTMAS, MY PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.

Romans 3:23-24 (Living Bible) “All of us have sinned yet now God declares us `not guilty’ of offending him if we trust in Christ who freely takes away our sin.”  That’s good news.  The fact is none of us are perfect.  I don’t measure up to my own standard, much less God’s.

Do you ever read the letters to Santa Claus in the newspaper? They can be so adorable. .  One little kid wrote, “Dear Santa, There are three little boys who live at our house.  There’s Jeffrey.  He is two.  There’s David. He is four.  There’s Norman.  He is seven.  Jeffrey is good some of the time.  David is good some of the time.  Norman is good all of the time.  I am Norman.” 

The problem is — none of us are Norman’s.  None of us are good all of the time. We all have regrets and guilt has a devastating effect on our lives.  It robs us of happiness.  It causes depression.  It can make you sick.  Guilt does all kinds of things to us because we don’t know how to get rid of it.  People will do anything to relieve guilt.  They’ll take drugs or get drunk or try therapy or go to Disneyworld.  Thrills, travel, become workaholics.  Anything to cover up the things I wish hadn’t happened in my life.

But there’s only one solution– forgiveness.  The good news is God wants to forgive you.  He wants to clear your conscious.  Now, when God forgives you, here are some things about it that you need to know.

  •  It’s instant.  He doesn’t make you wait to forgive you.  You don’t have to wait through a long probationary period before you’re forgiven.
  •  It’s undeserved.  You’ll never earn it.  You can’t work for it.  You can’t beg God for it.  You can’t bribe God for it.  It’s undeserved.
  •  It’s complete.  The Bible says, When we confess our sins to God we give them to Christ, God says, “Their sins will I remember no more.”  That’s one of the most amazing verses in the Bible, that God can forget.  The God, who made the whole world, chooses to forget your sin once it’s forgiven.  Isn’t that a mind blower? If you are a Christian and you died tonight and go to heaven and said, “God, about that divorce…”  He’d say, “What divorce?”  “God, about that dishonesty…”  “What dishonesty?”  “God about that remark…”  “What remark?”  It’s forgiven. 

What God forgets, you can forget too.  That’s good news.  Most of us, even if we believe God forgives us, don’t forgive ourselves. We hold onto guilt over the years.  Somebody said, When God forgives us, He takes our sin and throws them in the deepest part of the ocean and then He puts up a “No fishing” sign.  Don’t drag them out again.  Satan wants to keep you under guilt, but God says it’s forgiven. 

My past can be forgiven.  Even if there were no such thing as heaven, and there is, but even if there weren’t, it would be worth it just to have a clear conscious.  Regardless of who you are or what you’ve done or what you think you’ve done, you matter to God and He cares about you.  He wants to forgive you. God says your past can be forgiven.

Have you ever been halfway through painting a room and wish you could start over?  Have you ever been halfway through a meal and wish you could start over?  Halfway through some project? Halfway through life and wish you could start over?  “If anyone is in Christ, he becomes a new person altogether. The past is finished and gone.  Everything becomes fresh and new.” 

God wants you to not just turn over a new leaf, God wants to give you a new life.  It’s like starting again, being born all over.  If there is anything that’s good news it’s that God says my past can be forgiven.   

Let that reality set the tone for your Christmas season. If you have any questions about God’s forgiveness I would love to hear from you. Next time I will share a second reason why Christmas is such a big deal.