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Next Weeks Best Seller, Part 3

George Barna's research shows that 75 percent of Americans think it is important for people to read the Bible, but only 13 percent actually read it daily.' This Book is much too important to go unappreciated and unread. God's Word is "precious" (I Sam. 3: 1; Psa. 13 9:17). Jesus compared finding its message to "finding treasure hid in a field" (Mt. 13:44) and a merchant finding a singular, once-in-a-lifetime "pearl of great price" (Mt. 13:45, 46).

The Bible is a treasure because it is the only Book that tells us what God says we must do to be saved. Whoever printed the bumper sticker, "Read the Bible. Free gift inside," got it right . That "free gift" is something that no amount of money could buy-salvation through Christ (Rm. 6:23; Eph. 1:6).

Many books purport to tell us how to be saved eternally; only one of them is written by the Savior Himself. He is the One who will be saying, "Enter," and "Depart" (Mt. 25:21, 41) on the world's last day. He will be using the latter much more than the former (Mt. 7:13, 14), so it behooves us to find out how to get in the group with tickets to heaven.

What does God's book say about salvation? It says that all mature people are sinners (Rm. 3:23) and that all sinners are lost without Christ (Rm. 6:23; Isa. 59:1, 2). It says that in order for sinners to be saved, they initially must complete five simple acts.

First, sinners must learn about Jesus Christ (Jn. 6:44, 45). They need to know enough of the details of His life (birth, teachings, miracles, character, death, resurrection) to be fully convinced that He is God's Son. This faith is gained only by studying the Bible, especially Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (Rm. 10: 17).

Second, sinners must believe in Jesus Christ as God's Son (Jn. 3:16; 8:24). What must one believe about Jesus?

One must believe that He existed on earth, and preexisted in heaven (Jn. 1: 1-3, 14).

* One must believe that He was a great teacher (Jn. 3:2; 7:46), and in His teachings (Mt. 28:20).

* One must believe that He was a good man, but more than that, a sinless man (Jn.  8:46; Heb. 4:15).

* One must believe that He was a prophet of God, yea, "more than a prophet" (cf. Lk. 7:26 2).

* One must believe that He was a miracle-worker (Mt. 8; 15:30), and One on whom miracles were worked (e.g., virgin birth, indwelling of the Spirit) (Mt. 1: 18-25; 3:16).

* One must believe that He was killed by His own people and the Romans, buried in Joseph's borrowed tomb, and resurrected early Sunday morning (Mt. 26-28). This last one is where many people part company with Christians. But to doubt Jesus' miracles and resurrection is to deny God's power. In the eighteenth century, the U.S. Congress issued a special edition of Thomas Jefferson's Bible. Jefferson had excised all references to the supernatural so that it simply contained Jesus' moral teachings. The closing words of this Bible were, "There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulchre and departed." We end up with a dead philosopher rather than a risen Lord when we confine ourselves to only those sections of Scripture that accommodate our lifestyle or preferences. If God was not strong enough to raise His own Son, what hope is there for an afterlife for the rest of us (cf. I Cor. 15)? A God that can make a universe, invent life, flood the earth, part a sea, and stop the sun can surely raise His beloved sinless Son.

One must believe that He has returned to His Father and will one day come back to take us home with Him (Jn. 14:1-6).

In short, we must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is nothing less than the Son of God!

Third, a sinner must repent of sins.  Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Peter added, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Repentance means "a change of mind that produces a change of behavior" (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10). In simple terms, it means to give up on a sinful life and start living a spiritual life. It means to stop serving Satan and self and start serving God and others (cf. Phil. 2:1-8).

Fourth, a sinner must confess faith  in Christ. We must verbalize what we have come to believe in our hearts. A confession of belief in Christ on earth will trigger a similar (think of it!) event in heaven-Jesus will confess us before His Father and the angels (Mt. 10:32, 33; Rm. 10:9, 10). Amazing! You and I may never know or be known by anyone famous on earth, but every angel in heaven will know our names. The president of our country will not know us, but the One who presides in heaven wilt.

Fifth, a sinner must be baptized in water for  the forgiveness  of  sins (Mk. 16:16). This is the final step in leaving the world (Satan's domain) and becoming a part of the church (Christ's kingdom) (Gal. 3:26, 27). Baptism is the point where God chose to remove our past sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) and give us His Son's name to wear (cf. Acts 11:26). Is it really necessary to be baptized in water in order to go to heaven? Many religious people scoff at the idea. Let's allow God's Word to determine this question. Twenty-seven times in Acts-the book of conversions - one finds the words "baptize," "baptized," and "baptism." Anytime someone asked what he needed to do in order to be saved, baptism was always a part of the answer. For example, on the first day of the church's existence (the Day of Pentecost), the people with tender consciences who heard Peter's preaching were told to "...repent and be baptized for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Note that baptism was for the "remission" of sins. To argue that baptism is unessential is to argue that having one's sins remitted (forgiven) is unessential !  Later in Acts, we find the word "must" connected with baptism on two occasions. On the road to Damascus, Saul was told to go into the city where it would be told him what he "must" do to please Jesus (Acts 9:6). In the city, Saul was told to arise and "wash away" his sins in baptism (Acts 22:16; cf. I Cor. 6:11). In Acts 16, the Philippian jailor asked what he "must" do to be saved (Acts 16:30). He was instructed to believe in Jesus to be saved (16:3 1 ). When they taught him God's will, he was baptized the same night (16:33). Note that he rejoiced after his baptism, an indication of his joy of having sins forgiven (16:34).

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Vol. 8/July 18, 2003
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