Simple Faith Will Change Your Destiny

And many believed in him there.

John 10:42

The above verse is so simple that we might tend to read right on past it. It contains a key truth, however.

In this passage we learn that a great number of people became followers of Jesus after He had crossed over the Jordan and remained there for a period of time. These people believed He was their Messiah because of the signs He performed and the words that He spoke.

We don’t have Jesus physically with us today like the people in biblical days did. How then can we get to the point where we also believe? 

The answer lies in the Holy Spirit. He convicts us of our sin nature and lays it on our heart that we need Jesus for our salvation. 

Without the work of the Spirit, we would never reach the point where we feel empty without Jesus. It is the Spirit’s interaction that allows us to see that we need Jesus. Those who have never felt the conviction of the Spirit do not fully understand that their lives are not complete without Jesus.

That’s why I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit’s work. He is the Teacher and Comforter who prepares our hearts to accept Jesus into our lives. He is who made it possible for all those people to believe in Jesus as described in John 10:42. 

Without a push, a slight nudge from the Spirit to let Jesus into our lives, we’ll never do it on our own.

If you’ve already believed in the Lordship of Jesus and accepted Him as your savior—congratulations! You’re part of the family of God and will live with Him for all eternity.

However, if you’ve never taken time to really think about Jesus and what He did for you by suffering and dying, then there’s no better time than now. 

The Father loves us so much that He sent Jesus to earth in human form so that He could ultimately pay the price of salvation for every man, woman, and child.

You have to accept Him, however. Just like the masses of people who allowed Jesus into their lives while He was physically walking the earth, we have to do the same. 

He’s still alive today. Right now, He is sitting at the right hand of the Father inviting you to let Him be Lord of your life. 

Doing so will put you right with God. It’s the only way. Works won’t set the record straight between you and the Father. Giving money away won’t do it either. 

The only path to eternal salvation is through Jesus. Won’t you invite Him into your life?

The Essence of the Gospel

OK, here’s your tough question for the day…

What is the true essence of the Gospel? What is it all about anyway?

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Perhaps the Good News is about forgiveness. If we have placed our faith in Christ, then we know that we have forgiveness for our sins. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

His death and resurrection atoned for our sin (a fancy way of saying that He paid the price for our sin).

Or, we could say that John 15:12 sums up the Gospel: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Surely, if we don’t have love, then we don’t truly have the Spirit of Christ living in us. 

We are even told in Matthew 22:37-40 that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So, love is definitely a big part of the Gospel.

But so is salvation. We learn in Romans 10:9 that, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

We have to conclude, therefore, that the Gospel is about salvation.

However, that’s not all. In arguably one of the most famous and often-quoted verses in the Bible, we are told that, “For God so loved the world

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that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Eternal life is a key part of the Good News for sure.

So, what then is the essence of the Gospel?

Simply put, it’s Jesus. He is the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” as Hebrews 12:2 is rendered in the NIV. The NKJV calls him the “author and finisher of our faith.”

So, yes, the Gospel is about all those other things. However, it is undeniably, unmistakably about Jesus our Savior, the One sent by the Father to make us right in His eyes.

All we have to do is believe

A Rough Week

This week I’ve been mad at God, at my wife, at the kids, at my coworkers, everybody around me.

I feel like maybe God has kind of “given me over” to all my anger and rebellion this week. Like maybe He’s saying, “OK, that’s what you want? You want to be bitter and angry and good for nothing? You got it. I’m not protecting you from yourself anymore. You’re on your own to allow your flesh to consume you.”

Of course, I don’t know if that’s it, but I’ve felt that way. I’ve had no real pull toward God, toward wanting to be a good husband or a good father. I’ve only felt like satisfying my desires, what I want and what I think I need.

Honestly, it’s not been a good feeling. I’ve felt very distant from God, like He was a million miles away in another universe or something. At heart I want to serve God. I’m just so frustrated with life I don’t seem capable of pulling myself together to serve Him.

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I was reading in a book earlier tonight that God wants to give us good things, that He wants us to be happy and successful. On the one hand I don’t know if I agree with the happy and successful part, but the bible does say He wants to give us good things, just like our earthly fathers do.

Most of the time I really don’t see any evidence of God’s desire for good things in my life. If that were true, why do I feel so miserable? Why have I been unhappy and depressed so many years? Wouldn’t God have stepped in by now if He really cared? Wouldn’t He have rescued me from this drudgery called life by now? How can I continue to hope for the best and be optimistic after all these years? For the most part I have been miserable all my adult life, at least 24 years. How much longer do I have to wait until something changes?

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Maybe I’m what needs to change. I read a quote today that said, “When you feel like God is doing nothing, that’s probably when He is doing the most.” That stuck with me. Maybe a breakthrough is around the corner and life will change for me. Or maybe not my life, but simply my attitude toward life.

I guess I need to remember, however, that I may never have the life here on earth that I think I should have. I was never promised that after all. I am promised eternal life in the company of my Savior. For that I should be thankful and happy everyday.

There is nothing on this earth so bad that it could ever tarnish the thought of eternity with God. Even after living with and loving Him for 1000 years — and that’s a long time — I’m just getting started. And even after another 10,000 years (which I can’t possibly fathom), it will still be like I’m just getting started. My existence and fellowship with God will never end. It will keep on going and going.

We humans can’t get a real grasp on eternity because the longest any of us has ever lived is a few decades, which to us seems long. God created the concept of eternity for us. He lives outside time. He always has been and always will be. Quite simply, He is timeless. Time is an invention of His for us to use while on earth. After our bodies die and we join Him, time has no meaning to us either. We just are — and will continue to be — forever.

Four

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I hugged him and told him goodbye. He probably told me to be careful on my way back home, but I don’t remember. I climbed into my car and pulled onto the highway, making a mental break from my brother and preparing for my long drive home. My mind was filled with all the events of the weekend — seeing my old classmates at the reunion, driving past the the house where I grew up and seeing the inside warmly lit, visiting with my extended family. It would take me quite some time to process the deluge of emotions swirling around inside my head from all that had happened that weekend. These emotions were so intense that my relationship with my last surviving brother was not of much importance at that moment. I didn’t know it then, but we would let years pass by without so much as a word to each other. In fact, today marks four years exactly since I last saw or spoke with my brother.

I had felt it creeping up on me. These four years have not elapsed without weekly and almost daily realizations that more and more time had passed since our last conversation. For the first year or two, each time I would think about it I’d say to myself something like, Yes, I really should call him. We are flesh and blood after all. We shouldn’t go on like this without having at least some kind of relationship. I would often picture myself several years down the road, stressing over finally calling him after such a long time. I never wanted to become one of those middle-aged adults you see on TV who reestablishes contact with a brother or sister after decades of separation.

family-of-originHowever, for the last year or two, I haven’t cared so much. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an  adult, it’s that time has a way of softening painful emotions. The importance of difficult situations and their attending emotions seems to diminish ever so slightly with each passing day, week, and month. Now when thinking about the the whole situation, I have pretty much resolved myself to the fact that I no longer have any siblings (my sister is a whole other story), a condition that I anticipate will in all likelihood remain the same for the rest of my life.

Of course I feel some guilt for this situation. I could easily have picked up the phone and called him at some point over that last 48 months. I never did, however. I’d say this is mostly because the thought that he never bothered to call me either showed exactly how much worth he had placed on the relationship. Why should I bother to go out of my way when it is quite apparent that he has no desire to maintain a relationship with me? I would very conveniently put my apathy for him out of my mind.

I regret not maintaining a relationship with him. The concept of a strong family unit was always important in my family of origin. My mother used to say, “Family is all you’ve got. Girlfriends and boyfriends will come and go, but you’ll always have your family.” Also, I remember the day she told me that biologically I’m closer to my siblings than to either of my parents. She explained that we siblings all came from the same two parents, making us biologically as close as possible.  But for that same reason (that we’re a product of both parents), we’re not as biologically close to either of our parents individually as we are to our siblings.

As for my father, his way of encouraging tight family connections was to tell us when we were going out for the evening, “Don’t do anything to disgrace the family.” There is no telling how many times I heard that appeal to my siblings when I was younger, and then to me personally when I reached my teen years and began going out regularly. My guilt over not calling my brother makes me feel like I’ve let the family down in some way, like maybe I’d still have a brother to talk to if only I’d called him at some point.

Perhaps, after all these years, the time is right to reach out to him. I can’t help but wonder about his spiritual state. If he died today, would I have any assurance that he’d experience eternity with God instead of suffering and eternal isolation from Him? No, I don’t.

I guess I know what I need to do.