will eventually happen. You’re driving down the freeway, confident in your
vehicle and you hear, “BLAM!” You pull over to the side of the road and
examine the pathetic, shredded remains of what used to be a rather expensive tire.
Looking about, you see no sign of the Highway Patrol (where are these people
when you need them?) or the Auto Club.
to fear; you have a spare in the trunk. You excavate the trunk, carefully
keeping all those aluminum cans you’re going to recycle some day, until you get
down to the flat bottom surface. Under there, the dealer promised, is your
lift the felt liner, pull up the hardboard flooring and see. What is that
anemic black doughnut staring back at you? Surely not a spare for your high
performance driving style! No, this thing comes with clear instructions like,
“Do not go over 50 miles per hour,” and “Not valid for more than 50 miles.” In
other words, just enough to limp into the nearest tire store—and no more.
folks ask about salvation in the same way. They’ve heard the word and decided
that they ought to get saved. But they don’t want to invest a nickel more than
necessary! Those are the folks who would ask, “What’s the bare minimum I need
to do to be saved?” These are the same people who designed your spare “tire.”
there are those who ask, “What do I need to do now?” They’ve heard the word,
they believe, and they want to know what to do next. Isn’t it typical of those
who are sincere that they ask for directions rather than explanations? So in
this lesson we’re going to lay out what’s the right answer to “What do I do
next?” To understand this, we are going to spend some time describing the
personal relationship known as “faith.” Faith is what gives the full life of
deepest of human relationships revolve around the concept of trust. Should you
have the privilege of a successful marriage, you will find that trust in your
spouse is an absolute essential. This mutual trust relationship is called faith.
The word is used in many different ways, but in this lesson we will focus on
the relationship aspect.
relationships are often made between equals—for example, you and your spouse,
you and your friend or even you and your business partner. The faith
relationship, however, is not a relationship between equals. It’s a
relationship between you and God. Because it’s not between equals, your role
and his role are not the same.
example, this is not a “mutual benefit” relationship. God doesn’t need
anything his creation can provide. So we can’t approach this relationship from
a “you scratch my back, God, and I’ll scratch yours” point of view. God
defines the terms.
also means that the relationship won’t work if you’re a skeptic or a cynic.
Indeed, God is quite specific about the fact that unless you trust Him
completely, this relationship is very weak at best. But if you will trust him
completely, it will grow in power and strength. The cynic who sneers or the
skeptic who demands proof will get nothing out of the relationship—because they
put nothing into it.
causes some a little difficulty. After all, if he’s God, what’s wrong with a
few miracles just to convince me? Remember: this is not a relationship
between equals. You are asking the Almighty to perform tricks like a dog at
the end of a leash. He just might refuse.
specifically, does he want you to have faith in? Simply this: that Jesus is
indeed who he claimed to be—the Christ, or Messiah. That he died on a cross
for our sins, and that believing this to be the truth (and acting on it) is
both necessary and sufficient for eternal life.
course, God is not asking you to do this just because He’s a nice guy. He
offers salvation to you. We say that this is salvation “by grace.” You’ll
hear that phrase a lot; It is God’s way of saying that he’s taken all the risk
out of this for you.
you see, is God’s gift to those who will accept it. It is his “unmerited
favor.” We call God our Heavenly Father, and like earthly fathers he gives
without asking anything in return. Anyone who has a two year old can give you
a working definition of grace. Trust this father of three—it really is
unmerited favor, driven by love.
doesn’t mean that grace is cheap, or thrown at everyone no matter whom.
Indeed, this grace cost the life of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, it is
extremely precious, and we should treat it with the utmost of respect and
should our reaction to grace be?
First, there is gratitude. Your
mother taught you to say “thank you” and now you have all of eternity to say
More than that, there is praise.
Salvation is an extraordinary gift, and could only be given by the Heavenly
Giver. He is worthy of our praise; he’s earned it.
Finally, there is a sense of awe.
Ever have a narrow escape from a traffic accident? Did you ever say, “God was
really looking out for me that time?” Consider that without his grace you were
headed straight for hell—but he rescued you.
may find it strange, but God makes no attempt to sort out the “worthy” sinners
(such as you and I) from the “unworthy” sinners (well, you know who). He
offers this grace to all who will apply to him for it. We have the choice to
accept it or reject it. We call that ability to choose “free will.”
Notice that he does not use force
in this. It is a trust relationship; in such a relationship, force has no
place. The Omnipotent One has voluntarily limited himself in this.
Though some Christians disagree,
it means that we ultimately decide. God does not predestine us to become
Christians or not. (If you think not, then perhaps you’re predestined to
believe in predestination, and I’m not).
Because of that free will, some
will say no. Some of those who say no will be people whom we love. This can
be very frustrating. But our Lord used no force to convince others, neither
in the plan
this chatter about faith and trust must ultimately come down to action. Your
wife may love you deeply, but one of the two of you is going to have to take
out the garbage. But even taking out the garbage can be an act of love.
what is it that God wants me to do? Not the bare minimum to get by, not the
exercise routine for SuperChristian, but just the ordinary human being; what’s
he supposed to do?
first tells you to repent. “Repent” is now such a church word that most people
really have no idea what it means. It means (in simple English) to make a
U-turn in your life. Whatever it is in your life that you know has been wrong,
renounce it, keep away from it and ask God to help you do that. This is the
start of the new life.
sounds a little odd at first, but think of it this way: if you’re really
turning your life around, it sure helps to announce the fact. That way the
rest of us know just whose side you’re on.
repentance is the U-turn, obedience is continuing to go in the right
direction. This is how we keep in touch with God in our new lives.
Obedience removes the barrier of
sin between us and God. If you have small children, you know that disobedience
must be punished before you can go back to being Mr. Nice Dad (or Mom, or
Obedience also sharpens our
spiritual sight. This is really pretty easy to understand; you are practicing
the Christian life and therefore you get better at it.
Finally, there is the question of
reward. God knows that we need to be rewarded. He promises that reward at
Judgment Day—to all those who have been obedient.
commands that all new Christians be baptized. There are many forms of baptism
practiced by various church bodies. In our congregation, we’ve reduced the
problem to simply this: what did Jesus’ disciples do? If they did it, we’re
safe in imitating it.
performed baptism, as far as we know, in this way:
They baptized by immersion. The
word in the original meant “to submerge.” It symbolically represents death,
burial (in a watery grave) and resurrection.
They did not baptize infants.
Some churches recognize this as valid; in general, we do not.
should be acknowledged that good, sincere Christians disagree on this. But
it’s really tough to go wrong in doing what Christ and the Apostles did.
spent a fair amount of time on some of the most argued-over sections of
Christianity. It can be confusing. One church believes in predestination;
another does not. One church pours water over you; another sprinkles it on
you; we immerse. How are you supposed to decide?
I give you a test that has been helpful over many, many years? It comes from a
Medieval monk named Thomas a Kempis. It is simply this: Suppose you really
knew the right answer. What would you do differently?
we really are predestined; would we do anything different? Suppose God thinks
sprinkling is OK, but you’ve been immersed. He’ll take that too.
you can’t come up with a practical difference in your daily life, then maybe
it’s nothing but theological hairsplitting. Which may explain why monks were