by Bill RudgeBelievers in Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The testimony to Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) was so strong in Antioch (the largest city of the Roman province of Syria and a center for missionary activity) that His followers and disciples were identified as Christians (a term of derision in the earliest days of the church meaning “of the family of Christ” but eventually, followers of Christ came to love and adopt this name).
Today, Christian has a much broader and often entirely different meaning than its original use. Many believe
a Christian is someone who merely goes to church, believes in God, lives a good life, or tries to keep the commandments. While it is true that such things as church attendance, water baptism, living a godly lifestyle, and a loving attitude should definitely be marks of a believer, these should never be misconceived as the criteria for someone to become a Christian. We must examine Scripture and, based upon its authority, determine what it really means to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Not by Works
According to Scripture, doing good works or keeping God’s Law does not make someone a Christian. The apostle Paul explains that one of the purposes of the Law in the Tanakh (Old Testament) was to show us that we all are sinners and can never achieve the standards required by God. Because of our sinful nature, we continually fall short of the mark. This dilemma reveals our need for a Savior (Galatians 3:24; John 6:28-29).
But by Faith
It is by faith in Jesus Christ, therefore, that we are saved (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-7; Romans 9:30-33). Nothing
is more tragic than someone pursuing a false hope of salvation through his or her good works when Jesus offers true salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Romans 10:2-4).
Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is forgiveness available and a restored relationship with
the Father made possible. Only Christ is the perfect sacrifice and substitute that satisfies a holy and just God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 9:22). The animal sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures were merely a foreshadowing of the death of God’s Son on the cross (1 Peter 3:18).
So Jesus paid the penalty for our sins; He suffered and died in our place. We don’t have to “perform” for God out of fear and guilt, but are now free to serve and obey Him because we know and love Him (Philippians 3:3-9; Acts 20:24).
Good works done after accepting Christ spring from a heart of gratitude. Because of what the Lord accomplished on the cross, a believer is enabled to do good deeds. These acts are the fruit and result of salvation, not the cause of
it (James 2:14-26; Acts 26:20). The Bible is clear. We are not saved by dead faith (James 2:17) nor by dead works (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14), but by a living faith which results in “love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
We cannot expect to be accepted by God because of our own goodness. Romans 3:23 points this out emphatically: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This does not mean that we cannot do good, but according to God’s standard of righteousness, we all miss the mark.
In all the religions of the world, there are people seeking to establish their own righteousness to earn salvation. In Biblical Christianity, however, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ which makes possible salvation as a free gift, through faith, to those who will receive it (Romans 1:16-17). Peace with God has been made possible by His own provision (Romans 5:1).
Religion vs. Relationship
The world is filled with religions, but salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:11- 12). Religion is an attempt to reach God through human effort, traditions and ideas, but true Christianity is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion is what one does for God, but salvation is what God has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Know the Lord
I was buying blueberries one day when the young woman selling them told me about the recent death of
her father. She was still grieving, so I asked if her father knew the Lord. I wanted to gain some insight in an attempt to provide her some hope and encouragement. She said, “Yes, he made his peace with God.” I asked, “How about you?” She informed me she went to church but was not close to the Lord.
I said to her, “You can tell me about your father and even show me pictures, and although I can know all about him, I will never have a personal relationship with him like you had.” I continued, “Most people who go to church know about God like I would about your father, but God wants us to know Him in the personal way you knew your father.” Her eyes lit up as she told me that this is what she desired. After prayer, she hugged me, tears streaming down her face. She said, “This was not a chance meeting; I was meant to talk to you.”
Scripture teaches that we must know the Lord by having an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A Christian is someone who has a restored relationship with God the Father through a personal faith and acceptance
of His Son Jesus and His finished work on the cross. True Christianity is not a lifeless, external form of religion, but a living, vital, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe who is knowable and seeks to be known.
The qualifying factor for us to be pardoned by God’s forgiveness and declared righteous by Him is that we “believe in” the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31). To “believe in” means to be persuaded of, and hence, to trust in, rely on, and be faithful to. To “believe in” is not merely acknowledging the reality of Christ, but a belief that results in your accepting His provision of salvation, having confidence in Him as the only way of salvation, and committing your life and eternal destiny to Him. It means trusting Him as your Savior and obeying Him as your Lord.
Jesus informed Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, that one could not see or enter the Kingdom of God without spiritual rebirth (John 3:3). One must be “born again” or “born from above.” Second Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
This does not mean that once you accept Christ you become perfect and no longer sin. It does mean that your attitude of rebellion and self-centeredness begins to change to one of obedience and Christ-centeredness. You begin growing and maturing in this new life as you develop a whole new way of thinking and acting. As you yield and submit to Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word and Spirit, He begins to mold and direct your life. He starts working in and through you to fulfill God’s ultimate goal for your life – being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
How good it is to know that your new birth is only the beginning of your new relationship with the Lord and the commencement of a continual growth process in your new life. You now have the assurance from Scripture that God “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), and that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
The Book of Life
This world is not all there is to life. Jesus Christ will return as the victorious King of kings and Lord of lords. You can either come to know Him as Savior and Lord
in this life or meet Him as Judge in the afterlife. Those who ignore or reject God’s provision of salvation—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God—will be eternally separated from God’s presence. Those who receive Him will not come into judgment, but will pass through death into life (John 5:24; John 3:16).
When you accept God’s free gift of salvation your name is written in the Book of Life. Have you committed your life to Jesus Christ? Is your name written in the Book of Life? Revelation chapters 21 and 22 give a glimpse of the incredible things in store for those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ!
Experience His Reality
Years ago, by God’s grace, I chose to commit my life to Jesus Christ. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It is called repentance – dying to self and living for Christ. I asked His forgiveness for my life of rebellion and sin, and I acknowledged His rightful position as Lord of my life. I obeyed His Word by being baptized and developed a consistent life of Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. I strive to live for the Lord with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength.
You, too, can have new life in Christ. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. As one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you will inherit all that God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. Once you experience a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ, you will want to grow in this new relationship and begin uncovering the depths of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Him and His Word.
I do hope you will join me and the millions of others throughout history whose lives have been dramatically changed through the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. Surrender your life to Him today. Experience His peace and the joy that transcends your circumstances – and have hope for the life to come.
by Bill Rudge
I know a young man who engaged in a tremendous search for meaning and purpose in life, and attempted almost every conceivable way to find it. He tried alcohol, sex, gambling, being in a rock band, weightlifting, martial arts, Eastern religions, the occult, New Ageism, and belief in the theory of evolution, pretending there was no God. He pursued practically every pleasure and thrill imaginable. He even tried going to church. But all of the good feelings generated by these experiences were short-lived because the fulfillment he so desperately searched for never lasted. Nothing would silence the gnawing questions about life he longed to have answered — Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose in life?
Millions of people search here and there, hoping to find true and long-lasting happiness, peace, and joy! Some may find it temporarily, but it soon eludes them, like the evasive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Their search continues – always thinking if only they had this, or did that, then they would be happy and satisfied. But the more they get, and the more they do, the more they seem to want!
Perhaps you have been searching, too. Some people may not verbally admit that they are inwardly searching, but their actions show that they are. Maybe you have turned to drugs and alcohol, or given your life over to seeking nothing but pleasure, or joined some mystical group, or involved yourself in a host of other things in an attempt to attain fulfillment. Or perhaps you have even become so disillusioned with life altogether that you have either contemplated, or actually tried to commit suicide. Maybe you are like some who think that if they only had a better job, or that new home, or a different marriage partner, or more money or friends, they would then be happy, but soon realize they are still unhappy, still unfulfilled … still searching!
Have you asked yourself, “Just what is the purpose of life and where is mine headed?” Have you invested the time and energy necessary to discover the answer to these vital questions, or have you concluded as so many others, “Why waste time trying to figure it out – I’ll just enjoy it as much as I can, and as long as I can!”
Many movies and television commercials express this philosophy of getting all the pleasure and excitement from life, regardless of the consequences. In living color mass media proclaims the hedonistic philosophy that says: “If it feels good, do it! If I like it, it’s right! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” These clichés are characteristic of today’s society. Everywhere we see a religion of self: self-centeredness, self-fulfillment, and self-indulgence.
But searching for selfish pleasure and self-gratification soon catches up to you. Today you may have your youth and good looks, but consider all those who have gone before you. Many who thought their youth and pleasure would never end are coming face-to-face with cold reality. A glance in the mirror and the aches and pains in their bodies reveal how quickly the aging process occurs and how temporary the pleasures of this world really are.
The Bible accurately reveals that the pleasures of sin are just for a season! They are short-lived and eventually lead to a dead end of emptiness, frustration, and despair. Then you have to “live with” or “die from” the consequences of your actions and lifestyle.
I Timothy 5:6 says that she “who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” Physically you may be alive, but something deep inside is dead — and you know it. It is your spirit that is dead toward God!
I remember the temporary fun and excitement of “partying” and “having a good time.” I only cared about the “now” and did not consider tomorrow. But after the party and “fun times” were over, I knew there had to be something more to life.
It has been stated that “once our stomachs become filled with pleasure, we notice the emptiness of our souls.” How true! Often people try religion when they finally realize the futility and hopelessness of a hedonistic and pleasure-oriented lifestyle, and that fulfillment in life cannot be found in material things.
But instead of looking beyond one’s self to the God who created us, many people have been persuaded to foolishly refuse God’s grace, and instead search inwardly for the answers. Hoping to discover the “divine within” and achieve “God consciousness,” they are sold the same lie Satan used on Eve when he promised her, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). They end up being deceived into worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator. Perhaps you have tried this road, too, but still find an emptiness in your soul.
The real reason for your emptiness is because you are separated from the God who created you. You have a broken relationship, not on His part, but on yours. From the beginning, humans have chosen to rebel and disobey and do things their own way even to this day. As a result, you search, hoping to discover the missing ingredient in your life — which is in reality — God!
Jesus said to the woman at the well, “…everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13). He was revealing to her the futility of seeking fulfillment in anything or anyone other than Himself. Although you may be temporarily satisfied by drinking the water of this world, you will thirst again and never be completely fulfilled. But Jesus went on to say, “… whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst …” (John 4:14). Jesus knew that deep down within, everyone has a need and a thirst that only He can truly satisfy.
The Psalmist knew of this inner thirst for God, for he stated, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God” (Psalms 42:1). The Psalmist also said, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalms 16:11). Not the pleasure of the moment, or of an evening that is soon over, but forever!
King Solomon, who was known as the richest and wisest man in the world, told how he had searched – in opulence, pleasure, wine, women, and by trying everything which his mind could conceive – but it was all emptiness and futility. His wise advice, after all of his vain searching, is recorded at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes. He states, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
I have traveled throughout the U.S. and the world many times, and one thing I know for certain is that people everywhere are searching for something real to believe in that will give them lasting fulfillment.
The young man I mentioned earlier, who went through the tremendous searching endeavor, was me. In 1971, at the age of eighteen, after trying just about everything imaginable, I discovered the ultimate answer to my searching adventure as I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. It has not always been easy, but God has given me a meaning and a purpose, an inner joy and peace, and an exciting and challenging life that I would not exchange for anything. He has truly given me abundant life here and now and a blessed hope for the future!
Have you tasted of the water that only Jesus can give…the water of eternal life? If you do not yet know the Lord, you can end your search and begin a new and exciting life today by giving your life to the resurrected Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) Christ is the answer to all of your questions. Find real purpose and meaning to life in Him today.
by Bill Rudge
I have experienced hundreds of exciting witness encounters using insight through creative ideas and illustrations. Every encounter has its own approach and conversational style, but the final message is as simple as A-B-C and D:
A – Admit you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. There is nothing you can do to pay the penalty of sin or earn your salvation (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death, and only God’s righteous, sinless Son could pay that penalty. So, the only solution to your dilemma is to come to Jesus Christ in repentance, receive His free gift of salvation, and accept Him as your Savior and Lord. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
B – Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. Just believing in something doesn’t make it true, no matter how sincere you are. Nor is it the intensity of belief that makes something true. It is who and what you believe in that really matters. Jesus said, “…unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To “believe in” is more than merely acknowledging the reality of Jesus Christ; it means “to trust in and rely on” – a belief that results in committing your life to Him.
C – Confess with your mouth that Jesus died and rose again. Tell others that you have accepted Him as your Savior and Lord. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
When you sincerely act on A, B, and C, something amazing happens. God’s Spirit indwells you and begins to mold you into a new creation. Your name is written in the Book of Life! And when you depart this life, you will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom and receive all He has prepared for those who love Him.
D – Demonstrate your faith by growing in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ through regular Bible study and prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and being a witness to those who do not yet know Him. Demonstrate a changed life as His Spirit and Word transform you, molding you into the person you were created to be.
No Greater Love
Knowing and living for Jesus Christ is a wonderful spiritual journey with life-changing experiences and eternal blessings. Your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will prove to be the wisest, most courageous, and most eternally significant decision you will ever make.