Two hundred bible students sitting in Capernwray Hall, England were as puzzled as I was by the principal's probe. Billy Strachan continued…
"Has someone pressured you about their priority or denominational distinctive - Jesus plus baptism, Jesus plus confirmation, Jesus plus church attendance, Jesus plus tongues?"
Whether biblical mandates or church traditions, these can be meaningful in our Christian walk, but they are not requirements for salvation. Jesus did all the work necessary to qualify us for membership in God's Family:
John 1:12 is definitive--
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
It was another passage of scripture that liberated theologian and Reformer Martin Luther in 16th century Europe. While preparing lectures in 1513, he read Psalm 22, which recounts Christ's cry for mercy from the cross, a cry similar to his own disillusionment with God and religion. As a young monk Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went to ridiculous lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self-denial and physical and mental tests to self-flagellation. Two years later, while preparing a lecture on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, he read, "The just will live by faith." He pondered this statement for some time. Finally, he realized the key to spiritual salvation was not to fear God or be enslaved by religious dogma but to believe that faith alone would bring right standing with God. Embracing this truth transformed his life and set in motion the Reformation.
Here is the liberating verse in its context from the New Living Translation:
"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes… this Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."
Romans 1: 16, 17
Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul, was a spiritual high achiever!
"…Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3: 4-6 NLT
Before listing his credentials Paul states his redeemed perspective since meeting the Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road;
" For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort…" Philippians 3:3 NLT
Knowing full well man's pride and propensity to want to earn our spiritual standing, Paul reinforces the all-sufficiency of the cross of Christ in Ephesians 2: 8. 9 NLT;
"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it."
Like Paul, I could enumerate my religious achievements, which included infant baptism and confirmation, but despite a scrapbook full of religious certificates and mementos, I didn't know Jesus. I had no idea that I could! It is Paul's conclusion and celebration that I embraced as my life verse in 1978 when I met the Lord, and began a beautiful relationship with Him.
" …everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Philippians 3: 8 NLT
How many people have given a defensive response to what they think our faith represents, saying something like, "Oh, I'm not very religious." Well, neither am I. In fact, religion is often the greatest barrier to the joy of relationship, which is what our loving Heavenly Father is after!
Despite colossal failures, the Psalmist and Israel's greatest King David treasured his relationship with God, and knew how to restore it when he strayed off course:
"Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!"
"Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.' And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone." Psalm 32 1, 2, 5 NLT
Sounds as if David is talking to his best Friend. And he is.
God is holy, other… transcendent. But He became one of us, so that He could take the punishment we deserve for our sin and rebellion, making a way for us to live in the love, companionship and guidance of the One who made us for Himself, in a life that never ends! That is what Easter is all about. Here is Isaiah 57:15 MSG--
A Message from the high and towering God,
who lives in Eternity,
whose name is Holy:
"I live in the high and holy places,
but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
get them up and on their feet again."
This is the time of year we remember the greatest moment in history. Even a child can embrace its significance. In fact, Jesus said,
"I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Paul knew that the enemy of our soul, Satan, would do his best to complicate it!
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV
Have YOU made your heart His home?
Many mature believers in Christ, having come through a prolonged season of distress have discovered …
You'll never know Jesus is all you need, until He is all you have.
It was after writing many bestselling books, and gaining international recognition as a Christian psychotherapist, that Larry Crabb prayed, "Lord, You're all that I have, but I don't know You well enough to be all that I need." Dr. Crabb found more of Christ in returning to the Gospels, and in trusting Him through a number of crises. In our April 2010 interview on 100 Huntley Street he said,
"When you get down to the core issues of life, the only answer is Jesus."
Out of a crucible of multiple trials,
Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz made a life-changing discovery. Her plea became a book, JUST GIVE ME JESUS, and then a conference that enriched the
spiritual lives of thousands, including mine.
In my view there is no more profound or comprehensive portrait of what Passion Week purchased for you and me, than this modern hymn by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Don't just sing it this Easter, embrace all that is found IN CHRIST ALONE!
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
(In Christ Alone - Acoustic - Lauren Daigle)
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. Romans 5:10 NLT