If you were to die tonight, what would happen to you?
I don’t know, but I think I would be up there.
On what basis do you think you will enter into God’s holy Heaven?
I’m a good, moral person. I’m responsible. I rarely miss a day of work. I’m very honest, I don’t steal and I have never committed adultery. If I were to die tonight, I would make it into Heaven by my good life.
That is very commendable, but the Lord God tells us in His Word, the Holy Bible, that this is not good enough to enter into God’s Holy Heaven. We have all broken God’s commandments. Jesus said, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”, (Matthew 5:22). Jesus also said: “It was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. But I say unto you that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). We have all done these acts at one time or another.
But that’s not fair. My god is a god of love. A big plus for me is that I give to all charities.
The Bible tells us, “it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy. He has saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Bible also says, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10), and “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Do not make your boast in yourself and your unprofitable works. Yea rather, glory in the Lord, and boast in His works, alone (Jeremiah 9:24).
My god is not that strict and narrow-minded.
“Narrow is the way and straight is the gate which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). God is holy and righteous and just. He will punish sin. By God’s standard of righteousness, even the most moral person is looked upon as a desperate sinner on his way to Hell. “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
Oh, come on now. Don’t tell me you believe in a literal hell. Anyway, if there is a hell, it can’t be that bad.
God, in His Word, the Bible, tells us that at the end of this world, there will be a judgment day. If we are not in Christ, we go to Hell. Please read the Bible. The teaching regarding sin and Hell is terrible and offensive to you because you do not understand how you have offended God by your sin. If you realized this, you would not object to the description Jesus makes of Hell because you would see yourself as deserving such a place. “And shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
But I am very righteous. I am not like the people you read about in the newspapers.
God cannot regard a man who is unrighteous as righteous. At the point of salvation, when we believe, God imputes the Righteousness of Jesus to the believer. He puts that to our account and because He has done that, He regards us as righteous. Only God can impute the Righteousness of Christ. It is not our righteousness, but Christ’s given to us (Romans 4:11-12). “For when we were yet without strength in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “For He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Anyway, my god is a god of love, not of wrath.
Wrath is the inevitable consequence of sin. If you read through the Bible, you will see that God is angry with sinners. God hates sin. The wrath of God is upon sin, and that is taught everywhere in the Bible. God’s wrath for sin was appeased by Christ at the cross. Christ is the propitiatory sacrifice. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6). God loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Psalm 45:7).
Are you saying that I am under the wrath of God because of my sins?
Exactly. We were created in the image of God. God holds us accountable for our sins. God’s payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life; and he that believes not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
The Bible teaches that we are all born into this world dead in our sins and trespasses, and under the wrath of God. The wrath of God is an expression of God’s hatred for sin; an expression of God’s punishment for sin. The wrath of God against sins manifests itself finally in Hell. That is the position of all who are not in Christ. “And you has He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). “For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
I don’t want to be under God’s wrath and go to Hell. How does Jesus fit into all of this?
Only Christ can save you from Hell. Only Christ Jesus could pay for the sins of His people, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). God made Christ to be the believers’ substitute. The very God whom we have offended has Himself provided the substitute. The substitute for those He loved is the person of Christ Jesus. Christ bore the penalty of eternal Hell for His people by His suffering and death upon the cross. Christ Jesus needed to come to earth to redeem the lost, because none can do the work to save oneself – Christ had to perform the perfect work of keeping the Law to do the saving. If a man thinks he can save himself by his actions of choosing God, then Christ needed to not to be crucified for that man. That man’s reasoning is an offense to the Cross of Christ, and is of the spirit of the antichrist.
Within God’s salvation plan, Christ Jesus preached this message of His good news in a synogague in Nazareth quoting Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19).
I believe you are saying that if I trust in Christ as my substitute, as the one who took upon Himself my sins at the cross, then I can escape Hell?
Exactly. At the point of salvation, the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and applies the Word of God to us and gives us a new soul. For our old soul, or —
our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)
He has become a new creation, having a newly created soul (1 Corinthians 15:10, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 3:10).
Therefore if any man (be) in Christ, (he is) a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
To the point made, the Lord declared in Ezekiel 11:19-20, 18:31 and 36:26-27,
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
At that point, we believe the blessed gospel and the punishment for sins are paid for by Christ’s blood. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
How do I become saved?
From the standpoint of salvation, only God executes the saving of souls.
If, by the Father’s Will, you believe on Christ, then you are saved by grace, as the Lord Christ said,
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).
Becoming saved is not accomplished by your ‘taking steps to God’. Becoming saved is not simply saying a prayer, and asking Him to come into your heart. If these words I tell you now moves your heart, or if you read the Scriptures, or if you attend a church service hearing the pastor preach the gospel message–you will see the evidence in your life as a result, as to whether or not you truly believe on Christ for salvation, in the days or years to come. Please read the Parable of the Sower in Luke, Chapter Eight.
In order to be saved, man must perfectly keep the Law in order to choose Christ by his free will. This is an absolute impossibility (Matthew 19:26), as no man except Christ Jesus perfectly kept the Law and committed no sin (Matthew 3:15-17; Luke 9:34-35; John 8:29,46,55) —
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
For Christ Jesus said in reference to going to the cross: Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; (John 13:33). For — man’s will is only to do evil continually, and never to seek after God (Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah 13:23, Romans 3:11).
One pastor commented on the need for Christ when he said of Him, “as head of mankind through Creation, as their representative in the covenant, he became their surety. As a perfect satisfaction of the demands of the law was accomplished by the shedding of His blood, this was the reconciliation; the covering of our sin.”
By Christ Jesus’ finished work on keeping the law and His shedding of His blood, He entered heaven by his own blood, to make His reconciliation effective for us, and continually intercedes for us —
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 9:12, Romans 8:27, Hebrews 7:25)
Jesus declared Himself to be sinless and the only one fit to be offered up for believers’ salvation (Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:10, etc.). Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! (John 1:47). Peter, His disciple, said Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22). Jesus told the unbelieving Jews in John 8:46, “which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?”
Christ Jesus advised He came to fulfill the Law for us as He said, “think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17–18). Jesus had to do the needful act to die for His elect’s sins, because the elect could not keep the law and choose God to be saved. For if a man (besides Christ) had the free will to keep the law to become righteous and choose God for salvation, Christ would have died on the cross for nothing — I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Galatians 3:13, Romans 10:4, Hebrews 9:12, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelation 1:5)
Only Christ Jesus without guile or blemish, is suited for sacrifice to atone for sin. A blemished sinner cannot atone for his or her sins by his or her works or will — such God the Father would not accept in His Kingdom.
Being truly saved is possessing saving knowledge (Luke 1:77) or saving faith from God through His Grace–which is God’s unmerited favour (Ephesians 2:8). Such is life-changing (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) from God’s enabling (2 John 1:6)–leading you to deny self (Matthew 16:24), have the Faith of Christ (Galatians 3:22), love God with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:6), and keep His commandments (John 14:15) through the Spirit’s power (1 Peter 1:22). If you are truly saved, you will not walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2), as the Lord said when He puts His spirit within the believer, He will cause the saved person to walk in His statutes, and the saved person shall keep His judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:27).
When you become saved, you live differently than how you are living now. Now you are living for yourself and for the world. To be saved is to believe on God, to live only for him, and to glorify Him alone.
Now, by God’s Calling and Election, believe on Christ Jesus, deny yourself and live only for Him. Do as Christ commanded, through the Spirit:
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
(John 6:40, 6:44, 6:51, 53-54, 57)
I am not sure if I am ready to obey, and live only for Christ.
I see. This is expected. You know when Jesus delivered this message, most of the hearers walked away from Him (John 6:66), and said, “this is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60)
Remember, in all these things, “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), for ‘we can do nothing’ (John 15:5) in matters of becoming saved–only if the Father wills it, you will be saved by His drawing you to Him.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
The very gift of salvation from God is given from Him through Christ Jesus above as shown in James 1:17-18–He made His sheep (John 10) born again (John 3:3) through His Election from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:17-18)
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Ephesians 1:4, Isaiah 65:1, Genesis 6:8)
It is the Lord who seeks out to choose according to His election from the foundation of the world. We, who are dead in trespasses, never sought God, and are yet elected by Him, one day find ourselves in His Grace — as Noah discovered.
Thereby, we cannot save ourselves by our actions (Romans 3:11, Psalm 53:2-3, Psalm 14:2-3); and if Christ quickens us (john 5:21), we cannot lose our salvation by our works (John 6:39, 2 Timothy 1:12, 1 Peter 1:4-5, Jude 24), for we are sealed by God unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). We are naturally fallen and incapable beings from Adam, our parent, whom through listening to the devil, committed “the offence of one judgment (that) came upon all men to condemnation; for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:18-19).
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (Ephesians 2:1)
Therefore, by Adam’s fall, we do not to seek God (Romans 3:11, John 6:44 & John 6:65 – no man comes to Christ), enabled Satan to become our father (John 8:44), and thus, we are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (Ephesians 2:12). The fall caused our absolute inability to seek or go to God for salvation. Jesus answered the question asked, “who then can be saved?”, by declaring, “with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26). Man, ‘despises the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads him to repentance’ (Romans 2:4). God proclaimed, “this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). The Psalmist said to the Lord, “blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts” (Psalm 65:4). Jesus said, “no man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you. Even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 6:44, John 15:16, 5:21). “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18). In Acts 9, after he believed, ‘Paul straightaway preached Christ at Damascus’. Thus, salvation and its enabling power comes to us (John 6:65 – “it were given unto him of my Father”) solely and freely from God (Romans 3:24), by His grace (Romans 4:16, Ephesians 2:5), by his choosing (Ephesians 1:4, Exodus 33:19) or election (Romans 9:11) and “determinate counsel” (Acts 2:23) – to ‘deliver us from the power of darkness or Satan, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:’ (Colossians 1:13).
However, there are many who take credit in salvation to strip Christ of His ‘authorship of salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9). A like-minded person in one of Jesus’ parables in Luke 18:11-12, a Pharisee, arrogantly prayed to God, and trusted and boasted in himself, his abilities, and in his accomplishments outside the Finished Work of the Lord Christ. The Pharisee conjured up an imaginary god (Jeremiah 13:10), and made an idol of himself as Adam did (Genesis 3:5-7, Genesis 3:22). The Pharisee thought himself to be something, when he was nothing before God (Galatians 6:3). The Pharisee felt as with many in this world, he can “choose God and be saved at any time on his own terms”, have no need of the Great Physician, as the Lord Christ Himself pointed out:
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The Pharisee was not aware he was fallen or sick, and in desperate need of the Physician, or of the Saviour. Moreover, Jeremiah in 13:23 said as a leopard cannot alter its spots, we cannot do good.
Thus, a true Christian is one who conclusively admits through the Spirit, his or her sickness, depravity before God, and total inability to please God or to keep His Law. The true Christian realises that his or her entire position depends solely upon Christ (whom perfectly kept the Law) and His quickening (John 5:21, Matthew 13:44, John 17:9) to heal his or her sin-sick, and spiritually-dead (from Adam (Romans 5:12-21)) soul. The whole matter humbles the Christian, and enables him or her to esteem God above him or herself. The whole matter leads the Christian to say as Job said, “wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”, (Job 42:6). The publican realised and believed this, and acted in the same manner: “and the publican, standing afar off (Ephesians 2:13), would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Similarly, King David confessed, “mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up;” (Psalm 40:12). By Christ, we are saved, “and that not of yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
A pastor once said, ‘the whole accomplishment of our salvation and all the parts of it, are contained in Christ’s Death’.
So, there is nothing that I can do to save myself? Is salvation based solely upon Christ’s Works?
Salvation is of Christ, and Him alone (1 Timothy 2:5). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10). When we are justified the moment we believe, God declares us righteous–by Christ’s blood. You and I cannot justify ourselves to remove the wrath of God from our souls. Christ saves us in totality for He was once offered for our sins by His blood (Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:10). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The world is mostly filled with humans that are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13), have layers and layers of spiritual veils over their eyes, are blind to the things of God (2 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 2:14), have galls of bitterness or rancor (Acts 8:23), and are outside of Christ and headed to Hell (Ephesians 2:12). These spiritually-dead humans will never choose God and live (Romans 3:11, Psalm 53:2, Psalm 14:2-3). “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). When we look everywhere in the world today (as it ever has been), we see valleys of spiritually-dead corpses. For most souls in the world consist of nothing but spiritual dry bones, having no abilities to go to God. “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:1-3).
Unless God regenerates or quickens us, or gives us new hearts to believe on Christ, we cannot be saved.
But according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5 b,c).
Even Christ focused on those who followed Him in the regeneration, or followed Him due to being regenerated by Him:
That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28 c-f)
If you have your original stony heart, you are not saved. Only God is capable of saving you, of renewing or quickening your heart, or taking out your old heart, and giving you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). It is only His Operation that saves:
Ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:12 b,c).
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (Ephesians 2:1)
Most of the Israelites in the wilderness in Moses’s day had stony hearts, and the Lord commented on how they could not obey His commandments,
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)
Unless God gives us the saving faith (Galatians 3:22) or knowledge concerning our depravity, and gives us convictions of sins, we are not saved from damnation in Hell. For a corrupted tree to bear good fruit, its sinful root must be dealt with. Pray to God that He will deal with your root or soul, as Christ called Lazurus from the tomb,
Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:43-44)
…that He would grant you His grace and give you new life…a new soul, ‘to replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh in you’ (Ezekiel 36:26, Titus 3:5). As He created everything, the Lord creates new hearts within His elect to enable their return to Him (Psalm 65:4),
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7).
For even David desired after God with his whole heart, “with my whole heart have I sought thee:” (Psalm 119:10a). David was a man as the Lord described to Ahijah in 1 Kings 4:8, “who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes”.
May God give you saving faith, that is, the Faith of Christ by His Grace. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Galatians 3:22-23). Yea, pray to God that He will give you the free gifts: ability to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).
Are you saying that salvation is a free gift to those who deserve the exact opposite: Hell?
Yes, indeed, and it is given to sinners. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Everyone talks about being ‘born again’. Does this have anything to do with the Holy Spirit?
Yes, it has everything to do with the Spirit. You must “be born again” (John 3:3, John 3:5). The Bible says, “no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Without the “operation of the Holy Spirit” (Colossians 2:12), no man can do so: no one by nature, that is, as a result of sin can possibly believe the gospel. Man is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). The work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. The Spirit breathes upon the work (Ezekiel 37:9, 14), and brings the truth to sight. The Spirit is in the Word (Romans 7:14), but the Spirit must be in your heart. Jesus said, “I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Can you give me other examples of the Spirit’s work in causing people to believe in Christ?
Yes. Besides the account in Acts 13:46-48 where Paul and Barnabas in Antioch preached the Scriptures to the Gentiles, who heard, believed and glorified the word of God, for they “were ordained to eternal life” to believe, in Acts 16 we see the gospel being preached in a city called Philippi in Europe. A little prayer meeting was taking place. The Apostle Paul and his companion went out, joined the little prayer meeting sat down among the women and spoke to them from the Bible. We are told that a woman called Lydia was converted after hearing Paul’s message on the Holy Scriptures.
Are you saying she believed and was saved?
Yes, indeed. She believed the truth and became saved. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus said, “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
But how did Lydia come to believe the truth?
The answer is given in Acts 16:14: “whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul.” God opened her heart so the Holy Spirit could apply the Word of God. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). We believe it and we trust in it. In whom also you trusted (or hoped) after that you heard the word of truth, the “gospel of your salvation, you were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
Are you saying that I must repent and believe?
Yes. Jesus in the Bible said, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). God having made it possible for us to act, He calls upon us to act. The Word is preached and we hear it, but hearing is not enough. We must not only hear this Word, we must believe it. A person who hears the Word with the Holy Spirit, will believe it. He has come to see himself as a sinner. He has come to see the law of God condemning him. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?” (Hebrews 2:3)
Does a believer in Christ have the power or ability to do good works?
Yes, it is a God-given ability and power. It does not originate within the believer or come from his or her nature. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “but by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
How does God enable believers to do good works?
God enables believers by means of His operation effectually applied to the activities of the soul. We are commanded to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
What are the good works God enables and commands us to do after we are saved?
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).
Among the good works we do are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: believers live lives in humility by serving and trusting in God, manifest their thankfulness to the Lord, have their assurances strengthened, edify and love their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel of Christ, and stop the mouths of adversaries. In serving Him, the important work the Lord has us commit to is our obeying Him and His Commandments, by glorifying Him, living holy lives before Him, and repenting of and mortifying sin. “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). “And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), the Gospel of Christ.
I have heard of repenting, but what does it mean to mortify sin?
As believers, we must mortify sin, “for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12-14). “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” (Colossians 3:5).
To mortify sin is to put sin to death within oneself. Another way to explain is to abase yourself to the Lord, and take up your cross to serve the Lord Christ (Luke 18:14, Matthew 16:24). Once the Lord delivers us from spiritual death and damnation, he works in us to enable us to not live under the influence of sin. In the words of a pastor who preached to many on repenting and mortifying sin said, “do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you”. Thereby, we must commit to the following:
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
How else are we to live? Can we enjoy life in this world, while we mortify and repent of sin, and glorify God as you said before?
One pastor also said, “on Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. The painted beauties of this world will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.”
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to love and enjoy Him forever, with all of his heart, mind and soul. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We must live for the Lord and not for the things of the world or its riches, for even Christ Jesus told the one having great wealth and possessions, “beholding him loved him, and said unto him, one thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). Taking up the cross is to deny and die to yourself, in order to live to and for Christ. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Deny yourself to worldly pleasures. ‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for Christ Jesus’s sake shall find it’ (Matthew 16:25).
As for the world, the bible says, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). ‘Whoever is a friend of the world, is an enemy of God’ (James 4:4). The whole world lies under the influence of the devil (Ephesians 2:2). “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). When the Lord ‘chose us out of the world’ (John 15:19), He commanded us to ‘come out from among them, and be separate’. He told us ‘touch not the unclean thing; so he will be able to receive us’ (2 Corinthians 2:6:17).
But can’t I enjoy watching movies, reading bestseller books and newspapers, going to theatrical plays and parties, traveling the world, and enjoying the rewards from my labour while I serve God?
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).
Our lives may end in the next minute or heartbeat. If we were to die tonight, what would happen to us? Those that glory in themselves and the world will see Hell and damnation, and those that glory in the Spirit, will see the salvation of God.
Many that are alive today are content with themselves saying, ‘I’m in good health. I’ll make it up to God later, or just before I die’. Such a view is like of the Pharisee trusting in his abilities and so-called choices, in Luke 18. “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:19-20). “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) sudden death. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Once the reprobate person dies, he or she will immediately see Hell (Luke 16:22-23).
And how do we escape wrath and Hell by ‘laying hold on eternal life’ (1 Timothy 6:12, 19), through the Spirit? We must, through the Spirit, heed these words spoken by Christ within the following text. “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22). And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12:13-15).
Thereby, we should not revel in the rewards of our labours, for “riches profit not in the Day of Wrath” (Proverbs 11:4, Zephaniah 1:18). Another pastor commented on this topic:
“…remember that the more you have, the more you have to give account for. And if the day of judgment be dreadful to you, you should not make it more dreadful by greatening your own accounts… If you desired riches but for the service of your Lord, and have used them for him, and can truly give in this account, that you laid them not out for the needless pleasure or pride of the flesh, but to furnish yourselves, and families, and others, for his service, and as near as you could, employ them according to his will, and for his use, then you may expect the reward of good and faithful servants; but if you desired and used them for the pride and pleasure of yourselves while you lived, and your posterity or kindred when you are dead, dropping some inconsiderable crumbs for God, you will then find that Mammon was an unprofitable master, and godliness, with content, would have been greater gain” (Prov. 3:14; 1 Tim. 6:5, 6).
In relation to going to parties and maintaining company with the unsaved, when we are truly saved, we realise the following — as another pastor put it, believing souls or “saints have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness. Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real. It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience. This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society. The sense of companionship which he mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people. Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. “They all forsook him, and fled”, (Mark 14:50).
“The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
“It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up,” (Psalm 27:10). His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd that Christ is All in All, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life’s summum bonum.”
Focusing again on the central point, to appropriately serve God, we must be truly regenerated in our hearts by God as Lydia was, in Acts 16. Therein those states, we grow in the grace of God, and grow in faith and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), from reading the Scriptures under the power of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Through the work of the Holy Spirit after we are saved, we live. and we realise more and more, that the things and actions we previously loved to do, or ‘the vain things that charmed us most’, we now hate and no longer do. With such changes, we live diametrically opposed to our previous lifestyles. We would then live solely for Christ, believing, repenting of sin, and growing in grace and in knowledge after we are firstly regenerated, and secondly after we believed. Such radical changes are marks of assurances of salvation for many Christians. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).
Hmmm. Sounds really tough. I want to start learning more about the things of God and the Bible, but I am not ready to give up the things I enjoy. So it is all or nothing for God?
This is why Christ Jesus declared in Matthew 7:14, “because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”, and in Matthew 19:26, “with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”. God commanded us in the bible, “my son, give me your heart”, (Proverbs 23:26). God wants nothing else but that man should ‘love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all our heart and with all our soul’ (Deuteronomy 10:12). God showed his contempt for the world and the things of the world, chiefly by the life, death and Cross of Christ. God executed His Purpose according to the riches of His Grace by sending His Son to die for the elect’s sins (Ephesians 1:7, 11, 18, and Ephesians 2:7). Accordingly, God commands us to love and glorify Him, for He has first loved us (1 John 4:19), and separated us from the world to Himself (Ezekiel 36:24). When we examine ourselves, we must ask ourselves, ‘do the things we do, glory God’? “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways” (Deuteronomy 28:9). Once we are saved, we are His, for the Scriptures said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-29). As we declare Christ Jesus purchased the elect, He prayed to God the Father:
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them” (John 17:8-10). Those that Christ Jesus prayed for, glory in the Lord.
In carrying out God’s Purpose, Apostle Paul told Timothy in the Scriptures, “therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
I see. Are you saying after we are saved, we must solely love and serve God, and shun the world altogether?
Since I believed, since I fully realized the power and moral excellence of the cross of Christ, I have finished with the world and all that is in it. The world is like a dead corpse to me and I have no love for it at all – for I love God, according to His Grace and Power. God continues to show his contempt for the world and the things of the world by giving the greatest part of it to the worst men, and to those who are his greatest enemies.
Yes, it’s showing in the world at large, how it is descending more and more into chaos of trouble and worry. It seems Man cannot help himself. Man has truly made a mess of this world.
Yes, God gave Man up and allowed him to commit evil continually. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” (Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28). God allows men to commit evil to carry out His providential determinate counsel and purposes on earth to glorify Himself before all (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20, 2 Corinthians 4:15-17, 1 Peter 1:7-8, etc.). For — “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Those that commit evil continually glory in themselves, in their imagination and in the creation. “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:43-45).
The Bible states that all mankind is commanded to honor and glorify God (Revelation 7:12), and not to glory in “this evil world” (Galatians 1:4). “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), and thus, only a few do good works that God finds pleasing and acceptable through His Grace. For God said, “for them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). For the Lord Christ “who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:” (Galatians 1:4). As for the world’s reprobates, their day of judgment will come and they will see Hell, shortly after.
“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).
Hell will arrive for many without warning, for we all do not know the day when we will die. Death can come to us at any moment. God is holding up the wicked living in the world out of Hell at this moment, as the wicked think nothing bad will come onto them after they die. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” (Romans 2:5). God said, “to me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
That is very frightening! I do not want to perish in Hell!
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7, Romans 10:15). This is the good news from the Lord: “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Your hour of death may be happening now. Christ may return at this minute! Tell yourself, ‘if you were to die now, where would you go: Heaven or Hell?’ Search your soul!
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Turn away from your sins, repent and believe on the Lord Christ Jesus and his gospel (Mark 1:15) while it is before Judgment Day, the Terrible Day of Christ (Joel 2:31).
As the Lord Christ said, “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39). Read the bible and pray God will open your heart onto salvation, as He did with Timothy: “and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Trust in the Lord. Solely, glory in the Lord. Take up the cross. Seek Him.
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” (Isaiah 55:6).
Pray to God that He will grant you His grace to cry out for His mercy while there is still time now.
“Cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:8-9).
How fearful God is! I really thought God was a loving god.
You only speak of one side of God, having love only. However, the other side of God is wrath (Romans 11:22). Thereby, the fear of God complements His love. This sums up the complete character of God.
“And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:” (1 Peter 1:17). “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28). While we are alive here on earth, let us cry out to Him in fear and in trembling. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). To know God is to fear Him. “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10). The elect whom Christ quickened and enabled to do His will, serve and fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction:” (Proverbs 1:7). Let us tremble at His word (Ezra 9:4, Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah 66:5).
For the wicked or souls who trust in themselves, whom Christ knows not (Matthew 7:23), ‘there is no fear of God before their eyes’ (Psalm 36:1). God loves the righteous and hates the wicked (Psalm 75:10). The Lord will judge the righteous Christ died for (Psalm 7:11), and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 3:17). “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). God will punish and condemn the wicked in His Vengeance – ‘for He is just’ (Isaiah 45:21). “For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:3). “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Psalm 58:10). “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty”, “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity;” (Isaiah 13:6, Isaiah 13:11). “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;” (2 Peter 2:6).
Just as God condemned and slaughtered the unbelieving Israelites in Moses’s day (Numbers 14:29, Numbers 14:32, Numbers 14:33 and Hebrews 10:28), He promises future judgment and damnation for unrepentant reprobates of this world in His righteousness (Psalm 9:17).
“Their foot shall slide in due time” (Deuteronomy 32:35), the Lord God said.