September 24, 2011

Amazing Grace

There are times in my life when I feel down and alone.  Then there are times when I'm on top of the world.  But the times that take my breath away are the ones when God displays his amazing grace!  Answers to prayers thrill me with the utter awesomeness of the fact that He blessed me...because He loves me.

But the times that really blow me away are when a plan just comes together, seemingly out of the blue, and God shows himself not only to me, but to others as well.  When an event, that's been planned for months in advance meets a need that's only recently come to my attention, that has to be Divine intervention.  I say that because there's no way any limited human being could possibly pull it all together and use so many unrelated people or events to work synergistically over the course of time to make this thing happen.

It's an awesome thing to witness and even more so to experience.

I believe anyone can see these things happen whether they've stepped out in faith to put Christ at the center of their lives or not. Whether they recognise what they're seeing or not is another story.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I think God will use these things as tools to work in the lives of folks who have yet to accept His saving grace.

I think that whole issue of saving grace is something that some people haven't heard before.
I guess it starts at the beginning...the very beginning.  When God created the world and filled it with people, He could have been a dictator and made everyone His followers in abject obedience with no choice in the matter.  How boring!  Would you really want someone to be forced to love and worship you if that's not what they felt in their heart and soul?  I'm not talking about naive, dependant obedience.  I'm talking about no choices.  He could have done that...but He wanted folks to chose to love Him and follow Him.  So He made a perfect place and gave them the best.  Food, health, emotions so they could enjoy His creation to the fullest and love with all their heart.  Well, if you have a choice, that means there has to be opposite alternatives and some in between.
Even the angels had a choice and that's where the trouble started.  One of them decided that he didn't like following God's plan so he took a bunch of his cronies and left heaven to wage war on God.  Hate, jealousy, hurt and defiance, among others entered.  The target? You guessed it! 

So he attacked the unsuspecting Adam and Eve by using sneaky, seductive doubt.  Remember when I said that God had given them all the best?  Well, they were led to believe that God was keeping something from them because He had a few rules in the Garden of Eden.  Like don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Wouldn't they like to be as smart as God?  Why should He have secrets from them?  Do you have things that you keep from your children for their own good?  Yeah.  Eve listened and wondered and doubted and then disobeyed God's rules.  First time ever. 

At that point, history changed and sin entered the world.  Since God is perfect and without sin, He can't be around all.  So sin separated the people God created from Him for all eternity.  No chance to get to heaven.  And because that knowledge was opened up, all children are born into sin.  But the good news is that God didn't want to be separated from us and that choice I mentioned earlier was still an option.  Even though sin kept us apart from God, He made a way for us to come to Him through the promise of a savior.  You can read all about this and the history that followed in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.

Skipping ahead to the New Testament, enter baby Jesus!  The son of God, part of the 3 in 1 trinity that is God.  Come to earth in human form to grow and live among us.  He taught about His father in heaven and about the events to come.  His short life of 33 years ended in an historic event that opened the gates of heaven so that all those who believed in Him could now spend eternity in heaven instead of hell.  Jesus lived His life on Earth teaching and sharing knowledge about what was to come and doing miracles to show that He really was who He said He was.  Follow me?
See in all the promises God made to the people as hope for the future, they believed He was sending a warrior to defeat their enemies.  A mighty power that would overthrow their oppressors...not a carpenter from Galilee who's mild manner (most of the time) and stories of peace and love just made the temple priests and scholars angry.  And the miracles?  They spoke to some and caused others to say that He was a blasphemer, how dare He claim to be the son of God?
Here's what happened that day.  After being scorned and rejected, even by his own people, Jesus was turned over to the Roman authorities and condemned to death by crucifixion.
As He hung there on that cross, all the sins of the world were placed on His soul.  He was separated from God the father by a great chasm of blackness.  And He died.  God's Son died because He carried the burden of all sin, past, present and future...MY SIN!...and yours.  But the good news is that, as He had told his disciples before hand, He arose from the grave and conquered death!  Now He stands, once again, at the right hand of God in longer separated from His father and ours.  How does that apply to us?

Here's that choice again!  If we are faithful and chose to accept Him as the Lord of our life, we can share in that's a gift.  If someone gives you a present and you simply set the gift aside and don't  open it, you can't use what's inside, right?  Same deal.  So we have to make a choice.  Not making a choice is the same as refusing the gift.  Without the mercy or amazing grace, you'll be spending eternity in hell, living in eternal torment.  Mark 16:16 says "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."   Just a note here that the baptism mentioned in this verse refers to spiritual baptism, not physical...that comes later.  The baptism referred to here is the death of our old self to our sins,  laying our old lives to rest and the rebirth into a new life in Christ that happens in our soul and is reflected in our new attitude and lifestyle.

What have you got to lose?  If it's not true, you live your life in sin and you die.  But if it is true, and you choose to accept His mercy and forgiveness and let Him be Lord of your life, you'll live spend eternity in heaven with Him.

Will we be perfect once we're saved?  No, we'll just be sinners saved by grace.
For this reason don't look at the people who call on the name of the Lord as examples but at Christ Himself.
We can't achieve perfection until we get to heaven but the idea is to strive to be as much like Him as we can.  Will we fail?  Yep!  But 1 John 1:9 tells us that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Does Christ's death on the cross for sins past, present and future mean that once we're saved we can do whatever we want and still get to heaven?  Not really.  If we decide to live our lives like that, were we really sincere when we turned our life over to God?  The Bible says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  2 Cor. 5:17
We will make mistakes and sin because we are not perfect but when we do, we need to confess it and get back on the path.  Our desire should be to live lives that will show others the love of Christ so they might want to know Him, too.

The choice is up to you.
Now what?
All you have to do is trust Jesus Christ as your personal savior and depend on Him alone for your salvation.  Acts 16:31 "...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." 
Rom. 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

You could pray a prayer in your own words, kinda like this...
"Dear Lord, Thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins. I know that nothing I can do on my own will save me.  I place my trust in You to be my Lord and I give my life to You.  Thank You for giving me eternal life. Amen."

Now how do we grow?
Pray so you can talk to God.
Read your Bible so He can talk to you.  (I'd recommend a KJV or NIV study Bible.)
Attend a fundamental, Bible believing church to meet other like minded folks who can encourage you and help you. 
But be careful...these folks are all on a journey toward Christ-like lives but none of them are there yet.  Don't look at people as an example of how to live because you may see them at a time when they are not acting like they should.  Look to Jesus example in the Bible as the way to live your life. 
Oh, and I forgot to mention that there's a third part to the entity of God.  The Holy Spirit.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equal parts of God.  Once we accept Christ and are "born again", God sends the Holy Spirit as a helper to guide us.  God will never leave us, even in hard, dark times.  That doesn't mean life will be a bed of roses once we're saved, it just means He'll be there to help us through it.  "I will never leave you, or forsake you." Heb. 13:5

God tells us there are two ordinances He wants us to observe as His followers.  Neither of these are needed for salvation ~ just as obedience to God.
Baptism ~ by immersion to show others that we've made a commitment to Christ.  It's a picture of the death (giving up our sins), burial (going under the water to show how He washed our sins away) and resurrection (coming up, out of the water).  Matthew 28:19  This is a public testimony of the decision we've made.

Communion ~ the symbolic observance of the last supper (figuratively, the bread as the body and the wine as the blood) to help us remember what Christ did for us. Matt. 26:26-28 

You know how we love to talk about exciting things that have happened to us?  Or how we can always find something to say about things that interest us and work them into our conversation?  Now, go tell others about this awesome gift you've received! 
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Rom 10:9-11

Do we really need a savior? "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."  Rom. 6:23

Why would God do that?  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

Can you work your way into heaven? "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" Titus 3:5,
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph. 2:8-9

Are there other ways to get to heaven? "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

Who am I?  Just a sinner saved by grace.  Amazing grace.

Additional note:  Since writing this post, I've been blown away again!  I've been blessed to see the amazing Grace of God work again in ways I thought I'd never see.  Our job is to spread the word, plant the seed, and then watch as He shows us how awesome He is.  Thank you, Jesus!    

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