Salvation Is a Personal Decision

In Matthew 8:10-12, Jesus is speaking to those in Capernaum who are following Him. He marvels at the Roman centurion’s faith. This man realized that Jesus need only “speak the word… and my servant shall be healed” (Mat. 8:8). He acknowledged that what Jesus speaks will happen, alluding to His omnipotence, and that Jesus was a greater man than he (v. 9), alluding to His divinity. In answering the centurion’s confidence, Jesus exclaims, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (v. 10). He literally means this, for this centurion is not a Jew.

Jesus proceeds to shock the Jews in His audience by telling them that the Gentiles will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e. heaven), while some of the Jews will not. “But the children of the kingdom (i.e. Jews) shall be cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat. 8:12).

Jesus is teaching some most important principles regarding salvation. First, salvation is not guaranteed by birth or pedigree. The Jews were counting on their lineage to get them to heaven, but Jesus makes clear here that ancestry is not a factor in receiving the gift of eternal life. Your last name may grant you favors in your social or professional circles, but not in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This leads to the second principle: salvation requires a personal decision to place your faith in Christ. Though the faith in this context is that Jesus can heal, Jesus further indicates this man’s faith to be saving faith, hence verses 11-12.

Many church denominations have departed from upholding the Bible as their final authority. Even in colonial America, the Biblical teaching on salvation was watered down, giving rise to the “halfway covenant”. This type of apostasy continues all around us to our present day. But we must be concerned with people misunderstanding how to be saved even in our own churches. Some men and women that fill our pews may assume that they are right with God because of their religious upbringing, though they’ve never personally accepted Christ’s offer of salvation. How tragic that would be!

May we pray to preach the gospel clearly to men and women and for the Spirit to work in their hearts.

Deniers

There are many cultural wars being fought in our country today. The issues change over time, but there is always strong divergence of opinions in our vast land. Abortion seems to be taking center stage at this time. As summer draws near, the media will probably give more focus to “climate change”. (These stories just don’t seem to make much of an appearance in the throes of frigid Januaries!)

Decades ago, the “crisis” started out as an impending ice age, as the older generations remember. Then it changed to global warming, and now it is classified as climate change. What I want to draw out is what they call those who don’t accept the bombastic premises of climate change: deniers.

The dictionary defines denial as stating something to be not true which others declare or believe to be true. The most familiar Bible story on this topic is Peter’s three denials of our soon-to-be-crucified Lord.

For the first occurrence in the Bible, we have to go back to Genesis. Here Sarah, at 89 years of age, denies the angel of the Lord’s prophecy that she will have a son (Gen. 18:15). It’s interesting that she “laughed” at this news, and her child was named Isaac, meaning laughter.

In the New Testament, Peter and John healed a lame man in Jerusalem, who then entered the Temple “walking, and leaping, and praising God” ( Acts 3:8 ). What a wonderful miracle and testimony! When the people gathered around, Peter told the crowd that they had recently “denied [Jesus] in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just…” (Acts 3:14-15). I’m glad that when it comes to Jesus Christ, we’re not deniers — we’re believers! We have personally accepted Jesus Christ’s claims of being God and our Saviour as true.

In our Christian life, we must be careful not to deny Christ. It is certainly possible for us to commit this very deed. Jesus cautions us when He says, “He that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” ( Luke 12:9). As opposed to Peter, who swore he didn’t know Christ, we ought to be proud to be a believer. Because of what Jesus tells us, we had better confess that we know Him to those around us! Imagine the shame upon those whom Christ denies in heaven. God forbid that that be us.

There is one that we are to deny constantly: our self. To His followers, Jesus says, “If any will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mat. 16:24). Our old flesh likes to rear its ugly head and distract and detour our walk with the Lord. It gets in the way of serving and especially sacrificing for Him because our flesh desires to have the preeminence. We must, with God’s help, subdue our flesh by following the ways of the Lord and seeking to do *His* will, as opposed to our own.

As you go to work or to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store, let others know you’re a Christian by giving them a tract. When sinners entice you to join them, refuse the offer and let them know that you follow the Lord and don’t want to sin. Don’t be afraid to talk about the Lord with family and friends. Live your life so that Jesus could say to you what He said to the church at Philadelphia, “Thou… hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8)!

Doers Of the Word

I was recently reading I Kings chapter 8. Solomon has just finished building the Temple and they ceremoniously brought the crowning piece of furniture into it, the Ark of the Covenant. God’s glory descended upon the Holy of Holies, to which Solomon offered a sermon and a lengthy prayer.

In his prayer, he asks for God to have a ready ear toward His people’s prayers and that forgiveness be extended when divine punishment came due to their sin. Such punishments might include being defeated in battle, withholding of rain, famine, pestilence, etc. Sin truly brings ugly consequences — and all of them unnecessary — into our lives. It’s always right and best to do what God says is right!

In this prayer, Solomon repeatedly asks for God to hear their prayers when they pray “toward this place” This is mentioned in verses 29, 30, 35, 38, 42, 44, and 48. Solomon is emphasizing this point.

Skip forward 300+ years when the time of the kings and Israel’s independence has vanished. The leading world superpower, Babylon, has taken over the nation of Judah and Medo-Persia has taken over Babylon. Daniel has been in a foreign land for over 60 years, employed by various rulers. We are all very familiar with the story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. He was sentenced to death by lions because he prayed out of habit thrice each day, “his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem” (Dan. 6:10). (Little-known fact: Daniel was approaching or beyond 80 years of age when he entered the lions’ den.)

Notice that Daniel was very much aware of Scripture. We assume that he possessed a copy of the sacred writings in Babylon. He had read when Solomon asked God to hear the Israelite captives’ “prayer and their supplication… and maintain their cause” when they “pray unto Thee toward their land… and the house which I have built for Thy name” (I Kings 8:49, 48).

Daniel read his Bible, studied it, and knew it very well. And most importantly, he acted upon it. We rejoice in his miraculous rescue from the danger of the famished lions and how the instigators of that evil law were devoured before they even hit the bottom of the den. God has great blessings for those who obey His Word. But to obey it, you must read it and meditate on it so you know what He says to do. Let’s dare to be a Daniel!

“Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only” for “a doer of the work… shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22, 25)!

Was Jesus Forced to Die on the Cross?

Most men and women do not want to meet their death. We desire to prolong our lives as long as possible with medicine and by living an active lifestyle. Hardly a murder victim has desired to lose their life. Even the murderer appeals his death sentence.

So… Was Jesus forced to die or did He choose to die?

To answer that question, read Matthew chapters 26 and 27 in the Bible and consider the following.

  1. Jesus prophesied that His arrest leading to death was soon coming, but He made no effort to leave Jerusalem to avoid it. See Matthew 26, verses 2, 11, 21, 23-25, 31, and 45.
  2. When hundreds of soldiers came to arrest Jesus, He had eleven of His twelve disciples with Him. Peter took out his sword to fight against these men, yet Jesus commanded him to put his sword back away. See Matthew 26, verses 51-52.
  3. Peter swung his sword once at a man’s head before Jesus told him to put his sword away ( Matthew 26:51). Malchus ducked, and Peter cut off only his ear. Jesus took the time, as He was being arrested, to heal his ear. See Luke 22:50-51.
  4. Not only did Jesus not want His disciples to fight against those who had come to arrest Him, but He also asked that they let His disciples go in safety since they were only interested in taking Him. Jesus did not resist His arrest in any way. See John 18, verses 7-8.
  5. He prayed that there might be another way for man’s sins to be forgiven because He did not want to drink of “the cup” of suffering and death. Nevertheless, He was committed to what God the Father wanted. See Matthew 26, verses 39 and 42. There was no other way, so He accepted the shame and suffering of the cross so we could be saved from death in hell.
  6. As Jesus was brought to trial before the Jewish High Priest, He offered no defense to the outlandish accusations against Him. See Matthew 26, verses 59-63.
  7. Jesus was then sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governmental official who had legal authority to condemn men to death. As Jesus was vigorously accused by the Jewish religious leaders, He didn’t answer these charges before Pilate either. See Matthew 27, verses 12-14.
  8. Pilate, knowing Jesus was innocent, sought to release Jesus. Yet Jesus did not assist Pilate in this endeavor. See John 19, verses 7-12.
  9. Jesus knew He could have called more than fifty thousand angels to come and rescue Him from the cross, but He remained silent. See Matthew 26, verse 53.
  10. As He was dying on the cross, He asked God to forgive His murderers, “for they know not what they do.” See Luke 23, verse 34.

Jesus endured the shame and suffering of the crucifixion because of “the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What joy could Jesus find in dying such a painful death? He knew that because of His death we could be saved from our sins and our sins’ punishment, which is the lake of fire. Peter tells us that because of Jesus’ being beaten with “stripes,” we can be healed (First Peter 2:24). As He went to the cross, He did so bearing “our sins in His own body on the tree.”

John 3:16 says, “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.”

Jesus was not forced to die. Rather, He allowed man to kill Him because by His death we might have life – everlasting life with God in heaven! Jesus took the punishment you and I deserved for our sins.

If you would like to believe in Christ and have Him give you “everlasting life,” simply ask Him for it. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). That’s God’s promise to you!

There are no special words to pray to be saved, as God will hear even a simple child’s prayer. More important than the words you speak, God sees your faith. If you believe it, you can receive it!

Here is a sample prayer to be saved:

Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner and that You died for my sin. I ask you to take me to heaven and give me the gift of everlasting life. Thank you for loving me, dying for me, and saving me! Amen.

If you have asked Jesus to save you and take you to heaven, please let me know! I will be so happy to hear you are now on your way to heaven!