by Alex McFarland
Knowing What God Says About Our Relationship with Him
People everywhere invest their lives in the search for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. But people need something more than money, fame, luxurious houses, good looks, nice cars, or a lucrative stock portfolio. There is nothing necessarily wrong with these things, but they cannot provide peace to the soul or forgiveness of one’s sin.
I once read that the highest rates of suicide and divorce occur among the most affluent classes of society. On the West Coast, psychologists and counselors have isolated a new affliction and given it a name, "Sudden Acquired Wealth Syndrome." People are achieving every benchmark that our society says should make them happy, but they are finding that it is possible to be materially rich, yet spiritually bankrupt. Many people have a daytimer that is full, but a heart that is empty.
Several years ago, our 9-member ministry team crossed America on a 50-states-In-50-Days trip. During the course of this journey to 50 states in 50 days, I preached in every service, in all 50 US states, and personally talked with thousands of people. We had the privilege of hosting 64 worship services - throughout the entire US. Our outreach team met many people who came to us with probing questions and genuine concern about spiritual issues. People today truly are looking for meaningful answers, craving hope in a dangerous world.
Present realities, such as worldwide terrorist attacks, global economic uncertainty, political instability, and natural disasters like hurrican Katrina have only intensified this search.
Immediately after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, I went to New York City to help with a prayer center that had been set up by the Billy Graham ministry and Samaritan’s Purse. Just like on my 50-state tour, I was talking daily to hundreds of people from every background imaginable. They may have expressed themselves in different ways, but they all had the same basic question:
"Who is God, and how may I come to know Him?"
Where one stands with God is the most vital of all issues, but the good news is that you may settle this today! You may have wondered, "How does a person become a Christian? How can I be certain that my sin is forgiven? How may I experience consistent spiritual growth?" Let’s consider these things together.
God's Word Explains the Message of Salvation
Jesus said in John 3:3,
"Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Salvation is the issue: The most important question you will ever ask yourself is this: "
Do I know for certain that I have eternal life, and that I will go to heaven when I die?"
If you stood before God right now, and God asked, "Why should I let you into my heaven?," what would you say?
The Bible describes our condition: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Just as a job pays a wage at the end of the week, our sins will yield a result at the end of a lifetime: "For the wages of sin is death (the Bible describes this as separation from God, the punishment of hell), but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
God’s love for you personally is shown by His provision for your need: "But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Salvation requires repentance, which means a "turning." Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). The New Testament emphasizes the necessity of repentance and salvation: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19).
Every one of us has sinned, and the Bible says that our sins must be dealt with. We have a two-fold sin problem. We are sinners by birth, and we are sinners by choice. Some one once spoke with the great evangelist Dr. Vance Havner, "This thing about man’s sin nature, I find that hard to swallow!" Dr. Havner said,
"You don’t have to swallow it- you’re born with it, it’s already in you."
The world classifies sin, viewing some things as worse than others. But the Bible teaches that all sin is an offense against God, and even one sin is serious enough to keep some one out of heaven. You may not have robbed a bank, or maybe you have. God doesn’t grade on a curve; humanity is a tainted race, and sin is the problem.
Oftentimes in life, we know what is right, but we do what is wrong. You may have even looked back at yourself and wondered, "What was I thinking? Why did I do that? How could I have said that?" Jesus said that man needs to repent, and make a change. Repentance means turning from your sins, and to Christ. By faith, trust who Jesus is (God's Son; mankind’s Savior), and what Jesus did (died in your place, and rose from the dead).
God's forgiveness is received by faith. We are to confess our faith before others, not ashamed to let the world know that we believe in Jesus: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).
What is faith? Faith is trust. It is simple, honest, child-like trust. God says that you have a sin problem, but that He loves you, and will forgive you. God says that through Jesus Christ, He has made a way for anyone to be saved who will come to Him. Do you trust what God has said, and what God has done? If you come to Christ in belief and faith, God promises to save you: "For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Jesus promises: "...the one who comes to me, I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37).
During the 50-state tour, we gave away thousands of yellow stickers that said, "Jesus Saves, Pray Today!" That is not a trite saying, or marketing cliche’. It is a deep Biblical truth, and if you desire to have a relationship to the Lord, that can be accomplished right where you are now. Make your journey to the cross today, through this basic prayer of commitment:
"Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned, and I cannot save myself. I believe that you are the Son of God, and that you died and rose again for me, to forgive my sins, and to be my Savior. I turn from my sins, and I ask you to forgive me. I receive you into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Jesus, thank you for saving me now. Help me to live the rest of my life for you. Amen."
God's Word Gives you Assurance of Salvation
You can overcome doubts about where you stand with God. Based on what God’s Word says (not what you feel, or assume), you can know that you have eternal life: "He that has the Son has life; .... these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God- that you may know that you have eternal life" (I John 5:12-13).
Jesus said, "He that hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (I John 5:24). Remember: You are not saved by good works, and you are not "kept saved" by good works. Your merit before God is totally based on Jesus; His perfection, holiness, and righteousness is credited to each one who believes by faith.
What is Meant by the Term "Re-Dedication?"
A news reporter once asked me this question. He had heard me use this term as I spoke at a church, and wanted to know what I meant. "Rededication" is for a believer who desires that their walk with Christ be renewed and deepened. A Christian can wander from God in sin, or simply lose their closeness to the Lord through the business of life.
A born-again Christian is forever God's child. Your salvation is a matter of "sonship." Your daily Christian growth is a matter of "fellowship." Your spiritual birth into God’s family is in some ways, similar to your physical birth into the human family. For instance, in growing up as a child, you may have disobeyed and disappointed your father. Something you did may have grieved your father, but you were still his child, because you had been born into that family.
In the same way, the Christian’s relationship to the Lord is still intact, even though a sin we commit may hinder our daily fellowship with God. Salvation is a one-time, instantaneous event; Christian growth, and personal fellowship with God is an everyday, life-long process. Consistent daily prayer, Bible study, obedience to the Holy Spirit, and nurture in a local church fellowship are all keys to growth and Christian maturity.
While your "sonship" may be intact, your daily "fellowship" may be lacking. Christ, not "self" must be on the throne of your heart and life! Sin hinders our fellowship with God. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Perhaps your desire is like that of David, when He had wandered from God: "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10).
God lovingly receives all who turn to Him, and all who return to Him! He cleanses us from sin, and restores us to fellowship with Him. King David had been "a man after God’s own heart," but his sinful deeds required that he humbly re-commit himself to the Lord: "Cast me not away from thy presence, Restore unto me the joy of my salvation" (Psalms 51:11-12). Christian publications often use the following verse in the context of evangelism, and that is OK, but I John 1:9 is really a promise to the Christian who needs to make things right with the Lord:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
From the same chapter is another great truth that gives us precious, sweet assurance: "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7).
You may already know the Lord, but wish to pray these basic words of re-dedication and commitment:
"Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I have sinned and wandered from you. I confess my sin, and turn from it. I recommit myself to you as Lord. Thank you for forgiving me; I trust you to give me the strength to live for you each day of my life. Thank you for being my Savior, my Lord, and my friend. Amen. "
May God bless you, as you journey on with Him.
If you made a decision for Christ just now, it would be an honor to hear from you. If you do not have a Bible and would like to request one, or if you have other questions or spiritual needs, write to:
Rev. Alex McFarland
c/o Northside Ministries
333 Jeremiah Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28262