Jesus our Lord is the plan! Without Him, there is no fellowship with God, no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, no hope, no future and no repair for broken relationships. But with Him, all these things are possible. God made it possible through Jesus Christ! But how do we respond to the plan of God?
God's Promises Are For All
Look at the way people responded at the beginning of Christ's Church (Acts 2) when the gospel was first preached. Jesus was proclaimed as the resurrected Lord and Christ. This came as shocking news to those who saw they had rejected and murdered the One Who brought God's salvation.
Could they be saved after what they had done to God's Son? The answer was Yes! They heard the preaching of the gospel; they believed the words of the apostles, and they asked what they should do.
The answer came: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). These great promises, including God's forgiveness of their sins, were not confined to those people alone. The promises were also for future generations, and all who were "afar off" (Acts 2:39). In short, they were for everyone throughout the ages. That includes you and me!
Other New Testament examples show that what happened on that day -- hearing, believing, repenting, being baptized -- was the example for us to follow. The book of Acts shows how others accepted Jesus just like those who heard the message about Christ in Jerusalem on Pentecost: the Samaritans (Acts 8:1-13); the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40); Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-16), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-34). When you study these cases of gospel obedience, you can see how we are to obey God. Listen to what is revealed in God's Word (Romans 10:14-17), and believe, or have faith, in Jesus (Acts 16:31). To believe in Jesus, we must understand what He says about commitment to Him, and how we are to live by His directions (Titus 2:11-14). Faith becomes total trust and dependence on Christ. This means we obey the Lord with our lives by doing the things He says in His holy Word, the Bible.
We can begin to understand God by some of His characteristics. These are pointed out to us in God's Word, your Bible.
Faith Expresses Itself in Many Ways
Faith is part mental and part emotional, but most of all it is trust that leads us to do God's commands. Faith expresses itself in obedience. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered and having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17,18). Faith expresses itself in repentance. We cannot continue to live as we did in the past! Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a turning away from the wrong and doing what's right as shown to us in the New Testament. Paul preached that God "...now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Repentance is brought about by godly sorrow over our past sins and shows itself in an eagerness to spend the future according to the directions of Jesus our Lord (2 Corinthians 7:10, 11). Faith expresses itself in confession, or the public acknowledgment that Jesus is God's Son, the Lord! Paul wrote: "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). True faith will speak out its convictions about Jesus. Faith expresses itself in baptism, or immersion in water. Baptism is a burial in water. Paul wrote: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection," (Romans 6:3,4). Note in the examples of conversion given in Acts that in every case people were baptized. They were baptized for salvation (Acts 2:38, 22:16), in order to have their sins forgiven and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a must in our response to God's plan to save us in Christ.
Baptism -- Our Entrance Into a New Relationship
Baptism in the New Testament was a condition of salvation. In being baptized, we receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), are added to the church (Acts 2:47), and brought into Christ (Galatians 3:26,27). Baptism is the climactic act of the new birth (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5). Baptism is a pledge and a declaration on our part: it expresses our intention to live the future righteously under the Lordship of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). Baptism is also the "resurrection" to the new life. Paul says baptism is our own re-enactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4). In baptism, by faith, we re-enact Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. It is our birthday, our entrance into a new relationship with God through Christ where we become a new creation!
Salvation Becomes a Reality in Jesus
When we have obeyed Christ, we have accepted what God has planned for us in Christ. This way of salvation was planned by God in eternity, nurtured in patience through the ages, and brought to its reality in Jesus. In Him we find all that is necessary to forgive our sins of the past, all we need to help us in the present. In Jesus there is opened to us a future beyond description. This is what God has done for each of us who accepts what He offers. He has done this for you! In the face of such love and patience, will you respond to God's plan in Jesus Christ? Your response to this question will determine where you spend eternity!
The Meaning of Eternity
But what is eternity and how long will it last? Eternity! Not even the dictionary can define it. Timeless does not describe it because in eternity there is no time. It is sometimes called "the state after death." Eternity is perpetual, everlasting, always. It is never-ending. The Bible speaks of punishment (Matthew 25:46) and of "everlasting life" (John 3:16). This being true, one of the great questions of life is: "Where shall I spend eternity?".
Eternity: Will it be Spent With or Without God?
Jesus Christ is not only the Savior, but the great Divider also: He will finally divide between those who desire to be in eternal fellowship with God and those who will be separated from Him forever. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Eternity will be inhabited by the saved and the lost. There will be those who receive everlasting life from God and those who receive His wrath forever. What a sobering thought to realize that most people will be in that last group! "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14). Where will you spend eternity?
The Saved Shall and the Lost Shall Not
The saved will "always be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:17) in that place where "there shall be no more curse" (Revelation 22:3). There "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). Where will you spend eternity? Those who reject or neglect the salvation that is in the Lord Jesus will spend eternity separated "...from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:9). This total absence of God will mean perpetual darkness, constant evil, never-ending suffering. Jude describes this condition as "the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13). Jesus said those who disobey would be "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48). This is described as a state of "...everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:" (Matthew 25:41). The location is hell, "the lake of fire...the second death" (Revelation 20:14). Eternal regret will characterize those who inhabit Hell. But there will be no opportunity for repentance, no change, no second chance! Where will you spend eternity?
"What Must I Do To Be Saved?"
The saved will have the joy of dwelling with the faithful of all the past ages; and since this is eternity, there will be opportunity to have companionship with the saved forever. But the greatest joy of all will be to live with Jesus and God. The saved, the obedient "...shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:4). Then the Lord's prayer for His own will be perfectly realized: "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).
The philosophies of today stress such things as: "Take care of yourself first;" "watch out for number one;" "if you don't look out for yourself, who will?" This concern should be applied to eternity. If you are really concerned about yourself, you will be vitally interested in your soul that will live with or without God's love forever.
The great question is: "What must I do to be saved?" The Bible answers plainly. First, we must believe in Jesus, as the Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus said: "...For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Next, all who believe in Christ are commanded to repent of their sins. In Acts 2, when believers asked what they should do (to be saved), Peter instructed them to "repent" (Acts 2:38). Then, upon believing and repenting, we should confess the Lord Jesus Christ openly because Jesus said: "...whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). Finally, those who seek to be saved must act upon their faith, repentance and confession: they must be baptized. Remember, Saul was instructed to "...Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you willing to repent and confess Jesus before men? Will you obey God and be baptized into Christ, just as the New Testament teaches? If you are willing to do this, contact your teacher and request assistance in responding to the gospel of Christ. Then, after living a faithful life, you will spend eternity with your Lord in heaven.
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