Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Bumper Sticker


Recently, while sitting in my vehicle at a red light, I noticed a bumper sticker on the automobile in front of me. It immediately caught my eye. The message was clear. “The world is my community and doing good is my religion.” I had never seen that bumper sticker before that day, but have seen the attitude through the world: business, schools, churches, neighbors and even relatives. It said to me, “live in the world, it is your home, be subjected to it and do good for that is your religion.”

Much can be written about that bumper sticker, but it perfectly sums up what we see happening in our world, society and it seems in the very hearts of men. Recently, during a conversation about God and His word, a friend made a comment that stunned me. “Well, doing good is the same as being a 'christian' and those who do good will go to heaven.” Is this true? Is it true that if we are true Christians we should get comfortable in this world (as the bumper sticker indicated?).

Likely, one of the biggest reasons many are turned away from Christianity are the various “versions” of “the truth” which are confusing. God is not the author of confusion, but satan is. Religion is a man-made attempt to reach God through rules and rituals. The personal pursuit of God should be paramount to each and every person. The truth can only be found in God's word. Salvation can only be obtained through Jesus Christ.

Certainly a follower of Jesus Christ would not question who God is, nor would they question the Bible. Is this true? Unfortunately not. Many Christians do not believe all of the Bible or they believe the New Testament is “for Christians” and the Old Testament is “for Jewish people.” We must understand and study the entire Bible. Every word is the inspired word of God and it is there for a reason. The first thing a person must determine in their journey to understanding God is that He REALLY exists.

Believers or followers of Jesus Christ are reminded to be “in this world but not 'of' this world.” How can one achieve this? When one becomes a believer of Christ, a Christian, they are no longer bound by the principles of this world (which are not God's laws). They are no longer ruled by sin. Interestingly, the Greek world for “world” is “cosmos.” When we look at how to live “in the world” but not “of” it, knowing this concept is very helpful in our walk with God as well as explaining to non-believers the nature of our transformation through Jesus Christ. “Cosmos” most often refers to the inhabited earth and the people who live on the earth, which functions apart from God. Satan is the ruler of this "cosmos". Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” John 12:31 It is literal that the “prince of this world” or satan will definitely be cast into the pit one day very soon. But, Jesus is also telling us that satan should be “cast out” of our lives, by our acceptance of Him. As believers, satan has no authority over us unless we give it to him. It is clear that the ruler of this world is satan. We are continually fighting man's sinful nature but through the Holy Spirit and by staying in the will of God, we will overcome that. We are forgiven. But these things are not obtained by being a part of the world's system, laws or ways.

Believers in Jesus Christ are simply in the world—physically present—but not of it, not part of its value system or philosophy. Jesus told us, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” John 17:16. As believers, we should be set apart from the world. This is the meaning of being holy and living a holy, righteous life—to be set apart. We are not to engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, nor are we to retain the corrupt mind that the world creates. We are to conform ourselves, and our minds, to that of Jesus Christ. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1-2). This is a daily activity and commitment.

It is clear that “the world” can never be considered our “community” nor our “home.” We are to be a light in the darkness. In order to do that, we cannot be “of” this world. As the darkness grows, a light seems to glow more brightly.
We can be a light to this world by following God's will and keeping ourselves “separate” from the ways of the world. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most satisfying, happy feeling one can have.

Many people mistakenly believe that “doing good” or “being good” is the same as holiness and therefore they will receive forgiveness from God and eternal life. Is this true? We are to live in such a way that those outside the faith see good deeds and our manner and know that there is something “different” about us. Good works should be a quality that is seen in all who have been reborn, regenerated through the Holy Spirit and our relationship with Jesus Christ. We are under satan's control until we born again through our faith in Jesus Christ. It is vitally important to understand this fact. Unless we are born again, it is impossible for us to please God through “good deeds” we do on our own. We have not yielded ourselves to the Holy Spirit and therefore we are doing things our way,not in God's way.

But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Isaiah 64:6

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Hebrew 9:14

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

Jesus said, “
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:19

He that is not with me is against me:and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Luke 11:23

We are saved by faith, not by works. Good work after we are saved are a byproduct of our faith and Christian life. Some use Ephesians 2:8-9 in an attempt to justify the “good works gets one to heaven” ideology. But, it is very important to understand the distinction between
salvation and rewards.

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.” Ephesians 2:8-9

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 as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26

We have the opportunity to accept the most magnificent gift any person could ever receive. And, it is free. It cost Jesus his life but he gladly gave himself as redemption for man's sin. Yet, it seems that because it is so simple, many don't accept it. A Christian lives according to God's word, puts God first, and yields themselves to God. It is a joy to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our mission is to do His work until He summons us. If you have not made a choice on where you will spend eternity, please consider these word carefully. Jesus died for the sin of all men. He is at the right hand of our Father, interceding on our behalf. We can never achieve good works on our own in order to please God, but through Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and are promised eternal life. We will spend eternity one of two places. I choose God and pray that all who might read this will as well.

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