Thursday, December 08, 2011

ALMOST PERSUADED

The most remarkable conversion to Christianity ever experienced was the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Once a zealot for the Jewish religion and persecutor of the followers of Jesus, Saul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). This meeting with Jesus changed the course of Saul’s life. Shortly after Saul’s conversion, Jesus spoke to a disciple named Ananias and told him that Saul was His chosen vessel to take the gospel to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:10-16). In addition, Jesus told Ananias, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake” (Acts 9:16).

The book of Acts goes on to record the fulfillment of this prophecy in the life of Saul, who became the great Apostle Paul. Paul did indeed bear much suffering and persecution for the gospel of Christ at the hands of his countrymen and the Gentiles. He also bore witness of Christ to earthly kings. One king was a man named Agrippa, the great grandson of Herod the Great, who met Saul while he was a prisoner at Caesarea. In his defense before Agrippa, Paul gave a personal account of his life-changing Damascus road experience with Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26). Near the conclusion of Paul’s testimony to Agrippa, Paul said, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (Acts 26:27). The king’s reply is significant: “Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (v.28). The New International Version translates Agrippa’s reply cynically: “Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Either way, this earthly ruler rejected the words of life Paul shared with him. One of the older commentators stated, “Perhaps we cannot be absolutely sure whether these words were a sneer or whether they were meant to hide conviction. No matter; it was Agrippa's one great opportunity for salvation—and he threw it away!” On the other hand, Paul was not intimidated or silenced by this earthly ruler who refused the words of life he offered him. His response reveals his passion as one ordained to boldly speak the truth of the gospel without respect of persons: “And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (v.29). These words in the Authorized Version seem to validate the fact that Agrippa was “almost persuaded.” Sadly, after this meeting with Paul, Agrippa disappeared from Scripture and died without Christ.

In my many years of Christian ministry I have had my own encounters with the Agrippas of this world. After hearing the good news of the death of Christ in place of sinners and the offer of forgiveness, they were “almost persuaded” but walked away in unbelief. Where they are today, if they are still living, only God knows. Did they eventually turn to Jesus? I do not know. But there is one thing I am certain of: If they never did repent of their sin of unbelief, they will be separated from God forever, and they will bear the punishment for their sins. How sad it is to think they came close to the truth that sets men free (John 8:32). They reached the door but did not enter. They sat at a table of the finest of foods but would not eat. The water of life was set before their dry and parched mouths, but they would not drink. They would not take the final step, having loved this present world more than God.

Maybe there is someone who will read this article who has been “almost persuaded” but remains unconvinced that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son Who came into this world to save him or her from eternal condemnation through His death on the cross, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

On a personal level, I freely admit that my life has been no different then that of any other man. I made many decisions I now regret, and I have failed to make certain decisions I now wish I would have made. Life, however, doesn’t always give us second chances to change our decisions. Neither does God! No one who hears the gospel and casts it aside can ever be certain he will have another opportunity to receive Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

I often tell the young people at church to think carefully before they act because the decisions they make have consequences that may last the course of a lifetime. To be almost persuaded to receive Jesus is to deny that He was the way into the presence of God and the glory of heaven. To be almost persuaded about Jesus is a decision that has eternal consequences. He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

I conclude with the words of the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “To have been almost persuaded and yet not to be a Christian will lead to endless regrets for will not this thought bubble up in the seething soul amidst its torments forever—‘I was almost persuaded to repent. Why did I go on in my sin? I was almost persuaded to put my trust in Jesus. Why did I cling, still, to my self-righteousness and vain ceremonies? I was almost persuaded to forsake my evil companions and to become a servant of God—but I am now cast away forever—where no more persuasions can melt my heart. Oh, my cursed sin! Alas, that I should have been fascinated by its temporary sweetness and for the sake of it should have incurred this never-ending bitterness! Oh, my madness! Oh, my insanity, that I should have chosen the lies which did but mock me and suffered my Savior and His salvation to pass me by!’ …. The grave is appointed for some of you within a few weeks or months. You shall not trifle with God long. O, I pray you, I beseech you! If you have any concern for yourselves and have any sound reason left, seek that your peace may be made with God through the precious blood of Christ! Seek that you may be ready to stand before your Maker’s bar, for stand there you must and will, before many days are past. If you should live another 30 or 40 years, how short that time is and how soon will it pass! Consider your ways now.”

Pastor Tom



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TURNING BACK TO GOD

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” (Psalm 51:7,8).

Psalm 51 is the best known of the penitential psalms written by David, a man who had come to know the depths of sin and the depths of God's forgiveness. After his sin with Bathsheba had been brought to light (2 Samuel 12), the shepherd- king of Israel was a broken man physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Although the consequences of a believer’s transgression may not be readily apparent, they will surely come because the Lord is faithful to chasten those whom He loves. “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:7). Hard as it may be at the moment, God's discipline is not punitive, but transformational. “For they (our earthly fathers) verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). We see this in David's petition that God would create in him a clean heart and a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10). A clean heart is indicative of a new beginning, and a steadfast spirit a new determination. Out of the pit of sin’s despair, the repentant child of God finds comfort and peace in a restored relationship with his Lord and Savior.

Dear Christian brother or sister, have you committed some grievous sin or sins that weigh on you day and night? Is this a burden you can no longer bear? Are you feeling like David did, whose sin was ever before him (Psalm 51:3)? This is a very painful place for a child of God to be. Lost is the joy of one’s salvation, and nothing in life can replace the fellowship with God that was once enjoyed. In my years of pastoral ministry, I have seen this many times among God’s children, and always, I offer the same counsel. Just as with David and with the prodigal son in Luke 15, the way home is the path of repentance. David confessed his sin, and the Lord graciously forgave him all his iniquities. The key to your restoration and favor with God is to acknowledge your sin and need of restored fellowship with God. Seek it without delay. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8, 9). When the prodigal son returned home, his father was moved with compassion, embraced him, and kissed him (Luke 15:20). The story goes on to say that a great feast was held that day because the wayward child had come back to the place of blessing and the comfort of his father’s love.

Dear wandering child of God, today can be your day of rejoicing and blessing if you go to Jesus now, confessing all your sin, seeking only Him and a new beginning. He will never cast you out.

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WHO IS JESUS?

As Jesus and His disciples approached Caesarea Philippi, He asked them a question which has never lost its relevance: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13). Put this question to the man on the street and you will receive a variety of answers. Most people have a general idea about Jesus, but given His historical significance, one would think that there would be more of a consensus and less debate. After all, no one has changed the course of history more than this carpenter’s son from Galilee. Perhaps therein lies the problem. The Bible clearly identifies Jesus as the son of Joseph, who was married to a woman named Mary and resided in Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). His birth was natural in the sense that He was born like all other human beings, “of a woman,” but there is more to the story. According to the Bible, the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary was supernatural: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a son, she was greatly perplexed and asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel’s reply is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Son of Man and Son of God-- what does it mean? And how could it be? In simple terms, it means that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. This is the Christian doctrine known as the Incarnation. In the Latin it means becoming flesh. One pastor described this teaching as “God with skin on.” The Man Jesus did not progress to godhood; He was the eternal God who chose to take upon Himself a fully human nature without diminishing His deity in any way. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6, 7). Jesus was fully human with one great exception-- he was completely sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).

Not surprisingly, this is a great offense to many people. Rather than accept what the Bible asserts in a most dogmatic way --“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9)-- people of many different faiths, and of no faith at all, insist that Jesus was “just a man,” howbeit a good man, perhaps even the best of men. As laudatory as that may sound, it is, in actuality, blasphemy and a blatant denial of what the Scripture teaches. No good man could make the claim that he existed before Abraham came into being (John 8:58). No good man could forgive sin (Mark 2:5-7). No good man could offer himself up in the place of sinners (John 10:11). No good man could rise from the dead (Romans 1:4). Only a perfect man, someone much more than a man-- a man who was also God-- could make such claims and do these things. Where does this leave us? We must accept without denial or hesitation that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh or perish in unbelief. There is no alternative. If God chose to come to us as He did, in the person of Christ, it was because there was no other way to provide salvation for a fallen human race. He came in the likeness of men because all mankind was born in the likeness of Adam, separated from God and without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12). The biblical solution for mankind’s hopeless state is found in Christ alone, who was made like Adam, while remaining free of the defilement that began with Adam. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15a). When He breathed His last on the cross of Calvary, His mission of salvation was complete. A way for sinners to be reconciled with God was now possible. This is the good news of the gospel of peace (Colossians 1:19-21).

If you desire to have peace with God and be reconciled to Him, you must agree with God that you are a sinner (confession) and call upon Jesus to forgive you of all your sins. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6). A famous theologian was once asked, “What is the most profound thing you have ever heard?” He paused for a moment and then replied, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Dear friends, this is indeed a profound truth. Jesus loved you enough to come as a man so that you can have eternal life: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Won’t you receive His gift of love if you have never done so? What is keeping you from Jesus, if He has promised that He will never turn anyone away (John 6:37)? There is a wideness in God’s mercy, but you do not know how long the door of His mercy will be open. No man can be assured of tomorrow, so go to Him without delay and receive the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

"Let not conscience make you linger,

Nor of fitness fondly dream;

All the fitness he requireth

Is to feel your need of him."

In Jesus name,

Pastor Tom

Saturday, May 21, 2011

THE REVELATION OF A FALSE PROPHET: HAROLD CAMPING

May 21, 2011 has come and gone, and Harold Camping has once again misled his faithful followers on Family Radio-- only this time he has also demonstrated beyond all doubt that he is a false prophet. His failed 1994 prophecy of the end of the world came with a question mark, but not this time. Repeatedly, Camping has predicted that the rapture of the true believers, and that judgment upon the wicked, would occur on May 21st, based on what he claims the Bible has revealed. Since the Bible is God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16), we must assume that Camping was speaking in God’s name when he insisted, time after time, that May 21st is Judgment Day. Additionally, according to Family Radio’s Bible answer man, God had opened the eyes of His elect to see this great truth about the time of the end, the way of salvation, as well as many other doctrines which are peculiar to Camping’s cult. But what does the Scripture really say? It states very clearly that false prophets are easy to identify: “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21,22 NKJV).

Mr. Camping has now taken his place in a long list of men and women claiming to speak in God’s name who have come and gone, along with their failed prophecies. On Thursday, May 19th, I heard Mr. Camping give his farewell address at the conclusion of Open Forum. I can only hope that the program is now a closed forum and that all those who have been deceived by his arrogant assertions and wild speculations will humble themselves and seek out good, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring churches in which they can learn God’s Word in the place that God has established as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Whatever excuse Harold Camping presents as to what went wrong is not acceptable. He has vilified and condemned churches and pastors worldwide with his teaching that Satan has been ruling in the church since 1988. This was a diabolical teaching which brought great division in families and led multitudes astray, causing them to abandon the very place God established for their spiritual growth so they could discern truth from error (Ephesians 4:11-16). This is not to say that every church claiming to be Christian is doctrinally sound, but that there are many which do remain faithful to the essential truths of the faith. It is also a recognition that God did not give the Bible to any man or select group of men, but to His church, over which Jesus rules, not Satan: “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18 NKJV).

Tragically, Harold Camping’s teaching that true believers must flee the church leaves them feeling disillusioned, empty, wounded and betrayed. They are the ones who have been “left behind”. What they must remember is that they have not been betrayed or misled by God but by a man who fits the very description of the kind of spiritual predators against whom Paul warned the church of Ephesus: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29, 30 NKJV) .

May the Lord be gracious to all those who were drawn away from God to follow this man. May they also know that they are welcome back into the household of faith (Galatians 6:10), where God’s people gather to worship Him Who alone is worthy of all glory and honor, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep trusting in Jesus,

Pastor Tom

Monday, May 09, 2011

ONLY ONE LIFE


Recently I read the words of the hymn, "Only One Life." It was written many years ago by Avis Christiansen. Above the hymn were the words from James 4:14, “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” As I pondered these words, I thought back to the times I played with soap bubbles in my childhood. I would take the little wand from the colored bottle my mom purchased at a local five-and-dime store, put it near my lips and blow gently. Almost like magic, an assortment of various-sized bubbles would begin to float in the air and then vanish almost as suddenly as they appeared. It was cheap entertainment on a long summer day, but little did I realize the picture of life it was painting before my eyes. Back to the hymn I began with: The second stanza is what struck me the most. In it, the dedication of a life is narrowed down to the present moments that we all possess. It reads in part, "Only this hour is mine, Lord-- may it be used for thee; May every passing moment count for eternity." What is a moment in the light of eternity? Not very much at all, but it is all that we can be assured of, so we must take the moments, bundle them into hours, days, months, and years, and use them for the glory of God. The lesson of soap bubbles need not escape us now. The Christian must not live without purpose or plan. We are not on this earth to be entertained, but to redeem the time, because life is short, and we have "only one life." “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Dear Christian friends, make it your aim to give your life wholly to the One who gave his life wholly for you. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7, 8). This side of heaven is the only time we have to sow diligently, pray faithfully, and reap joyfully. All that we do for Jesus in this world will bring us great joy when we see him face to face and hear him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

May the Lord richly bless your labors for him,

Pastor Tom

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again”(2 Corinthians 5:14-15,NKJ).

Monday, March 21, 2011

IS THE END OF THE WORLD COMING ON MAY 21st?

We have all seen the cartoons of a scruffy-looking bearded man carrying a sign proclaiming that the end of the world is near. All jokes aside, the history of the Christian church bears witness that doomsday prognosticators are no laughing matter. Jesus warned his disciples on more than one occasion to beware of false prophets and false teachers. The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders to be on guard against wolves in sheep’s clothing who would prey on upon God’s people and gain a following (Acts 20:28-30). What makes matters worse is the certainty that spiritual deception will only increase as time progresses, culminating in the great apostasy and the appearance of the Antichrist before the Lord Jesus returns to earth. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition”
(2 Thessalonians 2:3).

If you have paid any attention to the news lately, you can’t help but think that the social and political unrest occurring in various parts of the world may have prophetic significance. The Lord seems to be shaking the nations, but no one can know with certainty where things stand on God’s timetable-- herein lies the problem. Bible prophecy is too often twisted by sensationalists, speculators, and seducers. Take for example the bold pronouncement of self-appointed Bible expert Harold Camping that the rapture of the true believers and the beginning of the final judgment are coming on May 21, 2011. He says that a massive earthquake will shake the world apart on this day, littering the ground with many dead bodies. This is less than three months away, so it is high time for everyone left in Judea to flee to the mountains. Unfortunately, in his twisted scheme of interpretation, Camping says that Judea is the church, and the mountain is Jesus. Therefore, anyone who remains in the organized church is doomed for judgment. Only those who follow Mr. Camping’s warning have the possibility of salvation. In his mixed-up theology, the sinner can only hope that God will save him. Camping writes: “Any unsaved person who has an intense desire to become saved, and realizes that he can become saved only on God’s terms, possibly could be one of God’s elect or chosen.” What a contrast to what the Bible teaches: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:12,13).

Daily on the Family Radio network of stations, listeners are invited to request the free booklet, “We Are Almost There,” to check out the truth about the end times. I do hope that many people will accept this free offer. When May 22nd arrives, they will have prima-facie evidence of how not to interpret the Bible. This should help many of the faithful “Campingites” to be less gullible and more discerning in the future. Unfortunately, at that time, they will have lost all credibility in the eyes of the very people they tried to reach. What will they say to family, friends, and everyone else whom they warned to flee from the wrath to come, when the wrath doesn’t come? Speaking of end-time predictions, doesn’t this sound familiar? After Mr. Camping’s failed 1994 prophecy, one would think that he would have no standing among Christians when it comes to prophetic matters or any other matter. This proves once again that if you say something loud enough and long enough and use the Bible while you’re doing it, some people will believe you. However, if the truth be told, Harold Camping doesn’t use the Bible; he abuses the Bible to a degree rarely seen, even among the best of cultists. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Ellen G. White, and David Koresh would be jealous.

Since he has boxed himself into a corner, it will be interesting, to say the least, to hear the explanation given by “Brother Camping” after he utters the words “Welcome to Open Forum,” on May 22nd. After all, he has offered “infallible proof” which no one can dare to dispute, and it’s all posted on Family Radio’s website. Proud man that he is, Camping refuses to acknowledge even the possibility that he might be wrong. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 17, 2011, he was asked how he might feel if he woke up on May 22nd. He answered, “I would be disobeying God if I say there’s a possibility of that. I mean it with all my heart, there is no possibility, none, none, none – that it will not happen.” We shall see! I believe I can say with a great deal of confidence based on Mr. Camping’s bizarre calculations and exegesis of Scripture that there is “no, no, no possibility” that he is right. So don’t quit your job, cancel your summer vacation, or cash in your retirement fund to help Family Radio get the word out in these final months before it’s all over - because it won’t be all over.

Just so you know, I am not a Bible critic or skeptic. I do believe that Jesus is coming again exactly as He promised. But as He himself declared, “Of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36 NKJV). Faithful Christians are to pray, watch, and work while they wait for His glorious appearing. Don’t get caught up in things you cannot know with absolute certainty. And above all, don’t be deceived by those who claim they have it all figured out. Hopefully, the only thing that will come to an end on May 21st is the last vestige of Harold Camping’s credibility and the end of his failed prophecies.

Ecclesiastes 10:12-13: The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

Be faithful always to God's Word,

Pastor Tom

[1] From the tract “I Hope God Will Save Me”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THE PLAGUE OF MAN'S HEART

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7, the Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating. In response, Jesus spoke a parable to the crowd that followed him to explain that nothing from outside a man which entered into him could bring defilement. Shortly thereafter, speaking to his disciples in private, Jesus gave the meaning of the parable: true defilement comes from within. Its source is internal:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All of these things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).

The universal problem of man is the corruption of his nature (Romans 5:12), rendering him a slave to sin (Romans 6:16) and separating him from God (Isaiah 59:2). Man is not a sinner because he sins; he sins because he is a sinner-- he cannot do otherwise. To put it succinctly, there is no such thing as relative human good. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). This is not to say that all men are equally sinful in their deeds, nor incapable of doing good things. It means that there is a dominant propensity in all of us to live in defiance of the law of our Creator, although some men will manifest that defiance in more heinous acts than will others. So, while all men are not equally bad, everyone is equally badly off and needs forgiveness for his sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, Who died so that we might have life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11,12).

Through His marvelous grace, God has made a way for every sinner to escape the condemnation of his sin. Jesus, God's beloved Son, came to this earth to die in our place (1 Peter 3:18) and take upon Himself the punishment that justice demands (Romans 5:8). The theological term for the satisfaction of God's wrath by the death of Christ is propitiation (1 John 4:10). The voluntary, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus in place of sinners solves the problem of how an infinitely holy God can accept people who are so thoroughly evil. The plague of man's heart could only be cleansed by someone with a pure heart, someone completely without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the good news of the Gospel. However, God's remedy for man's spiritual condition is not readily received. Why is that? The reason is that the mind of man has been darkened by the deceitfulness of sin, and he cannot see his great need. In 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4 the Scripture says, " But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

In such an abject state of darkness, the sinner is without God, without Christ, and without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12). Sadly, there is no answer in religion, no remedy in philosophy, no cure in psychology, no escape through self-actualization, and no relief in the pleasures of this world. Only God can reveal Christ to those who walk in the kingdom of darkness. This revelation comes about through the preaching of the Gospel and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Jesus, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7, 8). The Holy Spirit is presently fulfilling this Divine function in the world. To its own detriment, the modern church often relies on methods and gimmicks to try to effect genuine conversion rather than an absolute dependence upon the Spirit and the power of God's Word (Hebrews 4:12). The radical spiritual and moral change that man needs must come from above through the new birth, which is something that God does for man when man is willing to yield to God as he comes under the conviction of the Spirit. John tells us that he wrote his gospel so that people might understand who Jesus was and respond appropriately:

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe [or put your trust in Him] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [acknowledging His Deity]; and that believing [or through faith] ye might have [spiritual] life through his name (John 20:30-31).

A good historical example of biblical salvation is found in the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Here we see that Peter boldly preached Jesus and proclaimed that the “house of Israel” was guilty of rejecting their Messiah (Acts 2:36). The Scripture then records, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). The conviction of the Spirit (piercing of their heart) ultimately led to their conversion. When they asked what they should do, they were given the light necessary for salvation. The apostle told them that they must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (upon) the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). This is exactly what they did, and three thousand people were born again that day (verse 41). This new birth experience (John 3:3) is more than a temporary reformation; it is the transformation of the man from the inside out, making him capable of obeying God's law (Jeremiah 31:33). Here we have the only hope for the plague of man's heart: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Sinner, if you are still wandering far from God, won't you come today to Jesus? I read that the early Methodist preachers were called the “now preachers” because they offered salvation on the spot. No one should put off such a vital decision: “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Evangelist Dwight L. Moody once said, "If I can get a man to think for five minutes about his soul, he is almost certain to be converted.” Perhaps you have never thought seriously about your soul and what happens to you after death. God wants you to be certain about matters pertaining to salvation: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). If you cannot describe yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ, I pray that you take the time right now to carefully reflect on your spiritual condition. Think about your soul, acknowledge that you are a sinner, and look to Jesus and live (John 3:14-16).

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Pastor Tom