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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Real Simple

Real Simple

The message is so simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) and “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)  and …Whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  God’s grace is all encompassing.  It includes everyone.  The heavenly Father loves everybody and is calling us all home. (John 3:16)  Come, we are all invited!  The door is wide open and the porch light is always on.

Paul and Barnabas were traveling around Greece and Asia preaching this joyous message and thousands of people were accepting Jesus as their Savior and becoming Christians!  People were being healed of diseases and turning from their sins. The Holy Spirit was in their midst and new churches were springing up everywhere Paul preached. These were exciting times!

But then some men from Judea arrived on the scene, went into the churches and told these new enthusiastic Christians that Paul was wrong.  That becoming a Christian was complicated. Just believing in Jesus was too simple! Simple faith wasn’t enough! And that in order to receive salvation they needed to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses! The door to salvation wasn’t open.  It had a lock on it and one had to know the correct combination to open it. 

Paul was so upset that he decided to take a trip to Jerusalem and question the apostles and elders about this.  The very first Christian church had been formed in Jerusalem and many of Jesus’ disciples were members of this Jerusalem church.  Since the elders in Jerusalem had been the first to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and many of them had walked and talked with Jesus, maybe they could answer this question.  Was Jesus enough for salvation- or did a person need to be circumcised and obey intricate laws in order to be saved from sin? 

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem and asked this question to the apostles and elders, it started up a long discussion among them. The elders argued and prayed together and fasted and asked the Holy Spirit to lead them. They all knew that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had died to take away sins.  But then, being Jewish, they had all spent their lives obeying the Old Testament laws. Was the new Christian church just supposed to forget all of those laws?  Jesus had said that He was the fulfillment of those laws, but what did that mean? What did God want?  They prayed and asked God to show them what to do and then they waited. 

After days of prayer, fasting and arguing Peter stood up and spoke to the men and women in the Jerusalem church.  Let’s read what Peter said.  “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, ‘Fellow believers, you know that a good while ago God chose me among our group to go to the Gentiles and preach the Word.  And the Gentiles believed the gospel. So God who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us.  And God made no distinction between us and them purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt God, to put a yoke (of the law) upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.’”.  (Acts 15: 7-11)

So there you have it.  Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit was announcing to the Jerusalem church that a person is not saved by obeying the law but by believing “that  through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved,…”  There were strong willed leaders in this first Christian church who disagreed with Peter, but they all prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to guide them in the right decision.  And soon they were all agreeing with Peter that faith in Jesus was all that was needed for salvation.

This was a turning point in the life of the new Christian church, and one that was resolved through the influence of the Holy Spirit.  In such an important and hotly debated issue, the unity of the elders in the Jerusalem church is very impressive.

We can understand both sides of this debate.  All of us tend to want to define what a Christian is.  Should God just let everyone in through the door?  What about people who steal and cheat and kill?  How could God have standards low enough to include everyone?  But what seems difficult for us is easy for God:  He has His ways.

Scripture says: “He who believes in Jesus 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.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.”  (John 3:18-20)

 This Scripture makes it sound like some people stay away from Jesus (the Light) because they don’t want Him to clean up the bad things they are doing. They love their sinful lifestyle (darkness) too much to be drawn to (the Light) Jesus.  Does believing in Jesus or having “faith” mean that we need to be willing to let Him bring us out of our darkness?  Sounds difficult but it’s not since the Light is warm and inviting and we are drawn to it. 

 How much faith does a person need to be able to accept Jesus?  Once Jesus’ disciples ask Him how much faith a person needed. And Jesus answered that all that is needed is the faith of a grain of mustard seed.  A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds there is.  Jesus was saying that the tiniest bit of faith in Him is all we need. He will do the rest. He can give us his Spirit, take away our sins and change us. Jesus paid it all. We can’t add anything to that. He is the heavy weight and we are the light weights. Our part is so small- just a tiny bit of faith- and He will even give us that if we are willing. The door is wide open. It’s real simple.    




1 comment:

  1. Dear Jane,

    Yes, I agree with you. Salvation is simple. I was in one of those churches that believed you had to be baptized, speak in tongues,and the rules.

    Than, a United Methodist gave me the Scripture Romans 10:13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. For conversion.

    Do you believe that conversion occurs the moment you make just the faith statement: Call upon the name of the Lord?

    Thank You,Greg