The Place of the Bible in the Life of the Christian.

It is impossible to exaggerate the place the Bible has in the life of the christian. It is not enough to believe that the bible in its entirety is God’s infallible word. It is not  enough to read the bible as a devotional book. It is not enough to have a good knowledge of its contents. All these things are important, but they do not amount to an adequate view of the place of the bible in one’s life. The bible must be the rule of life. We must be under its rule and sway in every area of our lives, from the most public areas to the most private and intimate areas. It is our God-given instruction book. The bible not only shows us how to get RightWithGod,  but it is a comprehensive guide to every area of our lives. The Psalmist says in Psalm 119, verse 105, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”.  Our attitude should be, ‘The whole of the bible for the whole of life”.  That is the way to true happiness for the christian. Yes, the whole of the bible, the Old Testament and the New add up to one word of God. Christ rules those whom he saves through His word. He speaks to them through His word. He leads them through His word. When He met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself”. This verse is worth reading intensely,  weighing every phrase. It  tell us something of extreme importance: The whole Old Testament speaks of Christ. The only bible they had at that point was the Old Testament. We now have the complete bible, the Old and New Testaments, God’s great gift to His church, to guide her in all matters of  teaching, conduct, worship and every detail of the christian life. This enables us to live lives, as christians, which are pleasing to God, and that, for the true child of God,  means true happiness.

After we are saved, we learn very quickly to recognise when things are not right between ourselves and God. We do not have the peace which we once had, and we do not enjoy God as we once did. We realise that, although God has not left us, and never will, his frown is upon us, rather than His smile. We need to get right with him by confessing our sins and genuinely repenting, so that the relationship is restored. There is no greater enjoyment in this life than knowing that we are able to delight in God, and that at the same time, He delights in us. This is all about being RightWithGod. Once we become Christians, we belong to God, and He takes a special interest in each one of us, not only in spiritual things, but in every aspect of our lives.

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How do I know that I have truly believed on Christ

Fundamental to all true understanding of salvation is the principle of, ‘We love Him, because He first loved us,’  (1 John 4:19). This principle must be kept before us continually, right from the time we are first aware of a desire to be saved. It means that our seekings and desires are a result of God working in us to cause us to seek and desire to be saved. This does not mean that we can lie back and let God ‘get on with it’, and not put any effort into it at all. No one is ever saved without  struggle or effort to believe on Christ, and to trust Him for our salvation. The question may trouble them for quite a long time: ‘Have I truly believed sufficiently for salvation’? There is no specific test for true believing on Christ. But, there are ways that we can get an assurance that we are truly saved. What are they?

These are based on the principle that we have already stated, ‘We love Him because He first loved us’. His love for us is proved to us by changes that we find in ourselves. Changes that are so slow and gradual that we are not aware of any moment of change, but perhaps suddenly we realise that we are different. Our inclinations have changed, our affections have changed, our enjoyments have changed, our enjoyment in reading the bible has greatly increased; and so the changes pile up. The explanation of these changes is that God has worked a miracle in us; the miracle of new birth. This happened in an instant known only to God, but soon we are conscious that something has happened, that we are different from what we  were. The new birth is a resurrection: we are by nature dead to spiritual experiences or enjoyments because we are fallen creatures. In the new birth we are raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. We are able to know  that we have truly believed unto salvation; we are able to love God, and to love His  Son, Jesus Christ; we are able to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord; we are able to enjoy quietness and solemnity because these things bring us nearer to God.

Of course, Satan does not  like when someone gets RightWithGod, and he will do every thing in his power to discourage you. He will tell you that  you are not really all that different from what you were; that you are not good enough to be a christian. The answer is to say to him, as you say to yourself, ‘I am not what I should be, I am not what I want to be, but I know that I am not what I was’, and send him packing! It is worth keeping in mind that the first thing that the bible tells us about Satan (Genesis 3:1) is that he is very cunning. The word in the original language means cunning or crafty. However it is worth also remembering that it can also be turned to mean skillful. We must all beware that Satan is cunning and  crafty in the most malevolent way,  but that he can also be skillful in an equally malevolent way.  We will learn much about his wiles in our christian lives. The more we learn about him and his ways, the better we will be able to deal with him.

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Believing and Trusting

There is nothing more important in all our short time in this life than that we should get RightWithGod before we leave it. If we are to be saved, it must be in this life. No one will be saved after death. All who are not saved in this life will be under the wrath of God for all eternity. Hence our time in this life is of  indescribable importance. That is what this blog is all about.

We have looked at the meaning of believing on Christ, stressing  the importance of being burdened about the danger we are in if we do not believe on Him: namely, that we face a miserable, endless eternity. This makes believing  on Christ a matter of the greatest urgency.

Today we continue our quest to get as much insight into this believing on Christ as we possibly can. In order to do this we turn again to the Old Testament and the faith of Abraham. In Genesis 15, verse 6, we read, “And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him  for Righteousness”. Abraham is set before us in the New Testament by Paul as the example of  true saving faith.  In Romans, chapter 4, verse 3 we read, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness”. In other words He was saved by believing in the promise of God that He would send a Saviour, who would undo the effects of the fall. This gospel promise was first given in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 15, one of the most important verses  in the bible. That promise was increasingly clarified throughout the Old Testament, in a great many foreshadowings of Christ, the Son of God, who would come and suffer and die in time, and on this earth, as a substitute for sinners.

As often happens in studying the bible, the original language helps us enormously. We do not need to know any Hebrew in order to understand what we are about to look at. The Hebrew word for “believed” in Genesis 15, verse 6, quoted above is a very useful word in the present context. The basic root idea of the word is firmness.  The best example would be the firm and sure support given to a child when it is held in the parent’s arms. The  child has complete trust in these arms. This is really wonderful, because it sheds a precious extra light on what it means to believe on Christ, namely, that this believing is an absolute trust in His person and work. He will not fail us. If we believe on Him, and put all our trust in Him, we will be RightWithGod, and we will most certainly be saved. Obviously  there has to be an implicit, child-like trust in Christ, the One whom God has sent.

With the help of this illustation, and the one we looked at in the last RightWithGod, we should be getting a clearer idea of what true saving faith is. We must personally believe on and trust in Christ for our salvation, but at this point, we need God’s enabling help.  This is stated clearly in the well-known verse in Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and  that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”: but, crucially, all our attempts at believing and trusting must be bathed in prayer, confessing our inability in this matter and pleading that He will, in His mercy, answer our prayer, and enable us to believe and trust in Christ for our salvation. There is no lasting peace and happiness in this life without being RightWithGod.

 

 

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What does it mean to believe on Christ?

Last week we quoted the well-known text in the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.  This makes it look as if it is extremely easy to become a christian: just believe in Christ and you will be saved. However, we have  to be careful when we make things simple, that we do not make them too simple. The great theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, in a very different context, once said, “Make things as simple as they can be made, but no simpler”, and that is good advice when trying to explain to a person how to become a christian. We must not make it more complicated or more simple that the bible makes it.

In John 3, verse 16, in the original language there is a clue to this. The word translated ‘in’ is a word meaning motion towards, or motion into. In fact the same word is translated, ‘on’ in verse 18.

Jesus Himself was an expert at explaining spiritual things, and He usually did so by illustration, and that is exactly what He has done in the passage in John that we are looking at. He calls His hearers to consider an Old Testament illustration with which they would all have been familiar. We read the story in Numbers, chapter 21, verses 4 to 9. The Children of Israel were under the judgement of God because they had begun to complain to Moses, their God-given leader, that the way was difficult. They accused Moses on account of the difficulty, saying that he should never have led them out of Egypt where they were enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. In response to their sinful complaint, God sent fiery serpents among them. Their bite was fatal, and many were dying. This brought them to their senses and they came to Moses confessing their sins and asking him to pray to God to take the serpents away. In answer to Moses’ prayer God gave him a very strange instruction. He was to make a serpent of brass and set it high on a pole so that all could see it. God gives the promise that everyone who is bitten, if he or she simply looks at the serpent they would be completely healed and saved from death.

Now this is one of many illustrations from things that happened in the old testament which explains a very important aspect of the gospel: what it means to believe on, Christ in order to be saved. Now there are many such illustrations in the Old Testament, so we have to ask the question, why did Jesus choose this particular one? Why, in this most important of all gospel passages in the New Testament, did Jesus choose this particular illustration? It is because it, more that any other, it is the best illustration of what it means to believe on Christ in such a way as to be saved.

Yes, it is simply looking to Christ, and being saved; but it is no casual look: it is the looking of those who are under the judgement of God, and hence, perishing, and who know it for sure. They have been brought to the position where they have no hope, but that Christ was lifted up on the cruel cross in order to pay the penalty for their sins, and make them Right With God.

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