Everyone has something that sparks their interest, challenges their thinking, or at least engages their senses on some level. For me it’s the written word. I love books. I got my first audio book when I was about three years old. It was a Read and Hear Little Golden Book and Record. This was the early 1960’s and The Little Red Caboose was accompanied with a vinyl 45. I would sit for hours listening and registering to my small collection of stories. I was introduced to the beloved characters of Scuffy the Tugboat, Peter Rabbit, The Little Red Hen, and the Poky Puppy, as well as Disney’s Pinocchio and Bambi, Cinderella and of course Snow White. Some of the records even had songs which were like a tiny rhythmic version of the story. I can still remember the tune from The Little Red Caboose record. It’s imbedded in my memory. I couldn’t get it out if I wanted to. I must have listened to that record a dozen times a day, every day. Stories and me go back to my beginning. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a bookshelf in my room and an open book on my nightstand.
When my reading skills developed my library grew. My favorite were adventure stories. I never liked horror stories. I was enthralled with the real life story of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom. I was drawn to stories which depicted the victorious struggle of the human spirit triumphing over evil despite what might be overwhelming odds. It’s one of the reasons I absolutely love the story of the gospels. I love reading about the life of Jesus. Maybe it’s because of all the stories I read. Maybe it’s because I believe in a good God that I believe good triumphs.
I just believe that God is greater than the evil which surrounds us. And I believe that because God resides within the spirit of man that man has the ability to overcome evil with good, because God is good. I believe that love trumps hate and mercy triumphs over judgment. My love for triumphant endings does not go amiss when it comes to the gospel and the life of Jesus. Jesus triumphed over death and the grave. He struggled with the devil in the wilderness and emerged triumphant. The devil didn’t get his way with Jesus. He might kick our butts from time to time. Satan might get his licks in when we are in hand to hand combat with him. I’m no match for the devil. None of us are. But Jesus is. He is the only one who emerged victorious in the battle against Satan. On our own humanity is not equipped for the fight. The only one who can win against our adversary the devil is Jesus. This is why the apostle John could pen these words in John 4:4 “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
I always love reading the accounts of Jesus encountering humanity. He always met human suffering with mercy. He met sickness and disease with healing. And he met despair with hope and encouragement. He brought love and mercy and grace. What He did not bring was a sword. The apostles, as well as all Israel for that matter, were looking for a Messiah who would conquer militarily and governmentally. Jesus did neither. He made it clear that His kingdom was not of this world. He brought the characteristics and attributes of His kingdom. And they were contrary to those of this world. They were looking for a repeat of the Davidic dynasty. They wanted to be a military force once again. David after all defeated all the armies which surrounded Israel. He was a triumphant military leader. He was Israel’s most beloved king. Under David’s rule, Israel became a nation united under one king, like the great other nations of the world. But military and governmental rule wasn’t necessarily God’s objective through David. David was instructed by God to get rid of idolatry. And David did just that. In order to do that David led Israel on a quest for ridding the land of idolatry.
The heart of a man is not always what is perceived and remembered by the onlookers. Israel may have revered their beloved king but they did not necessarily embrace his wholehearted approach to living for God. By the time of Jesus Israel had long forgotten the commitment to the One True God, the God of Sinai. All the old idolatry had been reinstated and the Sanhedrin and rabbinic Judaism replaced the order of the Priests and the Prophets. Hellenism had influenced the priesthood as well as all Israel. They were no longer a people set apart, but a people blended with the world. That blending with the world reduced Israel’s effectiveness in representing God to the world around them. Jesus came to display God. He came to introduce us to the Father. He came to emulate the kingdom of God. He came to show us the way to God. He came to become the way to God. The story of Jesus isn’t just a nice children’s story. It is the story of the ages.
As Paul wrote to the Romans: (1:16-17) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek. For the gospel reveals the righteousness of God that comes by faith from start to finish, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
I’ve read a lot of stories over the years. I have read stories that have inspired me, provoked me, encouraged me or enraged me. None of those stories had the power to save me and deliver me out of darkness. None of those stories could transfer me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. (Col. 1:13) There is only one story that has the power of salvation and that is the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The word gospel is a Greek word which means good news. It is the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus the Son of God. The gospel of grace isn’t just a story. It’s a gift, a free gift. The gift of salvation is offered freely. We can accept God’s gift of salvation simply by placing our faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins. Humankind is born into sin through the sin of the first man, Adam, when he disobeyed God. Sin entered the world through Adam. Everyone born since Adam has been born into sin. However, Romans 5:19 states: “For as indeed through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous”
Jesus’ obedience referred to here is his obedience to take on the sin of the world and die as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus came with one focus and one objective, be the atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind. When John the Baptist saw Jesus after he had been baptized John proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sinof the world!”(John 1:29) Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
(1 Peter 1: 17-21TLV) If you call on Him as Father—the One who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds—then live out the time of sojourning in reverent fear.You know that you were redeemed from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors—not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with precious blood like that of a lamb without defect or spot, the blood of Messiah. He was chosen before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.Through Him you are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your trust and hope are in God
I love the simplicity of the salvation message.
Teen Missions International calls it the ABC’s of Salvation.
The Navigator’s call it the Bridge to Life.
Here’s a link for How to Begin a Relationship with God.
Quote from Billy Graham’s website: “Salvation is an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God, and sustained by God. The faith that saves the soul is described as faith in Christ as the Son of God—not as a good man or a great man, but as the uniquely begotten Son of the living God! This is consistent with the witness of the entire New Testament and with the proclamations of the first preachers of the Gospel. All proclaim the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ as deity.”
When I was a teen I purchased a book I was drawn to at the local drug store. I asked Jesus into my life when I was a young child. This simple thin paperback seemed to beacon to me. The pages unfolded a story of how man was made in the image of God, how man sinned and was in need of a Savior. While I had been introduced to Jesus I had not been discipled, so to speak. My parents were not saved. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My Grandfather was devout in his faith, but my parents were not. When my parents divorced and my Grandfather didn’t live with us anymore I was on my own to learn about God. I had a King James bible. Elizabethan English isn’t native to seven year olds. What I needed was simple. This book explained the simple gospel message in one person’s testimony. The book still sits on my bookshelf as a reminder that coming to Christ is simple. I remember the day I got to the page with a prayer of repentance. It was April 15, 1975.
I prayed the prayer. Something transpired in my life which took the seed of faith about Jesus which had been planted and suddenly it began to bear fruit. After I prayed this prayer I felt different than I had before. While I was God conscious prior to this, afterward I felt cleansed. I knew I had experienced something I hadn’t before. It was powerfully impacting. There was a change in my life. It was later that April of 1975 that I was water baptized along with a few others from a home group. I can’t explain how I knew, but I knew, I was a new creation. I was new on the inside in a way I wasn’t prior to this experience.
Faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for our sins is all that is needed for salvation. According to the Bible, the act of water baptism expresses three things which happen to believers upon being baptized: (1) they die with Christ to their old self; (2) they rise with Christ to become a new creature; and (3) they are incorporated in their new life with a living community which looks for the coming of the Lord (Romans 6:1-11).
It’s a simple story, a simple prayer. While it is simple it has the most powerful ability to change your life. My life has never been the same since that day. I am not perfect. I have not lived a perfect life according to some standards. Being a Christian isn’t about living up to a certain standard of living. It’s about accepting the fact that all humanity is born in sin, and we are in need of redemption and salvation. Jesus’ death on the cross purchased out salvation. Our lives have been redeemed, purchased back from eternal death, by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. He died as punishment for sin. Accepting by faith that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died as punishment for sin, and because the sacrifice required has been satisfied grace is extended to receive forgiveness of sin and cleansing from unrighteousness. Through this gift of salvation we gain access to God by faith. Every day by that same act of faith I can approach God because of what Jesus did on the cross.
I may recall the pictures and the stories of childhood. But none of those stories had the power of salvation. I may have enjoyed the adventures of Tom Sawyer, King Arthur, and the Hobbit, but none of those stories had the power to set me free from the power of sin and grant me access to God. Those were all great stories. I still love great stories. But the story of Christ and the power of redemption, the free gift of salvation is my favorite story of all.