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HOW TO BE CLEAN IN A POLLUTED WORLD

Is it wise to believe everything you hear?  Michel de Montaign, a religious writer in the middle ages, believed that we should never embrace the ready-made views of others, no matter how impressive their authority.  Instead, we should consider various ideas, then make a choice.

In the religious world today, there are a lot of people who are willing to tell us what we must do to be saved, but not everyone is saying the same thing.  The question is, who is right?  Wouldn't you agree that when it comes to religion, the only reliable source is God?  The story is told about how the huge generators in Henry Ford's first plant in Dearborn, Michigan broke down. The plant came to a halt.  Ordinary mechanics and their helpers could not get the generators going.  Ford was losing money.  Finally, he called in Charlie Steinmetz, one of the greatest minds in the field of electricity.  Steinmetz had built the great generators in Ford's plant.  After arriving, he seemed to putter around for a few hours, then threw a switch.  Immediately, the giant generators roared into operation.  A few days later the bill came - $10,000.  Although Ford was a very rich man, he returned the bill with a note, "Charlie, isn't this bill a little high for a few hours of tinkering around on those motors?"  Steinmetz returned the bill.  This time it read: "For tinkering around on the motors: $10.  For knowing where to tinker: $9,990.  Total: $10,000."  Henry Ford paid the bill.  My point is this, the greatest value is not in the tinkering but in knowing where to tinker.  God knows where to tinker!

This tract is not designed to give you all the answers, but to point you to the Source.  You are encouraged to carefully study the Bible passages quoted in this tract.  All passages are taken from the New International Version of the Bible - a modern English translation of the Scriptures. 

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THE BIBLE REVEALS THAT GOD IS HOLY . . .

This is an important starting point because it establishes our need for Christ, and salvation from sin.  The Bible says, that God has revealed Himself to mankind throughout all of mankind's existence.  Even the world attests that something intelligent, powerful, and creative brought it into existence.  Do you believe that the clothes you wear had a "designer" but the world did not?  It is not necessary to actually see the Creator to recognize the fact of special creation.  That's the argument of the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-32.  There is indeed design in this world; and I am convinced it was created by superior intelligence.  God is not only creative and intelligent, but He is also holy.  I John 1:5 states; "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him is no darkness at all."  In other words, it's not how we look in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, but how we look in the sight of God.  A lot of people try to determine good or evil on how it relates to God.  He is the standard upon which to base our lives!  The Bible tells us that God is not just a force, or principle, but God has personality and attributes, and one great attribute of God is He is holy!

 . . . BUT MAN IS NOT HOLY!

Sometimes when I talk to people I'm given the impression that they have a relationship with God based on their own self righteousness.  Statements are made such as: "I try to be a good neighbor" or "I keep the ten commandments" or "I'm not a bad person!"  According to Scripture it is impossible to earn a right relationship with God.  The reason is simple.  When we compare ourselves to God, we all fall short of His standard of perfection.  Two passages in the book of Romans help us establish this point.  Romans 3:10 says: "As it is written: there is no one righteous, not even one."  Then in Romans 3:23 we find: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

It is like jumping into Long Island sound and trying to swim unaided across the Atlantic to England.  Some of us would swim farther than others, but not one of us could cross that ocean without help.  No doubt, some people live better lives than others, but when we compare ourselves to God, we all have a sin problem.  It is obvious to me that something is wrong when, in the world, you see corruption in government, religion, sports, business, community and even in our homes.  What's more, our entertainment, music and other media mesmerize us with messages that exploit our ethical standards.  The Bible reminds us of a holy God who hates evil and holds this world accountable for its' actions.  Unfortunately, many have become cynical about these matters.  We can stop thinking about and looking to God for help.  Fortunately, God has never stopped thinking and providing for us.

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THE SOLUTION TO OUR DILEMMA LIES WITH HIS SON

If there is to be reconciliation between mankind and God, the initiative and action must come from God.  Consider this.  An eight year old boy named Derky  was flying with one of his father's pilots when the plane developed engine trouble.  They sent out a "Mayday" signal just before crashing in a desert region.  The word got through to his father and a search began.  They found the dead pilot, but the boy had wandered into the desert.  They sent back word to the father, who had brochures made.  He immediately flew up to the area, and started throwing brochures out the window, blanketing the area with a message to his son.  The message written on the brochures was something like this: "Derky, don't worry.  I'm searching for you.  I'll find you.  Dad!"  Imagine how that boy felt finding a love note falling out of heaven from his father.  That's what Jesus Christ is saying to us.  He reveals God's unyielding love for you and me.

It was not just the incarnation of Christ that causes reconciliation between God and mankind, nor was it Jesus' example as He lived among us.  It was through his death that peace is possible between God and his creation.  Colossians 1:20 speaks of Christ when it states: "And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."  You ask, how can a holy God be just in canceling a debt?  If a judge sets a man free who is guilty of a crime, the judge cheapens the law and leaves the injured party without restitution.  God, however, paid the debt for our sins when He gave his Son on the cross, thereby upholding the holiness of his laws!

The cross and the resurrection of Jesus address the three most haunting problems of our age: guilt, a problem with the past; meaninglessness, a problem with the present; and hopelessness, a problem with the future.

Dr. S.D. Gordon, a Boston preacher, one day placed a beat-up rusted bird cage beside his pulpit, and proceeded to tell how he happened to have it.  He had encountered a grubby, dirty little boy, about 10, coming out of the alley swinging this old bird cage.  Several tiny birds were shivering on the floor of the cage.  Dr. Gordon asked the boy where he got the birds, and he said he trapped them..  When Dr. Gordon asked the boy what hew was going to do with them, he replied, "I'm going  to play with them, have fun with them." Dr. Gordon said, "Sooner or later you're going to get tired of that; then what are you going to do with them?"  The boy responded, "I have cats at home.  They like birds.  I'll feed 'em to my cats."  The compassionate Dr. Gordon asked, "Son, how much do you want for these birds?"  Surprised, the boy said, "Mister, you don't want these birds.  They're just plain old field birds.  They can't sing.  They're ugly."  "Just tell me how much you want," said Gordon.  The boy thought...squinted...hesitated...calculated and finally said, "two dollars?"  To his surprise, Dr. Gordon reached into his pocket and handed him two crisp dollar bills.  The preacher took the cage, in a flash the boy had disappeared down the alley.  In a sheltered crevice between the buildings Dr. Gordon opened the door of the cage and, tapping on the rusty exterior, encouraged the birds to find their way to the door and fly away.  Having accounted for the empty cage beside the pulpit, the preacher went on to tell what seemed like an unconnected story - about how one day long ago Jesus and the devil were involved in negotiations.  Satan boasted about how he had baited the trap in the garden of Eden and caught a world full of people.  Jesus asked, "What are you going to do with all those people?"  "I'm going to play with them, tease them, make them marry and divorce and fight and kill one another.  I'm going to teach then to throw bombs at each other.  I'm going to have fun with them."  Jesus said, "You can't have fun with them forever.  When you get tired of playing with them, then what will you do with them?" Satan said, "Damn them.  They're no good anyway.  I'll damn them.  Kill them."  Christ asked, "How much do you want for them?"  Satan said, "You can't be serious.  If I sell them to you they'll hate you.  They'll hit you and hammer nails into you.  They're no good!"  "How much?" demanded Jesus.  "All your tears and your blood; that's the price," Satan growled.  And Jesus paid the price and opened the door.

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Inspired by the Holy Spirit, this truth was revealed by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before Christ was born.  In the words of Isaiah 53:4-5 "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him striken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."  The question is: What is our response to Christ's suffering and sacrifice on our behalf?

 

WHAT MUST I DO . . . ?

Every accountable person living should ask the very personal and practical question: "What must I do to be saved?"  Each of us must check the Scriptures to make sure that we have submitted our lives Jesus' way.  In doing so, we are assured that we have not simply followed the traditions of men, but the will of God.

Now let us not what is involved in having the assurance of forgiveness from God (sometimes referred to as being "born again").  The New Testament gives certain steps taken by people to become Christians.

First, we must believe what we have heard about Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ emphasized the significance of believing that He was able to save mankind of their sins in John 8:24: "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."  This is the confession that we must make.  Romans 10:9, 10 says: That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."  I have never seen Jesus Christ.  All I know about him is what is revealed in the Scriptures.  Based on this information, I have a personal faith that He is who He claims to be.  Another reason I believe is that I have witnessed the difference it makes in a person.  I know the difference he has made in my life and many others.  A story is told about a father and daughter during World War II, living in London.  During an air raid, they ran to a bomb shelter.  This particular one was just a hole in the ground to a tunnel.  The father jumped in first, and the daughter was afraid because she could not see her father in this hold.  But the father yelled, "Come darling I'll catch you!"  But his daughter said, "I'm afraid, I can't see you!"  On the basis of the voice of her father she jumped into the dark into her father's arms.  My point is we might not have all the answers about life and God, but we do have His word and I encourage you to accept what it says about Jesus Christ.

 

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Secondly, we must repent.  Jesus said in Luke 13:3: ". . . unless you repent, you too will all perish."  Essentially this means that we need to change our mind about sin.  It's talking about a disposition that says "no" to sin and "yes" to righteousness.  We need to hate and put away from our lives the things that Jesus had to die for.  This involves some behavior modification.  This basis for this change should be the cross and the acknowledgement of the holiness of God.  In addition, repentance needs to be stressed.  Some people fail to become Christians not because of intellectual issues but because of moral rebellion!  What is right or wrong is not defined by man's changing attitudes and social customs.  It's determined by the God of the universe.  We can't approach God any way that we please.  Our knowledge of God is not simply to be theoretical, but it must be practical.  It must touch our lives!  We must bring our stubborn will under control and give our love and allegiance to God.

Thirdly, we must be baptized.  Consider the words of Jesus in Mark 16:15, 16: "He said to them, go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."  Jesus said it was necessary to be baptized in order to be saved.  The early church believed this as well.  Please consider the following passages of Scripture - Acts 2:36-41; 8:26-39; 16:25-34; 22:6-16.  Romans 6:3, 4 is also helpful in pointing out the reason why God would ask his people to be baptized.  This passage is also helpful in establishing the link between baptism and the redeeming blood of Christ.  "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into his death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."  Baptism is an expression of our faith in two of the most important events in history, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When a person is buried in water and raised it symbolizes Jesus' death and his resurrection.  This passage also helps us to see that the 'Mode" of baptism was immersion and not sprinkling or pouring water over someone.  The passages we looked at previously indicated that those who were baptized were people who could believe and repent.  Therefore, infants and very young children would not be eligible to follow these commands.

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The Holy Spirit is also vital to renewal.  Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5 that: "Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  The Apostle Paul in Romans 8:1 reveals that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.  Acts 2:38 is clear as to when a person receives the Holy Spirit: "Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  According to the Apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit was promised to all those who repented of their sins and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit then guarantees our inheritance. (See Ephesians 1:13, 14).

You might have noticed that several passages were used to prove what people were told to do to accept the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ.  It is important to understand that the Bible was written in such a way that it is cumulative in its' teaching.  A doctrine should not be based on just one passage.  We must look throughout the Scriptures to find out what the Bible says on a particular subject.  Let me give you an illustration.  You have to read Mark 14:47, Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:50, 51 and John 18:10, to learn that Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, drew his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest on the night that Jesus was arrested.  You would not know all of this information by looking at just one passage.  The same is true on what the Bible teaches concerning what one must do to be saved.  We must make sure we have considered all that the Bible says on the subject.  These commands should not be viewed as "multiple choice".  It's not up to us to say: I'll select one but leave out the rest.

When a person responds in the same way as the people did in the New Testament they simply become Christians.  They were not Catholic or Protestant Christians - they were not hyphenated Christians, they were simply - Christians!  The Lord adds people to his body, which consists of people from all walks of life throughout the world.  It is my prayer that these Scriptures may guide you to the forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ.

Written by: Jim Crisp