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Essence of Christianity
The essence of Christianity is not going to church or even keeping His commandments, although both are important. No, the essence of Christianity is entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord. This relationship is referred to as being "in Christ," "knowing God," "being a child of God," "abiding in Christ." "born again," etc. We meet with the church because God knows that we need the encouragement, love, instruction and support of those who are walking in the same way so that we might remain "in Christ." Similarly, we keep His commandments, not to thereby be righteous, but to enter into this relationship and also to remain in it. There are many factors that are involved in salvation, some like denying yourself, faith, confession, repentance and baptism are the entrance path to this relationship, others such as hope, sanctification, renewal, etc are designed to maintain that relationship and to grow in that relationship. We should never think that because we have believed, God saves us, or because we are baptized, God saves. Salvation is a free gift to those "in Christ." Otherwise grace is not grace but debt.
How do we enter into this relationship? By the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus paid the penalty, death, for our sins and God graciously accepts His death as "payment in full." Not only this, but God has done every thing necessary to enable us to come to faith. The Holy Spirit is convicting the world through the Word of sin, righteousness and judgement. God is drawing us to Him by the crucified and risen Christ, who was lifted up.
If we listen, God will open our hearts, as He did Lydia, to respond to the things He says. God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud. If we humble ourselves, God will give us grace. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it."
Like the Achaians we come to faith by the grace of God. Faith is His gift to us, for unless God had acted we would never come to faith. As Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." Paradoxically faith is also a response we make, like the Philippian jailer. Faith in God gives us further access to the grace of God, for He gives those that believe the right to become children of God. Faith is the base and the platform from which all additional response proceeds. Faith in God validates and authenticates these responses, for the Scriptures say, "But the righteous man shall live by faith,"
Believing that which God has revealed in the Scriptures, we confess before all men that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lord of our lives, "for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
As is appropriate for those who now desire to change the direction of their lives, God declares to all men everywhere that they should repent. When we understand and appreciate the goodness and kindness of God, God grants repentance that leads to life and salvation.
Then through faith in Jesus Christ we are baptized into Christ, into that personal relationship with God. When we are immersed, we are buried with Christ in the likeness of His death; our sins are washed away and we are reconciled to God by His death. When we are raised from the water in the likeness of His resurrection, we are raised to walk in newness of life with Him. What a great moment!
But this is not the end of the story, it is the beginning. Now, in Christ, He freely gives the great gifts for which our souls long; salvation, righteousness, eternal life and the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and seal us as belonging to Him. At the same time, He sets us free from sin because He has paid the penalty and because we are now free from the law of sin and death, the law of works given through Moses, the curse of the law and the fear of death. Christ frees us not to a life of license but so that we might become slaves of righteous. Gone is the slavery to law, we are free to trust and to love as the new covenant shows us. There is no condemnation in Christ. This is the abundant life to which He calls us.
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Last Update 09/26/12