Ain’t That Good News!

I’ve got a home up in that kingdom, yeah, yeah!

I’ve got a home up in that kingdom, yeah, yeah!

Lay down this world

Shoulder up my cross

Take it home to my Jesus

Ain’t that…good news!

The first time I heard that song was at a convocation service as a kid.

Reading the last few verses in the book of Mark recently brought the words back to mind.  To me, they fit so well with Jesus’ last words to His disciples before ascending to heaven:

“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.” Mark 16:15, 16.

Jesus commissioned His 11 friends to take the good news to the entire world.  What is the good news?  Quite simply, it’s the cross.  But more than just the cross, it’s the news of what Jesus did on the cross, the news that a Savior was born, lived, died, and rose again. It’s the story of everything it took (and will take) to reunite us with God, from Genesis right down to Revelation.  It’s the news that we have a home in His kingdom.  It’s hope.

The gospel, the good news, is for all of us.  It is applicable no matter what your station in life, no matter what your story or where you come from.  It has power.  The power is Jesus.

He changes lives.

He is love.  He takes you, wherever you are, whatever you’re like and He transforms your life.  The gospel is new life in Jesus.

The gospel according to Mark 16 requires two things of us: believe and be baptized.

You may have heard the idea that all you need to do is believe and you’re set; no change of life is necessary.  Jesus knows we’re sinners, so just believe, do what you want, and ask forgiveness.  This idea mixes a truth with a lie.  Jesus does accept us as we are.  But He doesn’t leave us as we are.  He knows we have no power to change ourselves.  So He changes us.

When Jesus asks us to believe, He’s asking us to accept all that has been revealed about Him in His word.

This belief is not a weak, empty, thing.

It’s powerful!

We believe He is who He said He is, and that we can trust His compassionate leading in our lives.

He transforms us through our faith in Him.  Not by forcing us to now do the right things.  Instead, He gets to the root of our issues: He deals with our hearts.  He deals with our desires and feelings, and helps us see the world and our daily situations as they really are.  He shows us His way, and asks us to trust Him.  And most importantly, He grants us the freedom to choose to follow His way or our own.

The second thing the gospel requires of us is baptism.  What is baptism?  Read through Romans (especially chapter 6) and you’ll quickly find that it symbolizes death and resurrection in the Water of life.  You go down into the water (Jesus is the water of life), and you’re buried.  The old you dies to sin, just as Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  Then you are raised up out of the water.  The new you is raised to life, inhabiting the same body as the old.  But this you is alive to Christ.

In other words, when opportunity for sin arises, the new you is no longer a slave to those sins.  Instead, your first thought is to your Savior, because you’re alive to Him now.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that after baptism, no one ever sins again.  The baptism ceremony is symbolic of what God is doing in your life.  He’s bringing you to the place where those temptations you struggled with before are no longer enslaving you.  You may as well be dead where they are concerned, because they just don’t have power over you the way they used to.  Whereas before, you would have mindlessly followed them without any struggle, it now requires a conscious thought process and choice to give in to them.  Because you are alive to Christ, you think of His desires, His will, His way first, not your own.

But don’t miss a key point in this symbol: immersion in water.  Jesus is the water of life.  The death of the old me, and the resurrection of the new me only happens when I’m immersed in the Water of life.

For someone like me, this is exciting news!  I was baptized when I was ten years old.  I made the choice that I wanted to follow my Savior with my whole life, and I was baptized.  That was a long time ago.  I don’t have to tell you that a lot has happened in my life since then, and unfortunately, I haven’t always lived up to my commitment to Jesus.  But there’s still hope.  It’s not a three-strikes-you’re-out thing with Jesus.  I can still turn back to Him and start over.

Spiritually, baptism is a daily occurrence.  As I daily immerse myself in Jesus through spending time in His word and talking to Him, the old me dies when it would rear its ugly head, and the new me lives to honor the One I love.

This is all the gospel requires of us: to believe it and to be transformed by immersion in the One it speaks of, until the old person is dead and the new person is raised up in Christ.  That’s all.  Yet it encompasses everything.

This is what Jesus came to give us.  This is His message for the world.

New life in Him.

Now ain’t that good news!

The Basics ~ Adoption: Step 2

Step 2: Repent and Be Changed

What is repentance?  It is more than just saying you’re sorry for the things you’ve done wrong.  It is a conscious choice to turn away from doing those things.  This step is very important.  Repentance is where change begins.  Without it, your sins will bring you down to eternal death.  (Luke 13:3, 5.)  You see, sin is a fatal disease.  The only cure is found in Jesus.  He lived on Earth as a human, among humans.  He endured the same weaknesses and challenges we all endure, and He was tempted by Satan the enemy to give in to sin.  In fact, Jesus has been tempted in all the same ways you have been tempted, without failing even once! So He knows exactly how you feel when you are tempted to sin.  The Father didn’t give Him any extra special help that is not available to you.  (Hebrews 4:15.)  Jesus remained sinless, because the sacrifice for sin had to be completely pure and spotless.  If He hadn’t been, He couldn’t have died for our sins and you and I would be doomed to eternal death from this disease.

Jesus bought us back from the enemy at the price of His life.  When we accept this gift, we must leave behind the old life of sin and be changed by His power into His likeness.  This is very important!  He can’t bring us home unless this whole process is completed, because if we could bring even one sin with us into our heavenly home, it would become just as bad as or worse than this crazy world we live in right now.

If you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins, let me give you the simple version of how this works:

You have sinned.  You realize that you have sinned and you are sorry that you did.  So you go to Jesus in prayer and confess your sins.  Maybe you don’t remember them all by name, but you know you’ve sinned and you tell Him so.  Then you apologize and ask Him to forgive you.

In heaven, there is a record in a book of all the things you’ve ever done, good and bad.  It is from this book that God will judge all people.  (Revelation 20:12.)  When you ask forgiveness of your sins, He erases them all from this book and writes your name in another book, the Book of Life.  Everyone whose name is in this Book is a candidate for heaven.  (Revelation 21:10, 27.)  
So when the Father forgives you of your sins, He doesn’t remember them anymore.  (Isaiah 43:25.)  Yes, you will still feel bad for what you’ve done, but don’t cling to the guilt.  You are forgiven, and He looks at you as if you hadnever sinned before!  And if you sin again, He is just waiting for you to repent and come back to Him, and He is more than happy to forgive you again and help you change.  But you mustn’t think you can just do whatever you want because He’ll always forgive you.  He can only take to heaven those who repent of their sins, are baptized, and are converted.

Where does baptism fit into all of this?  It is a public symbol of your commitment to God.  It shows that you accept Jesus’ sacrifice for you, and you want to follow in His footsteps, giving up your life to Him.  The act of baptism symbolizes your death to sin when you go under the water.  When you are raised up out of the water, it signifies the birth of a new you, a new creation in Christ.  The old you has died and a new you is resurrected the same way Jesus was resurrected.  (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:4-6; Colossians 2:12, 13; Galatians 3:26, 27.)  You are reborn, given a new chance to live your life differently than before.

Conversion means a changed life.  It involves turning to the worship of the one true God with your whole life and returning to loving and obeying Him.  This conversion takes place as you spend more and more time with God.

You may ask how you can spend time together with Him when you can’t see Him.  Let me explain.  Many years ago, God inspired some of His prophets, apostles, and others to write a guide book or text book of sorts to direct you through life (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16).  You guessed!  It’s called the Holy Bible, sometimes referred to as the scriptures or God’s Word.  Every word in it is God-inspired.  It has everything you need to know to pass the final test before the great Home-going.  Read and study God’s Book.  He’s put so much information in there to help you.  Read wisely and you will learn from the mistakes and experiences of some of His other children who’ve been adopted before you.  You will also learn all about Jesus, and how He lived so that you can follow in His footsteps.

God’s word speaks directly to you and your daily situations.  There are principles to direct you in every area of your life.  Your responsibility is to look for them.  They will change your life!  You will become more and more like Jesus, and more and more ready to live with Him in heaven.  But don’t just read God’s word; study it carefully every day.  As you do this, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about what my Father and Savior are like?” In this way, you’ll get to know the Father and the Son very well.

Also, talk to Him!  Continuously.  God never gets tired of hearing from you! In fact, He longsto hear from you.  There’s so much He can tell you, so much help He wants to offer!  Just ask Him for anything you need.  Anything.  True, He doesn’t give you everything you ask Him for.  Not everything you ask for is in your best interest.  Sometimes you ask for things that would do you more harm than good.  However, if it’s in your best interest, He is more than happy to supply it (1 John 5:14)!

When you talk to God, you can tell Him your deepest thoughts, desires, and secrets.  He cares about every single thing that has anything to do with you.

Another way you can learn about Him is by studying nature.  God’s creation gives you a view of His personality and character.  They show you how He feels about you.  You see, He thought of you when He created nature.  It’s not perfect as it was when He first made it, but some of its original beauty still shines through.  So when you take time to enjoy the glory of a sunrise or the tranquil beauty of a mountain stream, you can know that He made it with you in mind because He loves you.

Yet another way to learn about God is through the various experiences He permits in your life.  He knows that some of your experiences were difficult and even painful, and you wonder how He could allow them to happen to you if He loves you so much.  But all your experiences, the good and the bad, are meant to prepare you for Home.  Your experiences show you the differences in character between that of your Savior and that of the enemy, Satan.

It is important that you realize that Satan only seeks your destruction, no matter how “good” the things he offers seem to be.  God wants you to have life, and to have it abundantly (John 10:10).  Remember:  not one taint of sin can enter God’s Home, so your loyalty must lie with Him alone.