Our last blog explored the question ‘Has God lost control’ and it was established that God has had a plan from the beginning of creation which is still resolving and unravelling today.
But to be a part of His plan for the future we have to make a commitment in our lives now to become dedicated Christians.
Being a Christian is a total, full-time commitment. It is everyday self-sacrifice and service to God. That doesn’t sound like much fun does it? But the reality is, that the Christian life is not only stable, and peaceful and loving, but also inspiring, joyful and what many people wish for today; liberating – we are set free. Of course in some parts of the world, this dedication may also involve persecution and harassment for standing up for one’s beliefs.
We previously discussed the promise that Jesus will return to this earth to set up a Kingdom which will last forever. And those who are faithful at his return have the opportunity to live as immortals in this kingdom.
No one can earn eternal life.
The Bible makes it very clear that eternal life can never be earned by our own efforts or obedience. None of us deserve it as we all think and do wrong things all the time. Immortality is only for perfect beings and none of us can claim that quality except for God and His son Jesus.
“As for God, his way is perfect. The Lord’s word is proven; He is shield to all those who trust in Him”. Psalm 18 v 30
So as we are hopelessly mortal, our only hope of inheriting this promise is by God’s grace. It is unearned and undeserved, but freely offered to us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8
But is there anything required on our part to be the recipient of this incredible grace?
What can we do to achieve eternal life?
One of the best known pieces of scripture in the Bible is John 3:16 where it states that belief in God obtains eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
This is incredible generosity from God. But, is belief all there is to it? So many people quote this verse with assurance that once ‘accepting and believing in Jesus’ their eternal life is guaranteed.
However, God wants us to put obedience to Him and seeking His Kingdom ahead of everything else in this life. It is not just a matter of believing in Him and going our own way. We are to commit to serve Him wholeheartedly. He wishes us to read His Bible, to have a full understanding of the hope written in it and to diligently take on the instructions He has set out for us to live by.
And once we make this commitment, God expects us to remain faithful to Him. Jesus states in Luke 9:62;
“No-one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
There is no turning back once pledging our lives to Him.
Just merely acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Master is not enough. To inherit the Kingdom, we must do the will of God, as Jesus clearly states:
“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
Jesus also had to obey God’s laws to receive eternal life.
“. . . Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:8-9
So God requires us to demonstrate our faith by obediently doing the will of the Father and this is an expression of our love and gratitude for God’s gifts to us.
“without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
So what is one of the first steps of obedience?
Is Baptism necessary for Christians today, or just an optional extra?
Baptism is essential for every follower of Christ today if they wish to obtain salvation.
The Bible clearly states:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (forgiveness) of sins.” Acts 2:38
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16
Repentance is sincere regret or remorse for our wrong doings. And this is a huge step to be taken before baptism. We are to be sorry for our sins and wish to make a commitment to obey God’s laws. It is a complete change in our thinking and recognition of our need for the sacrifice of Christ to cleanse us from sin.
The act of baptism is essential to gain eternal life.
But what does the Bible actually teach about baptism? Does it matter which method of baptism is used: sprinkling, pouring, immersion or some other technique and when should one be baptized?
Baptism is a full immersion into water. The word translated into English as baptism is from the Greek word baptizo , meaning “to dip into” or “immerse.” The words sprinkling or pouring is never referred to as baptism. This full immersion in water is demonstrated in the New Testament.
This act is life altering decision and commitment. For this reason baptism is relevant only for teenagers or adults who are capable of understanding the hope of the Bible and the commitment required to become a Christian. In the whole of the New Testament, there is not a single example of an infant or child being baptized.
Paul refers to baptism as a call to walk in “newness of life.” In Romans 6:11, he states
”In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”
Baptism is an outward sign of an inward change of heart and mind. This powerful picture of a new life committed to obedience and faith is so important.
So what should our priority be once we repent and be baptised?
Matthew 6:33 outlines this clearly:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”
The commitment at baptism, becomes a lifelong commitment. We are to remain holy and blameless and must continue in the faith.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
Our love for God and His son Jesus becomes more important than any other relationship or focus in our lives.
Once we have made this commitment, we are set free. What from? From the death penalty! Obedience to Him is not a sentence of drudgery. It’s a bequest of freedom and liberation from the hopelessness of death. The Apostle Paul encourages us:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
And ultimately if we remain faithful, we will be rewarded:
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Matthew 16:27
When Jesus returns, he will judge and reward us according to our works and obedience. If we have kept his commandments we will be offered the gift of eternal life!