Acts 15- What must we do to be saved?

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16)

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What is the final destiny of life and how are we “saved” to receive that destiny? These could be the greatest questions that everyone needs to answer. The end of this life will find each and every one of us. There is no avoiding it. Individuals attempt to create an answer to what happens after this life ends. Culture also speaks strongly as to how or what our focus should be on during our life. Just live in the now, do “right” by people and everything will work out fine. Focusing on “living our best life now” provides a vain attempt to avoid the providing any answer. But, avoidance is not an answer. Living for the “now” does not contain the power to provide salvation from your sin and bestow admittance to enteral life in glory with God. Each religion or worldview (a worldview is a person’s fundamental orientation of looking at the world around them) must be held to the same critical standard. The all need to answer the same question; “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?”

What Paul and Barnabas answered in Acts 15 addressed an early argument within the first century church. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2) Christianity believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Other religions and worldviews must address this difficulty. No one receives a free pass not to provide a solution. Let’s consider three other common belief systems.

An individual who adheres to Mormonism will consider this the path to salvation:

• There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion, expressed by our obedience to the Lord’s commandments. It will depend on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also D&C 76:74, 79, 101)

In this Mormon doctrines and covenants (D&C) passage we see Mormons believe there are “levels” to heaven and that inheritance into “heaven” will depend on obedience or works completed in this life.

Devotion to Islam also claims a route to eternal life.

• In Islam salvation is achieved through good works and including “honorable deeds” such as, keeping five “pillars,” of Islam: witness for Muhammad, ritual prayers five times daily, alms giving, fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Koran states in Sura 21:47, “On the day of judgment Allah will have a set of scales to weigh one’s good deeds against his bad deeds.”

Completing enough “good deeds” to win favor with an impersonal and unknowable god is an impossible task and obedience to this leads groups and individuals down dangerous paths. In both religions, works are necessary to gain favor with god and entrance into heaven or paradise.

Finally, let’s look at Pantheism a worldview that is commonly seen in Western Washington.

• Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one. The “God is everything, and everything is God” approach of Pantheism creates problems as it removes the personal identity and relational attributes of God.

Without a personal identity, there cannot be a relationship. It follows there would be no human destiny of the soul after this life with god if a relationship does not exist. Some forms of Pantheism assert the divine is an illusion, therefore making a god unknowable. Pantheism doesn’t answer the question of, “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?” It appears to avoid the question entirely.

All three worldviews are in direct contradiction to the personal and knowable God of the Bible.

“4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

“26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” “9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (Hebrews 7:26 and 5:9)

So, what must we do to be saved?

“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

The apostle Paul and Barnabas are refuting a basic question that remains for us today. Who is included in God’s saving grace? Apostle Paul argues that the saving grace that Jesus provided is for all, both Jew and Gentile, provided by Jesus on the cross, and is God’s alone to impart. “8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8) Paul references back to Peter in Acts 10, because the “gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44) ensuring that God’s saving grace was provided by the Holy Spirit for all, both circumcised and uncircumcised.

How should we connect with others of a different belief system so they may have access to eternal life? Always with love, grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:39) For all that come to the cross, hear and believe the true words of God are invited into His infinite grace. This is very good news! Someone who believes they need to “earn” their way into heaven should find a tremendous amount of relief and comfort knowing that God loves them and has provided the way for salvation! No amount of “works” or “deeds” will appease a god or defend a god that is detached from his creation.

To the believers, pray continually asking for the Holy Spirit to use you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus, doing the hard work that needs to be completed for the Lord. Witness boldly to others showing them God’s everlasting grace as it has been shown to you.

To the unbelievers, may we pray for you? We pray you find that your work placating God is unnecessary. We want you to know Jesus came to atone for your sins, transgressions, and failures. We, as Christians do not stand above you, but beside you, as sinners deserving of God’s wrath. We are all sinners. Jesus alone is the perfect sacrifice for you and for us all. Rest from your unwarranted works, my friend, they are not needed…

“29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Zeal is good for a Christian’s own soul…

“Zeal is good for a Christian’s own soul. It will help mightily to promote inward feelings of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness. None have so much enjoyment of Christ as those who are ever zealous for His glory—jealous over their own walk—tender over their own consciences—full of anxiety about the souls of others—and ever watching, working, laboring, striving, and toiling to extend the knowledge of Jesus Christ upon earth.” Sermon excerpt from, Be Zealous by J. C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool in the late 1800’s. His writings are as timely now, as they were then.

• Be zealous in leading yourself and your family.
• Be zealous in working for His glory.
• Be zealous in pouring yourself out every week for the souls of people around you.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

Continue to remember what an honor it is to serve in a Christ centered community of faith.
As a church we are the living body of Christ. Love, hope and faith are what the Bible demands Christians zealously proclaim.

As J.C. Ryle said, “Beware, I beseech you, of checking zeal. Seek it. Cultivate it. Try to blow up the fire in your own heart, and the hearts of others—but never, never check it.”

Be Zealous and God Bless

Link to sermon: http://www.reformedsermonarchives.com/ryle1.htm

A Parent’s Guide to Discussing Halloween

free-halloween-happy-halloween-clipart-free-large-images-clipartwiz“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Theologian. 1906-1945)

It was a cool, dark Halloween evening in that small town in northern California. The group of friends accompanied by one parent was lagging far behind. At nine years old, I was in the lead, a few houses ahead of the others.  There a house was set off from the street, beyond the vacant lot and nearly covered by bushes and shrubs. I knew there was a prize to be had at the end of that long driveway. However, the prize would take risk. It was a dark, shadowy place with no streetlight to show the way. As a pirate, I was prepared.  A red bandana tied firmly on my head, a small dim flashlight in one hand, and a plastic pirate knife in the other, I set my sights on the glowing porch light of my targeted destination.

The journey started well, my band of brothers was still well behind me. Suddenly a shadow moved to my right.  I froze.  Out of the murky mist came a large imposing figure of a teenager.  Not fully recognizing the threat, I stood toe to toe with him, each of us sizing up the other.  He wore a zombie mask.  A quick mental inventory of my open options produced little. The group was behind me and a choice needed to be made.  It was him or me and I was not keen on relinquishing the candy bounty for which I had worked so hard.  My right hand slowly raised the plastic knife.  It was over as quickly as it started.  In a flash, the teenager grabbed the bag and was gone.  Completely stunned, I could not give chase, I did the only thing I could do.  My plastic knife dropped to the ground, and I started to cry.  My bounty of candy was gone, all gone.

Once home my Mother dried my tears and my friends shared their candy. The bitter memory of the Zombie Candy Thief slowly began to fade.  Everything was going to be fine, but at nine years old, something was lost.  On a small scale, I began to understand that there is evil in this world.  Who steals a child’s candy? From Mother’s point of view, the situation was much darker as she lamented about what the world was coming to and questioned her decision regarding her child’s participation in any further Halloween festivities.

While this true story ended well, it does raise important questions about how Christians should view the Halloween experience. Should we allow our children to participate in Halloween? Is Halloween appropriate?

This parent’s guide will not attempt to answer that question with a simple yes or no.  Rather, it will raise discussion points and topics for consideration.  Can Halloween be a part of a Christian life and walk? What can parents express to our children about the main theme of Halloween?

Parents, our first and foremost responsibility is to protect and guard our children’s hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:7)  The Bible states  that we are to take God’s words and “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…”(Deuteronomy 6:7) The traditions surrounding Halloween can be a teaching moment guiding what is providing influences into your child’s life. Additionally, non-Christian parents are observing our actions. They are watching to see how we react to this world, and how significantly our faith guides our own thoughts and actions. (Matthew 5:13)   As fall progresses, we challenge you take the opportunity to teach and instruct your children as to what is good, what you believe and how you view the world. (John 15:19) Acts 19 Apologetics provides this guide as a means to encourage you to seize this chance to speak truth and wisdom into your children.

Will you join us in completing this worthwhile task?

Deuteronomy 5-7: 5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Blessings,

Acts 19 Apologetics

An outline for discussing Halloween and God’s providence over creation with your family.

Step 1:  Set the Theme:

  • A contemporary celebration of Halloween can be non-demonic or a remembrance of evil spirits.  It should be a time to gather as a family, reach out to your neighbors, consume delicious candy, and have an entertaining evening.
  • As Christians, we believe that God’s providence over all creation directs everything to fulfill his purposes!

Step 2:  Read these Bible passages aloud:

*Consider having others in your family read the passages.*

  • Called according to God’s purpose: Romans 8:28
  • Do all to the glory of God: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
  • God continually directs everything: Matthew 5:45
  • All actions are under God’s care: Acts 25:28
  • The Lord directs our steps: Proverbs 16:9
  • The Lord’s prayer: Matthew 6:9-13

Step 3: Address the points of discussion.

  1. First main point: Participating in Halloween is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • There are many reasons to gather as a family, a neighborhood, or a community of faith.  The modern Halloween celebration is a good reason to come together and rejoice with the people God has placed in our lives. (1 Corinthians 7:5) The important point to remember is to “do all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
  • Jesus commands us in the book of Matthew 5:14 that we are to be the “light of the world”. Going to where people gather and spreading the gospel can accomplish this command. Whether the gathering is a Halloween celebration, or an office party at a pub we must be strong in our faith, and by doing this, we can prayerfully and responsibly take part. Romans (4:20 and Colossians 4:2)
  1. Second main point: Participating in Halloween should not degrade the Christian life or a spiritual walk with Christ if observed in moderation.
  2. Third main point: Although, Halloween can be frightening, God has provided this time to gather with our neighbors, share our lives with them and have fun.
  • Jesus Christ’s authoritative word abolishes the work of Satan and evil spirits. (Luke 4:31-37) This fact is our hope, joy and the cornerstone of the Christian faith! Therefore, we do not focus on the dark shadowy side of the holiday, but fashion our Halloween festivities to celebrate in a positive and uplifting manner.
  • Good and evil are real in this world, but all events are under God’s care.  (Acts 25:28) and God continually directs everything in this world. (Matthew 5:45)
  • God’s calls us to His purposes in this world.  God displays who he is, and what his intentions are in the proper time. (1 Timothy 6:15). When confronted with any situation, we are to rely on the Lord and continue to walk with him.  The celebration of Halloween is not different. Provide glory to the Lord in how we gather for a modern Halloween activity. Does this fulfill a part of God’s mission and purpose for us? Yes, if our focus is spreading the gospel of Jesus.  (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 and Matthew 28:19-20)
  • The Lord directs our steps in all that we do and where ever we may go. (Proverbs 16:9) When Jesus prayed for his disciples, he prayed to the Father that his disciples would be protected in this world after his ascension to heaven. (John 17:11) He prayed this to God the Father in verse fifteen, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” As followers of Christ we are to be “in this world”, but not “of this world.”  Whether we are faced with problems at school, or with friends, or tough choices we need to make, our Lord is walking with us, guiding our steps.  When the frightfulness of some Halloween celebrations comes in to question, we are sure that we should prayerfully consider the options and go on living out God’s purpose and plan for us.  Any Halloween festivities are an opportunity to provide fellowship and grace to believers and non-believers alike.
  1. Summary of Points:
  • The apostle Paul tells us, “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB)  A Halloween celebration should be worthwhile and beneficial to you and your family’s Christian life.
  • Jesus spent time going to where the people congregated to spread the good news.  Considering that, as followers of Christ our responsibility is to do the same.  Redeem the Halloween experience by spending time with people in your neighborhood. Provide them the opportunity to see the light and grace of our savior.
  • A modern Halloween celebration does not need to be frightening, dark and ghoulish for our children.  Small adjustments to any event can provide a positive and uplifting experience for the young and the “young at heart”.  Focus on the grace and providence of our Lord for he is in control, and that He sent His Son as an indication of his love for us. (John 3.16)

Whiteboarding our Faith- An interactive, discussion…

Canyon Creek introduces Whiteboarding our Faith- Every 4th Wednesday night at the Everett Campus.

Whiteboard Christianity is a freethinking, interactive, discussion forum that is open to all.

Have friends that do not believe in God, bring them! Have friends that believe another religion or another denomination, bring them too!

Each session will contain great conversation where we will wrestle with the essential questions of life and grow stronger in our faith.

Only one rule: All people are respected and in the end, we may not all agree, but we will still be great friends!

Get engaged and come join a session!  September 25th,October 23rd, and November 20th , 7:00pm at the Everett campus café.
whiteboard the faith

Who is framing your child’s faith?

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If you have their attention, if just for a moment, you have an opening.  If the opportunity is not taken, it could be lost forever.

This happened to me several weeks back with my early teenage son. What follows is a true story…

Me: “Hey, have any of your classes discussed evolution yet?”

Son: “Huh? Huh, no, I don’t think so?’

Me: “Really? Nothing huh? Maybe there calling it something else like, Creationism, maybe something like that?

Son: “Yea, I guess. I think, my science teacher spoke about that awhile back”

Me: (Internal thought) Bingo!

Me: “So, you’re in youth at the church, how did that make you feel when the Teacher was instructing something different than what the Bible teaches?”

Son: (Slowing opening up) “Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I want to believe the Bible, but the evolution stuff in class sounds like it works”

Me: “So, what is your take on which one sounds right?”

Son: “Well, I think God did create man, animals and stuff, and then he let evolution do the rest.”

Me: “Really? Well, you know, that is great your thinking about this stuff and trying to make it work in your head. You know, there have been scientists that have argued about theories just like what you said.  One is called the “Watch Maker Theory”, due to how complex the human body is, it says God created it all. Kind of like how complex the inside of a watch is, something like that is to complicated to be created by chance.

There is also the “Blind Watchmaker Theory”, some have argued that God created everything and then evolution took over. God left his creation alone to work itself out into what we see in the present day. He kind of wound up the universe like a watch, and let it run. Of course, that would mean that God is impersonal and doesn’t interact with us. You think that is true?”

Son: “No. That doesn’t make any sense”

Me: “I don’t think so either. Who would we be praying to then, of God is not personal? Also, where does that leave Jesus? Because God is so personal and loves us so much, he came to be with us and reconcile us, with Jesus. Doesn’t sound like he wants to wind-up the world and let it run on its own. It sounds like He wants to be involved and have a relationship with us.”

Son: “Yea, I guess so. Cool.”

As in the situation I recounted above, someone was already is providing the framework that would have guided my child’s faith for possibly the rest of their lives.

Who is providing that framework for your child?

You better ask…

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) “2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.