“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3: 29-21 (Peter’s sermon to the people in the temple after the lame man was healed)
This blog is part 3 of a series that explains the main revelation of the Bible, that is, the gospel of salvation that is made available to us by exercising our faith in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In part 1, we discussed the need for salvation and the circumstances that created the need. In part 2 we defined “the Messiah”, established that the true Messiah is the Lord Jesus, and looked at the purpose and the implication of His first and second coming. In this blog message we will put it all together and explain why the Gospel is based on placing our faith in the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, and why it is the only means of salvation.
It is time to go back to the basics of Christianity. The church has gone off track in many areas (e.g. prosperity teaching, hyper-faith, hyper-grace, kingdom now/dominion teaching, mega churches, a focus on numbers rather than spiritual maturity, etc.) and we need to get back to God’s word and the principles that it teaches. Taking a close look at the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a good place to start.
I once again (if you have read parts 1 & 2) remind you that the gospel in a nutshell is the following: if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Christ) then you will be saved. This concise version of the gospel is stated in the following verses from the gospel of John.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27
From this definition of the gospel we see 3 questions: 1) what does it mean to be saved? 2) What is “the Messiah”? 3) What does it mean to believe? We’ll look at question 3 in this blog.
We learned from the previous two blogs that we are in need of a savior due to the sin of Adam and Eve and the curse that has come upon us, and that God the Father has sent His Son Jesus as the Messiah as a means of escaping this situation and to restore the damage that resulted from the curse. Believing in Him requires that we now follow Him, that is, that humbly accept His forgiveness and now focus on the promises that He had provided for our future in heaven – this is the pathway to escape from our situation and be saved. Following Him will redeem us from the penalty of the curse and from the penalty that was incurred from our own personal sins, and will give us a way to be transformed into a new, spiritual creature with the power to live free from sin, and the power to produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives.
When we say that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, if we really believe, there will be a change in our life. There will be a transformation that occurs. Let’s look closer at what it means to really believe.
“What does it mean to (really) Believe?”
I would like to propose a hypothetical story to illustrate what it means to really believe in the gospel. It goes as follows: Suppose there is a family business that specializes in locating and extracting rare materials from remote areas of the world. The father or patriarch of the family who started the business sends one of his sons to find a rare material in a remote jungle in South America. They agree that in a week there will be a “check in” by some means of communication. During this first week a severe storm occurs in the jungle and all of the son’s equipment is damaged or lost and the he is left alone, unable to communicate with his father. A few weeks pass and the son assumes that the father can’t get to him or can’t find him so he starts out on his own to find the way back. Along his journey he encounters another man who says he knows the way back, so he decides to travel with him and follow his guidance, but he is skeptical about his ability to find the way and also about his motive. Shortly after this, another man appears who came from his father who claims that he knows the way home. At this point the son has 4 choices: 1) he can put his faith and trust in the man sent from his father and follow him home, 2) he can put his faith and trust in the man that he encountered in the jungle and follow him, 3) he can abandon both of them and attempt to find his own way home, or 4) he can decide to stay and survive in the jungle, making the jungle his home. A serious problem is that he would most likely only have a few weeks to survive in the jungle due to lack of food, fresh water, and the conditions in the jungle.
It may appear obvious that the best or perhaps only choice is to believe in the man sent from his father and to follow him to safety. Notice that choosing to follow this man would require some action. He would have to abandon the other man’s guidance and would have to also abandon his own approach to find the way out of the jungle.
Hopefully you are getting the picture that true belief must be accompanied by some change on our part when we are in circumstances like these. It must be more than just a mental agreement with the facts. In other words, the man in the story couldn’t just say, “I believe you are from my father and that you know the way home,” but then not agree to follow him.
In our situation, God the father has sent Jesus as the way for us to get out of our circumstances. Jesus referred to Himself as “the way” and “the door”, implying that He is in fact the means of escape. Truly believing in Him requires more than mental consent. It requires that we embrace this truth entirely, seeing that we must leave this cursed world (for now in our thoughts) and place our hopes and affections in the future that Jesus has pointed us to.
Truly believing in the Gospel requires us to change the way that we think. It requires that we change our view of this world, and that we change the “path” that we are on in this life. This is why the word “repent” is often combined with the exhortation to believe in the Scriptures; repent meaning to change the way that we think or to change the direction of our life. For example, here is what Jesus said:
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1: 14-15
The Greek word used here translated as “repent” is metanoeo meaning to change one’s mind, to think differently or afterwards, that is, to reconsider.” For some reason, over the years the English meaning of repent seems to emphasize more a feeling of remorse rather than being focused on changing the way we think.
If we truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah than it should be apparent in our lives. It should be reflected in our actions, the way that we live, and the direction that our life is headed in. One critical area that should change is the focus of our hope. The Messiah offers us hope for a future kingdom where He is King. If we have accepted this truth and placed our faith in it, than we should have this future hope as the focus of our life. We should not continue with our hope set on the things of this world.
A true, deep, sincere belief in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ results in an inner change, or a conversion (as Peter mentions in his sermon in Acts 3 quoted at the start of this message). Our old view of this world must be abandoned. The old path that we were traveling must be abandoned. Our old way of thinking must be abandoned. Our old hopes and dreams must be abandoned. Faith requires that we die to all of these old ways and take on a new life making us like completely new creatures. Like the son in our hypothetical story above, we can’t follow our own way or the ways of other men who claim to know how to get us to a better place. No, we must follow the way of the true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The pathway of the Messiah is a spiritual one, but our old way of life is a fleshly, physical one. The new path leads us away from this physical earth and all that this world has to offer, and leads us to a new heaven and new earth, spiritual and eternal, no longer under the curse.
God has made a promise to all who have placed their faith in the Messiah that they will be part of the new kingdom of God in heaven. He has made a covenant that all who will turn from this world and follow His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will be received into the new kingdom of God when Jesus returns at His second coming. We must embrace this promise in the same way that Abraham, the father of all who have faith, had embraced the promise that God made to him.
The Scriptures say this of Abraham’s faith:
“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 4: 20 – 5: 2
This is the amazing wisdom of God, that He has offered us an opportunity to be transformed in our inner man by placing our faith in His promise that was made tangible in the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will be fulfilled in His second coming. By placing our hope in the promise of His second coming and accepting the reconciliation that was made at His first coming, including the reality of a resurrected, immortal new body, we can shift the focus of our hearts and lives to this future promise of hope, and this causes us to be transformed from carnally (or physically) minded to spiritually minded.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Romans 8: 5-9
“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Romans 8: 24-25
“And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4: 13-14
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21
There is no other message or promise in all of mankind that offers this opportunity for salvation as does the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Biblical text. There is no other revelation that compares to this with a resurrected Christ who has fulfilled the prophecies of the holy prophets that were made over thousands of years. No other message has the power to transform lives as does this gospel. Listen to how the apostle Peter presented the gospel to the men of Israel:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by Got to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in you midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered up by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He would be held by it….This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now hear.” Acts 2: 22-24,32-33.
And later Peter says this:
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12
I remember as a young teenager when I first turned my heart to God and began to seek Him that I wished that there was someone else who really, really believed in God and lived their life aligned with their belief. It was my desire to live that way. As time went on and I began to understand more and more of the message that had been revealed from God in the Scriptures, that is, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, I realized that really, really believing the Gospel required me to die to this world. As it turns out, this is a beautiful thing because it leads to freedom from the bondage that this world has on us. It leads to freedom from fear, stress, and anxiety.
The full picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: God initially created man to live in a paradise, to be in close contact and communication with Him, and to have an immortal body with eternal life (no death, to pain, no sorrows). Our first parents, Adam and Eve, had sinned and caused a curse to come upon mankind including ejection from paradise and from the presence of God, as well as becoming mortal, facing death. Mankind, that is the descendants of Adam and Eve, have inherited this curse. God, in His mercy, sent a Messiah to offer a way of escape to all those who turn to Him, follow Him, and place their faith and hope in the promises that have been established by His first coming and will be realized at His second coming.
All of us who have entered into this covenant relationship with God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have put to death our old self and consider ourselves as having died with Christ on the cross with our old man being buried with Him, and now we consider our new self as having risen with Christ, as a new creation, born of the spirit, with our hearts and hopes set on the spiritual things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God the father in heaven.
We also are patiently enduring through this life until He returns as sojourners (temporary residents) the same as Abraham, the father of our faith, waited for the promises that God offered him.
Please take a fresh look at the gospel and what it means to you personally. Get the whole picture of what we are being saved from and who the Messiah really is to us, and then exercise your faith fully to align your entire life completely with this beautiful message of hope. The fruit of this faith will be spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and the final result will be eternal life in a new heaven and earth with the Lord Jesus.