Living for Christ

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April 2010
Daily Devotions Reference List:
(Click here to view the daily devotions)

(4/1) Luke 2:46b-47, 52
(4/2) Galatians 5:13-15
(4/3) Proverbs 4:14-19
(4/4) Luke 24:1-7
(4/5) Genesis 12:1-4
(4/6) 1 Samuel 12:25
(4/7) Micah 5:2-3, 4b-5a
(4/8) Luke 3:8, 11
(4/9) Galatians 5:16-17
(4/10) Proverbs 5:3-9
(4/11) Psalm 14:1-7
(4/12) Genesis 12:11-13
(4/13) 1 Samuel 14:24, 27
(4/14) Habakkuk 3:17-19
(4/15) Luke 4:6-8
(4/16) Galatians 5:19-21
(4/17) Proverbs 6:6-11
(4/18) Psalm 15:1-5
(4/19) Genesis 13:5-7a
(4/20) 1 Samuel 15:3, 9a, 10-11a
(4/21) Zephaniah 1:4; 2 Kings 23:4-5
(4/22) John 2:14-16
(4/23) Galatians 5:22-25
(4/24) Proverbs 6:12-15
(4/25) Psalm 16:1-4, 10-11
(4/26) Genesis 13:8-9
(4/27) 1 Samuel 15:22
(4/28) Zechariah 7:4-6
(4/29) John 2:19-22
(4/30) Galatians 5:26

Note: This is subject to change.

Daily Devotion Topic Schedule:
Sun - Psalms
Mon - Early History
Tue - Later History
Wed - Prophecy
Thu - Gospels
Fri - Paul's Letters
Sat - Proverbs
Life Lessons from Jesus
"News for Non-Believers"

In conjunction with Easter, this month's feature article is specifically geared toward non-believers. I hope to offer some different ideas and thoughts relating to Jesus than what people may normally hear. If you are a Christian but weaker in your faith, some of the ideas in this article may help to strengthen your beliefs as well.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. - Genesis 3:6-7

Can anyone honestly take a look at the world today and say that it is a place that is basically good? I don't believe that is a claim that anyone could substantiate. It doesn't take much searching through the latest news articles before coming across some evil things. Yet some secular humanists still try to claim that we are basically good. If that's the case, then where does evil come from? If we are tempted to do evil, and that is obviously true (we would all be good all the time if there was no temptation to do otherwise), then that evil has to originate somewhere. The only reasonable answer is that it has to originate from within us. Where else could it possibly come from? Yet many non-believers still make the argument that we are "basically good." I believe the two verses quoted above are literally true. I believe that was where evil began. If you're not a Christian, most likely you don't believe the same way. However, that in itself isn't the most crucial part. You may be a fairly good person compared to other people, but we are not supposed to compare ourselves to one another; that doesn't accomplish very much. There is One who was and is perfect with whom we need to compare ourselves.

If you are a non-believer, you have most likely wondered what sets Christianity apart from all the other religions that are out there. There are countless things that do set it apart; I am only going to discuss a few of them here. When we look at the Bible, we see a collection of books that was written by some 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years. No other religion even comes close to that; most other "holy books" were written by a single person over a brief period of time. If you were conducting a scientific experiment or a research project, which type of work would you have more confidence in?

Christianity is the only belief system which has a Savior who is the Son of God (Luke 22:70, John 18:8). To my knowledge, no other major belief system even claims to have a Savior. That's because most religions are based on "me." If you work hard enough and try to be good enough, maybe you will make it into heaven. I don't know about you, but I want more assurance than that before I die! That line of reasoning doesn't make much logical sense, anyway. If some people are good enough to get into heaven and some people aren't, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Would someone who is good 75% of the time make it into heaven while someone who is only good 74% of the time be turned away? Where would that line be drawn and who would be keeping track? Those types of belief systems only exist because people want to be in control of their own lives. Logically, they are irrational.

The two verses I quoted above also serve to dispel another frequently-heard myth. It is logically impossible for Jesus to have merely been a good person or a good prophet. He clearly stated on more than one occasion that He is the Son of God. Therefore, either He was telling the truth or He was lying--there are only two options at that point. A liar doesn't make for a very good person and certainly can't be a prophet. Therefore, speaking only logically, Jesus is either a horrible, lying person or He is the Son of God. Considering all the wonderful things He did and all the wisdom He shared in His teachings, I would have a hard time believing that He was a horrible, lying person. That leaves just one other choice: He is the Son of God.

Another common yet illogical viewpoint is the idea that all religions can lead to God and eternity in heaven. That line of thinking exists because many people have such a strong desire to please other people and don't want to be negative. However, if one really stops to consider this claim, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Consider just two religions, Christianity and Islam. Both believe that followers of their respective beliefs go to heaven while unbelievers go to hell. Well, we are all unbelievers of either one or the other or both, so wouldn't that condemn us all to hell? But people don't want to think about it in that sense; they just want to please other people and talk about the happy side of things. Pleasing people is good at times--but I'd much rather tell them the truth and help lead them toward an eternity in heaven with God, even if they get angry with me for a time while we are in this life.

Logically speaking, only one religion can be true. Many of them can easily be disproven. Islam, for example, traces its roots back to Abraham's firstborn son Ishmael, who was born to a servant and was not part of God's plan. I don't think I would want to follow a religion that originated from an illegitimate child. It is pretty easy to see through Hinduism, which was created by humans to keep peace among people in lower castes--if you're good enough, you can move up to a higher level of society when you are reincarnated. Scientology, a newer religion, was created by a couple of men who were once quoted as saying something to the effect of, "the best way to make money is to start a religion." I think they have made their motivations quite clear, although highly gullible people continue to fall for their deception. But when we look at the Bible, it is remarkably consistent to have been written over a 1,500-year period by 40 different authors, and it contains so much wisdom that still holds true today. We also have countless prophecies to offer even more support for the truthfulness of the Bible. One fact about the Bible that I find particularly interesting is that it frequently counteracts conventional thinking. Jesus Himself is especially well-known for doing this. If it were merely written by humans, even very wise people, I don't think it could possibly contain so much unconventional wisdom.

The most significant difference about Christianity, though, is the impact it has on literally changing hearts and transforming lives. Some people, including myself, were raised in the church and don't experience such a significant change when they accept Christ as Savior. However, other people do experience a drastic change. Sometimes people who were trapped in all kinds of sins experienced sudden and miraculous freedom once they accepted Jesus into their hearts. Such a drastic, sudden change isn't something that a person can do on his or her own. It's simply not possible. There has to be another force acting upon that person. That force is God, through the Holy Spirit.

I have intentionally avoided mentioning more than a couple of Scripture references so far in this article. That is because I realize that one thing many skeptic non-believers don't care much for is when Christians try to use the Bible to prove itself true. You can attempt to do that with just about any book and not accomplish much of anything. By this point, however, I hope I have given you enough background information on the Bible and enough of a comparison between Christianity and other religions that you will at the very least be more receptive to hearing what the Bible has to say.

For those of you who would like some sort of proof before you believe, I would like to share one additional thought with you: Proof of God cannot exist. In other words, I do not believe it will ever be possible to either prove or disprove things such as the existence of God and Jesus nor the validity of the Bible, and I believe God designed it that way intentionally. Certainly, we have made numerous discoveries which support the truth of the Bible. However, God wants us to have faith in Him. He has made it easy in one sense--all we have to do is believe that Jesus died to forgive us--but He desires that element of faith. By definition, faith means believing in something that you cannot see. God created all of us and everything around us; it is really too much for Him to ask for us to simply believe in Him and follow Him? I don't think it is. He just wants us to open our minds to things beyond what we can see around us so that we can believe in Him. And besides, even if He did give us more definitive proof, there would still be plenty of people who resisted. We don't have to look any farther than the Pharisees in the Bible for an example of that (Matthew 12:39, 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:29-32).

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. - 2 Peter 2:18-19

Paul write about "lusts of the flesh" frequently in his many letters which make up a good portion of the New Testament, and Peter also writes about it here in his second letter. If you believe you are free to do whatever you want, you are not truly free. That is yet another lie that the world wants you to believe, but it could not be farther from the truth. In actuality, you have become a slave to your own sinful desires. We all serve something or someone. Christians serve God. Some of you may serve an addiction or long-term temptation, but make no mistake: You are serving something. So, where can we find freedom? I will get to that in a moment.

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. - Galatians 4:3-5

This world was in trouble long before any of us arrived. We were born into the bondage of sin that exists across the world. But we do have hope, and that hope is in Jesus Christ. How do I know that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be? My personal reason is three-fold: I believe the Bible, I have seen the impact of changed hearts when people come to know Him, and I have a close and personal relationship with Him and communicate with Him daily through prayer. And contrary to common perceptions among non-believers, prayer doesn't have anything in the world to do with making me feel better about something. Yes, that may be one result sometimes, but that isn't why I do it. I believe the primary purpose of prayer is to strengthen our individual relationships with God and to entrust certain things to Him. Nothing is about me. It's all about Him.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. - Galatians 5:1

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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. - John 3:16-17

The only place to find true freedom is in Jesus Christ! In his letter to the church of Galatia, Paul writes that we find liberty in Christ. John backs up that idea in his gospel. John 3:16 is a verse that many non-believers have probably at least heard, but verse 17 is just as important. God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, which is contrary to yet another lie that the world wants you to believe. Christianity is not about condemnation. We condemned ourselves by allowing evil to come into the world way back in the days of Adam and Eve. God never condemned us. He has every right to, but instead, thanks to His infinite love for us, He gave us a Savior. Because of Jesus, we can still have a way to be with Him for all eternity despite our sinful imperfections.

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. - Hebrews 7:26-28

Before Jesus came, High Priests served the Israelites. But despite their best efforts, they were still imperfect humans and they sinned. God had to provide a better way. I believe that He had the master plan figured out all along, but had to wait until a certain time to bring it all together. Perhaps we needed to learn some things from the old system first; I'm not sure. One thing that is important to remember is that God is God; He knows a lot of things that we can't know and we won't always have all the answers. In any case, God eventually did provide a better way: personal salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Blood had always been shed as the penalty for sin; that's just the way God set it up from the very beginning. A sacrifice had to be made. Animal sacrifices that were used in the past were only temporary and did not have the power to change a person's heart. Only one sacrifice could be permanent and could offer that change. That sacrifice was Jesus. (If you would like a deeper intellectual argument for why we need a Savior, I encourage you to read through the book of Hebrews, especially chapters 7 through 10.)

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. - John 14:6

Jesus is THE way. He isn't A way; He is THE way. He is not being arrogant when He makes that claim. No one who has such compassion and love for others and who even washes His disciples' feet (John 13) could be so blatantly arrogant. He is telling us the truth when He speaks these words. He knows how easy it is to be led astray. Many Christians have even bought into the lies of the world that claim there are multiple paths to God and to heaven. But Christians aren't perfect, and neither is anyone else on this Earth. We make plenty of mistakes ourselves, and to be perfectly honest, some of them have been pretty big over the years. But being a Christian is about realizing you do make mistakes, that you aren't perfect and you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Jesus is that Savior, and He loves all of us so much that He wants each and every one of us to come to know Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you have never done that, I sincerely hope that you will, or that I have at least given you some things to think about. If you have further questions, you are welcome to send me a message and I will do my best to answer them, or you may prefer to talk to a pastor or a friend who is a Christian.