Understanding Christian Terms about Salvation and Jesus Christ
- Tuesday, November 05, 2002
According to pollster George Gallup Jr., "Americans revere the Bible, but-by and large, they don't read it." As a result, many don't know what it says. It's easy for Christians to forget how baffling a single Bible verse can be to someone who has not grown up in the church. Our evangelistic efforts should leave others contemplative, not confused. Here are 18 terms worth defining when talking with individuals about Jesus Christ.
God is not hiding or trying to elude us. In fact, the Bible says God actively pursues a relationship with each person. So, how do we seek God? Compare how we seek wealth, prestige or romance -- we read up on, work hard, set priorities, and surround ourselves with others who will help us achieve our goal. To seek God, we make Him our first priority in life; read the Bible, pray, trust Him, and learn from others. When we pay attention, His activity in our lives is unmistakable.
Even when He was on earth, Jesus was much more than a great teacher. Jesus was fully God and fully human. He created the universe and loves His human creations so much more than we deserve to be loved. Faith in Jesus keeps our earthly life on track and guarantees an eternal home in heaven.
No one is completely without fault-no one is "blameless." Everyone has done something wrong. Yet, one perfect and blameless man exists: Jesus Christ. Because He took the blame we deserve, God sees us as blameless.
To sin is to defy God's ways and act to please ourselves. But sin is not just behavior. It is also thoughts or attitudes that contradict God's expectations. Sin can be dramatic or subtle, but it always separates us from God's love and glory. God forgets our sin when we ask for forgiveness, believing that Jesus Christ already took our punishment.
"Gospel" means "good news." Because Jesus Christ died for our sins and returned to life, those who believe in Him will never experience spiritual death or hell.
The cross was a humiliating torture device used to execute Roman criminals sentenced to death. Christians do not delight in the cruelty Jesus Christ suffered on a cross, but rather in the amazing love that motivated him to die such a death on behalf of wretched humanity. On the cross, Jesus Christ died to pay sinners' way out of hell, which is eternal death. A cross reminds us of how God Himself experienced physical death, without which we could never obtain spiritual life.
Jesus Christ's death redeemed, or paid the price for, our sins. We can take comfort in knowing that there is nothing we can do to nullify Christ's work for us.
After sin entered the world, each human being became enslaved by corruption and death. God's Son came to rescue humanity by paying the penalty for sin. The work necessary to obtain salvation has been completed. Jesus Christ now freely offers salvation-rescue from death to eternal life-to all who place their faith in Him.
A true gift isn't earned, only accepted. Salvation is an unearned gift from God that is received by believing in Him.
Faith is placing your trust in what you can't necessarily see or prove. Faith is essential to eternal life. When we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, we are exercising faith that He is the way to heaven, the one who makes us God's child. Because we cannot see God now, we live our lives by faith. Your faith is enough if your faith is in Him.
"Born again" describes an individual whose spirit has been brought to life by belief in Jesus Christ. First we are born physically, then we are born again spiritually. Our spirit lives on for eternity even when our physical life ends.
To confess can mean either to admit a wrong or to agree that something is right. In our relationship with God, both must happen. God has promised that if a person acknowledges the truth of Jesus Christ's deity, then God will forgive his or her sin.
To repent is to stop doing wrong, turn the opposite direction of the sin, and move our heart, mind, or body in the direction that the Bible tells us is correct. It's changing from self-rule to God-rule. Repentance is turning away from the sin that separates us from God and reaching out, instead, to receive God's forgiveness and the new life He offers.
If we admit to God that we have sinned, believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and ask Him to take control of our lives, God will forgive our sins. That means our sins are wiped out, gone forever. It is true that we will still sin in this life, but God will continue to forgive us if we are truly sorry for our sin and desire to change.
In the Bible "hope" is not just wishful thinking. When we belong to Jesus Christ, our hope of eternal life is certain-it is an unseen reality.
People get converted all the time-that's what soft-drink marketing wars are all about. But conversion to Christianity is a radical shift in spiritual understanding, placement of faith and reorganization of life's priorities. We stop pursuing money, power, or pleasure to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ, who calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
True religion is not a set of rules. It is a life lived to please God, overflowing and affecting everyone around us. God's Word says that religion is worthless unless it is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ that compels us to reach out to help others.
The church isn't a building, per se. The church consists of all the followers of Jesus Christ around the world.
God demonstrates that He values choice because He created human beings with the capacity to choose. We may choose to accept or reject His gifts, commands and promises. Scripture is filled with admonitions to choose wisely, to choose to obey, to choose to serve God. We are responsible for how we choose to live -- and accountable for the consequences.
Luis Palau is an evangelist, broadcaster, and contributing author of the new Starting Point Study Bible (Zondervan, www.zondervan.com/startingpoint). He and his wife, Patricia, are the parents of four grown children and live in Portland, Oregon. Copyright (c) 2002 Luis Palau, PO Box 1173, Portland, OR 97207, www.palau.org, email@example.com.
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