WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN? (shorter version first)
The universe is an incredible and very intriguing place, isn't it? What would you give to be able to explore the Orion Nebula, or travel beyond our solar system? Many people, esp. some scientists, would give all they have to do that, even sacrificing a limb or two.
There is nothing that can compare with the value of eternal life and being able to explore the universe without the limits of gravity, money, stress, death, prejudice, racism, sexism, abuse, theft, deceit, murder, favoritism and other kinds of sin. Jesus agreed saying in Matthew 16:26,
"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" &
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
If God has given such wonderful things for us to enjoy on this earth including majestic mountains, oceans full of exotic life forms, the passion of love and sex, the thrill of love and connecting to family and soul mates, the awe of science and learning how God has designed our world to work, then what do you think exists in worlds throughout the universe? Could there be anything more foolish than missing out on the unimaginable adventures and experiences and intellectual interactions that will make this world's greatest achievements appear as toddler's doodlings?
What is God's method of salvation? It doesn’t matter at all what any pastor says or what I say. What matters is what God says and has revealed through prophets/apostles, etc. in the Bible verses which you will read below.
But first, let's consider 2 paradoxes that are common questions or errors of both atheists and some Christians.
1) If God required perfection from people on their own, everyone would give up trying to meet God’s impossible standard.
2) But, as atheists have pointed out when they criticize scandals by Christians (ignoring worse scandals in science, education, government, atheism, etc.), if salvation has no connection to good works, then people are free to do any immoral thing they wish, religion loses its power to motivate people to be moral and much chaos in society ensues.
A salvation that was impossible to achieve would be useless. But, a salvation that did nothing to change human life (cheap grace) could not come from a God who actually cares about people and the best way to live. Unfortunately some people, including a few pastors, fail to think critically about human nature/psychology or Jesus' instructions to "take up our cross" (Matt 10:38) and the concept of continuous improvement, what Paul called dying daily to self.
In the Bible you will see 2 sets of verses that appear contradictory:
- People are saved/justified by faith alone: Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Eph. 2:8,9; Titus 3:5.
- People are judged by works: Matt. 16:27; Jn. 5:28,29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12.
“I preached…that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.” Acts 26:20 (The apostle James also clearly that faith without works is dead [read Ja. 2:14,17,20].
This solves the paradoxical problem between faith and works. These works do not save us. They are evidence of our connection with Jesus. Satan may be right in accusing us as sinners. But, Christ can vindicate His people because of their faith and he can point to our works to prove that it is genuine faith.
A Christian is someone who has decided to make Jesus the Lord of their lives & has decided to make Him their guide above emotions, pride, selfishness, establishments, culture, etc and have seen/experienced the joy of living in that way. They may make mistakes & have failings, sometimes even big ones. But, if they recognize and repent of their mistake, Jesus can cover their sins with His sacrifice & restore them to working towards perfection in every area of life. Being involved in this kind of empowering relationship with Jesus is the most freeing, joyful, intellectual, beneficial and stimulating way to live. A techie illustration of this is in this picture.
Many books have been written on the technical details of this. But, it’s as simple as A, B, C. Based on much evidence of God being real & a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), genuine Christians:
A) Admit/Confess/Repent of sins Sins are basically attitudes/actions that harm & damage our relationships with people or with God and often both. God wants us to admit, confess and turn away from them largely so that our lives will have less pain, hurt and tragedy and be much more positive, fulfilling and filled with the adventure and thrill of the best life has to offer.
- “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9
- "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16
- “He [God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9
- “No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” Luke 13:5 (see: Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30)
B) Believe in the sacrifice of Jesus that fully paid the penalty for your sins. Start a relationship of love & trust with Him. This is called justification & is the 1st part of receiving eternal life. It is a 100% free gift of God. There is nothing you can do to deserve it or merit it except believe that Jesus has paid for your sins (and even this ability to believe is a gift of God). Good works are crucially important in Christian life (see part C), but NONE of our good works do anything to merit salvation. Our salvation is 100% due to Jesus taking the punishment that we deserved on the cross. But, belief in the Biblical concept is not just words or only a mental assent. It is commitment to transform your thinking which inevitably causes changes in how you live day to day.
- “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
- "For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day....I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life." John 6:40,47
- "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 1 John 4:10
- "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23
- "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Ephesians 2:8-9
- "The jailer...fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he...asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:29-31
- "The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. & the very words I have spoken to you are spirit & life.” John 6:63
- "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that is was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4,
- "As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13
- "And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” John 3:36 (because sin always hurts people)
- “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." John 5:24
C) Change our thinking, worldview, choices and behaviors by uniting our will with God’s Spirit that empowers us to conquer sin When Zaccheus became a believer in Jesus, the first thing he did was to change and stop cheating people as he had been and to rectify the wrongs he had done as much as well as he was able to do so (he gave back 4 times what he had stolen as Jewish law required). God asks us to start on a road of change for many reasons...many of them for our benefit.Here are just some of them:
Because we love God for giving us life and with gratitude for the sacrifice that Jesus endured in our place and also because God has promised us blessings in THIS life for following His principles, we choose to conquer sins step by step as God reveals them to us. There are 2 main kinds of sins:
1) Choosing to do things that we know are wrong, such as disobeying the 10 commandments (sins of commission) and
2) "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." James 4:17 (sins of omission)
See also Matthew 25:31-46 where those who lose out on heaven are those who refuse to help others in need.
This process of becoming more and more perfect like Jesus is called sanctification. It is a process of gaining freedom from the chains of sin that harm and hinder people in this world. If we keeping growing & maturing in this way, we have eternal life. But, if continually reject truth & conquering sin God makes us aware of, we don’t have genuine faith (James 2), we don’t love Jesus (John 14:15) & we can sever our connection with God & lose salvation (Hebrews 10:26, etc.).
We will continue to have a battle between sinful & godly impressions (Galatians 5:16-17). But, we have a will that in union with God can reject the evil ones & follow the good ones. As we experience God's freedom that brings many benefits and much joy and freedom in THIS life (Deuteronomy 28, 1 Timothy 4:8), we understand more and more that sin is a type of slavery that ruins lives and destroys potential and progress. We become happy to unite with God to transform our minds (Romans 12:1,2) and expel the chains of sin from our lives. These changes in thinking and actions are proof that we are in a genuine connection with God (1 John 2, James 2).
Once we experience the joy and freedom of living God's way, we want more and more of it and long to live in heaven where all will live in God's perfect way, which is why there will be no pain, sadness, etc. there.
- "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2
- "...God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters." 1 John 4:16-20
- "May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
- "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free." John 8:36
- "For you have been called to live in
freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy
your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in
love." Galatians 5:13
- 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:14-20
- “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle,for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers." 1 Timothy 4:8-10
- “Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, & those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.” John 5:29
- “He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory & honor & immortality that God offers.” Romans 2:7
- "And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did." 1 John 2:3-6.
- “Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.” Hebrews 10:26
- (in heaven) "...there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." Revelation 21:4
- "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds." Matthew 16:26-27
- “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.” Revelation 22:12
Basically salvation can be compared to having a baby & that’s what Jesus compared it to when talking to Nicodemus. Parents choose to make love & that results in a baby. But the baby takes lots of care & feeding to become an adult. Similarly, we start with loving Jesus. That results in the new birth experience. We become new people as 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it. But, there’s lots of maturing to do & that happens by staying in the relationship with God & growing as above.
Philip Yancey, one of the most thoughtful & inspirational Christian writers who often deals with how God can be good if there is suffering in the world writes simply, “The world is good. The world is fallen. The world will be redeemed. Creation, Fall, Redemption—that’s the Christian story in a nutshell.
Pastor Rick Warren (author of the best selling Purpose Driven) explains what it means to follow Christ quite well here:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxn_7F2GAew (short version)
You can see much more on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection here as well as ideas & links on how to learn to recognize God’s impression in your own conscience here:
This video is one of the better ones about how to learn to hear God’s voice every day & the benefits:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN? (shorter version #2)
Here's another way to look at it:
1. EVIDENCE BASED CHOICE TO BELIEVE: The Bible claims that God has given many evidences that he is real including witnesses (millions of friendly, neutral and hostile witnesses, including many top notch historians, scientists and legal minds), personal experience, pragmatic evidence, Jesus’ resurrection, science and physical evidence, prophecy, logic, philosophy, miracles, and others. Christian faith rests on at least some of these evidences to accept that God is real, that His principles are the best way to live life on earth and that He has the power to give us eternal life. In gratitude for His gifts of life, love, reason, freedom, etc. we desire to have a relationship with Him. (1 Timothy 4:8, 1 Corinthians 15 (whole chapter), I Thess. 5:21-22, Acts 26:25-26, John 14:11, Hebrews 11:26, Exodus 14:9-31, esp. 31, Deut. 30:15-20).
2. SALVATION & RECOGNITION OF HUMAN NATURE: We recognize that all have a mix of positive moral traits and harmful tendencies to hurt ourselves and others that are influenced by the war between God and Satan (Revelation 12:7, Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 3:23), a war in which God respect our freedom of choice. He allows it to continue so all can see the results of both governments, but the natural result of sin is death if nothing intervenes (Romans 6:23).
The problem though is that if God demanded that people be perfect to have eternal life, no one could reach that standard and most would give up. If He said no effort was required to have eternal life, that would result in much immorality and unending misery not to mention hypocrisy. So, the biblical plan of salvation depends on these 2 basics:
a) GENUINE CONNECTION TO GOD THROUGH HIS SPIRIT: Eternal life does not depend on human effort. It depends on being connected to God through His Spirit who applies the merits of Jesus' sacrifice to cover our sins through grace and works through our conscience to lead us to higher and higher truth and freedom. This Spirit works with all regardless of religion, but can't help us if we habitually reject known truth.
“It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.” John 6:63 (See also John 3:16, Hebrews 10:26)
b) GROWTH IN FREEDOM TO BE MORAL/PRACTICE TRUTH: The inevitable consequence of a genuine connection with God and His Spirit is continual progress in shaking off the destructive chains of sin and becoming freer to experience the unrivaled joy of living as God designs. Like children growing, we may make mistakes and fall at times. But, if we are not growing and conquering sin step by step, we are not Christians since that is what a connection with Christ always produces. (James 2, 1 John 2:3-6**, Galatians 5:16-25)
This is also a fair solution considering that we didn’t choose to be born into this sinful world, but that the universe needs a demonstration to see which government is best, God’s or Satan’s. It is also fair to non-believers who may not know about God, but follow the truth they know admirably. God winks at ignorance and some who have never understood the evidence for God will be in heaven because they followed their conscience (Romans 2:12-16, Acts 17:21-30, Hebrews 10:26)
A few more details of this process are below.
3. RECOGNIZE AND CONFESS SINS: We recognize that deceiving ourselves about what we’ve done wrong is harmful. We recognize that there are sins of commission (doing things we know are wrong) and ommission (not doing things we know are right). Like alcoholics, we are powerless to change our desires since without God we would neither have any desire to do right nor would we even exist. We recognize this and trust God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice and have faith that God's grace will forgive sins that are confessed. When we do this, Jesus takes our place as our representative before God, pointing to His death on the cross that paid for all sin, solving the sin and death problem for us (this is called justification & no works of ours could ever earn it). (John 3:16, 1 John 2:1, Ephesians 2:8. Romans 6:23).
4. TRANSFORM/USE TALENTS: Out of love and thanks, we want to please God. One way to do this is to do what He asks (John 14:15) which transforms our lives (Romans 12:1,2). We aim for perfection in morals, science/knowledge, relationships, career and all areas of life using the power of our relationship with God and adopting His nature day by day (James 1:26-27, Philippians 1:6; 3:12-14, 2 Peter 1:4), but know that if we sin, God will be patient and help us try again to overcome evil. This is not done to earn eternal life (Ephesians 2:8). It is a love response to God’s gifts of life, truth, salvation, etc. and is done out of gratitude, trust that He knows best and the track record of millions who have benefited from following God’s ways.
5. EXPERIENCE FREEDOM: As we experience the exhilarating rewards and passion God brings to this life, we recognize that the most important type of freedom is not just being enslaved to sin and our emotions and feelings and doing whatever we feel like. It is being empowered to incorporate truth into our lives, overcome harmful addictions, aim higher than the highest human thought and achieve the highest fulfillment and our highest potential. (Galatians 5:13)
6. WITNESS: Because of our experience of the rewards of following truth, we are able to witness to others about the rewards that come to us in this life from our commitment to following God’s truth. (Hebrews 12:1)
7. ETERNAL LIFE & OTHER REWARDS: We trust that based on an unrivaled track record of accuracy & powerful evidences of God’s reality, someday sin and all its hellish abuse will be ended permanently (Revelation 20:14,15. Note that there is no eternal hell. All evil will be ended permanently though) and that God’s promises about eternal life will also be proven true (Revelation 21:1-4). God will also give us other rewards beyond salvation based on our deeds (Revelations 22:12) that will beyond anything we can imagine.
A very good video summarizing how we let God lead in our daily lives to help us become more like Him is this one:
"Living on the Edge" by Jim Hohnberger
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN? (Longer version)
What God says a Christian is is the only thing that matters. In some ways, being a Christian is like being a scientist. Once you accept the basic principles and begin following them, you are a scientist/a Christian. But, there should also be continual growth in both knowledge and practice of truth throughout your life.:
1. EVIDENCE BASED CHOICE TO BELIEVE: Bible authors consistently persuaded people to have faith that God is real based on evidence of many kinds such as these:
**ANCESTORS SAW: “When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord & in his servant Moses.” Exodus 14:31
**YOU SAW: "But you have seen the Lord perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes!" Deuteronomy 11:7
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know." Acts 2:22
**WE SAW: “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” Acts 2:32
**OTHERS SAW: Acts 2:5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem…7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!
**YOU CHECK: In Acts 26:25-26, Paul can tell a non-believing king he knows there is evidence, “…What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!”
**BEST LAWS: “And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?” Deuteronomy 4:8
**HISTORY: Deut 4:32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? 33 Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? 34 Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.”
**FREEDOM: “the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
**YOU CAN EXPERIENCE: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 (See also Deuteronomy 28).
There are others, like prophecy being fulfilled, health improving, human rights and freedom being increased, etc. and since a God of love would give simple laws so that all could follow them easily to experience benefits…and this has been confirmed many times by science, it’s an inferential evidence of God.
Most people who become Christians and decide to believe God is real do it based on some or all of these evidences best way to live life on earth and that He has the power to give us eternal life. In gratitude for His gifts of life, love, reason, freedom, etc. we desire to have a relationship with Him. (Luke 1:1-4, 1 Timothy 4:8, 1 Corinthians 15 (whole chapter), I Thess. 5:21-22, Acts 26:25-26, John 14:11, **Hebrews 11:26, Exodus 14:9-31, esp. 31, Deut. 30:15-20).
2. RECOGNITION OF GOOD & EVIL INFLUENCES&NEED FOR SALVATION: We recognize that all have a mix of positive moral traits and harmful tendencies to hurt ourselves and others that are influenced by the war between God and Satan (James 1:14-15, Jeremiah 7:23-25, Psalm 37:4-7, Revelation 12:7, Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 3:23), a war in which we are free to choose to follow the impressions of God, Satan, others’ ideas or our own. He allows it to continue so all can compare life lived in God’s way and life lived Satan’s way or others. But the natural result of sin is death if nothing intervenes (Romans 6:23).
“The sinful nature wants to do evil…and the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other.” Galatians 5:17
Nobel Prize winner and former atheist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained,
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart…even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.” The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956
Because of the destructive nature of human hearts and because without God, this short life is all there is, we recognize that we have a vital need for God.
3. SALVATION FOR ALL TRUTH FOLLOWERS BASED ON A BALANCE OF GRACE AND WORKS:
If God demanded that people be perfect to have eternal life, no one could reach that standard and almost all would give up. If He said no effort was required, much immorality, misery and hypocrisy would result. So, the biblical plan of salvation has elements of both grace and works in an ideal balance. Jesus compared it simply to a new birth. When
a) JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE: Eternal life does not depend on human effort. It depends on being connected to God through His Spirit who works through our conscience and lead us into truth and who works with all regardless of religion. It depends most of all on the death of Jesus for our sins which preserves God’s law as the eternal standard, but enables eternal life for those who decide to unite with God to conquer sin and become free from it.
“It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.” John 6:63 (See also John 3:16, **)
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7
b) RECOGNIZE AND CONFESS SINS: We recognize that deceiving ourselves about what we’ve done wrong is harmful. We recognize that there are sins of commission (doing things we know are wrong) and ommission (not doing things we know are right). Like Alcoholics Anonymous says, we need God’s help since without God we would neither have any desire to do right nor would we even exist. We recognize this and trust God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice and have faith that God will forgive sins that are confessed. When we do this, Jesus takes our place as our representative before God, pointing to His death on the cross that paid for our sin, solving the sin and death problem for us (this is called justification & no works of ours could ever earn it). (John 3:16, 1 John 2:1, Ephesians 2:8. Romans 6:23).
c) GROWTH IN CHARACTER TOWARDS PERFECTION: Out of love and thanks, we want to live for God. Just like good couples in dating or marriage, we want to do what God asks and this is actually for our own best benefit. This growth of our character to become more and more perfect, imitating God’s character, is called sanctification and is an inevitable result of any real connection with God. Like children growing, we may make mistakes and fall at times. But, our goal and desire is to be perfect and we keep practicing and growing towards that goal.
“…stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols.” Jeremiah 7:6
“If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27
“I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” 1 John 2:1
(see also: James 1:26,27 James 2, 1 John 2:3-6, Galatians 5:16-25, Philippians 3:12-15, 2 Peter 1:4, Philippians 3:12-15, Ephesians 4:13-15, 20-24 , Colossians 1:10 **2 Corinthians 3:17 Galatians 5:8 )
A good video summarizing in more detail how we practically work with God in our daily lives to improve is this one:
"Living on the Edge" by Jim Hohnberger
d) CONTINUAL INTENTIONAL DISOBEDIENCE CANCELS FORGIVENESS: If we are not growing and conquering sin step by step, we are not Christians since that is what a connection with Christ always produces. “Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.” Hebrews 10:26
IT’S FAIR: This is the fairest solution considering that we didn’t choose to be born into this sinful world, but that the universe needs to know that we are safe to save to live in a perfect universe and won’t cause another rebellion against God. It is also fair to non-believers who may not know about God. If they follow the truth they know and grow, God winks at ignorance and they can also have eternal life. But, rejecting truth you know is very dangerous. (Romans 2:12-16, Acts 17:21-30)
A few more details of this process are below.
Philippians 1:6; 3:12-14, 2 Peter 1:4), but know that if we sin, God will be patient and help us try again to overcome evil. This is not done to earn eternal life (Ephesians 2:8). It is a love response to God’s gifts of life, truth, salvation, etc. and is done out of gratitude, trust that He knows best and the track record of millions who have benefited from following God’s ways.
4. REJECT SLAVERY TO SIN IN ORDER TO LIVE IN THE HIGHEST FREEDOM: The inevitable consequence of a genuine connection with God and His Spirit is continual progress in shaking off the destructive chains of sin and becoming freer to experience the unrivaled joy of living as God designs. As we experience the exhilarating rewards and passion God brings to this life (more success in many fields, ~25% more happiness, decade(s) of extra life, higher sexual fulfillment, billions released from poverty in the Jubilee2000 and ONE campaigns, 100s of areas of human rights advanced and much more), we mature to realize that the most important type of freedom is not being enslaved to sin and our emotions and feelings and doing whatever we feel like. Real freedom is being empowered to incorporate truth into our lives, overcome harmful addictions, aim higher than the highest human thought and achieve the highest fulfillment and our highest potential. We aim for perfection in morals, science/knowledge, relationships, career and all areas of life using the power of our relationship with God and adopting His nature day by day
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this.) But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” Romans 6:16-17,19,22
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-11
(see also: 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:8, etc.)
5. MATURE / DESIRES & VALUES TRANSFORMED / BECOME FREE THINKERS: We understand more and more that sin harms us, destroys lives, shames us. The experience of living life God’s way and most importantly our connection with His Spirit helps us transform our desires, likes, values day by day until instead of being attracted to evil, we are repulsed by it. We put God’s truths above traditions of family, culture, society, nations, etc. What is positive for our lives becomes what we desire most and we abhor sin that we know destroys lives. Our lives become ordered to value service and doing good for others above selfishness and personal gain. We learn to question and challenge human establishments whether scientific, political or religious with the higher truths of God. It is doing this that has caused Judaism and Christianity to bring about most of the human rights advances in history.
“’Am I the one they are hurting?’ asks the LORD. ‘Most of all, they hurt themselves, to their own shame.’” Jeremiah 7:19
“We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves….the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” Galatians 5:16,22,23
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1,2).
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
6. ETERNAL LIFE: We trust that based on an unrivaled track record of accuracy & powerful evidences of God’s reality, someday sin and all its hellish abuse will be ended permanently (Revelation 20:14,15. Note that there is no eternal hell. All evil will be ended permanently though. See www.helltruth.com) and that God’s promises about eternal life will also be proven true and all the evil in this world will be destroyed and it will be recreated with God dwelling with us.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:1-4
7. REWARDS & WITNESSING: Jesus speaks of rewards given based on deeds. These cannot be eternal life itself since that is spoken of as a free gift in many places (Romans 6:23, John 6:63, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.). But, Jesus clearly says there will be a reward for what we do that is right.
Revelation 22: 12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
These rewards are going to be more amazing than anything you can imagine. Jesus says:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
There is nothing more valuable or rewarding you can do that to work in harmony with God’s spirit to gain eternal life for yourself and as many as you can influence in that direction. It is because of this and because of following God’s truth and experiencing it’s many benefits on this earth that we we witness to others about the rewards we have enjoyed and how He has helped us through many challenges (often by us following His principles). This is why Paul charges us to:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
The above principles and many others directly resulted in these benefits to modern society and numerous others not mentioned below.
Kenneth Scott Latourette, Sterling Professor at Yale University, wrote, "Across the centuries Christianity has been the means of reducing more languages to writing than have all other factors combined. It has created more schools, more theories of education, and more systems than has any other one force. More than any other power in history it has impelled men to fight suffering, whether that suffering has come from disease, war or natural disasters. It has built thousands of hospitals, inspired the emergence of the nursing and medical professions, and furthered movement for public health and the relief and prevention of famine. Although explorations and conquests which were in part its outgrowth led to the enslavement of Africans for the plantations of the Americas, men and women whose consciences were awakened by Christianity and whose wills it nerved brought about the abolition of slavery (in England and America). Men and women similarly moved and sustained wrote into the laws of Spain and Portugal provisions to alleviate the ruthless exploitation of the Indians of the New World...By its name and symbol, the most extensive organization ever created for the relief of the suffering caused by war, the Red Cross, bears witness to its Christian origin. The list might go on indefinitely. It includes many another humanitarian projects and movements, ideals in government, the reform of prisons and the emergence of criminology, great art and architecture, and outstanding literature."
[A History of Christianity, Vol. II, originally published by HarperCollins Publishers 1953, revised 1975, pp.1470,1471].
See more at www.truth-is-life.org/GoodLifeEvidence.html