TruthTexts Article: The Very Beginning

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Written and Posted by Timothy Smith

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The Very Beginning


TruthText:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb. 11:6 NIV


Here is the very beginning of anyone’s journey of faith in Jesus. The text at the top of the page says that if you want to come to God, you have to believe two things. First, that God exists, and second, that God stands ready, willing, and able to give His blessings to anyone who seeks for Him. But the seeker must be willing to put his or her complete trust in God, and be willing to follow God’s path wherever it leads. God has designed His plan for us around our willingness to believe in His Son, Jesus. And Jesus’ arms are open wide: “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away.” (John 6:37 CEV)


If you are reading this, then you already believe that God is real, or you at least hope that He is real. You are either very curious about this Jesus thing, or you have already begun to believe that Jesus is the one who can help you and give you hope. Oh, you have no idea how true that is! Come, take a look.


There are two big questions here. Does God exist? And if He indeed exists, does He actually reward those who seek Him? The Gospel of John describes faith in Jesus this way, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12, RSV) Something very cosmic and awesome is going on here! When we decide to follow Jesus, when we believe that God has sent Him as our only hope, we are actually adopted into God’s family. We get a seat at the table, and we get all the benefits of being children of the King. Now that’s a pretty good description of how “God rewards those who earnestly seek him!”


Peter was one of the original followers of Jesus, and an eyewitness to the whole story. He was among the first to follow Jesus. He saw all of the miracles and healings Jesus did. And he walked and talked with Jesus after He rose from the dead. Peter said this to a Roman Centurion who wanted to believe: Jesus has “Commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42-44 RSV) Notice that Peter did not say that the people should follow Jesus because He’s got good ideas, or because we might feel better about ourselves.


Peter’s words to a seasoned commander in the Roman army are direct, to the point, and leave no wiggle room. They are the commands of a divine Emperor to His servants, and the Centurion understood this clearly. The Roman soldier wasn’t about to be influenced by some poor fisherman, a conquered subject from a second-rate province of the Empire. And yet the words of Jesus, spoken through Peter, transformed that Roman Centurion’s life. The Gospel, the good news about Jesus, doesn’t allow us to walk away untouched, mumbling, “Wasn’t that nice!”


Peter says in his blunt way that this is the Big Deal. God has appointed Jesus to be the ultimate judge over all people, across all of human history. Jesus is the very one that all the prophets in the Bible said would be the Messiah, the Christ, the King of Kings. And then Peter makes it personal for the Roman soldier, who probably didn’t understand the other parts about prophets of old and such. Peter says that if you believe in Jesus, you receive God’s forgiveness for everything you have ever done to hurt God, other people, yourself, or His creation. Once again, when you believe in Jesus, then God Himself is ready, willing, and able to give His blessings to you.


Peter’s evaluation of the situation is simple. Naturally, no other person, force, idea, or belief system could possibly give these blessings to you. If God exists, if He sent Jesus to save us, then there’s no other way for that to happen except by trusting Jesus. Peter said as much in a confrontation with the religious leaders of his day, most of whom who were highly skeptical of the claims being made by the early believers. Speaking to experts in religious law and practice, Peter’s message was simple and unambiguous:  “Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.” (Acts 4:12 CEV)


There’s another important phrase in our opening TruthText. It’s the assertion that we must “earnestly seek” for God. And our world, our culture today has a big problem with that. Seeking is fine, but finding, especially finding faith in Jesus, is considered really bad form. In our society today, you’ve gone off the rails, become a fanatic or even become dangerously deluded if you claim that Jesus is the one and only answer. I call this “ABC thinking,” which stands for “Anybody But Christ.” You can test this ABC thinking in any group of non-believing friends. Start a discussion about any famous historical figure that is regarded as a good person, or a liberator, or a wise person. There will be no problem for most people if you talk about Simon Bolivar, Mahatma Gandhi, Marie Curie, or whomever. But mention that Jesus Christ has changed your life, and many people in our day will dive for the exits, or even become outwardly hostile. Once, in a college class, I quoted a line from a famous play to explain my point in a class discussion. Another student fired back, “I really hate it when people start pounding everyone over the head with Scripture!” I replied, “Well, you may be right. But that was Shakespeare!” It would be funny if it weren’t so sad (and typical). Many people will look anywhere else but towards Jesus.


In the Bible that Jesus read, the prophet Jeremiah hears the lament of God, because His people have turned away from Him. God says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer. 2:13 NIV) I don’t know much about cisterns (underground water tanks), but I know that if they leak, they are worthless! Having faith in God is the only way to receive and retain the blessings God has for us, beginning with eternal life through Jesus.


Unfortunately, “ABC thinking” has been going on since the beginning of the human race! In the Gospel of John, chapter 4, Jesus meets a troubled Samaritan woman near a well. He asks her for a drink of water, and then in the course of their conversation, shows her what she is really like inside. The woman quickly tries desperately to change the subject.  Jesus sounds remarkably like the passage we just saw in Jeremiah when he says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (verse 10, NIV). Jesus essentially asks her to stop looking elsewhere for her answers, because He is right there in front of her! Jesus continues, speaking to her and to anyone else who may be looking everywhere but ignoring Him. “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NIV).


Jesus Himself explained on many occasions, and in many different ways, that He is God’s one and only Son, and God’s only provision to save us. One famous quote is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.” (John 14:6 ERV) I once heard a sermon by an evangelist from India. He asserted, “Jesus is not the only way to God.” There were gasps of shock from the audience, and the man continued, “You can be driving down the road, hit a telephone pole, and meet God as your judge. But Jesus is the only way to God the Father, the one who forgives and accepts us.”


Some skeptics claim that John’s account about “the only way to the Father” is overblown, due to faulty memory, or is even a fabrication of the early Church. Show those people this quote, from the Gospel of Matthew: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27 TLV) An almost identical quote is also found in Luke 10:22. And it wouldn’t take long to compile quite a list of verses in the Gospels with similar statements. We must take the Gospel writers seriously, who are unanimous in their claims about Jesus.


In every Gospel account, and every book and letter in the New Testament, Jesus is clearly asserted to be God’s Son, and to be the only Savior available to the human race. In another article, “God Has Given Proof,” I discuss how the early Church had a fully developed view of Jesus as the only Savior, and as God’s only Son, and began sharing it with the world, as early as the first sermon after the Resurrection. I am fully satisfied that Jesus as described in the Bible is truly “the God who exists,” who “rewards those who seek Him” by providing the Way to the Father, revealing Himself as the Truth of God, and showering us with Life in His Name.


Take Action!

Be sure to look up the verses in this chapter in whatever translation of the Bible is the easiest for you to understand.* Read the whole section that each verse came from, and make sure that the words I have said about them are true. Once you are sure that I have given you accurate information, ask yourself the questions. Finally, ask God to show you what you should do next.


Who can come to Jesus? If you turn to Him, what will He promise to do?


If you believe and follow Jesus, what do you become? (How does God see you now?)


What is the only name (who is the only person) that can save us? Why do you think that idea is unpopular with so many people?


What is an example you have seen of “ABC thinking?” What could you share with that person?


Why can Jesus say, “I am the only way to the Father”? What did He do for us to guarantee that His claim is true?


* I use many translations of the Bible in these articles. Any of them would serve to support the points made in the chapter. All verses with no listed translations are my own paraphrase; please check with your own Bible to be sure I got the right idea.


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