Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian Part - 1

Millions Are Not Sure

Millions of followers of Christ still remain unsure about their salvation.

A prominent businessman, a leader in his church, sat across from me in my office. By every standard of human measure, this man was an outstanding success. As we talked, it became increasingly clear that in spite of his active leadership in the church, he was unsure of his eternal destiny. And he was desperately seeking assurance of his salvation...
The wife of an evangelist told me, "During the past thirty years, my husband and I have introduced thousands of people to Christ, but I have never been sure of my own salvation. Now, I'm desperate to know for sure. I need your help..."
A student who had just received Christ stood to his feet. With a puzzled and troubled look on his face, he said, "I don't feel any different. I guess God didn't hear my prayer. How can I be sure Christ has come into my life?"
Perhaps you, too, are uncertain about your relationship with the Lord.
Uncertainty Plagues Many People of Faith
From my experience of counseling many thousands of students and lay people throughout the years, I have become convinced that millions of church-goers have invited Christ into their lives, many of them over and over again, but are not sure of their salvation. In fact, surveys indicate that 50 percent of the church members in the United States are not sure Christ is in their lives. These are good people. Often, they have served faithfully in their church for years. And yet, they still have no assurance of Christ's abiding presence, no confidence that, if they died today, they would go to be with the Lord in heaven.
Why does this heartbreaking uncertainty exist among so many devoutly religious people? I am persuaded that their lack of assurance is due either to misinformation or to a lack of information regarding who God is. This includes understanding the deity of Christ, the meaning of the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord, and what is involved in receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Permit me to ask you this personal, so very important, question: What about you? If you were to die today, are you absolutely sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you would go to heaven?
In the following pages, I want to share with you a message of great hope. It is a message for which the whole world hungers - and one I believe is desperately needed for the Church.

A Great Hunger for Christ

Everywhere around the world, a hunger to learn more about Jesus can be found.

I have found a great and common hunger for Christ in men and women throughout the world. Let me give you just a few examples.
A friend asked me to meet with her brother. She was concerned for him because he was not a Christian. This man was one of the financial and political leaders of our country.
A meeting was arranged. After I introduced myself, we chatted briefly about the condition of the world and the need for a moral and spiritual awakening, all to which he agreed. I suggested to him that God had placed him in a unique position of leadership and he could have a real impact for helping to change the world for good. But first he would have to let God change him.
I shared with him a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws and asked him if he would like to read it with me. When we had finished reading the booklet, this famous and powerful man humbly said he would like to receive Christ. We prayed together. When we finished praying, he looked up and said to me, "I want you to know I really meant that. Tell me what I am supposed to do."

Experiences from Around the World

In Korea approximately ten thousand students, lay people and pastors participating in a Campus Crusade for Christ training conference talked with more than forty-two thousand people during the period of training about how to become a Christian. More than sixteen thousand people prayed with them and received Christ. An additional thirty-eight hundred expressed a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Haiti during a similar week of training, more than one thousand people received Christ in a single day when approximately five hundred pastors and lay leaders shared the gospel through the use of the Four Spiritual Laws booklet. Vonette and I have visited the Soviet Union several times in the past few years. What we have witnessed and heard is nothing less than miraculous. The spiritual hunger of the Soviet people and their openness to the gospel are far greater than we ever imagined. Christian leaders are spreading the gospel wherever they can with overwhelming response.
Recently Vonette spoke at a women's meeting, which was the first of its kind held on International Women's Day in the USSR. More than three hundred women packed out a century-old Protestant Church to hear her speak. She shared from the Word for an hour, and her talk was followed by two and one half hours of questions and answers, which further demonstrated the spiritual hunger there.
In the past few months tens of thousands of people have received Christ as the result of viewing the JESUS film. Today, more than 425 million people have viewed the film with tens of millions expressing their desire to follow Christ as Savior and Lord.
Christians have found such openness to the gospel in Siberia that they have been showing the JESUS film around the clock, even in the dead of winter! It's an evangelistic schedule unheard of in the United States. Every two hours, the JESUS film is being shown in a packed room, even at 12 midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Starved for God for more than seventy years, the Soviet people willingly endure hardship, even the frigid Siberian nights, to learn about our wonderful Savior.
In Romania one man describes the openness for the gospel in his country. "Our people...are hungry. They are so hungry. Everyone we meet - young people, students - when we give them Christian books, they are so happy!" A Romanian pastor reports, "Every meeting we have five to six thousand people, and we have only 1,500 seats. The large majority stand three hours Sunday morning, two hours Sunday night and two hours Friday night. The street and the corridor are packed with crowds. If it is rainy or snowing or the heat of the summer, they are there. It is something that warms my heart whenever I come to church and see crowds flowing from every street to that place. I just praise God!"
Missionaries who live in Western Europe and distribute Bibles to Eastern Europeans traveling through these countries also report great hunger for the Word of God. As these missionaries give out Christian literature on Bulgarian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Russian and Romanian ships, buses and trains, they find hands eagerly reaching for the Bibles to satisfy deep spiritual needs.
Even the seamen on Cuban, Ethiopian and Red Chinese vessels want to quench their spiritual thirst. One missionary reports that when he is allowed to board Chinese ships, he finds many sailors willing and anxious to accept free Bibles. On one ship, his satchel full of Bibles and New Testaments was picked clean within seconds.
These examples are only a few of the many millions of people who are hungry for God throughout the world.

Understanding Christianity is the First Step

I believe billions of people are unsure of their relationship with God simply because they lack information. We must help them to understand that Christianity is not just a philosophy of life, not just a code of ethics, not just a standard of performance. Christianity is a personal relationship with the living, all powerful Creator God through faith in His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Take Buddha out of Buddhism, Mohammed out of Islam, and the founders of other religions out of their religions and little would be changed. But take Jesus Christ out of Christianity and nothing more than form and facade are left. Christianity is a personal relationship with the living Christ!
But how can you be sure of your relationship with Christ? I ask this all-important question again, "If you were to die this very moment, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
Perhaps you have only recently received Christ and are still not sure that anything has really happened - you are not confident of your salvation; you lack the assurance of your relationship with God.
I want to share with you several vital principles which can give you that assurance.
Becoming a Christian involves receiving the Lord Jesus Christ -- the gift of God's love and forgiveness -- by faith. It results in a threefold commitment to a person, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a commitment to Him of your intellect, emotions and will. Let's examine, one by one, each of these elements of Christian commitment.

Commitment 1: Intellectual

Becoming a Christian requires a commitment of your intellect, based on the evidence of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Christianity is built on solid biblical and historical fact. To be sure you are a Christian, you must understand that Christianity is not a blind leap of faith. The truths of the Christian faith are documented by centuries of historical facts, study and research. Many scholars have dedicated their lives to investigating the birth, life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and influence of Jesus of Nazareth. As a result, we have overwhelming historical evidence proving all of the above.
The evidence includes writings of the contemporaries of Jesus whose lives were forever changed as a result of their intimate friendship with Him. Even Christ's enemies verified His resurrection through their conspiracy to pay witnesses to fabricate a story to explain why Jesus' tomb was empty.
Through these and many more convincing proofs, we know Jesus truly lived on earth; Jesus truly died; and Jesus truly rose again.

What Others Have Said about Christ

In the last years of his life, the German dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "If ever the Divine appeared on earth, it was in the person of Christ."
The Russian novelist and philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it has been attempted, the result has been only grotesque."
Dr. Charles Malik of Lebanon, former president of the United Nations General Assembly, said, "I really do not know what will remain of civilization and history if the accumulated influence of Christ, both direct and indirect, is eradicated from literature, art, practical dealings, moral standards and creativeness in the different activities of mind and spirit."
Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French general, said during his exile, "I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him."
Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, said, "Of all the systems of morality, ancient and modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."

What the Bible Says about Christ

More important than what others say about Jesus Christ is what the Scripture says about Him.
Jesus Christ was God in flesh and blood. He came to earth to die in our place. He willingly took upon Himself the death each of us deserves. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus enables each one of us to receive eternal life and free access to almighty God.
Years ago a brilliant young student came to talk to me following one of my lectures at a major university. He was the head of the Communist movement on the campus. He accused me of trying to brainwash the students because I was more mature than they. And he resented me for presenting my Christian views to them, views which were obviously diametrically opposed to his Marxist beliefs.
Instead of arguing with him, I invited him to my home for dinner. We had a good conversation about many topics as we ate. After we had finished dessert, I reached for my Bible."I would like to read something to you from the Bible," I said.
He reacted strongly. "I don't believe the Bible!" he declared. "I don't want to hear anything you read. I've read the Bible from cover to cover, and it's filled with contradictions and myths. I don't believe a word of it." I responded by saying, "If you don't mind, I'll read a few portions anyway." So I turned to the first chapter of the Gospel of John and read:
Before anything existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God...Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness - and the darkness can never extinguish it.
To all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to save them. All those who believe this are reborn! - not a physical rebirth resulting from human passion or plan - but from the will of God.
And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory - the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father.
"Let me read that," he said eagerly. "I don't remember reading it." He went over the passage thoughtfully and handed the Bible back to me without comment.
Then I turned to Colossians 1, beginning with the 13th verse, and read:
For he (God) has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins.
Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can't...all were made by Christ for his own use and glory. He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together.
It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him - all things in heaven and on earth for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood.
Again, he asked if he could read that passage for himself. Then I turned to Hebrews 1 and read verses 1 through 3.
Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets... telling them little by little about his plans.
But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is.
God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.
By this time, the young man was very sober. His whole attitude of belligerence and antagonism had changed. So I read 1 John 2:22, 23:
Who is the greatest liar? The one who says that Jesus is not Christ. Such a person is antichrist, for he does not believe in God the Father and in his Son. For a person who doesn't believe in Christ, God's Son, can't have God the Father either. But he who has Christ, God's Son, has God the Father also.
When I finished reading, he was obviously moved. We chatted a bit. After a while he stood and prepared to leave. I asked if he would write in our guest book. He nodded.
After he wrote his name and address, he penned these words, "The night of decision."
Here was a young man who had come with fire in his eyes, full of resentment for anything Christian. However, through the simple reading of God's holy, inspired Word, the Holy Spirit brought this young man to the point of not only being able to intellectually accept what he heard, but to believe and receive it.

An Experience with a Hindu Scholar

Following one of my talks about the uniqueness of Jesus, a brilliant Indian Hindu scholar with a double doctorate - one in physics and one in chemistry - came to me angry and impatient.
"I resent you Christians," he said. "I resent the arrogance with which you say you have the only way to God. I believe Christianity is one way, but only one way. Hinduism is another. Buddhism, Shintoism and other religions are all ways to God."
As we talked and examined the Scripture together, he began to see that Christianity is uniquely different from other religions or philosophies. Christianity alone makes provision for man's basic need - the forgiveness of sin. He admitted that his diligent reading of the sacred Hindu writings and dutiful observance of the rites and rituals had never enabled him to find God personally. Finally, we got down on our knees together, and this young Hindu intellectual asked Jesus to forgive his sins and become his Savior.
To become a Christian you must squarely face the claims of Christ and believe intellectually that Jesus is God and died for your sins, was buried and rose again. You must believe He wants to come into your life to be your Savior and Lord.

To be continued....

Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

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