The Gift of Eternal Life Through Faith in Jesus
How should we respond when God calls us to be followers of Jesus?
About 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was nailed to a cross, on which he died. Three days later, after his burial in a tomb cut out of rock, he rose from the dead. Today he is sits at the right hand of God the Father. At some time in the future, we do not know when, the Lord Jesus will return to Earth. Those who trust in him now will be raised from the dead when he returns, and will live forever with Jesus.
About two months after Jesus was crucified, the apostle Peter spoke to a large crowd who had gathered at Jerusalem to keep a feast day. You can read in the Bible what he said, and how the people listening to him responded. It is recorded in the biblical book of Acts, chapter 2. Here is an extract:
Acts 2:36 – 41
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
When the crowd heard what Peter said, a large number of them were led by the Holy Spirit to understand that what Peter was saying was indeed true. They did not know what to do about this new knowledge. So Peter advised them to “repent and be baptized”.
What is Repentance?
To repent means to “turn” away from a wicked life, and to trust in Jesus for the gift of eternal life. One of the great sins that every human is guilty of is to believe that we are independent, that we can make our own way, and that we don’t really need God. When we come to repentance we lay aside that independent attitude and begin to depend on God for everything. It means that we trust that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has paid for our sins, so that we can be forgiven by God, and look forward to our own resurrection and to be with the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is a brief immersion in water. Every believer in Jesus should be baptized after he or she comes to faith in him. It is something we do only once in our lifetime. It symbolizes, as we go under the water, that we have died to our sinful life. As we come out of the water we remember that we are raised to a new life in Jesus.
Baptism is one of only two symbolic things we are commanded in Scripture to do as Christians. The other sacrament is to take “communion” or “the Lord’s supper” from time to time. It consists of eating a small piece of bread and drinking a small amount of wine or grape juice. The bread symbolizes Jesus’ crucified body and the wine/grape juice his blood shed on the cross.
Count the Cost
The benefits of becoming a Christian are many. We have the assurance of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We build a priceless relationship with the Lord now. We receive healing. And through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can enjoy the fruit of the Spirit now, in this life. The Bible lists the fruit of the Spirit in this way, in Galatians 5:22-25:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Yet Christians in some communities and countries have to face great hardship at the hands of family and authorities. This is true in many communities in the world of Islam. In some Islamic countries there is no freedom of religion and a person who converts to Christianity can be imprisoned or killed. In the Gospels, Jesus warns of this situation. Read Luke 12:51-53 and Luke 14:25-33. Here are some of the verses:
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…
Those who wish to commit to following Jesus need to be aware of the possible cost of doing so. For some there will be a need to be a secret believer, at least for a time.