A few weeks ago, I watched a BBC3 documentary titled 'The most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.' My stomach churned as I listened to this Congolese woman recount the horrid way in which rebels had tortured and murdered her husband. Then it hit me: this is why God hates sin. Killing, rape, robbery, witchcraft, everything that's wrong with our world today, all the pain people go through and inflict on others, it's all stems from us not living in accordance with what God wants for us. People like saying "listen to your heart," but really there's no end to the mischief and evil that the human hearts and minds can come up with. If you're human, you know what you're capable of. It's this simple; God loves us. Just think, if we being human can feel the way we do about our children, how much more does He who created us care about us? Keep in mind we don't "make" our children anymore than the soil "makes" the grass. From the moment that embryo is formed; the parents have no control over how that child is going to be formed, they can't influence what that child will look like nor what type of personality they'll be born with. But God can, and He does, no one else knows the number of hairs on each individual's head. (Luke 12:7)It's because God loves us so much that He cares what we do and how we do it, and when we ignore His love for us we end up hurting ourselves and other people. God doesn't want you to steal because He cares about that person you're stealing from as much as He cares about you. He doesn't want you to hate anyone because He loves that person you're hating, so He wants us all to live in harmony. This is why it's so imperative for us to live focused on God and not on doing wrong if we are to go to heaven. When this life is through with all its struggles; there's going to be an eternity of either love, compassion and understanding in heaven, or rage and torment in hell. The kind of life you lead here on earth shows which side you value more, and thus decides which atmosphere becomes your permanent home.People often wonder why God, who loves us, would even create hell. The simple truth is that hell was not made for human beings. It's a place created to punish the devil for rebelling against God. (Isaiah 14:12-20) People choose to follow the devil there by rebelling against God during this life, by having the same attitudes as the devil has. (e.g. "Why should I obey God, I know better than Him!," "I'm bigger than God is, I'm my own god!") Such attitudes are harmful to us in eternity, and here on earth because by following the devil to hell instead of following God, we embrace darkness, violence, depression, confusion and death, the complete opposite of what God wants for us.
Is there anyway to live above all the wrong?In following God's love for us into heaven, the Bible is so important because it is how we know what God wants for us, as well as how to obey Him. Words have always been significant to God, ever since He spoke the world into existence by saying things like "let there be light" and "let there be land." It is through the written word that He has chosen to reveal His character and His will to us, and this isn't something we're in a position to complain about any more than we can complain about why He made the earth round. God is bigger and higher than us, He made us, we didn't make Him, so it is not up to us to decide who He is or what He wants. Lions are born carnivores, and since we're not the ones who decided that lions should crave meat, there's no way we can decide that they're going to start eating grass all of a sudden. If you don't think is true, try and force a lion to go vegetarian, and if you're still alive, do let me know how it goes.Realizing that there is a God and you need to know who He is is the first step in living your life focused on Him. This first step of faith is vital because the Bible says "It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) When we have such an encounter, we are confronted with the fact that we often live our lives focused on other things, and not on God. So thank God that He already made a way to save us from a life contrary to His love for us, as well as its consequences in eternity, and He revealed the way to us in Jesus Christ!Previously, I have written about how the Jewish people expected God to fulfill His promise of salvation to them, as well as how that promise necessitated the death of Jesus Christ. It's impossible to know the salvation Jesus Christ came to offer if we don't believe what He did for us. Once we believe, we face a decision to either accept it or reject it. In accepting what God did for us, we acknowledge that Jesus was not a normal human being like we are, but the very spirit of God embodied on earth because how else would He have been able to raise from the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:42-47) If we accept that Jesus truly is Lord, and the only one who is able to save us from hell, we must bow before Him as He is, and not as we would like Him to be. (Romans 10:9-10)Over the years, people have tried to save themselves by defining for themselves what it means to follow God. If we want God to save us from a life contrary to what He wants for us and from an eternity separated from His love and mercy, we must obey Him. Much like taking a firefighter's instruction and leading in order to get you out of a burning building. Believing that God exists and that He has revealed His will through the Bible is necessary for us to realize what a contradiction our lives are without Him, and it is only the beginning. Once we believe, we need to obey Him because how can I believe that aspirin can take away my headache and not take any? The things we believe are defined by the actions we take, and you won't act unless you believe something the same way you won't believe something and not act on it. The Bible likens this to telling a naked and hungry man, "Be warm and full!" without giving him clothes and some food, it's quite useless. (James 2:14-17)
How will believing in God save me from the bad stuff?So once we believe that there is a God and there is a heaven, there are specific things God instructed us to do in order to focus our lives on Him. After believing, the first action we have to take is to repent of living our lives without acknowledging how God wants us to live. (Acts 3:19) Repenting means asking God to forgive us, and changing our attitude and behavior from that point on. If you apologize for something, without intending to not repeat it, your apology isn't very sincere.This isn't to say everyone whose ever asked God to forgive them never wronged Him again, but that repentance entails a change of heart and mind as well. Once you acknowledge that there is a God and ask His forgiveness for ignoring or rejecting Him in the past, you have to make a conscious effort to never forget Him again. We need God to help us each step of the way, and Jesus instructed us to pray for forgiveness daily. (Matthew 6:12) If you have ever said a 'sinner's prayer' at one point in your lifetime, you should make an effort not to ever get tired of praying a prayer like that everyday that you live.
So after I ask God to forgive me, what happens?Upon determining to turn from sin and live our lives completely for God by repenting, He forgives our sin, and again it is up to us to fully obey Him by getting baptized in the name of Jesus for our sins to be removed or 'washed away.' (Acts 2:38) Baptism is something very specific in the Bible, and unfortunately people have tried to do it their own way over the years, i.e. tried to save themselves. The word we translated as baptism in English is the Greek word baptizo which means to fully immerse something in water. The method of sprinkling young children was invented when the Catholic church was founded by order of the Roman emperor Constatine. This way, they thought, we'll be safe because we'll have covered everything that God asks us to do. Unfortunately, we can't save ourselves let alone anyone else. As much as some of our parents wanted to help us be "safe," they were only following the traditions that had been handed down to them and not necessarily the word of God. Baptizing someone who doesn't have the consciousness or belief in God is really of no effect because its our hearts that God is concerned with. The outer actions don't mean much without the inner belief, and Jesus said that whoever believed and then got baptized would be saved, and no one can believe something for you, belief is a personal decision. (Mark 16:16) Everyone in the Bible who repented was then baptized, they were dipped in water as the name of Jesus Christ was called upon. (Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12-13, Acts 8:35-39, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 16:30-33, Acts 18:8, Acts 22:16) Father, son and Holy Spirit are the roles God takes, and not His names any more than daughter, sister and friend are my names. The name Jesus has been revealed in the Bible as God's identity and power, and it is in the name Jesus that we are saved. (Acts 4:10-12) In fact, even those that had been baptized by John the baptist got baptized again in the name of Jesus, after Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven. (Acts 19:3-5) Faith in the name of Jesus and obedience to His word is what cleanses us from our sin, so the water you get baptized in is not some special mystical water. However, the water is significant to God for our purification so all we must do is obey Him. The Bible says that we identify with Jesus' death and burial in repenting and being baptized because in repenting, we 'die' to sin and in baptism we are buried with Christ. (Romans 6:2-4) Thank God that we also get to identify with Christ's resurrection by being filled with the Holy Spirit! (Romans 6:4-5)
How will this change my life?God's spirit in us enables us to live a new life focused on loving God and obeying Him, because on our own we are weak. The Bible promises that whoever repents and gets baptized will be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38-39) Everyone in the Bible who accepted Jesus to be their Lord and savior was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6, Acts 18:14-17), and God has not changed, He is still filling whoever wants Him in their lives. After we believe that Jesus died, was buried and rose again, He seals our faith with His spirit so that we know we are His. (Ephesians 1:13-14) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit in our lives would teach us what is of God and what is not, lead us further into truth, revealing to us things that haven't even happened yet and directing us in doing what God wants. (John 16:13, John 14:26, Luke 12:12) Without God; we can't live how He wants us to, it is God's spirit in us which gives us freedom from sin (Romans 8:1-2), enables us to develop a relationship with God (Ephesians 2:18-19) and works in us, giving us the strength and revelation to live for God. (Ephesians 1:17-19( The Holy Spirit changes us from the inside, and these changes become visible in the things that we do, much like when you plant a mango tree, you're going to start seeing mangoes. (Galatians 5:22-23) It is because of God's spirit in us that He can work miracles such as healing and prophetic words through us. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)Jesus promised His followers that they would receive this spiritual power after He had ascended into heaven (Luke 24:29, Acts 1:8), and His instructions to them were simply to wait in Jerusalem until they received it. They were doing just that during the feast of Pentecost when the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled. (Acts 2:1-4) This is why to this day people call themselves Pentecostal to identify that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus' followers knew that they had received the Holy Spirit because they spoke languages which they had never been taught, and everyone who heard them was amazed and some even thought they were drunk! (Acts 2:6-13) However, it had been prophesied before that God would fill people with His spirit after Jesus had been crucified. (Zechariah 12:10) It had also been prophesied before that by filling them with His spirit, God would supernaturally empower people (Joel 2:28-30) and that He would use strange languages to communicate to them. (Isaiah 28:11) Which is why Paul knew what to say to those that thought they were all just drunk, he told them that speaking an unknown language was God's spirit in us, a gift and a promise to all that would believe in what Jesus did for them! (Acts 2:14-36)Jesus promised His disciples that whoever believed in Him would speak a language that was new to them (Mark 16:17) and in the Bible, the disciples would know that God had filled someone with His spirit when they would hear them speak in languages they hadn't learned. (Acts 10:44-47) It is important to note that they didn't all of a sudden become fluent in these languages, but while they were praying everyone who could understand the languages they spoke said they were saying things to praise God. This experience is a gift from God's love to fill us with His strength, so that we can live our lives with the knowledge of who He is and how much He loves us! (Ephesians 3:16-19) Jesus promised that if we believed in Him, our very being would emanate the abundance of His spirit in us. (John 7:37-39) So once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in a language we don't know isn't something that will happen only once. We shouldn't confuse the initial sign of receiving God's spirit with the prayer language whereby believers who already having been filled with the Holy Spirit pray in an unknown language (1 Corinthians 14;14-15). Nor should it be confused with the optional spiritual gift whereby sometimes God gives a message in an unknown language through a Spirit-filled believers to other believers when they are gathered together in prayer or worship, followed by its interpretation in a language that they understand. (1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:30, 1 Corinthians 14:6-13)
I pray this note has helped you understand what's so bad about sin, and inspired you to want to live above its influence! God wants us to choose to live for Him, so that we choose to go to heaven. He will never force us to do anything, neither will He force us to spend eternity with Him, and I'm just hoping you make good choices. Photo by Alex Quest