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How do I get to heaven? How do I know God?

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Are you seeking to Know God?”
Have you ever heard someone talk about the Gospel and wondered what that meant?

Well, the word Gospel means Good News.  The Gospel of Jesus is, therefore, the Good News that we received from Jesus.  What is it?  It starts with what is amazing news:

God loves you…

God is love, and He loves the whole world.

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10)

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Do you want a relationship with the God who made you? 
Do you want peace in the midst of this world filled with chaos and strife?

God built this desire into you.  Animals do not struggle with lack of contentment.  They do not mourn the wars and evils of the world.  They do not sit around and wonder if there will be justice or whether there is something more to life.  Humans are unique in that we yearn for the peace that can only be found with Jesus.  This is God speaking to you.  He is calling you to something more.

God sees everything that happens here on earth.  He knows everything we have ever done or thought and He still loves us.  He wants us to have a relationship with Him.  He wants us to Know Him.

There is a big problem though:

Our sin separates us from God…

God created us for fellowship with Him, but He is perfectly holy and sin separates us from Him.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23); “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23); “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,” (Isaiah 59:2).

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We may be nice people according to the world’s standards.  We may give money to charity and take care of our families.  We may even go to church.  The problem is that goodness or niceness are not the only things that define our lives.  We all sin and fall short often.  We lie, gossip, slander or covet things our neighbors have and that we do not and take things that do not belong to us….on a regular basis.

We may be better than the person down the road from us but that does not deal with OUR sins.

We violate God’s laws in many different ways.  It makes sense that breaking the law requires punishment, right?  At the end of our lives, we will stand before a perfectly just judge in God and have to account for every single sin we did in our lives, big and little(in our eyes), in secret or in the open.  It is a daunting thought, isn’t it?

Do we want to pay the price for all of that sin?  Does a righteous judge ever just let a person who is guilty of thousands of crimes go without facing justice?

Think of our Sun that sits at the center of our solar system.  It is amazingly hot, right?  So hot that even with special protective armor spacecraft can only get so close to the Sun before they burn up.  The Sun has no ill will towards those satellites, its temperature is just part of what it is.  It would not be the Sun if it were not blazing hot.  It also would not sustain billions of lives on Earth if it were cold enough to touch.

God’s holiness is the same idea.  His white-hot purity is who God is, not something designed to hurt us.  It is His nature. God’s nature is what causes beauty, justice, and wonder in the world.  It also directly conflicts with sin.  No matter how much protection we try to create, as flawed humans we can only get so close to God without the heat affecting us.  On our own, there is nothing we could ever do to get close to the center of the entire universe because of our sins..

Thankfully, God understood this problem and wants us to come to Him despite our flaws.  He sent His Son, Jesus to make a way for this to be possible.  We can face His holiness in joy and gratitude despite everything we have done.

Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. 

He took the punishment for our sins on the Cross.  He died so that we can be set free.

Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, tells us what we need to know to be saved, “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” Jesus Himself declares that He is the only way of salvation in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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This is the really, really great news on top of the amazing news.  God loved us so much that despite seeing all that we have done against Him, He sent His Son Jesus to stand in our place and take our punishment.  Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary under the weight of the sins of the world.  He is the sacrifice that faced what we deserved in our place.  We deserve to pay for our sins, but He paid for them instead. Jesus died for you so that you can have an eternal abundant life with Him.  Isn’t that wonderful news?  We get all the benefit and do none of the work.  Jesus is an awesome Savior.

He then rose again to show that this sacrificial offering was accepted by God.  Death has been defeated for those who are willing to follow Jesus. He was resurrected from the death and someday believers will be resurrected from the dead to eternal life also.

Eternal life in Jesus is the reward we receive when we accept His completed work on the Cross.

How can I receive this free gift of salvation?

Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness from God.
Repent and Receive Jesus as Savior.

We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to receive the gift of salvation.”If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved,” (Romans 10:9) Repent(change your mind about your sin) therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”(Acts 3:19)

John 1:12 describes how we become His people: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Acts 16:31, says it very clearly, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!” We can be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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Repent does not just mean feel bad about something.  I felt sorrow over a lot of things before I came to Jesus.  Repentance is more than just bad feelings.  It is feeling genuine, heart felt sorrow over what we have done and turning away from it.  At heart, the repentance we need to get to Jesus is first sorrow over denying Him as our Lord and Savior.  Jesus is the Eternal God who made every one of us.  He gave us life and then when we were lost, gave His life so that we could be forgiven and accepted into God’s family.

Turn away from a life of disbelief and to a life in Jesus.

Then set out to learn about our Savior Jesus and learn to follow Him in the every day.  This is a lifelong journey of discovery but it starts here and now.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day to receive eternal life.

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What is stopping you?

 

Calvary Catonsville – A Calvary Chapel in Maryland

5695 Main Street

Elkridge, MD 210675

(443)840-7475

Pastor Tom Neary

What if I am Having Doubts? A Pastor’s Answer

Calvary Chapel Maryland, Faith, Hope, Church Near Me, Calvary Catonsville Church, Calvary Catonsville, Calvary Chapel Maryland, Calvary Chapel Elkridge, Calvary Chapel Catonsville, Bible Teaching Church Near Me, Church that just teaches the Bible, Jesus

Jesus is Not Scared of Your Doubt.

I regularly answer questions about the faith from believers here, on social media, in person, and by email. The questions tend to repeat and deal with common issues. So I thought I would post some of them here and provide simple answers for those who don’t have a pastor or person to ask directly.

This one is simple. What if I have doubts about God? What do I do?

You are not unique as a Christian in having doubts. You are not alone in your questioning. I know this seems like the wrong message when discussing faith issues. But it is the truth. It is also comforting and encouraging. Why? We have all been where you are now. Even the most faithful Christian has dealt with challenges to their faith…just like you. They got through it and so can you.

You are an individual creation of the Most High God. You are also just a regular person. You naturally come with the same sins, doubts, fears, questions, and desires as every other human. The Bible says there is no temptation that is not common to man. This includes the one towards doubt..no matter how you were raised, how long you have been in church, and how much you experienced. Everyone who follows Christ will wrestle with faith questions at some point. It is what you do with it that matters.

Christians for 2,000 years have grappled with the exact same questions that plague you right now. It does not matter if they are related to science or attacks on biblical authority, other Christians have dealt with the same issues many times. They walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt and came out loving Jesus even more on the other side.

They important thing is they did not deny their doubts. They admitted they had persistent questions. The then sought Jesus until they found answers. They took them to God and were satisfied. He always has the answers and is not afraid of questioning. They are often different than you expect.

Running from the Bible

Jepthah was my boogeyman when I first came to faith. I started off reading the Bible with excitement. I dived into this new wonderful world of God’s Word. It was going perfectly as I read the verses and stories that did not challenge me. Jesus saving sinners sounded great. God fighting for me even better. Then Jepthah and his daughter were thrown at me by an atheist co-worker. This skeptic claimed the Old Testament God is a monster and not at all like Jesus. I took up his challenge with much zeal and little wisdom and read Judges 11. I was shocked by what I found.

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Jepthah was a Judge of Israel. He was not a great guy. The main issue I discovered is Jepthah is claimed to have sacrificed his daughter to God. Wait, what? I did not think they did this sort of thing in the Bible. They did not mention such things in the seeker sensitive mega-church I attended. “How could God include such a bad guy in the Bible?“, I thought. This is terrible! I then shut away Jepthah and his daughter as far from my thoughts as I could. Denial is not just a river in Africa! Not thinking about it would solve everything! The issue was I honest fear of the questions it raised for me. I was afraid of learning what my co-worker said was possibly true. This was one of my times of anxiety and doubt in my faith. My response was a huge mistake. Denial and avoidance help no one.

The high profile “deconversions” stories that flood the news seem to share this same error. The person leaving Christianity is usually raised in the church and taught about the Bible. They know all the stories of Noah, Abraham, and the Apostles. They have heard all of the inspirational sermons how the Bible can improve your life. They know Christian culture inside and out. Yet, it is all in a general sort of way with emphasis on them. Whether it be expressed in legalism or smushy “Be happy for Jesus” type doctrines, it is still focused on them. It is about the Christian rather than the Christ. This sort of faith naturally leads to serious doubts.

You never experience Christ while staring at yourself.

The “deconstructed” person may have been deeply involved in church culture. They might have even wrote books, led worship, or otherwise were influential. Yet, through it all they had persistent fear that God did not have all the answers. They swallowed these questions deep down inside until they walked away from the faith.

This is not the way it was meant to be with Jesus…for them or for me. Perfect love casts out all fear.

Years would pass before the Lord showed me His way to respond to my questions. It was through the Apostle who shares my name, Thomas.

Destroying the Doubt of Thomas

Thomas experienced Jesus personally. He saw most of the Lord’s ministry with his own eyes. He touched Lazarus after the grave clothes were removed. He ate of the multiplied fish and loaves. He heard Jesus say He will be crucified and everyone will abandon Him. Jesus told Thomas directly about the third day. It was, therefore, surprising he earned his nickname, “Doubting Thomas”.

Thomas should have expected Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus told him it would happen. Thomas could have been waiting at the Tomb. The problem was Thomas was human like you and I. He was subject to sin and doubts due to his own flesh. So when his closest companions tell Thomas they saw Jesus, what did he do? He doubted. He refused to believe. He went so far as declaring he would not believe it until touched Jesus side and hands and feet. He grabbed onto his skepticism and wrapped himself in it. He earned his nickname.

Have you felt this sort of doubt? Are you there now? Join the club. Many of the great names in Christian history were there before you. Billy Graham experienced a crisis of faith early in his ministry. He was a pastor speaking to thousands at a time. Yet, a dear friend’s deconstruction shook him to the core. He made it though. There is no shame in it. You just don’t have to stay there. Take it to Jesus!

Thomas set his mind on disbelief. Yet, he doesn’t stay there. He still shows up among the disciples. He voices his questions. He does not run from them. His focus is also where it should be – on Jesus. He demands answers from Jesus to help him understand and believe. This is a good example for Christians in the same situation. It is when Jesus shows up that things change.

It is really important to note Jesus’ response. How does Jesus respond to a very confused disciple?

Jesus does not stonewall doubt.

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Jesus does not pretend there is no doubt.

Jesus does not scold the questioner.

Jesus does not call Thomas unworthy or unholy.

Jesus does not demand “blind faith”.

Jesus gives you mercy and grace in your time of need. Just like it says in the Bible:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus does not put out the smoking flax. God does not break the bruised reed. He tends to both and restores them to strength and health.

God Answers if You are Willing

Jesus invites the doubter to bring the questions directly to Him. Jesus is not offended by the questions. I would be if I just died for Thomas but that is why Jesus is Savior and I am not. Jesus does not need to explain Himself or prove the Resurrection to anyone. Yet, He lovingly gave Thomas exactly what he needs to get through his hard time. Jesus offered the holes in his hands and side to Thomas to allow him to overcome the temptation.

Thomas response is wonderful! He worships Jesus and says “My Lord and My God!” He walks away from Jesus full of faith and glorifying God.

Did you notice what Thomas did to earn this answer from Jesus?

What great act of obedience did Thomas perform to save his faith?

What was Thomas’ secret?

The answer is nothing. He did not do a thing to earn Jesus’ response. He had no secret. He was quite disobedient, stubborn, and rebellious, in fact. The wonderful truth about your relationship with Jesus is it is not about your good deeds, your faithfulness, and your love. It is all about Jesus’, thank God. His faith never wavers. His love doesn’t change. His mercy and grace is always freely given to you…even when you tell Jesus you have a hard time with Him. Thomas showed up with skepticism. He presented his own disbelief to God. Jesus loved him anyway. His presence changed Thomas’ entire perspective.

I returned to Jepthah and his daughter years after my first encounter. I still had questions but I was tired of running. I determined to bring them to Jesus just like Thomas. There was a difference this time. I went in armed with an arsenal of many Bible studies taught by mature believers, knowing Jesus, and learning the Bible. I learned the importance of context. I took all this and the questions directly to Jesus in prayer and in faith. Most importantly, I went in humbly understanding my feelings on the subject were likely just that…my feelings. They are often wrong. My feelings and conclusions never dictate to God. Jesus answered with mercy and grace.

You see, the entire point of the Book of Judges was not what I thought it was. The book is a warning and example of what happens when men go their own way and don’t listen to God. Judges is filled with bad actions by men and wayward men. Jepthah is one of them. There is a significant disagreement over whether Jepthah actually sacrifices his daughter. He may have sent her away to serve as a virgin in the Temple like a female version of Samuel. But what is very clear is God never asked Jepthah to do what he did. It was a foolish choice made by a flawed person in a book meant to highlight man’s helplessness without God.

Jepthah does not reflect poorly on God. Jepthah actually accurately testifies against man. The answer was clear. I just had to be willing to humble myself and admit my fears were wrong. I did not know everything and needed to ask God to teach me. This “bad man” was in the Bible to show what happens when man relies on his own judgment…kind of exactly like I did.

Jesus already knows you have doubts. He knows you are struggling. He is not angry or shaming you. He knows you are human. Now is the time to take them to the Throne of grace and work out your faith for you. Lean into it with an open mind and not following the influences of the world. Pray about it. Bring those doubts to Jesus and ask Him for answers. Get to know your Savior intimately and know His character.

Seek out the answers to the questions keeping you up at night. They are not new. Christians have worked through the same issues for 2,000 years now. There are Bible studies, apologetic resources, and loving believers available for you to learn from. There are loads and loads of answers if you are willing to hear. I would be blessed to talk about any Bible question or doubt you have in the comments or through email.

Jesus is not afraid of your questions. He is not intimidated by the gotcha questions of pop-atheists. He will not run from a hard question. But these do tend to tear apart your faith if they are allowed to fester unanswered. Bring it all to Jesus and be satisfied today.

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