The good news is that, through His mercy and grace, God has provided the means for the salvation of mankind. All of us are sinners and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the penalty for our sins has been paid. Salvation is ours and all we need to do is confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is our Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Believing with our hearts results in righteousness and confessing with our mouths results in salvation (Romans 10:10).
What’s even better news is that this gift of salvation is available to everyone. In giving the gift of salvation, God does not make a distinction between people. He does not make a distinction between Jew and Gentile. He is the one true God and Lord of all and God gives generously to all who call on the name of His Son, Jesus (Romans 10:12). As the prophet wrote in Joel 2:32 and Paul reiterated in Romans 10:13, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord receives God’s gift of salvation. So, the good news is for all people, for everyone on the earth that God created.
It is God’s will that no one should perish but rather that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And all it takes is for them to call on Jesus in faith. But in order for someone to call upon the name of Jesus in faith, in order for them to believe the good news of salvation that He brings, they have to know who He is. In Romans 10:14 (NLT), Paul writes, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” It’s hard for people to believe in someone or something that they have never heard of or about!
Someone must tell people about Jesus. Someone must go and bring the good news to those who have not heard it. Someone must take the gospel across the street and around the world. In Romans 10:15 (NLT), Paul asks, “And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” The gospel needs to be sent and it needs to preached. But who is to preach it and who sends them to do so? That’s a very good question, and one that is answered quite clearly in Mark’s gospel:
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (Mark 16:15, NLT)
These are the words spoken by Jesus to His disciples. So it is Jesus who does the sending. And whom does He send? When He spoke those words, He was sending His disciples, but His words apply to all who choose to believe in Him and follow Him. It is not just the responsibility of evangelists, pastors, preachers, and missionaries. It is the responsibility of each and every believer to bring the good news of salvation to those who have not already heard it, whether they are next door, across the street, or around the world. We have been sent so that all may hear and believe.
The butterfly is perhaps the most beautiful creature in the insect world. But that beautiful creature that soars with its beautifully colored wings began its life as a caterpillar that crawls along the ground until one day, through a process called metamorphosis, it wrapped itself in a cocoon from which it emerged transformed. Similarly, when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior, we are transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 12:2 (NASB), the apostle Paul begins by writing, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
The word transformed comes from the Greek verb, metamorphoo, the same word from which we get the word metamorphosis. It’s a word that refers to a radical change in character and nature. Just as the caterpillar is drastically changed from a crawling insect to one that soars on beautiful wings, so we are transformed from our sinful nature to the image of Christ when we accept Him as Savior. But while the process of metamorphosis for the caterpillar is a relatively short one, the process by which we are transformed is a lifetime process.
When we receive Christ as Savior, we are born again and have eternal life. But the process continues from there because God wants to do more in our lives. He wants to make us into the image of His Son. We begin the process conformed to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:2), but when we receive Christ as Savior, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our minds are renewed, with the ultimate goal of being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The Holy Spirit transforms us, enabling us to live a godly life. And He does this so that, as Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:2 (NASB), we “may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Our part in this process of transformation is to resist the pattern of this world. The Passion Translation (TPT) paraphrases Romans 12:2 this way: “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think.” We do the resisting, but God does the transforming. We are not called to transform ourselves, but to be transformed. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He will renew our minds, changing the way we think so that we more fully understand the will of God and can translate that understanding into living our lives according to His will. He does this through God’s Word.
Since the Holy Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and help us to see things from God’s perspective, it is important that we saturate our minds with His thoughts and His ways by reading the Word, by memorizing it, and by meditating on it. We need to hide God’s Word in our hearts as the psalmist says in Psalm 119:11. As we are at the beginning of a new year, what better time to begin doing so?
So, how can we hide the Word in our hearts? We can read the Bible aloud, which allows us to use not just our eyes but also our ears and our mouths to put the Word in our hearts. We can copy key verses on index cards and carry them with us so that we can review them from time to time throughout the day. We can record Scripture and listen to it or use the listening features on apps like the You Version. And we can meditate on the Word and memorize it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you this year to become more deliberate and more intentional about hiding the Word in your heart as you seek to renew your mind and grow in God’s grace.
Jean Valjean was desperate. His sister and her family were starving and they had no money to buy food. So, out of that place of desperation, he stole a loaf of bread, a crime for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. That five-year sentence stretched into nineteen as Valjean, feeling that his punishment did not fit his crime, made numerous attempts to escape. In 1815, Valjean was released from prison but, due to another petty theft of a small amount of money from a 12-year-old boy, he was once again a fugitive of the law. Valjean assumed a new identity and became both a prosperous factory owner and mayor of a town. Years later, another man was mistaken for Valjean and arrested. As that man awaited sentencing for a crime he did not commit, Valjean appeared in the courtroom and the man was set free. It was an act of grace that went beyond thanks.
The word “grace” is an important one in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. The definition of grace as it applies to us is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners. It was through God’s grace that Jesus came to earth and paid the penalty for our sins. Unlike the man mistakenly arrested in Les Miserables, who did not deserve the punishment he was about to receive, we are all sinners and the punishment for our sins rightly belonged to us (Romans 3:23). But God sent Jesus to take our punishment. He who was without sin became sin for us. He became our salvation (Romans 3:24-25).
Titus 2:11 (NASB), says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Jesus is the grace of God made flesh. When Jesus went to the cross and died, the penalty for our sins was paid in full. It was not something we deserved but rather God’s gift to us, given out of His great love for us. As John wrote in his gospel, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, NLT).”
The gift of eternal life, the gift of God’s grace, is ours. It is not something that we can attain on our own. God freely gives this gift when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB), “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Thank God for His amazing grace!
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; (2 Peter 1:10, NASB)
Among the most serious and common medical problems that face older adults are falls and the injuries related to those falls. In the United States in 2015, over 3 million older adults visited emergency rooms to be treated for fall-related injuries. And over half of those 3 million people ended up being admitted to the hospital due to the extent of their injuries. For these and many other reasons, fall prevention measures become important for those 65 and older. One of the best and most common measures of preventing falls is exercising to build strength, increase endurance, improve balance, and promote flexibility.
Fall prevention is also important in our walk with the Lord. And this is true not just for older adults but for everyone who follows Jesus Christ. We have an adversary whose goal is to cause us to stumble and to fall away from our faith. He is looking to trip us up in every step we take. The apostle Peter knew well how our adversary looks to cause us to stumble. It was that very adversary who caused Peter to stumble and deny even knowing Jesus on the night that He was arrested (John 18:25-27). In his first letter, Peter warns that we need to be on the alert for this adversary, as he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking prey to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
In his second letter, Peter addresses fall prevention. He gives us some measures that we can take in order to keep ourselves from stumbling and falling away. The key to standing firm in the faith is to be certain of our calling, to be secure in Christ. It is our faith in Christ that guarantees that we are saved, and it is our growth in that faith that gives us the confidence that we need to keep from stumbling. In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter writes that we will not stumble if we “practice these things.” What is it that we must practice? What are these things that Peter is referring to? The answer to these questions is found in 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT):
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
By developing the character virtues that Peter lists in these verses, we honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. When we practice these things, these virtues, in the way in which we live our lives, our character and our conduct become evidence to the world and to ourselves that we are children of God. When we live a life of faith that is governed by moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love for all, then we will walk in the assurance of our salvation in Christ. And that blessed assurance is what will keep us from stumbling. It is our spiritual fall prevention.
The words most commonly associated with Advent and Christmas are peace, joy, hope, and love. The birth of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, brought all of these things. He is the Prince of Peace whose birth brought and still brings joy and hope to the hearts of men. The salvation that He brings is the gift of God’s love for us. But there is another word that comes to mind in this season of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. That word is found in the lyrics of the 18th century Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy; O tidings of comfort and joy.
The word that I am speaking of is found three times in this verse and every verse of this song: comfort. The coming of the Messiah, the Savior Jesus Christ not only brings peace, joy, hope, and love. It brings comfort to all who would believe in Him. As I reflect on this song and, particularly, on the word comfort found in its lyrics, I am reminded of Isaiah 40:1: “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. In verse 2 of that same chapter, God continues by saying, “Tell her (Jerusalem) that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.” In these verses, God spoke to Israel of the comfort that He was providing to His people, a comfort that came because their warfare had come to an end. God was providing His peace and His forgiveness and was restoring His people.
How appropriate a message this is in this season of Advent and Christmas for those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Because of His coming as a baby over 2,000 years ago, we can receive that same comfort. Why? Because Jesus came to put an end to sin’s hold on us. He came to put an end to the battle that Satan waged against us through temptation and condemnation. He came to bring us peace, forgiveness, and to restore us in the sight of God. And that is why Christmas brings with it tidings of comfort and joy.