Christianity 201

October 9, 2010

Salvation Verses

I’m continuing my way through The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels.   It’s interesting to go from Philip Yancey’s What Good is God, which is a book literally as big as all the world in its scope, to return to the question of living out faith in North America, which is rather mundane by comparison.

While Yancey finds authentication for his faith in seeing firsthand what God is doing in the church worldwide, Hybels finds fulfillment in sharing his faith with the people you and I run into every day.   Both books together have made for a great weekend.

My big takeaway today has been Hybels’ concept of memorizing a Salvation verse.   This is not a life verse; it’s not a Bible verse for which you’ve taken personal ownership.   (Hopefully there are about 66 books’ worth of other verses, too.)  No, this is the verse which for you embodies all that Christ has done on our behalf in pardoning our sins and inviting us to enter into His life.

Neither is Hybels suggesting a methodology.   This is not advocating that you know the “ABCs of Salvation;” “The Four Spiritual Laws;” or “The Bridge Illustration.”  (For more on those, consider this blog post.)

Rather, this is Hybels suggesting that with all the force of scripture, we should be able to verbalize the hope that we have in Christ in a single verse.   One verse.   And for him, that verse is Titus 3:5 –

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.  (NASB)

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.  (KJV)

But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.  (Message)

As an alternative, he sugggests John 1:12 –

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God  (NIV)

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  (NLT)

(And also Romans 10:13, which I know you know.)

Like Hybels, I would encourage you to memorize a salvation verse.   Not just John 3:16, but challenge yourself to look for something different that encapsulates the core of the Gospel.

I’ll end with one I found quite some time ago;  I Cor 15: 2-4 –

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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… (NIV)

October 8, 2010

Wanting To Hear From God

Over the past six months I’ve discovered that launching a blog of this nature is much more challenging than when I launched Thinking Out Loud earlier.   People will gravitate to topical articles, humor, cartoons, links to other blogs, and the latest gossip information about famous Christian individuals.   Even theological and doctrinal blogs will get a good following because people love a good debate.

But it’s the people who are serious about their faith that will seek out a devotional blog.   They want something that digs a little deeper, that cuts to the heart, or that processes things at a 201 or 301 level instead of just Christianity 101.   (And I confess that I some days, we don’t always get there.)   What is he speaking to fellow believers on the internet? What is God saying to me today?

I’m currently reading The Power of A Whisper by Bill Hybels (Zondervan) which is an entire book devoted to hearing God’s voice.    Here’s a checklist from page 108 of the book for your consideration if you feel that you’re not hearing God’s voice:

First, fervently and frequently ask God to improve your hearing.  Pray every day for God to give you ears like the prophet Samuel’s.  Ask Him for increased capacity to discern His voice and for heightened attentiveness to his promptings.

Second, reduce the ambient noise in your life.   For me, a sure way to get quiet before God is to head off solo on a boat.   For you, it might be listening for Him while you are driving, exercising or enjoying the quiet of your bedroom at night.  Wherever it is, be sure to carve out moments in your day when you can practice listening for the voice of God.

Third, you simply must fill your head with scripture…  Most of the promptings we receive at critical decision points in life come as the Holy Spirit reminds us of scriptures we already know.   We hear whispers that reinforce Biblical truths and we understand immediately what the Spirit is trying to say to us.  So saturate yourself with God’s word and see if His whispers don’t increase over time.

Finally, the Bible makes it clear that any ongoing pattern of wrongdoing compromises our communication with God — in both directions.   Our prayers don’t get through to God and God’s promptings don’t get through to us.  If you are stuck in a rut of sinfulness and deceit, confess your sin and turn away from it today.   Let the laser light of truth permeate every corner of your life.   Don’t truncate your communications with the Father because you’re unwilling to let go of a sin pattern in your life.