Acts 1-4: What Must We Do to Be Saved?

The world will be celebrating Easter this Sunday. While there are no specific commands within the Bible to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on an annual basis, we do have the clear instruction to do so on each and every first day of the week. We are commanded to do so by taking of the Lord's Supper, the elements of which - the bread and the fruit of the vine - represent the body and blood of Jesus. 


But, as the title of this article suggests, this is not a lesson on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, it is one of the salvation we are offered because of Jesus dying for our sins. In Acts chapter 2, we have a number of verses that tell us what we need to do to have our sins removed and to be saved.


Acts 2:21 tells us that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9-13 explains how to call on the name of the Lord, specifically, through our confession that Jesus is Lord.  The apostle John tells us in I John 4:15 that those who acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God will live in God (and He will live in them), and Acts 22:16 relates the command to Paul to be baptized and to call on His name.


Speaking of baptism's role, Acts 2:38 contains the command to repent and be baptized in order to have our sins removed, and I Peter 3:21 confirms the requirement of baptism, telling us that it is this baptism that now saves us.


Finally, Acts 2:41 reveals the necessity of belief, for we are told that those who accepted the message were baptized. John 3:16 also tells us of the absolute requirement of belief in Jesus for salvation.


All of the commands contained in Acts 2 - belief, repentance, baptism, calling on His name (our confession of belief) - all hinge on the need to hear the word, which we are also told will save us, if we hold fast to the Word. Add this to the role that God played - grace, the part that Jesus took - his death, burial and resurrection, and the role of the Holy Spirit - His sanctifying works, and we have Gods plan of salvation.


Of course, we must remain faithful to the Word and live the Christian life that God has commanded if we are to continue in our salvation, but this life of faithfulness should be viewed as the blessing that it is, rather than the curse that the world makes it out to be. In fact, Acts 2:42 tells us the elements of this new life by revealing that the new Christians devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching (the Word), to the fellowship (their meeting together),  to the breaking of bread (the Lord's Supper), and to prayer.


One more thing: Without Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, we would not even have a chance. Is it any wonder, then, that God commands us to commemorate the death, burial and resurrection for not just one special day a year, but every first day of the week!


The reading for these four days is Acts 1-4. It gives us a great basis for salvation and the rest of our lives in God and Christ's service.


John 19-21: A Second Chance

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."

A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17, RSV


Have you ever thought how beautiful this passage truly is? It occurred after Jesus had risen from the dead, and therefore after Peter had denied Jesus three times on the eve of His crucifixion. I imagine Peter would still have been devastated at the thought of having denied his Lord and Savior and friend. After Peter had the courage to stand side by side with Jesus, sword in hand, in the garden, he had then run for his life. Then, when he had finally worked up the courage to go and see what was to become of Jesus, he denied even knowing him, not once, but three times.


You can only imagine how low Peter must have felt, even after Jesus had risen from the dead. For though we know he was overjoyed at the knowledge that Jesus lived, he still must have had tremendous shame at his having abandoned and denied the One whom he had so boldly promised he would never deny.


And then we find this scene: Jesus asks Peter, not once, but three times, "Do you love me?" And Peter is given three opportunities, the same number of times he had denied, to now affirm his love for his friend and savior. And Jesus lets Peter know that he is welcomed back into His service by being told to feed his sheep.


And Peter takes this second chance by doing this very thing for the rest of his life.


When you think about it, we have all been given a second chance. What will we do with ours?


The reading for the 87th - 89th days of reading through the New Testament one chapter a day is from John chapters 19-21. It tells us all about that second chance. 

John 18: The Side of Truth

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

John 18:36-38(a), NIV


It seems everywhere we turn someone is either distorting the truth, giving only a part of the truth, or outright lying instead of telling the truth. This should not surprise us, for it has been going on every since the time of the Garden of Eden when Satan lied to Eve about the effects of eating the forbidden fruit.


The problem with lies, of course, is that they give us no basis for a correct decision. Without the true facts, we cannot even function properly. But some people like it this way, in fact, that is the very reason they lie. Instead of going to the trouble to make a superior product, advertisers just lie about it and say that it is superior. Instead of taking the incredible effort to really and truly help people, politicians find it much easier to lie about their desire to help, and get the power they sought in the first place.


I could go on and on, but you get the point. Without the truth we cannot make the right decisions. Isn't it nice that in a world filled with lies, we have a source of truth! Jesus said that the reason He was born into this world was to testify to the truth! The beauty of the truth is that it never changes. It is always correct, it is always unwavering, it is always...the truth!


And those on the side of the truth will listen to Christ. Those on the side of Satan will listen to lies. 


Whose side are you on?


For those following along, today is the 86th day of reading the New Testament, and the chapter for the day is John 18. It tells us all about the truth!

John 17: That We May Be One

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;

“that they all may be one,

as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

John 17:20-21, NKJV


Of all the purposes that the church has violated through the years, the one found in this prayer of Jesus may be the most grievous. As He prays on the eve of His crucifixion, He asks His Father that all who believe in Him will be one. And yet, we are anything but.


It's odd that one of the very things that would have brought us the greatest strength - the unity of all believers - is the one thing that the church has been unwilling to do. We have fought and disagreed to the point where the church has been divided in a thousand different ways.


Please don't misunderstand. I know that we cannot just "get along to get along". I know that we have to choose to obey God rather than have unity with those who would disobey. Our problem, however, goes far deeper than just not being able to agree with one another. Our problem is that we often do not agree with God!


You see, the unity that God calls us to begins with a unity of the spirit. the apostle Paul put it this way:


I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV


The idea behind this is that if you have unity with the Spirit, and I have unity with the Spirit, then we will have unity with each other. Then we would be one and the church would truly be unified. Not because we agree with each other, but because we agree with God!


This was Jesus' stated purpose for His followers: That we be one. By reading His Word, we someday might be able to accomplish this unity that Jesus so desperately wanted the church to have... that we may be one!


Today is the 85th day of the year, and the chapter for today is John 17. It will help us to see the importance of being one in Christ Jesus our Lord!



John 16: Pressure!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NIV


"In this world you will have trouble". Some of the versions use the word "tribulation". The Greek word is "thlipsis". It literally means a pressing,  a pressing down, or pressure.


In this world you will have pressure! Truer words were never spoken, as it seems like there are times when we have nothing but pressure in this world in which we live. So much pressure, in fact, that it seems hard to breath! Currently, we are dealing with a disease that no one seems to agree on as to whether it is simply a harsh flu or the death of the world. We are dealing with political upheavals, with nations being overtaken by people who seem to want power at any cost. We are dealing with the economic fallouts from both of these things. Add that to the normal pressures of the normal life and it seems like this "pressing down" is an elephant sitting on our chest.


So what can we do?


Jesus said to take heart! He further said that He had overcome the world. But what does that mean? I suppose it means a lot of things, but for us it means that those who are in Christ do not have to succumb to the pressure because Jesus will take care of it for us. This does not mean that the pressure will just go away - pressure is a part of the test of life - but what it does mean is that Jesus will take care of us and help us through. And that's enough, isn't it?


It's enough to not only "get through" this life, but to actually enjoy it. This is why we read!


Today is the 84th day of the year, and the reading for today is John chapter 16. It will help us to deal with the pressures of life.