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Act 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

 

Acts 5:41, 42 “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

 

Acts 11:26 “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

 


A Christian by definition is one who believes and shares Jesus. The name ‘Christian’ was actually given to the first church as a derogatory term….”Ha, there goes that Christian…He follows JESUS! “  The disciples of Jesus had such a reputation in their following, that it distinguished them. They were identified for their following Jesus.

 

But today, the water has been muddied. A “Christian” is not as distinguished. The term Christian today encompasses a vast multitude of different ideas -- many of which it can be said do not belong to Jesus. Some believe that certain lifestyles distinguish them as Christian. Some believe that exploding bombs against those who oppose their belief system, distinguish them as Christian. Many believe they qualify as Christians because they sympathize with good ethics. Others believe that their denominational belief’s distinguish them as Christians….

 

Yet amid this myriad of ideas, stands true Christianity. What is a Christian, and how am I a true Christian?

 

Well, the answer is actually quite simple, and we will discover it as we go along.

 

Just before Christ’s ascension into heaven, Christ gives some instruction to his followers.

 

Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

 

If you began to ask different people what the Gospel is, you would most likely get an assortment of answers.


Some would say, It’s a Creed,


A belief system,

A state of mind,

A collection of doctrines,

An exclusive lifestyle…..

 

Yet the Gospel of the Bible is very clear. What is this Gospel? If we are to preach the Gospel to all the world, it is important that we understand what that Gospel is!

 

So where do we go when we have questions about what is truth?  The Bible

 

Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

 

Mark 1:14 “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.”

 

Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

 

Rom 1:1-4 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,  (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;  And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

 

Rom 1:9 “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son

 

Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

 

Rom 10:15 “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

 

The gospel is a message from God to the world, to you and me.  And what is that message?

 

It is a message of Jesus!

 

At Jesus’s birth, what was the song of the angels?

 

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 

That is the message; that is God’s message to this world; this is the message we are commissioned to give to every creature.  (original formation – only man was formed; the animals and plants and the rest of creation were spoken into existence)

 

This message is not theological or technical, only understood by those with a seminary or theology degree. The Gospel is a message designed to reach every human’s heart, to create belief and faith in God.

 

The Gospel is not tailored, or restricted to any particular group, or nation, or belief system. It is non-denominational.  Jesus’ instructions were to give this Gospel to the whole world. For what purpose?

 

That ‘whosoever believes’ might not perish, but have everlasting life! There is no other reason….no pull to belong to a particular denomination; no emphasis that once believed, you are bound to this group, or that group.  The Gospel pulls toward God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

 

So what is the power, the beauty of this Gospel.  What is it to be a Christian?

 

Lets find out.

 

Matt. 11:28. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

Come unto ME, is the invitation from Jesus.

 

1)      An invitation is pleasant in nature, and not compulsory.  An invitation has the power to transform an outcast into a member; one who belongs. An invitation to you shows that you are important, loved by the one inviting. They want you to share their company.  In this verse, our invitation is from Jesus.

 

2)      The word COME – is both welcoming and decisive. COME, implies leaving your current place, and moving toward the one inviting. COME however, doesn’t dictate how we should move; nor set from how far away we may respond. COME simply invites us to advance nearer, in any manner, and from any distance.

 

3)      UNTO – also implies moving; it however, has the added purpose of directing attention to the object acting. The word TO prepares us to anticipate with expectation, what it is we are advancing toward.

 

4)      ME – How precious of Jesus, to invite us to be with Himself. ME implies a personal contact, an intimate, spiritual closeness with God.

 

So we receive this invitation….it interests us – we would like to come to Jesus….

 

But you ask, how is this done? How do we come to Jesus? How do I know that I am following Him?

 

Well the answer is actually really simple, more than what you may have thought, or what you have been taught.

 

How many here like to sunbake?

 

What is involved in sunbaking?

 

You find a relaxing area in the sun, lay down, and open yourself to the sun. That’s it! The sun warms and tans your body. The sun is available, provided, and you lay and relax, opening yourself to the rays. You ‘come’ to the sun.

 

Sunbaking is an efficient teacher of the gospel.

 

How?

 

Well, in the same way as the sunshine, Jesus is given to the world. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (has same Greek root as 'come') in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

 

God gave Him to us. My needs, your needs, are provided for in JESUS. The giving, is our salvation. When we accept that, when we believe, when we relax in that, we ‘come’ to Him. “Coming” is believing that Jesus is to you what your heart and soul needs. He is the 'sunshine' of your spiritual, emotional, and character needs.

 

And what are the results? A nice, well-tanned character, one that shows the lovely character of God through you. Your personal life reflects the beauty and peacefulness of Jesus.

 

Jesus says, Come to Me, and you will have rest.

 

But, you might be still wondering, where is Jesus that I might find Him, and go to Him?

 

Let’s come again to our sun-baking….

 

The sunshine is there, every day. You do nothing to provide it. God gives it new every day.

 

In the same way, Jesus is there, every day. God has given Him to the world. You do nothing to bring Him. The Bible says, God has given Him into the world. That giving is your assurance of salvation. If you believe this, you have begun to believe in Jesus, begun to follow Him, begun to be a Christian.

 

In Luke 10, Jesus tells us a story....

 

A man went down to Jericho, and fell among thieves; they beat him up, they took his clothes, and left him for dead. (Luke 10:30-36)

 

You and I are that poor man. Personal sin, poor decisions, unfortunate circumstances, have left us nearly dead, far from where God wants us, or even where we want to be ourselves. And yet along comes a kindly stranger, a Samaritan, one from outside our nation, who takes pity on the helpless man, picks him up, takes him to a comfortable inn, and pays for his recovery.

 

You are not hopeless, or as far from God as you may feel. Jesus is walking the same road as you. He stops and pities your wounds. He has picked you up. He offers us a comfortable inn, in which to get better; He calls it, His righteousness. He has paid for our recovery. His grace to us, and all it brings,  is the Gospel.

 

Isa. 53:5,6 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

 


We may not understand the reasons why Jesus should help someone such as you; we may not see why He should love us. That does not matter – that fact is you are loved! The Creator of the universe says it. He assures it.  Haven’t you received the invitation from Him – Come, and you will have rest. He is helping you already. He has singled you out as special; you have His attention. You dont need to pay Him, or wait in line, or clean out your house, in order to have Him. No, the invitation is given to you. That it is given, shows you are wanted, of value in His sight.

 

Like sunbaking, relax in Jesus. Welcome the sunshine to tan your body. Open your heart to Jesus. Give Him entrance, and He will make you a child of God. He will transform your weak, sinful self into the divine image, giving it beauty and perfection.

 

I don’t know about you, but it seems God as always been associated with rules, and regulations, and must do’s and have to be’s.  But Jesus is not compulsory….nothing in His kingdom is forced upon you. His ways are ways of pleasantness and all his paths are peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but in Him you have peace.

 

It is very much like when a girl first senses that a guy is interested in her. It is something in how he talks, or what he does, or how he is around her,  that lets her know she is liked. Sometimes we can’t always tell how and where we become aware of God’s love for us. But in a way that is personal and special to you, God lets you know you are loved and the object of His care. He says, “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” Hosea 11:4

 

And how does this work? Well, your heart is touched, interested, in love…..and that love of God replaces the love of yourself. All things spring from your heart, and it is here that God comes in. Jesus says,  “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes... I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." Ezekiel 36:23-27

 

This is the work He came to do ---the work of restoration. Yet it is a work in your heart, a quiet, gentle work, that is between you and the Lord. Like God directed Hezekiah and his servants, when cleansing the temple during the time of heathen apostasy in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 29), they didn’t touch the idols and heathen practices in the courtyard; they didn’t address the horrible worship styles in the inner court, or in the temple itself. They moved past this, to the inner most room, where God was, and began there the work of cleansing. It is by love, that love is awakened. And only in love are we brought close to God.

 

Being a Christian is Jesus – centered. Your hope, your faith, your life, is based on Jesus; when this is your experience, people will take note of you, that you have been with Jesus. This is true witnessing. This is true Christianity.

 

So how do we come to Jesus? How do we follow Him? By believing Jesus. Being at rest in the sunshine of His love; and you will receive a well-tanned, good-looking character like His. You will be a Christian.