John the Baptist Declares His mission
Read John 1:19-28
The priest and Levites were respected religious leaders in Jerusalem. Priests served in the temple, and Levites assisted them. The leaders that came to see John were Pharisees (1:24), a group that both John the Baptist and Jesus often denounced. Many of them outwardly obeyed God’s laws to look pious, while inwardly their hearts were filled with pride and greed. The Pharisees believed that their own oral traditions were just as important as God’s Inspired Word.
Those leaders came to see John the Baptist for several reasons (1) Their duty as guardians of the faith caused them to want to investigate any new preaching (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22), (2) They wanted to find out if John had the credentials of a prophet, (3) John had quite a following and it was growing. They were probably jealous and wanted to see why this man was so popular.
In the Pharisees’ minds, there were four options regarding John the Baptist’s identity: he was (1) the prophet foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), (2) Elijah (Malachi 4:5), (3) The Messiah, or (4) a false prophet. John denied behind the first three person ages. Instead he called himself, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord'” (Isaiah 40:3). The leaders kept pressing John to say who he was because people were expecting the Messiah to come (Luke 3:15). But John emphasized only why he had come-to prepare the way for the way for the Messiah. The Pharisees missed the point. They wanted to know who John was, but John wanted them to know who Jesus was.
John was baptizing Jews. The Essenes (a strict monastic sect of Judaism) practiced baptism for purification, but normally only non-Jews (Gentiles) were baptized when they converted to Judaism. When the Pharisees questioned John’s authority to baptize, they were asking who gave John the right to treat God chosen people like Gentiles. John said “I baptize with water”-he was merely helping the people perform a symbolic act of repentance. But soon one would come who would truly forgive sins, something only the Son of God-the Messiah-could do.
John the Baptist said he was not even worthy to be Christ’s slave, to perform the humble task of unfastening his shoes. But according to Luke 7:28; Jesus said that John was the greatest of all prophets. If such a great person felt inadequate even to be Christ’s slave, how much more should we lay aside our pride to serve Christ! When we truly understand who Christ is, our pride and self importance melt away.
What questions do the priests and Levites ask John? What do these questions reveal about the reason why they were sent?
Why does John respond so abruptly? What would you have said in His situation?
What is John’s goal in life (vv. 22-23, 26-27; also Isa 40:3-5)?
Since baptism only applied to Gentile converts to Judaism what is behind the Pharisees’ cynical question (vv 24-25) and John’s evasive answer (vv26-27)?
How does John finally answer their question about this baptism (vv30-31)? What does he mean by calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” (v.29; see Ex12:1-13; Isa 53:7) and the “Son of God” (v34)? What proof supports these claims?
What is your goal in life? How would you compare your goals to a cooked steak: Half cooked? Medium rare? Medium well? Well done?
Of the titles for Jesus given so far (the Word, the Light, the Christ, the Lamb of God, the Son of God), which means the most to you? Why?
What is one “evidence” that has led you to faith in Jesus?
A hospital is a microcosm of the world….
But this obsession with fleeing the facts is as maddening as it is futile. For, as in the case of the hospital, the truth always surfaces. A siren sounds causing reality to shock us out of our sleep.
Be the event pleasant or painful the result is the same. Reality breaks through the Papier-mache mask and screams at you like a Marine drill sergeant. “You are getting old! You are going to die! You can’t be someone you are not….
The best things for you to do now is pause and think. Take a good look at the facts. And while you’re looking at them, it would be wise to take a good look at him. To those perched on the peak of Mount Perspective, His Majesty takes on special significance.
Jesus does his best work at such moments. Just when the truth about life sinks in, his truth starts to surface. He takes us by the hand and dares us not to sweep the facts under the rug but to confront them with him at our side.
Aging? A necessary process to pass on to a better world. Death? Merely a brief passage, a tunnel. Self? Designed and created for a purpose, purchased by God himself. There, was that so bad?
Funerals, divorces, illnesses, and stays in the hospital – you can’t lie about life at such times. Maybe that’s why he’s always present at such moments.
The next time you find yourself alone in a dark place facing the undeniables of life, don’t cover them with a blanket, or ignore them with a nervous grin. Don’t turn up the TV and pretend they aren’t there. Instead, stand still, whisper his name, and listen. He is nearer than you think.
(From God Came Near by Max Lucado)
What could you do for God this week? What are some ways you could serve that hardly seem worth mentioning (but could meet a real need)? Take the time to do even small deeds. They could be more important than the larger tasks you plan.
The Family of God
What did you become when you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? A child of
To what family do you now belong? To the family of
Who is the Father in this new family?
Jesus said: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
According to Jesus’ words, is our Heavenly Father More or Less loving than a human father? He is loving.
Because we know that our Heavenly Father loves and cares for us, we do not need to worry.
Jesus said: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'” (Matthew 6:31).
In this verse, the word Worry is talking about the troubled believing people have when their situation seems to be hopeless. But, for the believer, this troubled feeling is not really necessary.
Perhaps you are saying to yourself: “How can I help but worry about food and clothing and a place to live?” Jesus gave us the answer. “So do not worry,… your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31, 32).
What should a child of God do when he doesn’t know where or how to get food, clothing, or a place to live? Trust God to provide these things.
Many people worry and are troubled about what they will eat and wear in the coming days. “The pagans run after all these things.” (Matthew 6:32)
There is something else that we must remember about our Heavenly Father. The Bible Says: “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)
What an exciting relationship we have with the Creator of the world! You can call God “Father,” and he calls you “My son” or “My daughter”. However, belonging to God’s family means that we also have Brothers and Sisters as well as a Heavenly Father; everyone who has received Christ as Lord.
Jesus gave the following commandment to his followers. It shows what our attitude is to be toward our brothers in Christ; “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Of course, the child of God must love all people, not just other believers.
Jesus said that we are to love as he loves. We know that Jesus does not only love those people who are good looking and nice to be with. He loves all people.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)
Jesus said: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). Our Heavenly Father has promised to provide our needs if we are faithful and obedient children, seek his kingdom and his righteousness.
Some time ago, I took my family to the bicycle store to purchase a bike for five-year-old Jenna. She picked out a shiny “Starlett” with a banana seat and training wheels. And Andrea, age three, decided she wanted one as well.
…I told her she was still having trouble with a tricycle and was too small for a two-wheeler. No luck; she still wanted a bike….
Finally I sighed and said this time her daddy knew best. Her response?
“Then I want a NEW daddy!”
Though the words were from a child’s mouth, they carried an adult’s sentiments.
…When we don’t agree with the One who calls the shots, our reaction is often the same as Andrea’s – the same as John’s…. “Are you the one? Should we look for another?”
…John couldn’t believe that anything less than his release would be for the best interest of all involved…. But the One who had the power was “sitting on his hands.”
…You may learn, as John did, that the problem is not as much in God’s silence as it is in your ability to hear.
(From The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)
God helps us avoid future mistakes by sending people to correct us. When you are corrected, use the opportunity to learn and improve your attitude and work!
Components of small-group life
The four components of small-group life-nurture, worship, community and missions-are vital to a healthy group.
|Definition||Goal||Example of Activities|
|Nurture-Being fed by God to grow like Christ.||To become like Jesus.||*Discussing the Bible-books, tapes, lectures; *Memorizing Scripture; *Testimonies|
|Worship-Praising and magnifying God by focusing on His nature, action and words.||To bring Joy to God.||*Praying *Singing *Reading worshipful passages from the Bible or books *kneeling|
|Community-Fellowship centered around the experience we share as Christians||To knit us together in love and build us as whole people.||*Praying with prayer partners *Bearing each others burdens *Eating together *Helping each other develop gifts *Intercession|
|Mission Reaching out with the good news of Christ’s love to people in need.||To help people know God and become like Jesus.||*Praying for non-Christian friends or un-reached people *Sharing the gospel with a specific group of unbelievers *Raising money for world hunger relief.|
Establish a covenant
Covenant definition = an agreement among group members, concerning both the groups purpose and its methods for achieving that purpose.
A covenant clarifies a group’s purpose. There are fewer disappointments and conflicts later on. In the event problems arise, the covenant can be used to solve them. Often a commitment will provide the strength to continue when things get tough. A covenant agreed upon by all gives ownership to all members, and guards against a leader centered group.
“Choke” A Group
As part of a small group study, we have covered many things that choke the life from a group. Here is a list:
Repeated lateness or absenteeism
Over extending quitting times
Lack of love and encouragement from the leader
Lack of child care when needed
No clearly defined purpose
Becoming only a social event
No leadership-or an unprepared leader
Location and time not convenient
Homogeneous population-lack of diversity
Physical setting too large, cold, and formal
Focusing on absent members instead of those present
Being negative and critical of others
Some of the skills needed in effective home-group meetings involve problem-solving. Every group has problems. Some common ones, with possible solutions are:
A member who will participate. Try to involve him in conversation. Find out about his personal involvements, and listen with interest to what he says. Devote sometime to him outside your regular meeting, one-on-one. When he does take part in the group, make a special note of it: “That’s a good point, Paul. I appreciate your input.” Give this person eye contact.
A member who is argumentative and obstinate. Keep your temper, and do not let the group get tense and excited. Examine what he says carefully, and try to find the good in it. You might privately explain to him that his view is important, but that he must not destroy the group’s effectiveness by his insistence. Visit one-on-one and find out if there is a personal problem.
The group is confused, and complains they have been wasting time. Provide agendas and systematic approaches to discussion. make sure a clear, constructive purpose if fulfilled at each meeting.
Group apathy. Find out if you have overlooked any important aspect’s of the group’s life together. Remember the four components: worship nurture, community, and mission. Check to see if any of the four are missing. Display enthusiasm and energy until it is caught by the group.
A group that is resistant, antagonistic or hostile. Analyze members abilities. Assess the most useful role for each member, and support members who assume suitable roles. Remind the group their purpose. Be creative in using people’s gifts.
The presence of conflict. There are seven steps to take in dealing with conflict:
a. Confront the conflict when it is small, instead of waiting until it grows larger.
b. Try to deal with issues and not personalities.
c. Recognize others feelings and concerns.
d. Focus on facts instead of what someone is attempting to manipulate.
e. Maintain a trusting and friendly attitude.
f. Clarify whether one or several issues must be dealt with, and deal with one issue at a time.
g. Have all parties in the conflict at one meeting (not necessarily a home-group meeting), and reason with all. Pray prior to this meeting. Often, if there is no prayer prior to such a confrontation, it will turn to criticism, gossip or judgment.
Handling interruptions. Anticipate interruptions, and plan thee meeting in such a way as to minimize them. When interruptions do occur, give them simple recognition, and go on. Remember, not all interruptions are bad; some might represent opportunities for learning. An example of a divine interruption maybe a phone call telling of a member of the group inn the hospital. Pray for the need.
A bad idea is given. Never totally reject any idea. Try to relate the negative and explore the good in the idea. Affirm the idea-giver, tells someone they are stupid. If you do, trust will be totally destroyed and no one else will speak. You might say, “That’s interesting.. What do the rest of you think?” The group will have soft ways to deal with the idea. “That’s interesting” is a neutral statement.
1. Be thoroughly prepared.
The vast majority of Americans expect poor service. In our small groups and our church, we must display excellence. Be prepared.
2. Be available.
Be available before and after the class, and during the week, as needs arise.
Display a strong faith. Show others how God has worked in your life, and be able to direct them to Scripture.
4. Be understanding.
Participants come to a group with different needs and at different stages of spiritual and emotional growth. Recognize the differences and respond accordingly.
5. Be relevant.
People are looking for application of what they learn to their life. How will this group help each member? Outline and emphasize the benefits of being a member of a small group.
6. Be an encourager.
Build people up in the Lord. Be affirming. Remember that people walk around caring a sign that reads “Make Me Feel Important.” As leader, you will set the tone for the whole group; if you are a good model, others will follow your lead (1 Corinthians 14:12).
7. Be resistant to gossip.
“And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
8. Be a learner.
Leaders must be learners. You must attend training, read relevant recommended materials, and share what works and doesn’t work with other leaders.
9. Be flexible.
There will be exceptions to all rules. Schedules may have to be adjusted to meet the needs of the group and the church. For example, during a revival at your church, your group may not meet, but instead attend the revival, sit together, and bring friends.
10. Be dedicated to follow up.
Follow-up adds depth to your group. Many people are lonely hurting, and are dealing with tough issues alone. Regular personal contact will reflect a caring leader who models the Christian life.
Methods of follow-up
Family information. A form must be kept to let us know as much about each member as possible, so when a crises or need arises we are ready.
Prayer journal. keeping a record of prayer requests allow you to be updated on a need in a contact’s life. It also allows you to share a victory with your group when prayer is answered. Show several sample prayer journals, which can be purchased at any Christian bookstore. These make excellent incentive give-aways in training.
Phone calls. We all want people to like, to care for and encourage us. Try to call members of your group just to see how they are. Call when things are going well, and when they are not. If you cannot make all the calls, appoint someone in the group to help.
Card, letters, and emails. When a member is absent, email, cards or letters can be a real encouragement. It is fun to bring a card to the small group meeting and have all the members sign it.
Personal visits. When a member of your group is sick, has a family crisis, or has another type of need, make a personal visit if possible.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2-4)
Conducting a Small-Group Meeting
1. Use sharing questions.
Before the Bible study portion of the meeting it is helpful to ask sharing questions which aid in building relationships by permitting people to talk about themselves. In addition to the sharing questions, affirmation questions are excellent for groups to use prior to holidays and vacations or when a group has decided not to continue meeting. For example:
What is one quality you value or admire in one member of this group?
If you could give a special gift to each member of the group, what would it be and why?
What spiritual gifts do you see present in one member of this group?
How has this group been important or helpful to you?
How are those gifts being used in a helpful way?
What has been meaningful to you in this group?
What do you value especially about this group?
If you were called on to give a speech describing the good qualities of the members of this group, what would you say?
These are questions which invite group members to say positive things about each other. Often we form friendships which are meaningful to us, but we seldom say aloud just what our friends mean to us and why we value them. While group members are often reticent to say positive things about each other, it is a quality that can often be seen in the life of Jesus and the apostles. They could see and affirm qualities in people thus helping to recognize and value what God was doing within and through them. This type of affirmation can be very important in expressing feelings and building a sense of belonging and caring.
2. Recognize that each member of the group has a part to play.
Never do anything that group members can do for themselves. A good leader guides the group with a firm vision of important goals, while allowing members the freedom and creativity necessary for growth.
“Stop” on time. “Look” at the groups reactions, “Listen” for someone dominating the conversation.
4. Use humor effectively.
Natural humor builds cohesion and breaks tension. Try a humorous history giving exercise, to which members bring old photos of themselves.
5. Be creative.
Use creativity in planning all areas of group activities. For example, place an empty chair to symbolize a person the group wants to win to Christ. Pray for a person you would like to occupy that chair.
6. Recognize the stages of a group’s growth.
Recognition of the group’s current stage will clearly benefit the leadership. The stages are:
Pre contact stage, as the members are first invited to participate.
Orientation stage, a time of attraction and/or repulsion.
Power and control stage, finding one’s particular role.
Trust stage, a time of belonging and unity.
Differentiation and change stage, wanting something new or different.
Conclusion or new beginning.
7. Recognize the roles various members play.
Recognizing roles facilitates problem-solving and understanding the dynamics of the group. People-oriented roles include: the advocate, who encourages others; the tension reliever, who relieves tension by joke-telling or directing attention from a tense subject. Task-oriented roles include: the clock watcher, who makes sure everything is done properly and on time; the summarizer, who reminds the group where it has been; the energizer, who stimulates others to work toward a goal. There are several roles that the leader should actively encourage:
An encourager brings others into the discussion, encouraging them to contribute, emphasizing the value of their comments with approval and recognition.
A clarifier handles confusion and conflict by defining the problem concisely and pointing out the issues clearly.
An explorer is never satisfied with the obvious or traditional, but is always moving into new and different areas.
An analyzer examines the issues closely, carefully weighing suggestions, and never accepts anything without thorough thought.
A mediator facilitates agreement or harmony between members, finding compromises acceptable to all.
A synthesizer is able to put the pieces of thought, opinion, and planning together and synthesize them.
A programmer is adept at organizing and moving into action.
A good leader knows how to develop leadership. Only when each member of your group buys into group ownership will he or she truly feel he or she belongs. It will take time to get acquainted with members of your group, perhaps as long as two months. Always be on the look-out for a gifted person. For instance, call on a natural singer to lead singing, or ask if anyone will serve as worship leader for the group. Continue this process until you have appointed all to positions of leadership. Some members may have more unusual talents. If you have an amateur photographer, let him serve as your small-group photographer, and create a scrapbook. Be flexible. Don’t be confined by job descriptions. Encourage group members to make a commitment. Pray together.
Successful Bible Study
Pray for people in your group every day. Post their names where you can see them regularly, on your bathroom mirror, or car dashboard. Leaders should intercede in prayer for those under their care, and pray also for God’s guidance. (See Ephesians 6:18-20).
2. List needs.
List both general and specific needs of group members. Your prayer diary and family information sheets can be very helpful. Each person’s expectations, needs, or reasons for attending may be different. Be prepared by knowing this in advance.
Always collect more information than you plan to use when you lead the Bible discussion. If you are using a published Bible study guide, work through the lesson without the aid of the leader’s notes to understand problems members might encounter.
4. Know the material.
Be flexible with the lesson, and do not expect a single response to a question. Allow participants freedom to explore the material, and you be the guide, not the expert. Thorough knowledge will help you keep the group on track, confirming responses with appreciation and affirmation, and generally directing the discussion (See Titus 2:7-8).
5. Realize there are different types of learners.
We assume others learn as we do, but that is not necessarily true. There are four types of learners. Your challenge is to motivate the types found in your group. The four types are: what, why, how, and results learners.
The What learner’s primary concern is for information. He likes memorizing word studies, and working with concordances. While these activities would bore others, they motivate the what learner. Give this learner an assignment to research a passage of Scripture or do a word study.
The why learner’s primary concern is personal meaning. He likes to be personally involved, to interact with others, listening and sharing. Discussing God’s Word with others motivates this person.
The how learner’s primary concern is application. How does it work, and how can it be applied? He likes to try things for himself. When you study a parable (for example, with an emphasis on loving your neighbor), he says, “All right, how do I do that?”
The results learner’s primary concern is action. He is interested in the results, once something has been applied. You, as leader, need to offer results. For example: “If you apply this principle in your life… then…”
Read the Scripture:
“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” (2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV).
What would you do if…
1. It is time to begin, and no more than half your expected group is present?
Sample response: Start on time, no matter what. Begin in prayer. When more of your group is present, explain the need to begin on time.
2. Group members arrive after your discussion is already under way.
Briefly acknowledge, then continue.
3. A Christian in your group displays a superior attitude.
That person is insecure and has low self-esteem. Model openness and vulnerability and perhaps this will catch on. Treat him or her like other people. Do not allow this person to dominate the conversation.
4. Your newly organized group includes five nonbelievers and eight believers.
Seize the great opportunity that you have to develop a relationship. Be sensitive to the nonbeliever. Don’t overload with Christian jargon. make the lesson application-oriented. Meet with Christians and have them help with the non-Believers.
5. After you have finished discussing a question, you knotice some puzzled expressions.
Clarify. Ask questions to make sure everyone understands a point before moving ahead.
6. You have asked the group a question, and their is no response.
Rephrase the question. Give the group time to think of an answer. If there is still no response, answer thee question yourself.
7. A non-Christian begins to ask some questions in the group setting about man’s relationship to Christ.
Briefly comment, then use the time as an opportunity to share the gospel after the meeting.
8. A group member insists on the truth and importance of a particular church doctrine pr practice.
Prompt the group to respond. lead the group into a discussion of what they agree on, and warn against “passing judgment on disputable matters” (Romans 14:1, NIV)
9. You cannot control your nerves.
Be honest. Disarm the situation by admitting your weakness. Have a helper lead, if necessary.
10. Someone gives an absolutely incorrect answer.
Affirm their attempt to contribute, then get the group to respond. Point out Scripture that clarifies the correct answer.
11. You are studying a passage on marriage, and someone in the group asks how you feel about divorcees remarrying.
This may be a trap; do not get off track. Ask, “Why did you ask that question?” Then, build a future study around that question or agree to discuss it further in private.
12. The group constantly goes off on tangents instead of following the curriculum.
Ask the group why they find it so difficult to keep on track: Re-evaluate the relevance of your curriculum. Create an outline and follow it carefully.
13. Someone is very uncomfortable with the Bible’s teaching on a wife’s relationship to her husband.
Accept and acknowledge her discomfort but don’t get sidetracked in to a detailed discussion. Offer to discuss it further at a later time, in private.
14. One of the members talks on every issue.
Use body language. Don’t make eye contact. Sit next to the person. Visit after the session. Re-direct questions. Change seating in the group. Give the talkative member an assignment.
15. Several group members bother others by continuing a private discussion.
Ask the chatting members to respond to a question. Call them by name and ask a question. if the problem persists, address the issue privately after the meeting.
16. Someone who is obviously prepared for the study does not share in the group discussion.
Ask them, “Do you have anything to add?” Talk to the person after the meeting. There may be something in their personal life that is bothering them.
17. In the middle of a lively and fruitful discussion, you realize you have only three minuets left and another question.
If needs are being met, continue.
18. A person who has been defensive about his or her religious beliefs drops out.
Establish one-on-one contact, and build a loving and trusting relationships. Express interest by continuing to invite the person to the group.
19. New Christians ask for opportunities for spiritual growth and sharing.
Plan your curriculum to meet the needs of all group members. Put new Christians with seasoned Christians for disciplining.
20. You cannot give group members enough time.
Divide the group into prayer partners, and always have a support person lead. You may need to consider starting a new group.
21. New Christians from the group are beginning to come to church, but say they do not feel welcome.
Invite these new Christians to attend a small group. Follow up with a phone call and personal visit. Ask them to go to church with you.
22. You want to spin off a new group from the existing one, but you only have two current members interested.
Remember, “Where two or three are gathered…” (Matthew 18:20).
Spiritual Exercise-How long is a minute.
This exercise requires a timepiece with a second hand or digital readout of seconds, as well as paper and pencil/pen. Start by just sitting and watch the second hand moves for one minute. Now try the same thing, but record your thoughts during this minute.
THE REASON WHY
written by Robert Laidlaw
A New Zealand Businessman
About the Author:
The late Robert O. Laidlaw from Auckland, New Zealand, was widely
known as one of his country’s most successful and respected businessmen.
At the age of 23, he opened a mail order business that grew
spectacularly into a retail organization employing a staff of more than
2,700 men and women.
The founder of the Farmers’ Trading Company, Ltd., Mr. Laidlaw
wrote, “The Reason Why” originally for his staff members, giving his
explanation and the “reasons” for the Christian faith. A more
definitive title could well have been, “The Reason Why Jesus Christ has
the Only Answer to Life.” Since that original writing, this booklet has
been translated into more than thirty languages, with an estimated 25
million copies in print. This edition has been published by the
Christian Business Men’s Committee, an international non-profit
organization of Christian business and professional men, of which Robert
Laidlaw was a member.
Is Christianity credible? Is there a God?
Does man need Him? Is the Bible true?
Is Man responsible to God? Can man find Divine forgiveness?
When honest with himself, man questions his existence, he wonders
at his world–its beginning and end he searches for personal meaning
this man has explored life and found its fulfillment here he explains
the intellectual evidence he weighed the questions he had answered the
resulting belief he experienced.
Robert Laidlaw is convinced of God’s reality he believes in the
Bible in Christ, in Divine salvation, in purposeful living, in credible
Written by a Christian businessman to the members of his staff…
Suppose that a young man sent his fiancee a diamond ring costing
him $1000, placing it in a little case which the jeweller threw in for
nothing. How disappointed he would be, if upon meeting her a few days
later, she would say, “Sweetheart, that was a lovely little box you sent
me. To take special care of it, I promise to keep it wrapped up in a
safe place so that no harm shall come by it.”
Rather ridiculous, isn’t it? Yet it is just as foolish for men and
women to be spending all their time and thought of bodies, which are
only cases containing the real self, the soul, which, the Bible tells
us, will persist long after our bodies have crumbled to dust. The soul
is of infinite value. Longfellow expressed it this way:
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream,
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real, life is earnest,
And the grave is not its goal.
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Indeed this statement was not made of the soul, for in Mark 8:36
our Lord Himself asks,
“What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own
soul?” So, in Christ’s estimate, man’s soul is something incomparably
more valuable than the whole world.
I would like to discuss with you some of the basic things that
relate to your most valuable possession, your soul. For instance—
Is there a God?
Is the Bible true?
It man accountable?
Is there divine forgiveness?
These are some of the problems which most perplex those who think
seriously about the future.
How may I know there is a God?
I have an innate conviction that God exists. No matter how my
intellect has tried in the past to produce reasons proving He was not,
or how much I have wanted to believe that there was no God, that “still,
small voice” came to me again and again, just as it has come to you, in
the quiet of life’s more sober moments. Yes, I knew that at least for
me there was a God. And as I looked at others I realized how many were
looking for God, seeking in “religion” to silence that same voice that
spoke within me.
True, there are some men who don’t believe in God. But to me the
problems of unbelief in God are greater than the problems of belief. To
believe that unaided dead matter produced life, that living matter
produced mind, that mind produced conscience, and that the chaos of
chance produced the cosmos of order as we see it in nature, seems to
call not for faith but for credulity.
The president of the New York Scientific Society once gave eight
reasons why be believed there was a God. The first was this: Take ten
identical coins and mark them one to ten. Place them in your pocket.
Now take one out. There is once chance in ten that you will get number
one. Now replace it, and the chances that number two will follow number
one are not one in ten, but one in one hundred. With each new coin
taken out, the risk will be multiplied by ten, so that the chance of ten
following nine is one in 10,000,000,000 (ten billion). It seemed so
unbelievable to me that I immediately took pencil and paper and very
quickly discovered he was right. Try it yourself.
That is why George Gallup, the American statistician said: “I could
prove God statistically. Take the human body alone-the chance that all
its functions would just happen is a statistical monstrosity.”
Surely no thoughtful persons would wish to base their eternal
future on a “statistical monstrosity.” Perhaps that is why the Bible
says in Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.'” But
let us consider the problem from another viewpoint.
Suppose we are standing at an airport watching a big jet come in
for a landing. I say to you “A lot of people think that plane is a
result of someone’s carefully designed plans, but I know better. There
was really no intelligence at work on it at all. In some strange way
the metal just came out of ground, and fashioned itself into flat
sheets. And then these metal sheets slowly began to grow together and
formed the body and wings and tail. Then after a long while the engines
slowly grew in place, and one day some people came along and discovered
the plane, all finished and ready to fly.”
You would probably consider me a lunatic and move further into the
crowd to escape my senseless chatter. Why? You know that there is a
design there must be a designed, and having seen other productions of
the human mind just like the plane in question, you are positive that it
was planned by human intelligence and built by human skill.
Yet there are highly educated, professional men who tell us that
the entire universe came into being by chance, that there was really no
higher intelligence at work on it. They claim to know no God but
On the other hand there are many thoughtful men who believe that
God is transcendent; that is, while He reveals Himself in nature (in
that its laws and principles are expressions of His power and wisdom),
He Himself is greater than the universe. But all that atheists can
offer us in the riddle of design without a designer, of creation without
a Creator, of effect without cause.
Every thoughtful person believes in a series of causes and effects
in nature, each effect becoming the cause of some other effect. The
acceptance of this as fact logically compels one to admit that there
must be a beginning to any series. There could never have been a first
effect if there had not been a First Cause. This First Cause, to me, is
Although man has discovered many of the laws that govern
electricity, the greatest scientists cannot really define it. Then why
do we believe it exists? Because we see the manifestation of its
existence in our homes and industries and streets. Though I do not know
where God came from, I must believe He exists, because I see the
manifestations of Him everywhere around me.
Dr. Wernher von Braun, director of NASA research, and developer of
the rocket which put American’s first space satellite into orbit said:
“In our modern world, many people seem to feel that our rapid
advances in the field of science render such things as religious belief
untimely or old-fashioned. They wonder why we should be satisfied in
‘believing’ something when science tells us that we ‘know’ so many
things. The simple answer to this contention is that we are confronted
with many more mysteries of nature today than when the age of scientific
enlightenment began. With every new answer unfolded, science has
consistently discovered at least three new questions.
“The answers indicate that anything as well ordered and perfectly
created as is our earth and universe must have a Maker, a Master
Designer. Anything so orderly, so perfect, so precisely balanced, so
majestic as this creation can only be the product of a Divine idea.”
The last professor Edwin Conklin, a noted biologist, very aptly
said: “The probability of life originating from accident is comparable
to the probability of an Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an
explosion in a printing shop.”
God exist whether or not men may choose to believe in Him. The
reason why many people do not believe in God is not so much that it is
intellectually impossible to believe in God, but because belief in God
forces that thoughtful person to face the fact that he is accountable to
such a God. Many people are unwilling to do this. Most of those who
take refuge in atheism or agnosticism do so because it is a convenient
“escape” from the stern reality that man is accountable to his Creator.
It is usually not so much a case of “I cannot believe” as it is a case
of “I do not want to believe.”
I know only two ways by which God’s purpose and God’s person may be
known. First there is the process of reason. As a good detective can,
for example, tell you many things about my skills, habits and character
just my examining something I may have made or handled, so much can be
learned about God by a careful examination of the universe, the work of
But the detective who examines only what I make can never say that
he knows me. He may know some things about me, but before he can say
that he knows me, there must be a process of revelation: I must
communicate with him. I must tell him what I think, how I feel and what
I want to do. This self-revelation may be in conversation, in writing,
or in some other way. Only then does it become possible for him to know
me. Just so, if God is ever to be known and His thoughts, desire and
purposes perceived, He must take the initiative and make at least a
partial revelation of Himself to men.
Of all the many books this world contains there is one only that
claims to be a direct revelation from God, telling us of Himself and His
purposes for us. That book is the Bible. The Bible is a book of such
importance that it is surely worthy of thoughtful investigation. So,
with that advice of Francis Bacon neither to accept nor reject, but to
weigh and consider, let us approach this book with its unusual claims.
To be fair to ourselves and to the Bible, we should read it
through. As a judge must not make his decision when the case is half
heard, neither must we. Rather, like the judge, we should compare the
evidence of the witnesses, and weigh and consider every word, seeking
for its deepest significance rather than accepting its surface meaning.
Surely the importance of its claims justifies spending the necessary
time on the study of its sixty-six books, written by at least forty
different writer (some well educated, some barely educated, some kings,
some peasants) over a period of 1600 years in places as far apart as
Babylon in Asia and Rome in Europe. With such authorship one would
expect to find a miscellaneous collection contradictory statements. Its
unity is therefore especially striking, for each contribution is the
complement of the others.
In my considerations of this whole matter, slowly the truth of 2
Peter 1:21 became certain to me. There was not reasonable explanation.
“Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” This
belief was confirmed as I read prophecy in the Old Testament which found
its fulfillment, even to the letter, hundreds of years later. For
instance, Isaiah 52 foretold the death of Christ with minute accuracy
more than 700 years before His crucifixion. Yes, the difficulties in
the way of doubting the Book seemed to me greater than those in the way
of believing it. I had to be honest with myself and admit that the
problems were all on the side of unbelief. I even went further and
“I believe the Bible to be the word of the living God. I can account
for it in no other way.”
Such an admission brought me face to face with a serious
difficulty, however, for the Bible set a standard of righteousness that
I had not attained. It pronounced that anything short of its standard
was sin. Remembering that God knows you every secret thought, just
measure yourself alongside the standard: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37,38).
Confronted with such a standard, can you claim to have lived up to
it throughout you life? Have you put God first in everything? No man
can honestly claim such perfection. Every honest heart echoes Romans
3:10 and 23: “There is none righteous, no, not one….All have sinned,
and fall short of the glory of God.” All have failed to reach God’s
A young man once asked me, “Do you think it fair of God to set the
standard of holiness so high that we cannot reach it, and then judge us
for falling short?”
I replied, “God has not set an arbitrary standard of holiness as an
official sets an arbitrary standard of height for his bodyguards. It
such a case, a man may have all the other qualifications, but it he is
an inch too short he is disqualified.
“God has not really set a standard at all; His is the standard. He
is absolute holiness, and to preserve His own character He must remain
absolutely holy in all of His dealing with man, maintaining that
standard irrespective of the tremendous implications which it may hold
for both Him and us.”
My conscience and my common sense compelled me to admit I had
fallen short of God’s standard of absolute holiness and, therefore, I
was a sinner in His sight.
On my admission of having sinned came God’s condemnation is Ezekiel
18:4: “The soul that sins, it shall die.”
It appealed to me like this: The law in Great Britain says that
all drivers must keep to the left side of the street, while in New York
that rule of the road demands that a driver keep to the right side. Now
suppose I go driving in London and keep to the right side. On being
brought before the judge, I say, “This is ridiculous. In the United
States we are allowed to drive on the right side.”
“You are not being judged by the laws of America,” he replies. “It
does not matter what the laws of other lands may be, you should have
concerned yourself only with the laws which judge you here, where you
In the same way as far as god’s standard was concerned, I was lost,
because God’s standard was the only one by which I was judged in
eternity. I was hopelessly lost. I began to see that it didn’t matter
at all what I thought, or what my friends told me. The judgement would
be on what god has said, not what my friends say. Moreover, because in
God’s judgment we had all sinned, there was no use in looking to other
men for help, for they were under the same condemnation as I.
But this same Bible, which told me of my sin, told me also of Jesus
Christ, who claimed to be the Son of God.
It is the clear teaching of the Bible that this person, Jesus
Christ, is God the Son. He saw that men were lost and that they had
forfeited their lives to sin. His life was not forfeited. It was
sinless and spotless. This pure life of His He was willing to give in
place of man’s sinful life, that we might go free.
He Himself tells us in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world, that
he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not
perish, but have everlasting life.”
If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then we may indeed be sure of
salvation; but the difficulty faces us: Is Jesus Christ really the Son
of God? He could only be one of three–the Son of God, or a deceiver, or
an honest man Himself under a hallucination. But we find Him meeting
some of the cleverest men of His day, who were purposely sent to catch
Him in His words, and He so silenced them that they did not dare ask Him
any more questions (Matthew 22:46). And when we ourselves consider the
wisdom of His statements from an intellectual standpoint, we see plainly
that He was under no hallucination as to Himself.
Then was His wisdom so great that He was using it to deceive the
people? Have you ever heard of a young man associating with swindlers
and rogues and because of that association becoming ennobled, pure and
honest? No! You admit you have not heard of such a case; but I know a
young man who by the reception of Christ into his life has been lifted
from the basest desires to the noblest manhood, I simply cannot believe
that the reception of a deceiver into one’s life could transform it for
The other day I heard a man say, “I owe it to Jesus Christ that I
can walk down the street with my head erect and my shoulders squared to
the world. I owe it to Him that I can look a pure woman in the face and
grip an honest man by the hand.”
I call to witness the opinion of the whole civilized world that
Jesus Christ was at least a good man. If so, then an honest man, and if
honest, He must have been what He claimed to be, the Son of God, sent to
lay down His sinless life in place of your sinful life and mine.
Leaders from several professions have this to say about Jesus
United States Senator Mark O. Hatfield, testifies: “I saw that for
31 years I had lived for self and decided I wanted to live the rest of
my life only for Jesus Christ. I asked God to forgive my self-centered
life and to make my life His own. Following Jesus Christ has been an
experience of increasing challenge, adventure and happiness. Living a
committed Christian life is truly satisfying because it has give me true
purpose and direction by serving not myself, but Jesus Christ.”
Robert E. (Bob) Richards, former Olympic track star, said: “My only
reason for being in sports is to give my testimony to youth of all the
world that Jesus Christ can save from sin, and that one can be a
Christian and still excel in good, creative things. Young people need
to realize that God unleashed a tremendous spiritual power when Jesus
Christ died on Calvary.”
Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison (Ret.), former Senior Delegate of the
United Nations Command Truce Team in Korea and later Commander-in-Chief
of the Caribbean Command, wrote: “It is wonderful to believe in the Lord
Jesus Christ and I am exceedingly thankful that God has graciously led
me to saving faith in Christ. God gives us who believe in Christ a
daily, personal experience which is convincing evidence of the reality
of the new life in Christ.”
Convinced that the Scripture is true, that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God, believing that He willingly came, that God so lived me that He has
willingly sent Him to suffer the full penalty of my sins that I might go
free, if I would retain my self-respect as an intelligent being, I must
accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.
But I do not ask you to accept Him as yours, for you may have an
objection: although it is plausible that the Bible is true, are not
alternate views also plausible? Who not be reasonable and submit them to
a fair test as well?
On telling my conviction to a friend, he replied, “You are all
right, but so am I, although I don’t see things as you do. It seems to
me that it doesn’t matter so much what a man believes, so long as he is
sincere in this belief.”
Let us test that statement. One fine Sunday morning a neighbor of
mine said to his wife and family, “Let us take the car and go for a
picnic.” Traveling north, he came to a railway crossing and , sincerely
believing there would be not trains on a Sunday morning, attempted to
drive across. He as killed on the spot, one son had an arm broken and
his little daughter was in a cast for months. Did his sincere belief
that all was clear save him? No, it did not.
I know a nurse who, on night duty, sincerely believed she held the
right medicine in her hand, but she was wrong, and in twenty minutes her
patient was dead in spite of frantic efforts to save him.
Of course we need sincerity, but we must sincerely believe truth,
not error. If fact, having sincere belief in error can be the very
means of deceiving and finally destroying us.
The Bible leaves no room for doubt. In John 14:6 Christ says: “I
am the way, the truth and the life; no man come to the Father but by
me.” Acts 4:12 states: “There in no other name under heaven given
among men whereby we must be saved.” If you can get to heaven any other
way you will be a witness throughout eternity to the fact that Jesus
Christ spoke falsely when He said there was no other way. But, since He
gives full evidence of being the Son of God, is it not folly to attempt
coming to God by any other way than through Christ Himself, who claims
to be God’s appointed way?
The real reason we want some other way is because the way of the
cross is a humbling way, and we are proud at heart. But let us remember
the way of the cross was a humbling way for Christ also, as we read in
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was
also in Christ Jesus
6 Who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to
7 But emptied Himself, taking the form of a
bondservant and being made in the likeness
8 And being found in appearance as a man, He
humbled Himself by becoming obedient to
the point of death, even death on a cross.
(The New American Standard Bible)
Some people have suggested that all a person needs to do is sincerely
reform, do better in the future, and thus live down past short-comings.
This is supposed to make one fit for heaven. Will this work?
Let us assume that the manager of a business goes to his accountant
and finds that his company owes $50,000 to manufactures and other
merchants. He says, “Write letters to all those people and tell them
that we are not going to trouble about the past, that we have turned
over new pages in our ledger, but we promise to pay 100 cents on the
dollar in all future business, and from now on live up the highest
standard of business integrity.” The accountant would think his
employer had gone mad, and would refuse to put such a proposition to the
creditors. Yet thousands of otherwise sensible people are trying to get
to heaven by just such a proposal, offerings to meet their obligations
toward God for the future, but refusing to worry about the past at all.
Yet in Ecclesiastes 3:15 we read, “God will call the past to account.”
Even if we assume that we can somehow begin to live an absolutely
perfect life–which is no better than we ought to do, but which is
certainly impossible for us–we are still sinners.
God’s righteousness demands that no past account shall be
considered settled until it has been paid to the last penny and every
claim of justice met. The murderer may cover his sin and live the life
of a model citizen for ten years after his crime, but when he is
discovered, man’s law condemns him to death. Though he has murdered no
one for ten long years–it judges him still a murderer.
To hide past sin, either thought, words or deeds, by what seems to
be an absolutely perfect life, still leaves us sinners in the sight of
Him to whom the past and future are as open as the present. According
to God’s standards of holiness, we all have sinned and we must bring
that sin out into the open and have it dealt with righteously.
We each need someone who can clear the books. The bible declares
that Jesus Christ is the only One who could pay this penalty. “We are
reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). Yes, the Lord
Jesus Christ gave up His life in place of ours that we might go free.
Our past sin is paid for, and God, against whom we had sinned, has given
us His receipt showing His satisfaction with the completed work of
Christ on the cross in that He raised Him from the dead. Christ, once
crucified, is now our living Savior. He died to save us from the
penalty of sin and now He lives to deliver us from the power of sin.
But why did Christ need to die? Could He not have saved us without
that? Man had broken God’s law and the penalty was death. How could
Christ righteously deliver us without meeting our full penalty? Do you
not see that if He paid anything less than the full price there would
still be judgment for us to meet? But it is evident that because He
died, the law we had broken can judge us no more.
The Bible says in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no
condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
On one occasion an unfinished court case extended to a second day
and as is the usual practice, so that no outside influence could be
brought to bear on the jurymen, they were kept in custody overnight. On
entering the court the next morning, the Judge, addressing the jury,
said: “Gentlemen, the case is dismissed; the prisoner has been called
to a higher court.” The accused had died in his cell during the night,
and there was no use going on with the case, since the law cannot judge
a dead man.
Again, if a man should murder one person he is put to death, but if
he should murder six people he is still just put to death, because this
is the utmost penalty of the law. No matter what a man’s sins may be,
the law knows no greater penalty than to take his life.
Therefore it matters not that there are sins in my life I have long
since forgotten. I fear none of them, for I have this confidence that
the Lord Jesus Christ, my Substitute, suffered the utmost penalty of the
law on my account, freeing me absolutely from all its claims against me,
both great and small.
On the basis of the greatness of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, some
have suggested that if Christ died for all, we must all be saved. But
God does not say so. He says there is salvation for all, not that all
Here is an illustration. It is a bitterly cold winter, and
unemployment is rife in one of our great cities with man in dire need.
The municipal authorities provide free meals. You meet a poor fellow on
the street who say he is starving. Naturally you ask if he does not
believe the notices that are up all over the city, and there is enough
food for all provided free.
“Yes,” he replies, “I believe that is true in a general sort of
way, but I am still hungry.”
You tell him that he is likely to remain hungry in spite of the
provisions unless he eats and drinks personally of what is proved for
Just so,although the death of Christ provides salvation for
whosoever will, only those are saved who personally accept Christ and
believe that He died in their place. I must take Christ as my savior,
or His death will avail me nothing–just as a man could die of thirst
beside a spring of water if he refused to make its life-giving stream
his own by drinking of it for himself.
There are some people who still pose the question: How could the
Lord Jesus Christ’s one life be considered the substitute for the lives
of so many, so that God offers salvation to whoever places their faith
That seems a fair question–a problem in arithmetic that can be
demonstrated on paper. Christ was God manifest in the flesh–Divinity
in humanity–so that the life He gave was an infinite life, which can
meet the needs of any number of finite lives. Get a sheet of paper and
write down all the big figures you can think of–millions or more–add
them up. Now you have a big number, then multiply it by 10-100-by a
million if you like–cover sheets of paper and after all you still have
a finite number–a number that has bounds set about it–a beginning and
an end, however far it may extend. No, by adding finite things together
no man has ever been able to make that which is infinite. The infinite
life of Christ given for sinners is more than sufficient to save all who
accept Him as the One who died for them.
But how could Christ suffer for my sins when they were not
committed till more than 1900 years after He died?
At first this seems a problem to a thoughtful person, but the more
thoughtful you are, the more readily you will see the solution. God is
omniscient (that is, He knows all things), and God is eternal. In
Exodus 3:14 God calls himself “I AM” (present tense), and Christ says in
John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I AM” (present tense). In other words,
to one who know all things and is eternal, there is, as it were, neither
past nor future, but one eternal present. Events yet to take place 2000
years ahead must be as clear to Him as events which happened 2000 years
ago, and both must of necessity be just as clear to God as event
But why did not God make man incapable of disobeying His will and
therefore incapable of sinning?
Such a question is like asking why does not God draw a crooked
straight line or a round square, or make an object black all over and
white all over at one and the same time. Man is a creature with the
power of intelligent choice, so that the question really is: Why didn’t
God make a creature with the power of intelligent choice and yet without
the power of intelligent choice at one and the same time?
If I had the power of hypnotism, I would be able to put my two sons
into an hypnotic state, thus robbing them of the power of intelligent
choice, and the say, “Sit on those chairs till I return”–“Get up and
eat”–“Stop eating”–“Kiss me goodnight”, and unfeeling arms would go
around my neck, and unresponsive lips would be pressed to mine. I would
have prompt and perfect obedience to my every command, but would I find
satisfaction in it? No!
I want boys with free wills who are capable of disobeying me, but
who willingly choose to carry out my instructions, which are the outcome
of my love for them and are given for their own good. I cannot conceive
of God, who put these desires in my heart and yours, being satisfied
with anything less Himself.
God does not want puppets who jump in a given direction according
to the wire that is pulled, not does He want robots in the form of “men”
who mechanically and absolutely obey His will as do the planets that
whirl through space. God can find satisfaction in nothing less than the
spontaneous love of our hearts and our free-will decisions to walk in
paths that please and honor Him. But it is obvious that this same power
of free action enables us to defy and dishonor Him if we so choose.
Man is truly a magnificent creature, far above the animal creation
around him. This is no “missing link.” But a great gulf is fixed
between the highest beast and man, for God has given man the awesome
power of being able to say no to God as well as an effective yes. In
your own interests, may I ask which you are saying to God now as you
read this booklet?
What does God care about this little world of ours compared with
the vastness of the mighty universe?
Think of our own solar system, with the planet Neptune thirty times
as far away from the sun as our earth, so that it takes 164 of our years
to make one of Neptune’s, and beyond this, suns with planets revolving
around the sun! Of what importance can our earth be to God, and of how
much less importance can man be?
So said the astronomer as the faith of his youth fled–this is what
the telescope had done for him. The vastness of the heavens had robbed
him of faith in his mother’s God, for how could God trouble Himself
about man, who is less than a grain of sand in comparison?
But his thirst for knowledge would not let him rest. The heavens
were available for study only at night; how should the free hours of the
day be spent? Why not a microscope? And lo! worlds were opened at his
feet–worlds as wonderful as those above, and slowly his faith came
back. Yes, the God who could attend to such minute details as to make a
drop of ditch water throb with miniature life was sure to be interested
in man, the highest form of His creation. The man found balance instead
of bias, and balance brought him back to God. John 3:16 was true after
But is faith logical?
Yes, it is logical. It is a mistake to think that faith is opposed
to reason. Faith and reason go hand in hand, but faith goes on when
reason can go no farther. Reason, to a great extent, is dependent on
faith, for without knowledge it is impossible to reason, and knowledge
is very largely a matter of faith in human testimony. For instance, I
believe strychnine administered in a large enough dose will poison a
human being, but I have never seen the experiment performed. Yet I have
such faith in the written testimony of men that I would not take a large
dose of strychnine for anything.
If you check up carefully, you will find that nine-tenths of the
things you know (?) are a matter of faith in human testimony, written or
spoken, for you have not verified them for yourself. Then, having
accepted the testimony of men on other matters, will you not accept the
testimony of thousands of Christians when they affirm that they have
verified the things written God’s Word and have proved them to be true?
But why should God judge my sins as worthy of death?
I cannot answer that, but I would suggest that because of His
infinite holiness no sin could exist in His presence. In some primitive
cultures, a native chief may club his wife to death on slight
provocation without falling in the slightest degree in the estimation of
his people. The same act is our land would have to be paid for by the
life of the murderer. The act is the same in both lands, but in one
instance no judgment; in the other, quick retribution. The difference
is simply the result of our enlightenment. If a sin, which in a
primitive culture is considered as nothing, would cause a man to lose
his life in our land, think, if you can, what some other sin, which
appears to us as nothing, must look like to an infinitely Holy God–“For
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
It may be just, but is it merciful of God to refuse to take us all
to heaven even if we reject Christ as our sin-bearer?
Yes, both just and merciful. Would it be kindness to transfer a
poor ragged beggar into the glare of a beautiful ballroom? Would be not
be more conscious of his rags and dirt? Would he not do his best to
escape again to the darkness of the street? He would be infinitely
happier there. Would it be kindness and mercy on God’s part to bring a
man in his sins into the holy light of Heaven if that man had rejected
God’s offer of the only cleansing power there is? If you and I would
not wish our friends’ to see inside our minds now and read all the
thoughts that have ever been there (and our friends’ standards are
perhaps not any higher than our own) what would it be like to stand
before God, whose absolute holiness would reveal our sin in all its
Revelation 6:16 tells us of the feelings of those who refuse to
accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and persist in going to eternity in
their sins. They call on the mountains and the rocks to fall on them
and hide them from the face of the One who sits on the throne. Yet it
is the presence of this same Christ that will make Heaven for those who
have accepted Him as Savior and Lord.
You see the absurdity of talking about God taking us all to heaven-
heaven is a condition as well as a place. The presence of the Lord
Jesus Christ will constitute heaven to those who are cleansed from their
sins, while that some presence would make a hell of remorse in the
hearts of any who, still in their sins, should stand in the infinite
light of His holiness. Let us be quite reasonable–could you really be
happy in the presence of One whose love you had rejected, and whose
great sacrifice you had not counted worthy of your acceptance?
Salvation by Substitution–
The Innocent Bearing the
Penalty for the Guilty
We have considered reasonable evidence that God does exist and that
He has revealed in the Bible His holy claims on men and women. We have
been shown that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”
(Romans 3:23). We have been faced with Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who
came to this earth to die for the sin of man. We have also considered
numerous objections, raised by people who have other ideas about God’s
plan of salvation. Now we are going to think through the wisdom and the
wonder of God’s plan of salvation for sinful people. In a word, it is
salvation by substitution.
God’s love would have forgiven the sinner, but God’s righteousness
prevented the forgiveness. God’s righteousness would have judged the
sinner, but God’s love restrained the judgement. How to reconcile His
inherent righteousness with His character of essential love was a
problem that no human philosopher could have solved, but divine wisdom
and mercy find their highest expression in the solution–the vicarious
suffering and death of God the Son.
“But,” one may object, “does not Christianity fail at its very
foundation by basing everything on substitution? Substitution will not
stand thoughtful investigation. It makes Christ, the Innocent, bear the
penalty for the guilty and thus lets the guilty go free. It is
diametrically opposed to our every idea of justice, for we believe that
justice should protect the innocent and bring the full penalty upon the
But see God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy revealed at the
cross. He does not there take the innocent and compel him to bear the
penalty of the guilty. God acts like the judge in this story:–It is on
record that of two young men who studied law together one rose to a seat
on the bench, while the other took to drink and wasted his life. On one
occasion this poor fellow was brought before his old companion, charged
with crime, and the lawyers present wondered what kind of justice would
be administered by the judge under such trying circumstances. To their
surprise, he sentenced his one-time companion to the heaviest penalty
the law allowed, and then paid the fine himself and set his old friend
God, against whom we had sinned, in justice sat upon His judgment
throne and passed the heaviest penalty He could–the sentence of death
upon the sinner. Then, in mercy, He stepped down form His throne and,
in the person of His Son, took the sinner’s place, bearing the full
penalty Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us “that God was in Christ,”
not through Christ, but in Christ, “reconciling the world to himself.”
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one God.
The same God against whom we had sinned passed the judgment, paid the
penalty, and now offers us full and free pardon, based upon absolute
righteousness. That is why the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:16,17:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God
for the Salvation of everyone who believer…for therein is the
righteousness of God revealed…” I, too, can say that I am not ashamed
of the Gospel of Christ, for no man can honestly find a flaw in the
righteous forgiveness offered by God to man. That is the righteousness
you may possess now, at this very moment, if you will accept. it.
But is the acceptance of Christ as my Savior all that is necessary
to save me for all eternity? Yes, I admit the very simplicity of it
seems to make it hard to grasp. But if I owe $500 and have nothing with
which to pay, and a friend pays the debt for me and gives me the
receipt, I don’t worry about it any more. I can look my creditor
straight in the face, for I hold his signed receipt. As Jesus Christ
gave His life in place of mine, He said: “it is finished,” meaning that
the work of atonement was completed, and God gave me His receipt. The
assurance that He was satisfied with Christ’s finished work is that He
(God) raised Christ from the dead on the third day.
“But I can’t see it,” said a certain cabinetmaker, as a friend
tried to explain this to him. At last an idea came to his friend, who,
lifting a plane, made as though he would plane the top of a beautifully
polished table that stood near.
“Stop!” cried the cabinetmaker. “Don’t you see that’s finished?
You’ll simply ruin it if you use that plane on it.”
“Why,” replied his friend, “that’s just what I have been trying to
show you about Christ’s work of redemption. It was finished when He
gave His life for you, and if you try to add to that finished work you
can only spoil it. Just accept it as it stands–His life for yours, and
you go free.” Life a flash, the cabinetmaker saw it and received Jesus
Christ into his life as his Savior.
“But,” says someone, “there is one more problem that puzzles me. I
know a polished cultured gentleman who is not a Christian and states so
quite definitely, and I know a rather crude uncultured man who is a
Christian and who shows his genuine belief in many ways. Do you mean to
tell me God prefers the uncultured man simply because he has accepted
and acknowledged Christ as his Savior?” This question arises from a
confusion of ideas. A Christian is not different in degree from a non-
Christian, he is different in kind, just as the difference between a
diamond and a cabbage is not one of degree, but of kind. The one is
polished, and the other is crude, but the one is dead while the other is
alive, therefore the one has what the other has not in any degree
whatever, life–and such is the difference God see between a Christian
and a non-Christian.
Here is one of many such statement He makes in His Word. 1 John
5:11,12: “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal
life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; and he
who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” So that the vital
and all-important question for everyone of us becomes not am I cultured
or uncouth, but am I alive or dead toward God? Have I received God’s
risen Son who brings me life from above, the life of God, called in the
Bible eternal life? Or have I not received Him and am I therefore
classed by God as among those who “have not life”?
But how may I receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior?
If I know that, according to Ephesians 2:1, I am “dead in
trespasses and sins,” as regards my relationship with God; if I believe
Jesus Christ gave His life in place of mine, and that now by the
receiving of Him as my Savior I may have eternal salvation, will
perceiving these facts in a cold mechanical way give me everlasting
life? Most certainly not!
A wealthy man loses all his money, and rather that sacrifice his
social position, he agrees to give the hand of his daughter to a rich
man whom she despises. At first she refused point-blank, but when her
father shows her the expediency of the marriage, that it is his only
hope of being saved from utter want, she consents and goes through the
marriage ceremony and becomes, according to the law of the land, the
rich man’s wife. But is her heart really his? Surely not!
You see it now, don’t you? When a man and a woman would be truly
one, they must love with such a love as to receive each other into those
innermost recesses of their hearts in such a deep, true way that they
cannot fully express in words all that they feel.
We all have the innermost recess of our beings, which is sacred to
us, where emotions stir that no one else could possible understand.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, because of His love for us, claims the right to
enter there. He will take no other place in our lives. The love He has
shown for us entitles Him to that place. Will I withhold it?
When I think that Christ’s love for me was so great that He left
His Father’s glory and came to earth, becoming truly human that He might
suffer and die in my place to give me eternal life, my heart soften
If, when I lay sick and helpless in a burning building, a friend
had rushed in to save me, and wrapping the blankets about me that I
might receive no harm, had himself been critically scarred and burned
about the face and arms, would not my heart go out to him? God know it
And now I am face to face with my Savior. I see Him suffering in
the Garden of Gethsemane in anticipation of His death on the cross for
me. I see Him in Pilate’s Judgment Hall; the soldiers have been
striking Him in the face, saying, “Prophesy, who smote thee?” I see
them crowding Him with a crown of thorns. They have taken Him bleeding
and bruised from judgment to Calvary where they are driving spikes
through His hands and feet. As He is then lifted up to die between two
thieves, the people gather around to mock and revile Him, though He is
pouring out His life to redeem them. Then I began to understand what
self-sacrificing love really means as I hear Him cry: “Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do.”
But even if we could enter sympathetically into the physical
suffering of Christ until tears streamed down our cheeks, and that was
all, we should have failed miserably to comprehend the true significance
of the cross.
We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “he (God) made him (Christ) to
be sin for us, who knew no sin.” Come with me, I plead with you, with
bowed head and humble heart, and let us, it we may, enter into the soul-
sufferings of Christ the Son, and of God the Father, as that Holy One,
who loathed sin as we would loathe leprosy in “made sin for us.”
If the higher the development of the physical organism the greater
the capacity for pain, then the higher the development of the moral
character, the greater the capacity for soul-suffering.
Have you ever heard of a venerable old gentleman, justly proud of
his honored name–a man who would sooner lose his right hand than use it
to do a dishonorable deed? His son and heir goes astray from the paths
of virtue and in a drunken brawl murders someone. And the old man walks
no more erect, his head is bowed in shame, and soon his soul-suffering
brings his gray hairs in sorrow to the grave.
If that be possible (and it is possible even for us to feel the
disgrace of a greater sin than we are used to), think what sin must be
like in all its awfulness to an absolutely holy God! Now we understand
why, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ turns in loathing from sin and
cries in agony of soul: “my Father, if it be possible, let this cup
pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew
26:39). Yet in spite of that agonized cry from Gethsemane, “God so
loved the world that he have his only begotten Son” to be “made sin” for
us, “that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life” (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 5:21).
Now do you understand why I said that if I would retain any ideal
of manhood, or any nobleness of character, I dare not reject One who has
endured so much for me? My intellect has reasoned it all out; my
emotions have been deeply stirred; and now they both appeal to my will
for a decision. To be true to my God and myself and my eternal future I
have only one course open, and I must take it. Today Jesus Christ is my
personal Savior and my Lord.
Because of His love to me, because of the way He has blessed me
here, and because of my assurance of a glorious hereafter, my heart’s
desire is that you might share in the blessings I enjoy. Christ had
done all. I say it reverently. He can do no more. He has borne the
penalty of your sin; He has been raised by the power of God; now He
presents Himself to you. Will you accept Him as Savior and Lord?
You are saying; “It seems so mysterious; the mystery of it all
baffles me.” I do not ask you to understand the mystery of it. I
cannot understand its mystery myself, nor can any Christian in this
life. I am asking you to rejoice in its fact.
Electricity remains a mystery. We have discovered many of the laws
which govern it, but we cannot tell what it really is. You and I do not
worry about the mystery of electricity as we make use of its benefits.
You must have known men who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and
were so changed as to be actually new men in Christ. Will you not let
these facts that you have seen for yourself influence you? Yes, it is
just as simple as switching on an electric light.
Come saying: “Oh God, I cannot understand the mystery of it all.
I cannot understand why You cared enough for me to send Jesus Christ to
bear the penalty of my sins. But with all my lack of understanding, I
am willing and I do yield to You; absolutely. I trust in the fact of
His death for me and the promise that You have made in John 3:16 “that
whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just as you leave the mystery of the electric current with the
engineer and take the benefits of the light for yourself, so leave the
mystery of salvation with God and take the infinite benefits of a
personal savior to yourself. Yield to Him now–He wants to come into
your life. Say and mean it: “I am Yours, Lord Jesus; yielded to You,
body, soul and spirit, and You are mine.” Then clinch it by signing the
declaration form on the next page.
Before God, who knows the innermost secrets
of my soul, I accept Jesus Christ into my life as
my Savior and Lord. I yield absolutely to Him. I
know, on the authority of His own written Word
in John 5:24, that I have everlasting life, for
there He says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears
my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal
life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over
from death to life.”
A Further Word:
Perhaps you have not yet made a decision to place your faith in
Jesus Christ. The consider the following:
Someone says, “I am one of those individuals who most emphatically
resents being brought to a definite decision on any important subject.
It is not that I have no willpower. If fact, I am so strong-willed that
I am determined neither to pull up against the current nor pull down
with it. I am determined to do nothing but just drift, slowly drift,
down the stream of time to—-.
“But I hate to think about it! True believers in Jesus Christ look
forward to eternity with joy. But I–why am I not honest enough to
admit to myself that my resentment at the question is only because I do
not want to decide in the way I know I ought to? Yet I must fact it
some day. Then why not now?”
Now that you have done so, read this little book again. It will
seem so much clearer. Then read the entire gospel of John in the New
Now for the last point, a most important one. If you open your
Bible at Romans 10:9 to 11 you will read: “That if you confess with
your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him
from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you
believe and are justified; and it is with your mouth that you confess
and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Everyone who trusts in him will
never be put to shame.”
You say you have accepted Christ–go and tell someone–do not be
ashamed to confess Him. Why should you be? Suppose I had fallen off
the wharf, injuring myself so that I could not swim, and a laborer
working on a coal barge had plunged in and saved me. If a month later
you saw me walking down Main Street and the same laborer, all begrimed
with coal dust, coming up from the opposite direction, and you see that
I noticed him first and deliberately turned to look into a store window
so that I would not have to stop and greet him because I was ashamed to
be seen talking to him, what would you think of me?
You have declared that you believe the Lord Jesus Christ has given
His life to save you. Occasions will arise when you will meet Him face
to face in the presence of those who despise Him. Will you be ashamed
and look the other way, or will you honor Him in both word and deed as
your Lord and Savior? Having really accepted Him, you must and you will
I make on apology for the truth which underlies these pages. I
have sought to write what I believe God would have me write in the
discharge of my duty to Him and to you. I follow this booklet with the
earnest prayer that God will bless it to your eternal welfare.
Robert A. Laidlaw
This booklet was made available on this bulletin board by the
Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC). The Christian Business Men’s
Committee is an international evangelical organization of Christian
business and professional men whose primary purpose is to present Jesus
Christ as Savior and Lord to other business and professional men and to
train these men to carry out the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20,
CBMC of USA is a nondenominational, non-profit Christian ministry
supported by gifts from people committed to reaching and discipling
business and professional men for Jesus Christ.
More information may be obtained by writing: Christian Business
Men’s Committee of USA, 1800 McCallie Ave, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37404
or Christian Business Men’s Committee of Lexington Park, P. O. Box 463,
California, Maryland 20619