Staying the Course
"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
Baptism and the related steps we must take are only the beginning of the road to eternal life. Before we arrive at our ultimate destination, however, there are miles of road to travel. In this chapter we take a look at some of the aspects of our journey revealed by our road map, the Bible. Remember that we are traveling a narrow road (Matthew 7:14, NIV). A clear sense of purpose and direction can help us stay the course.
When we respond to God's calling through repentance and baptism, many blessings and opportunities await us. Our minds will change. We will grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:1-11). We will learn to think and act as God thinks and acts.
Trials will come and sacrifices will be required (Matthew 10:35-39). These tests help us build godly character. James, half brother of Jesus Christ, said: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4, NIV).
Jesus Christ cautions us to count the cost of traveling this road: "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish itólest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:28-30). Speaking to one potential follower who wanted to impose conditions on his commitment, Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Jesus expects His followers to finish what they start.
Just as a small child learns to walk, we may be wobbly at first, stumbling in this new way of life. The temptations and trials we face will sometimes cause us to stagger and fall. But remember that God and Jesus Christ are there to comfort and help us each step of the way. Our job is to keep trying and to become mature Christians. Paul said: "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5: 13, 14, NIV).
Living God's way must always remain our priority. We must continually "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Keys that can help us remain oriented to God's way of life include regular prayer and the study of God's Word. As already noted in this booklet, fellowshipping with other believers can be a tremendous encouragement in living our new lives dedicated to God. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Exercising free will, we choose what we will do, but Jesus clearly expects that we do our part in remaining faithful to Him. As explained earlier, we must produce fruit in our lives that is pleasing to God.
The end of the road: the Kingdom of God
Now let's notice a few things about the coming Kingdom of God and eternal life, the end of our spiritual journey. We should remember that the Kingdom of God is the heart of the gospel message Jesus Christ taught. Mark 1:14, 15, says that "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" When Jesus briefly came back to earth after His resurrection, He continued to speak to His disciples about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish the Kingdom of God. "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15).
The Kingdom of God will be a literal kingdom ruling over the earth, replacing all human government and authority. "...'The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever'" (Daniel 2:44).
The early Christians fixed their eyes firmly on the future Kingdom of God. Paul said, "And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom..." (2 Timothy 4:18). And Acts 8:12 explains that this was a major reason for people believing God's truth and choosing to be baptized: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." We, too, should "believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
We will inherit all things
Today, if we remain faithful to God throughout our lifetimes, we will share with Christ the role of kings and priests in His coming Kingdom (Revelation 1:6). We can look forward to becoming spirit and living forever (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54). As His resurrected children, we will inherit all things from God (Matthew 5:5; Revelation 21:1-7; Hebrews 2:6-8).
Even though it is always possible, in this life, for us to deny God and lose out on salvation, God speaks as if our salvation is sure. For those willing to commit their lives to Him, God offers this wonderful perspective in Ephesians 1:13, 14: "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise...the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."
As long as we actively seek God's will and allow His Holy Spirit to work in our lives, our eventual salvation is guaranteed. Yes, God promises to help us every step of the way, through every turn in the road, if we will repent, have faith in Him for the forgiveness of our sins, be baptized and look to Him and His coming Kingdom.
Now that you know what to do, will you act on it, or will you let this precious calling from God go unheeded? Through the prophet Isaiah, God gives us an invitation and a promise: "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6, 7).
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14, Paul writes, "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (NIV).
If God is calling you, will you respond?
The apostle Peter also wrote, "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:10, 11, NIV).
This is the only road to eternal life.
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