Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 (Read Acts 2)

How is it that one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? How can one “be filled with the Spirit,” as the Apostle Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18?

Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, gives us the answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ”

To be filled and led by the Spirit of God does not require any great work on our part. It does not require a specific prayer or living a holy and sinless life before the Holy Spirit enters into us.

Through the good news of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world, God graciously calls us sinners to turn from our sins to faith in Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness and utter failure to live up to the demands of God’s perfect law (cf. Rom. 3:9-20), but then comforts us with the promise of sins forgiven and an eternal inheritance in heaven when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed for us on the cross (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; John 3:14ff.; Ps. 51:1ff.).

When, by the grace of God, we believe this and trust in Christ as our Savior, being baptized in His name and according to His command for the forgiveness of our sins (Matt. 28:19; Acts 22:16), we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He takes up residence in our hearts, teaches us of Jesus from God’s Word, and strengthens and keeps us in the true and saving faith (cf. John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13-15).

And the Bible tells us that “He who began a good work in” us will dwell in us and “perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Savior, we thank You for granting to us the gift of the Holy Spirit — for moving us to turn from our sins to You for forgiveness and to be baptized in Your name, and for dwelling in us by Your Holy Spirit that we might be kept and preserved in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. For the sake of Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Since many people I meet show little interest in heaven and express little desire to go there, I thought I’d provide a few instructions on how to go to hell instead. Following are just a few surefire courses of action to be damned and arrive in eternal hellfire and brimstone:

  • Ignore the whole issue of heaven and hell and put off all thoughts of God and eternity for another day.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, reading the Bible or attending churches where the Bible is read and taught. After all, the Bible is so narrow in its views regarding life, God’s judgment, and the age to come.
  • Hope that God grades on a curve and will not condemn you if you have lived as well as the next guy.
  • Believe that you can escape the fires of hell and obtain eternal life in heaven by doing good deeds.
  • Live for now and indulge in all your desires because life is short.
  • Give no heed to preachers who call upon all to repent and look to Christ Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.
  • Treat the blood of Jesus shed for the sins of all as a worthless thing by continuing on in your sinful ways.
  • Ignore Jesus and His pleas for you to repent and trust in Him for pardon, forgiveness and life everlasting in heaven.

Yes, I could go on listing ways to be sure of hell; but wouldn’t you rather be sure of heaven?

It’s simple: Acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and shortcomings and place your faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for all sins.

In Jesus, heaven is sure! Why? Because Jesus kept all of God’s commandments perfectly in your stead and then suffered and died on the cross for your sins (and the sins of all), rose again, and ascended into the glories of heaven to prepare a place for all who repent of their sinful ways and believe God’s offer and promise of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus! All who look to Jesus in faith will be spared the fires of hell and receive, instead, the eternal glories of heaven!

God’s Word says, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31 KJV).

Some Bible proof passages: Romans 3:9-26; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 3:14-18, 36; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 14:1-6; Acts 1:9-11; 2:37-40; 3:19; 4:12; Ephesians 1 and 2; 1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2.

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“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11 (Read 1-11)

In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess of Jesus Christ, our Lord, that “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

And Thursday was Ascension Day, a Christian festival now often forgotten by churches. It is the day we remember Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the fact that He now rules over and fills all things (Eph. 1:15-23), intercedes for us (1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 8:34), pours out His Holy Spirit in our hearts (John 16:7), sends forth men to preach the Gospel and creates faith through the hearing of God’s Word (Eph. 4:8-16; Rom. 10:17), and will soon return to judge the living and the dead and establish His everlasting kingdom (Matt. 25:31ff.; Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 11:15; 20:11ff.).

Today, we consider the words of the angels to Jesus’ disciples when Jesus was taken up into heaven: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

This Word of God, which was spoken by angels to the disciples who had just witnessed Jesus’ ascension into heaven, teaches us that Jesus Christ will return visibly in the clouds of glory on the Last Day. The Bible also says this in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” (Cf. Matt. 24:29-31).

Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica that “… the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thess. 1:7-10).

As Jesus ascended into heaven, so He shall also return on the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. He will come again in clouds of glory with His holy angels. Every eye will see Him! His return will be no secret rapture — both the believer and the unbeliever will see Him coming in glory!

The true question for us is this: “Are you ready for His return and judgment? Are you prepared to meet Him?”

Those who do not trust in Him for salvation will wail in sorrow at His return because they stand condemned for not trusting in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). As Jesus said, they remain in their sins and, thus, face God’s judgment in the filthy garments of the flesh (cf. John 8:24; Isa. 64:6; Matt. 22:11-14).

But those who do trust in Christ Jesus as their Savior — trusting that they have pardon for their sins and peace with God for the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death in their stead — will rejoice at His return because He comes to take them to be with Him forever in the mansions of heaven (cf. Luke 21:27-28; Heb. 9:27-28; John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

And so, I ask you: “Do you acknowledge your sins and look to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness?” If not, the day of His return will be for you a day of sorrow and mourning as you face His eternal judgment and condemnation!

But, if you, by the grace of God, agree with God about your sins and trust in Christ and the atonement He made for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, that day will be a day of joy and gladness as you receive His mercy, His pardon, and life eternal in His glorious kingdom! (Cf. 1 John 1:7-2:2; 5:11-12; Mark 16:15-16.)

We will then see Him face to face and be transformed into his image (cf. Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:20-21). And, we will partake of the pleasures of His everlasting kingdom (John 14:2-3; Psalm 16:11).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, as You have ascended up into heaven to the right hand of God the Father, so come again and take us to be with You forever. Graciously keep us in the true and saving faith so that, on that Day, we may greet You with joy and not with sorrow. Grant this to us for the sake of Your holy life and bitter sufferings and death on the cross in our stead. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (Read v. 19-24)

Psalm 95 directs us to worship the LORD: “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2).

But how are we to worship? What kind of worship does God desire? Should it be with liturgy and organ or with contemporary song and guitar? Should it be in a beautiful church or cathedral or in a steel building or barn?

These questions are not much different than the question posed by the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria when she perceived Jesus was a prophet because of His knowledge of her life and relationships. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship,” she said (John 4:20).

And she raised a valid question because the Samaritans, who accepted only the first five books of Moses and had altered parts of them, claimed they were to worship on Mt. Gerizim and had worshiped there for centuries and continued to worship there even after the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus destroyed their temple a little more than 100 years before Christ’s birth. The Jews, on the other hand, said that Jerusalem was the only place where people should worship (Deut. 12:5ff.; 16:5-6; 1 Kings 8:12ff.; 12:25ff.).

Jesus pointed out to this woman the time was coming when God’s people would neither worship in Mt. Gerizim nor at Jerusalem. As He said elsewhere, the temple would soon be destroyed (cf. Matt. 24:1-2, Luke 19:41-44; 21:5-6), and God’s people would be scattered all over the world preaching the Gospel and would, in many places, join together with fellow believers in worship (cf. Mark 16:15-16).

Sadly, though the Samaritans sought to worship, they did not know the true God because of their admixture of error and false teaching (2 Kings 17:24ff., especially v. 24ff.). They rejected most of the Old Testament Scriptures, including many of the promises of a Messiah and Savior who would bear the sins of the people and redeem them from sin and eternal death (cf. Isaiah 53; Psalm 130). The Jews, on the other hand, had the Scriptures and the promises of the Messiah and Savior.

Jesus said (John 4:23-24), “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

He pointed out to this woman and to us today that true worshipers would worship “in spirit and in truth,” meaning that true worship is not dependent upon where we worship or the form or liturgy used. Instead, it flows from a regenerated (or born-again) spirit in man and truly glorifies and praises God.

And so, what constitutes worshiping in spirit and in truth? First and foremost, true worship flows from faith in Jesus as God the Son, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world. Jesus, Himself, said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one can come to the Father apart from Him (John 14:6). He also said we can do nothing pleasing to God in regard to good works and service toward God apart from faith in Him (John 15:4-5).

Jesus said, “All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23; cf. 1 John 2:23). And, indeed, it is only through the atoning sacrifice of the Son that we can approach the throne of God with our prayers, praises and petitions (cf. Heb. 10:19-25; 1 John 5:11-15).

True worship, then, can only come from a heart regenerated by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63; cf. John 15:1ff.; 3:3,5-6).

True worship must not be idolatry like that of the Samaritans (cf. Ex. 20:1ff.; Deut. 6:13-15). It brings no glory to God if we do not worship the Triune God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. (Cf. Deut. 6:4ff.; Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:1-5.) Jesus said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

True worship holds fast to the Bible’s teaching (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:12-17; John 8:31-32; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:42). God hates false doctrine and any adulterating of His Word. Therefore, worship that contradicts the Scripture’s teaching is not true and pleasing to God (cf. Isaiah 8:20; Deut. 4:2; 13:1ff.; Matt. 7:21ff.; Jer. 23:28).

And, finally, true worship is exactly that: true worship. It is not merely going through the outward motions or using certain forms or liturgies. It is not vain repetitions of which Jesus speaks in His Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 6:7). It is worship that comes from the heart of a believer and is genuine and sincere. It gives glory to God and thanks and praises Him for His goodness and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.

It is as David writes in Psalm 103:1: “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

O Lord, grant that we worship You in spirit and in truth — that we, from our hearts, glorify Your holy name for the gift of the Son and His atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (read verses 1-23)

That we are all guilty before God and stand guilty and condemned under the law of God is made clear in Romans 3:9-20.

That God provided a way for sinners to be justified and counted righteous by God through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world is revealed and explained in Romans 3:21-28 and the following two chapters of Paul’s letter.

In the sixth chapter, the Apostle Paul addresses the errors of those who think they can continue in sin and still possess the benefits of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (v.1-2).

You and I were saved for a life with a purpose. In Ephesians 2:8-10, we read: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

And, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15).

We learned in Romans 6:3ff. that we were joined, in our baptisms, to Christ in His death and resurrection in order that Christ’s death on the cross would be our death and punishment for sin and that Christ’s resurrection, after He paid the price for our sins, would be our resurrection to new life in fellowship with and service to our God and Savior.

In Romans 6:15-16, we read: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

If we willingly give ourselves back into sin — yielding ourselves to the temptations of the devil, the allurements of the world, and the sinful desires of our flesh, we again become slaves of sin and reap the results, the wages of sin, which are spiritual death and eternal death and damnation!

In Genesis 2:16-17, “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

In Hebrews 10:26-31, we as believers, are warned: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

And so also, we learn from Romans 6:20-23: “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

If we turn away from Christ and back into sin, seeking to turn God’s grace into a license to live in rebellion and enmity against God, we justly earn the wages and penalty for our sins, which is death and the eternal wrath of God.

But if, by the grace of God, we continue trusting in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for our sins, we are set free from the condemnation of the law and from our former servitude to sin, and God’s gracious gift to us is forgiveness for all our sins and eternal life for Jesus’ sake.

When, by the grace of God, we trust in Christ our Savior and walk in fellowship with God through faith in Christ (cf. 1 John 1:5 — 2:2), we possess and receive the gracious gifts of God which Jesus won for us — forgiveness for all our sins and everlasting life in fellowship with our God and Maker.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23; cf. Deut. 30:15-20).

Dearest LORD Jesus, grant we not turn away from You and back into sin but hold fast to You and the new life You have given us by means of Your death on the cross for our sins and Your triumphant resurrection on the third day. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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