Christians are saved by God’s gift, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Good behavior cannot earn us salvation. But Christianity does have behavioral expectations. It involves changes in the way we live. God created us for relationships, and so he has certain desires for the way we interact with other people.
References to: Michael Morrison
The Bible is a complex book, but it has a simple message. There’s enough wisdom in it for a lifetime of detailed study; and there is also wisdom that beginners can easily find.
After you become a Christian, what do you do?
The Bible tells us that Christians normally do certain things to help them grow closer to Christ. These are called spiritual disciplines — habits that help us become more mature. Let’s look at five basic avenues to spiritual growth.
Habits that help us grow closer to Christ
In the Bible, in church history, and in the experience of millions of Christians, certain habits help us grow in faith, help us enjoy Christianity more, and help us become more helpful to others.
“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s kingdom (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). A literal translation is “has come near.” The long-awaited rule of God was near. This message was called the gospel, the good news. Thousands of people were glad to hear this, and many responded to this message of John and Jesus.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, to sanctify is “to set apart or observe [something] as holy” or “to purify or free from sin.”1 These definitions reflect the fact that the Bible uses the word “holy” in two main ways: 1) a special status, that is, set apart for God’s use, and 2) moral behavior—thoughts and actions appropriate to a holy status; thoughts and actions in keeping with what God wants.2
In the first century, many Jews looked for a Messiah who would lead the Jewish nation to international power, wealth and glory. They were proud of the fact that they worshiped the true God, but ashamed that their God allowed pagan nations like Rome to rule over them. They wanted the Messiah to be a powerful hero who would defeat the Roman armies.
Various words are used to illustrate different truths of the gospel. The word justification comes from a law-court setting, and redemption comes from a financial setting. But salvation involves much more than those words can convey. Scripture also uses several other terms. In this study we will examine some of the other words that describe our relationship with God and Christ.
Let us see how Paul describes the gospel. We’ll proceed book by book, just skimming the surface, looking primarily at verses that use the Greek word for gospel or for preaching.
1. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by saying that he was commissioned to preach the gospel (Romans 1:1). Was this gospel predicted in the Old Testament? Verse 2. What does Paul say the gospel is about? Verse 3. What other points are part of the message? Verse 4.
Jesus preached the kingdom of God. However, the early church preached mostly about Jesus. Is there a contradiction in this? Did the early church get things turned around, preaching about the messenger but neglecting his message? Let’s go to the four Gospels to see whether the early church’s focus on Jesus is compatible with Jesus’ own teaching. Did Jesus actually preach about himself?
What is the true gospel, the gospel revealed in the Bible? There are several ways to approach Scripture to learn what the gospel is.
One would be to focus on the teachings of Jesus, who often called his own message “the gospel of the kingdom of God.” We have done this in previous studies. We saw how he described the kingdom of God and how salvation is based on a person’s response to Jesus.