We invite you to participate in the same life-transforming adventure that Jesus Christ offered his first disciples.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a man from Galilee proclaimed the need for a dramatic change in the established order. He advocated a return to some of the laws and commandments of God. People began to follow him. Before long, however, he met his end at the hand of the Roman civil power. The man's name was Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37). The world has long since forgotten him.
Not long after Judas' ill-fated career, another man from Galilee appeared. He, too, attracted a following with a message about a kingdom very different from the world about him. He, too, met death at the hands of Rome. His name was Jesus of Nazareth, a name the world knows well:
"The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more.... Herod could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him" (Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Vol. 1, page 135).
There is a reason the world remembers Jesus of Nazareth and not Judas of Galilee. The reason is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The gospel we proclaim — Jesus' dramatic reappearance after a publicly witnessed death — galvanized his followers.
Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus showed himself alive by "many convincing proofs." Not the least of these proofs was the willingness of the men and women closest to Jesus to lay down their lives for their belief in his victory over the grave.
Twelve persons - a complete jury to testify to Jesus' dramatic triumph over death - became the nucleus of the New Testament church. The last surviving eyewitness to Jesus' resurrection wrote movingly of his experiences, of the unforgettable encounter between fallible human beings and one who had triumphed over death:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us (1 John 1:1-2).
The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the substance of the one true gospel — the gospel we embrace and proclaim.
The Christian Adventure
Jesus freely offers eternal life to those who will come into a faithful, obedient, loving relationship with him: "This is eternal life," he said, "that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).
By his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ gave everlasting assurance that he is the Son of God and that his Word can be trusted. "Because I live, you also will live," Jesus told his disciples (John 14:19). That same Jesus Christ wants to assure us today that we, too, can receive eternal life.
The Christian life, made available to us through Jesus Christ, truly is an adventure. Eternal life in and through Jesus Christ is the clear thrust of the Bible and the keynote message of its central figure, Jesus of Nazareth.
In a few short words, Jesus condensed God's will for us. He declared: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Leon Morris sheds more light on this vital point:
Life is one of John's characteristic concepts. He uses the term 36 times, whereas no other New Testament writing has it more than 17 times.... Thus in this one writing there occur more than a quarter of all the New Testament references to life. "Life" in John characteristically refers to eternal life...the gift of God through His Son.... It is only because there is life in the Logos [see John 1:1-18] that there is life in anything on earth at all (The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, pages 82-83).
This glorious good news is the fulcrum of Scripture: God intends humans to have life in a richness and fullness that is ultimately beyond all human understanding.
"I am the Living One," the glorified Jesus told John in a vision: "I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Revelation 1:18). Jesus Christ, around whom Scripture pivots, is also the focus of God's plan of salvation. William Barclay wrote:
To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a superabundance of life.... When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word" (The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed., page 60).
John also emphasized Jesus' role in our receiving the gift of eternal life: "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God" (1 John 4:15). And: "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12).
This truth is reinforced in what some have called the Bible's "golden text": "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The word eternal in John 3:16 points humans to the only worthwhile goal in life: the hope of living eternally with God as one of his children, enjoying him in the new life made possible through Christ.
This communion of humanity and its Maker, shattered in Eden by sin, is being restored through the atoning and sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. The completion of this reconciliation is announced in Revelation 21 and 22, the glorious climax to the New Testament promises of life: "The Spirit and the bride say, `Come!' And let him who hears say, `Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17).
We Welcome You!
The sense of renewal and vitality that comes from accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior, and from living with him every day, has to be experienced to be appreciated. This life in Jesus Christ is at the core of all our understanding, teaching and practice. Other articles in this series will tell you more about our denomination, its history and its present mission and activities. We welcome you to share with us the same life-transforming adventure that Jesus offered his first disciples.