By Robert Harrell
This being my first entry in this online magazine, I was encouraged to start simply, and so I will endeavor to do just that. My background being in the area of ministry work and my affinities being in the area of Christianity and faith matters, I would like to begin with the beginning. The start of the Christian Faith and Religion. When we keep in mind the panorama of the plethora of denominations, historical traditions and wide stream of belief and thought which may come under the rubric of what is called “Christian”, I should like to take you to the very place where it all starts.
Imagine if you will a sandy beach, by a lake called Galilee. The hot winds are blowing against your back and the overhead sun warms your head and shoulders. You sit down there on the ground and look up, and before you stands the singular Figure, Jesus of Nazareth. Immediately you know He is like no other. You have seen Him in the streets and heard Him before addressing the throngs. His words have even burned into your soul, and now, you find yourself now utterly and completely transfixed on his eyes which are looking into the very core of who you are. He now says to you the 2 most momentous words you will ever hear in your time on earth, “Follow Me”.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be a Christian, is to be a disciple (a devoted follower). It is to come to Him in prayer and to commit one’s entire life to Him. To become a Christian is not to commit to the cause of Christ, but to commit to the Person of Christ. The Bible (and that is my supreme reference source) teaches that becoming a believer in Him is not just a matter of believing about Him, but of believing Him and surrendering one’s entire life to Him. In the doing of this, in this moment of faith, I am born of God. Said Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Here is where the fellow in the back row stands and says, “Ah, you are a ‘born-againer’’. To which I reply, “So, you say.” Well, looking at the very words of Jesus Himself, this much is true, when I “believe” (and that is the primary term used with the matter of salvation in the Scriptures), I am saved! My soul is put right with God again, and I can know I am going to heaven and not to hell.
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Jesus was born to die. He came, “…to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus died on the cross for sinners, like you, and like me — a sinner is one whose direction of life is contrary to the law of God. Jesus did this to address the alienation between ourselves and a perfectly holy God caused by our rebellion (cf. Genesis 3, Romans 3:23). By confessing my sinful state, and by believing in my heart that Jesus died in my place covering my sin (for we should rightly be the ones punished) and rose again, we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:12).
Many thousands warm church pews viewing themselves as Christians. Numberless scores can locate their names on church registers feeling somewhat secure about their eternal destination yet never being true Christian people. He said at the closing of his most famous message, dubbed “The Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5-7, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the heaven…’”. The Christian is the one who has received Jesus as their personal Savior and Ruler and now seeks daily to do the will of God.
Can I ask you, then, as you read this article on faith, where you stand with God? Have you looked into the eyes of Jesus personally and yielded yourself over to Him? Has His Spirit come into your heart? Have you entrusted your future and your eternal destiny to Him? On the last day of a great Jewish feast, this man Jesus stood up, and exclaimed loudly, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Have you taken and tasted this sweet drink? Has He quenched your parched soul? Are you His follower? If you hesitate, call upon Him and see if this all be true!
Rob Harrell is originally from the Detroit area, and he has living in the Blue Water area for 20 years. He is 61 years old and has three grown children and 6 grandchildren, all of them living in Michigan. He has served as a pastor in Michigan, Connecticut and Virginia, and currently leads a home church, Oakwood Fellowship in Port Huron. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Psychology, from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a resident of Fort Gratiot, and enjoys golf, reading, travel.
Oakwood Fellowship meets at 10:30 am Sunday mornings. For more information contact Robert at (810) 385-6877.
Rob, great first article. Welcome to the BWHL writing team. I look forward to your future articles. If I could add a thought:
To be a follower of Jesus sounds like a very active pursuit, and it is. Yet, before someone is an active disciple (Christ follower), that person is a passive sinner. That is, the action begins with Jesus’ action, first of calling and then of justifying the sinner, turning him or her into a new person. Jesus’ historical death and resurrection provides salvation for people dead in sin. Dead people cannot get up and walk; so first Jesus must give them new life through the Holy Spirit, enabling them to begin following.
Once called, disciples of Jesus are given the gift of faith. Disciples can now believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sin; they can repent of their sin and begin walking a new life in gratitude for their salvation. This is where being a disciple of Christ is active. Like the first disciples who left their fishing nets and followed Jesus, disciples of Jesus are called to a new life of following Christ. The apostle Paul puts it like this:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:14–15).
Thank you Robert,…very penetrating article indeed, to the point and well written.