For the past eight years, Anne and I (Ted Smith) have gone to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina each October – we visit my cousin and enjoy the warmth and the beaches.
We love to drive on back roads, discovering new territory and seeing new sights. So every year, in late August or early September, I get out the big Road Atlas and begin to study it, looking intently to find a new route.
But I don’t look state-by-state at first; rather I look at the big picture — the entire western portion of the United States. I need to see where I am and where I’m going before I get specific about each part of the journey.
Looking at the big picture, with our destination highlighted, helps us to choose routes that get the job done. Then, once we see that clearly, we look at the specifics, state-by-state.
There is a journey that God has established for us who desire to follow Him.
Every journey must start with an accurate assessment of where we are.
First, the starting point:
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Romans 3:10 “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
1 John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.”
Isaiah 59:2 “But there is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”
Jeremiah 2:22 “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign LORD.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus.”
1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
1 John 5:11-12 “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life.”
Other world religions encourage man to seek and live a better existence, but only Christianity offers forgiveness of sin through the death of a perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ Himself.
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us! (“Gospel” is a Greek word which literally means “the good message”.) An excellent scriptural description of the gospel is:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Now let me remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is built on this wonderful message. And it is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me—that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.
THE DESTINATION (Reconciliation with God and a new life!)
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Titus 3:4-5 “But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.”
Paul, in the book of Romans, makes an amazing claim: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3)
What does it mean to be “baptized into Christ?” Is it simply referring to something that occurs with water? No! Water could never accomplish what Paul is referring to here. It is only a picture to help us.
The word “baptize” here is a word that means “to overwhelm,”— that’s why baptism is often accomplished through complete immersion in the water — the word does not describe an insignificant action…but rather, it is pointing to an act that produces a permanent change (something that water, of course, cannot do).
The significance behind the picture is that when Jesus Christ takes up residence in our hearts, He overwhelms our old self and substitutes His new self, producing a permanent change.
Rom. 6:4-11 “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.