Vol. 5, No. 4
~ Page 10 ~
I have been contemplating this letter for a long time, and have only now gotten up the courage to write it. Even as I pen these words, my stomach churns in nervous anticipation. The reason for it is quite simple. I want you to know about the very best thing that has ever happened in my life. I want to make sure before I die that I introduce you to my "first love." You often comment that I seem so happy all the time. Allow me a few minutes to explain why. But before I explain, let me share with you why it has taken me so long to write this letter.
Our relationship stretches back through many smiles and many tears, and throughout that time, I knew that you were someone I could count on. Each one of those smiles and tears represents a lifetime of cherished memories. You know my favorite foods, that I love lasagna and don't like liver. You stood by my side on several occasions when it seemed like the entire world was against me. You have lifted my hand high as we celebrated victories and held my hand through my defeats. In many ways, we are like two peas in a pod. And it's this relationship that has kept me from writing this letter. I cherish our relationship so much that I don't ever want anything to jeopardize it or see it falter. So, I beg you to read the remainder of this letter full of love, compassion and an open mind -- knowing that it was written out of my love for you.
You and I have a tremendous amount in common -- always have, and probably always will. However, there is one thing that we don't have in common. A while back, I made a decision in my life that started me down a different pathway -- a pathway on which I desperately want you to join me. Some time ago, I began studying the Bible, and I soon realized that I was only "playing" Christian. I was a "member" of a strong local church that had many members, and was there almost every time the door was opened.
However, it became evident fairly quickly that the church that I was attending was doing things that were not described in the Bible. Sure, we met each Sunday for worship, and we sang songs of praise, but a great deal of the service was devoted to traditions that men had incorporated into the worship service. In fact, a large part of the worship service could be classified as entertainment. As I read through the New Testament, I quickly discovered that entertainment, and these traditions of men, were not a part of the original church that Christ established. You and I both know that religions are a dime a dozen these days. Seems like there is a church building on almost every street corner. But, I began to ask myself if all of these religious groups were the same in God's eyes. After looking through the Scriptures, I realized that they were not. Even though many of them do very altruistic acts for the needy, and even though they have many sincere people in their pews, they still were not carrying out Christianity the way that God himself ordained. They are sincere -- but they are sincerely wrong according to the Scriptures.
So here's what I did (and what I encourage/beg you to do), I began looking in the Bible for examples of the church that Jesus built. In Matthew 16:18, Christ told the apostle Peter that upon this rock (the rock of truth that he was the Son of God) he would build his church. So, I began investigating the details about his church. I read in Acts Chapter 2 where it was started in Jerusalem. I continued reading in Acts to see how those early Christians worshipped and how others became Christians. And I began to see a divine pattern. I quickly realized that many of the books in the New Testament were written to different congregations of this church that Christ had founded. In fact, many of the books in the New Testament were letters written by Paul to various churches that were scattered abroad. In each of those letters, there are instructions and commands of things that we should and should not be doing.
For instance, I know that in many churches you officially "join" the church, or they vote you in. But I never found this process in my study of the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is very specific that God is the one who adds people to the church (Acts 2:47). However, he only adds those who have complied with his will. And dear friend, it is with a humble and compassionate heart that I admit that I am scared that maybe you have not complied with his commands. For instance, the Bible instructs that we must hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14-17; James 1:21-25), and we must believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24; Mark 16:16). And while many people have done these steps, relatively few have taken the next steps of repenting of their past sins (Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30), and confessing the name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38). After someone has done this, they are ready to be buried with Christ in baptism, so that past sins can be forgiven. This act of baptism, for the remission of sins, is mentioned throughout the book of Acts (see chapters 2, 8, 9, 10, 16). The importance of being immersed can be identified by the words of Jesus found in Mark 16:16 when he declared: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
In Matthew 16:18 Christ said he would found one church -- "my church." In Ephesians 1:22-23 we read where the church is called the body (with Christ being the head). A few chapters later, in Ephesians 4:4, we are told that there is only one body. My plea with you today is that you will do whatever it takes to make sure you are in that one body, and ensure that God has added you to the church (Acts 2:47). Read through the New Testament and see for yourself what the Bible says regarding the church, and then ask yourself this simple question: Am I a member of the church that Christ purchased with his blood? If not, why not? It's funny that I can talk to total strangers about this -- and have done so many times in the past and yet I remain silent around those to whom I am closest. I never talked to you about heaven and eternity because I didn't want to mess up what we had here on Earth. But see, I realize that this earthly relationship is temporary. One day the memories that you and I share will fade away. And I don't want to leave this life without telling you about Christ, and how he changed my life. Therefore, I am penning this letter in hopes of extending our friendship into eternity.
Please allow me to paint a picture so that you can understand the genuine urgency of this letter. Suppose you were sitting in the first class section of a luxury Boeing 747. There you are sipping on a drink, relaxing, reading a magazine, when all of a sudden someone comes up, and tosses a parachute into your lap without saying a word. You might become a little agitated that someone would toss a bulky parachute into your lap, and then just walk on by. You might even decide to push it aside or onto the floor so that you could return to your drink and magazine. That parachute would be nothing more than a nuisance. And after a while, you might even resent the person that tossed it in your lap. Now, suppose the person who had given you that parachute also took the time to tell you the airplane you were on was going to crash. How different would your attitude be towards that parachute and the person who gave it to you? Well dear friend, one day soon our plane will go down. Hebrews 9:27 states very plainly that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." I simply want to make sure you have a parachute that will save you from destruction. Don't resent me for delivering the message. Please understand that I am simply wanting to do what I can while I still have the chance.
While the world around us thinks that the majority of people will end up in heaven, this is not what Jesus Christ himself told us. In Matthew 7:13-14, he cautioned us to: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Please do not be mad at me. Please do not shy away from me. Please do not despise me. For this letter was not written to drive a wedge into our relationship. But rather it was written out of love and compassion, hoping that we can stand hand-in-hand before Almighty God. Yes, I am a happy person -- because I know and love my Savior, and he is my best friend. Please consider what I've said. Look through the Scriptures on your own. Examine where you stand. For I want nothing more than to introduce my earthly best friend to my spiritual best friend and savior -- Jesus Christ. Thank you for allowing me this short opportunity to tell you about him.