Chapter 20: Christ, Our Life
Before the birth of Christ, many prophets and saints came to prepare the way for Him. The Bible puts this message very clearly. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe."
Jesus said, "Come to me ... and I will give you rest."  Elsewhere, as we saw earlier, He claimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." Many have realized the truth of the above verse: that Jesus is indeed the only way to God and that eternal life is only to be found in Him. Without Him we would remain separated from God, hopelessly lost in eternal darkness.
Jesus once said to the Jews, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me." Just to study and gain knowledge is not enough. It is our response which matters.
What should I do then?
I believe in Jesus. I believe He is the Saviour of humanity. What must I do then to follow Him and to enter the Kingdom of God?
A Jewish ruler once said to Jesus, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him." In response Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." He added by way of further explanation: "no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."
Before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples the great commission, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
This is a very clear command and explains why, after Jesus' ascension, Peter preached to the Jews at the feast of Pentecost. He told them how Jesus' coming had been predicted in the Scriptures, and how He had been crucified and raised from the dead. Many understood the message and wanted to follow Jesus as their Saviour. Therefore they asked the apostles what they should do. Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The Bible says that those who accepted His message that day and were baptized, numbered about three thousand.
What Peter said raises two questions:
1. Who is the Holy Spirit?
2. What is Baptism?
Who is the Holy Spirit
We read about the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible, from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. This shows us clearly that God's Spirit is everywhere. He is called by several names in the Bible:
The Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2; Ephesians 4:30)
The Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4)
The Counsellor (John 14:16)
The Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26)
The Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9)
The Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:6)
The Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4)
The Spirit of wisdom (Ephesians 1:17)
The coming of the Holy Spirit
The Bible tells us that, although the Holy Spirit is at work everywhere, He specifically came on certain people in the Old Testament in order to enable them to do special tasks. Read for example: Exodus 31:3; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Chronicles 28:12; Isaiah 42:1; Ezekiel 11:5.
In the New Testament we see that Jesus promised that this Holy Spirit would come and live in every believer. This began on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit completely changed the disciples of Jesus. They became more courageous in preaching and teaching about their Savior.
The work of the Holy Spirit today
It is through the message of the Bible that the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sinfulness. The Holy Spirit equips us to serve God and others. The more we surrender ourselves to the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit, the more our lives become like Christ's. This is because the Holy Spirit produces "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." By ourselves we are completely unable to live lives which demonstrate all these qualities. However God's Holy Spirit makes it possible for our lives to be like this.
What is baptism
Almost all Greek scholars agree that the word baptize as used in the Scriptures means to dip, submerge, or immerse. The first person to baptise people in the New Testament was John the baptist. In baptism we appeal to God for forgiveness.
Philip & the Ethiopian
When the message of Jesus was accepted by someone seeking the truth, he was baptized. Philip, a disciple of Jesus, was guided by an angel to meet an Ethiopian. Philip talked to him about Jesus, from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Ethiopian believed what Philip had said and asked for baptism. Philip baptized him there and then.
What does baptism signify?
Baptism symbolizes dying and being buried with Jesus and then, just as Jesus rose, the believer is raised to a new life in Christ. As the Bible says, "... all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death... We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead ... we too may live a new life."We should count ourselves dead to sin. Our past sins having been forgiven we should not let sin control our lives.
Living with Christ
Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." A believer in Christ is expected to reflect His love, joy and peace. If you follow Christ, some people will not mind your new faith but many others will be upset because you have given your life to Him.
Jesus understands such situations and He has warned us that following Him will not be easy. However, He also promised that He will give us peace in our hearts. He said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground abandoned by (Greek) your Father. And even the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven."
A changed life
A Christian obeys God out of love, not out of fear. He serves Him with joy and gladness. A Christian cannot live without Christ. Jesus said, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
This reminds us that we cannot overcome Satan and his followers by ourselves. Only Jesus can, because He has defeated Satan once for all. Satan always tries to harm those who have accepted Christ and shake their faith. He stirs up opposition to try and make Jesus' followers deny their faith in Him. True believers continue to listen to Jesus in such situations. He warns us of opposition but reassures us that He is all-powerful. "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. ... I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world".