Millions today profess to be "religious" — but DON'T KNOW GOD. Just what is the BASIS for true conversion and DIRECT CONTACT with God?
WE ARE living in the shadow of violent death. It could come any day or night. Any moment, any time. It could be ignited by the tiniest political spark struck in a far distant land — in Cyprus, in South Vietnam. This world is teetering on the edge of OBLIVION. Thoughtful men are fearful. But what are they doing about it? Why haven't they discovered the ONLY sure protection in these times?
WHY No Peace of Mind?
More people have started attending church since the advent of the hydrogen bomb than at any time in the history of the Western world. Why? To get dressed up? To preen? To get ahead socially or in business? To have "peace of mind" for the rest of the week? Partly, perhaps. But a lot go because they are scared. Of God? No. Of themselves. Themselves collectively. And what they might do to each other if they aren't careful. When our neighbor meets us coming down the highway at 60 miles an hour — he's the unpredictable. If he wanted to — coming at us at 60 miles an hour — he could give a gentle flick to his wheel and send us both to eternity. That's how dependent we are on each other's whims, decisions and dementias. Collectively, things are even more scary! This big thing — this hydrogen thing — now belongs to several others. New nations are continually joining the potential "cosmocide club." They will employ this hydrogen thing as they see fit. They will decide where, when and why. Knowing all this makes us a little restless. It makes us think about many things — not the least of which is our hereafter. That's one important reason, at least, for the increased interest in religion. People are thinking more and more about making peace with somebody — and they usually include God to be on the safe side. Are they going about it in the right way? Are their actions really bringing them into direct contact with the true GOD of the Bible — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Are they learning to seek and enjoy His Divine guidance and protection?
Where Do You Stand?
What about YOU? Can you afford to take a chance on a thing like this? Are you just following the crowd? Do you really know God as a personal Father? Do you experience His help and POWER in your personal life? Jesus said of the religionists of His day: "In VAIN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). They were following the ideas of men rather than God. They were worshipping the way that seemed right to men. But Jesus -said it was all in VAIN. This modern world is also in religious CONFUSION. Some religious groups go through ancient forms, ceremonies and PAGAN rituals — yet never really know or understand the Bible or God's PURPOSE for human existence. On the other extreme, many liberals and modernists think of God as an "idea" or "projection" of good — and have NOTHING as a concrete standard of belief, practice or way of life which is based on the Bible, which they consider mainly as a collection of human ideas of ancient Jewish shepherds. For this first six thousand years of recorded history — these first six millennial "days" — God has permitted the world to go its OWN WAY under the confusing and deceiving influence of a personal spirit being called Satan, the Devil! Your Bible describes the Devil as a personal being "which DECEIVETH the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). Are you willing to FACE this possibility in your personal life? Are you willing to CHANGE if God shows you through His Word that you have never really been converted before?
What True Christianity Involves
The true original Christianity — the Christianity of JESUS CHRIST — involved understanding and obeying the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Jesus said: "It is written, that man should not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word of God" (Luke 4:4). The sermons and teachings of Jesus Christ were filled with references to the Old Testament — the only part of the Bible yet written at that time — as the Word of God and as having AUTHORITY over our lives. The early inspired apostles referred both to the Old Testament and to the teachings of Christ as the RULE of life — revealing a WAY OF LIFE by which we should live. In fact, throughout the book of Acts, we find references to Christianity being spoken of as "this way" and "that way" (Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4, etc). If you are ever going to be "converted" to the type of Christianity which CHRIST taught, you need to PROVE the divine inspiration of the Bible. You need to begin to BELIEVE and OBEY what it literally says in plain language! If you've not yet proved the Bible true, read immediately Mr. Armstrong's important free booklet entitled, The Proof of the Bible. For if you don't have the authority of God and the Bible behind your "Christianity" — then very frankly, you should immediately STOP even calling it Christianity, and refer to it rather as your "philosophy" or some other honest and realistic designation! But if you DO believe in the God of Abraham — the God of the Bible — the God that is now beginning to intervene in human affairs prior to the return of His Son Jesus Christ to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords — then learn to take HIS WORD for it on the subject of WHAT true Christianity really involves! DON'T try to straddle the fence! Don't try to MIX your ideas with God's teachings and hope that God will be well pleased with the CONFUSED result! Now notice what GOD says — in His inspired Word — about the true nature of Christianity — and true Christians. God's Word says: "Now if any man hath not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). In plain language, you must have Christ's Spirit in you, or you are NOT a Christian — you have NEVER been converted. A truly converted person is filled with and LED BY the Holy Spirit of God. "For as many as are LED BY the spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Through the Holy Spirit, God places His very nature and character within us. And it is the Spirit of "POWER, and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND" (II Tim. 1:7). By receiving God's very nature and life within us through His Spirit, we are begotten of Him as His children and have spiritual love, wisdom and STRENGTH to overcome our human nature and LIVE as God would have us live. Through the Holy Spirit, we are, as Peter says, "partakers of the DIVINE NATURE" (II Pet. 1:4). Very frankly, in the past most of you didn't even know WHAT the Holy Spirit was, what it was supposed to do in your life, and what was the real result of your being led by God's Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:5, God tells us: "The LOVE OF GOD is shed abroad in our hearts BY the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." Through His Spirit, God gives us His divine spiritual LOVE. Thus we partake of His nature — His character. And God's character is expressed in the spiritual principles contained in the Ten Commandments — obedience to God's law. "For this Is the love of God, that we KEEP His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3). This scripture tells us that God's spiritual love — the love which is GIVEN us through the Holy Spirit — is the love which is expressed in KEEPING God's commandments! How clear! God's Spirit leads us to OBEY Him as our Maker and Ruler. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write of "the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that OBEY Him" (Acts 5:32). Real conversion, then, involves OBEDIENCE to God and His laws. In Acts 2:38, Peter was inspired to tell us HOW to be converted. He said: "REPENT, and BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit." You repent of SIN. And what is the Bible definition of sin? "Sin IS the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). This is the Bible definition of sin — breaking God's law! So to be truly converted, you must REPENT of breaking God's law. And "repent" doesn't mean merely to be sorry after a Saturday night drunken brawl leaves you with a hang-over and pounding headache the next morning. It means to be SO SORRY you are willing to QUIT doing wrong and turn around and go the other way! And as sin is breaking God's law, so "turning around" and going the other way means a life of OBEDIENCE to God's law and yielding to let Him fashion and mold your character after His own through His Spirit within you! Remember that in the New Testament, God's law was magnified by Jesus Christ — particularly in Matthew 5 in the sermon on the Mount. This shows we are to keep not only the letter but the Spirit or INTENT of God's law in every phase of our lives. We are to let Christ live His life in us through the Holy Spirit. For the Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Since the Bible says that Christ is the SAME yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), He will live the SAME kind of life in you today as He did live on earth 1900 years ago in the flesh. And during His earthly life — in which He set us an EXAMPLE that we should follow in His steps (I Pet. 2:21) — He said: "I have KEPT my Father's commandments" (John 15:10). Could anything be more plain and clear than this? True Christianity involves OBEYING your Creator and your God! As Mr. Armstrong has said so many times, "God will not save anyone who does not surrender to His rule!" True Christianity involves surrendering your will to let your LIVING SAVIOR live His life in you through the Holy Spirit! Through His Spirit — God's very nature and character and spiritual LOVE implanted within you — you are enabled to KEEP God's holy and spiritual law as set forth in the principles of the Ten Commandments, and grow in the very CHARACTER of God until the resurrection!
CHRIST Defines "Christianity"
Let us put our own ideas and human opinions aside for a moment, and SEE WHAT JESUS CHRIST SAYS ABOUT THIS MATTER. After all, He is the One who really KNOWS! In what is known as the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus taught His disciples the basis of His Christian message. These teachings contain more spiritual truth than whole volumes that have been written by men. Jesus taught the disciples that to be great in God's Kingdom, we must do and teach "His Commandments" (Matthew 5:19). He revealed that God's law is a spiritual law. One not only breaks the command against adultery by a physical act, but, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Christ instructed His disciples not only to obey the commandment against killing, but He said: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Verse 44). He summed up these instructions by commanding them: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Verse 48). How many people calling themselves "Christian" are actively striving to follow these spiritual principles in their daily lives? Do they LOVE their enemies and pray for them? Are they growing spiritually every day toward the goal of having perfect character even as God? Or have we forgotten what JESUS HIMSELF said His followers should do? Continuing, we find that Jesus taught His disciples how they should give "alms" or perform good deeds, how they should pray, and how they should fast (Matthew 6:1-18). In each case, Jesus assumed that His followers would be leading THAT KIND OF LIFE. He was teaching them HOW TO LIVE — to GIVE to others, to PRAY to God the Father on their knees, to FAST in order to be closer to God — not some empty ritual or impractical theory.
GOD'S WORD IS CONSISTENT
The religious ideas and teachings of men are varied and confused. Even the great denominations have repeatedly changed their doctrines from time to time — although NOT in the direction of truth! But the teaching of the Bible is consistent and unchanging. The true servants of God in all ages have taught and written the same basic WAY of obedience to God. "Thy WORD is truth," Jesus said (John 17:17). And again He said, "The scripture CANNOT be broken" (John 10:35). God does not contradict Himself in His inspired Word! We should ALWAYS bear this in mind when studying the Bible. So Jesus continued to teach the SAME truths all through His ministry, and the Apostles preached the same Gospel — not something different. Later in Jesus' ministry, one asked Him, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Jesus answered, "Why tallest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou will enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS" (Matthew 19:16-17). This is the WAY Jesus taught would lead to eternal life. He taught the need for REPENTANCE from past sins, of FAITH in Him as our Savior, and of OBEDIENCE to the laws and ways of God. Jesus said if He was to be your Lord you would have to OBEY Him! Did Jesus know what He was talking about? Many organizations of men seem to think that He didn't, for they have substituted a DEAD faith and belief in His person, but deny the WAY of salvation and life which He taught. The apostles were commanded to continue preaching the SAME message which Jesus preached. Before His ascension into heaven, He commanded them to go forth and instruct ALL nations — both Jews and Gentiles, "teaching them to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). If you would like to learn, in detail, how to really keep and LIVE BY God's Ten Commandments, then read our fascinating and informative free booklet entitled, "The Ten Commandments." Study this booklet with your Bible. It contains a wealth of information and spiritual "meat."
Take Action on What You Know
Perhaps the best definition of a "Christian" contained in any one verse of the Bible is found in I John 2:6. The Weymouth translation makes the intended meaning more clear than the older King James wording. It reads: "He who says that he abides in Him is BOUND to live as He (Christ) lived." How many of today's professing "Christians" feel bound to actually LIVE as Jesus did? To do this — to fulfill the PURPOSE for which you were born — you need to STUDY the Bible as most of you have never done before in all your lives! You need to earnestly PRAY to God the Father on your knees two or three times each day — develop the habit of personal prayer to God for at least thirty minutes to an hour every day! You need, occasionally, to set aside a day or two for FASTING — total abstention from all food in order to realize your own nothingness, to draw closer to God, and to have the extra time and impetus for earnest prayer and study. To be a true Christian, you need to begin practicing TOTAL HONESTY in your speech, in your business, and in your entire way of life! You need to FORSAKE your personal idols, and begin to honor your parents, obey the laws of man and God, and WORSHIP your Creator and your Heavenly Father and SEEK Him in study, prayer, and fasting in the way the prophets of old did! Once you have decided to make a total surrender to God, You need — as already mentioned — to be baptized! Accordingly, be sure to read Garner Ted Armstrong's helpful and important article in this issue on water baptism, and apply it to yourself, personally! Then, through the POWER of the Holy Spirit which you are promised to receive after baptism, you will have placed within you the very nature and character of God Himself! You must develop, strengthen and nurture this character! Never forget the instruction: "But GROW in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18).
Thousands of you have come to realize that you are getting the truth, the understanding and the Message of God through this Work — The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast and The PLAIN TRUTH magazine. You are beginning to realize that this is the true Work of God on earth — preparing for Christ's second coming and the world tomorrow. But many of you are delaying and procrastinating before DOING anything about this knowledge you have been given! If you are in this boat, then quit procrastinating — quit arguing and reasoning and delaying — and begin to OBEY the precious spiritual truth which God is showing you through His servants on earth in these last days! One TREMENDOUS step you could take in this direction would be to sign up for the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course and begin systematically STUDYING — and UNDERSTANDING — the Bible, perhaps for the first time in your life! Learn to WALK in the light as God gives the light. Keep changing in the direction of TRUTH, keep GROWING and YIELDING your life into the hands of the Living Christ. After baptism, ask in faith and confidence for Him — through His Spirit — to literally LIVE His life in you! Remember that He will live the SAME basic way of life in you today as He did live nineteen hundred years ago (Heb. 13:8). He will teach you to study and understand the Word of God, to pray to God as your personal Father and really come to KNOW Him in a wonderful and personal way; He will lead you to OBEY the holy and spiritual laws of God — summarized in the Ten Commandments — which tell us HOW to love God and how to love our neighbor; He will lead you to KEEP HOLY the same days which God made holy — lead you to LOVE even your enemies — to master your human vanity and selfishness — to surrender your will, in everything, to the will of your God and Maker. There are many names and titles religious organizations and groups could choose for themselves. But Jesus asks: "Why call ye ME, Lord, Lord, and do NOT the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46) Let's quit kidding ourselves! Only those who have the Holy Spirit of God within them — who have CHRIST living within them — are really Christians. Only those who — through the POWER of His Spirit — are keeping the laws of God and living the WAY of God and His Word are properly called by the name of Christ!