Artistic Piano Tuning has been my retirement business for 15 years. Prior to that I spent 30 years in the telecommunications business, repairing mainframe computers and large telephone switches. After finishing high school I spent 4 years in the Air Force as a radar technician (long range, high power, ground radar), finished college and then worked for the Federal Government Department of the Interior as a mathematician.
Learning to play the piano was a hobby of mine, and as time passed I realized that since I had always enjoyed working with my hands, I might also enjoy tuning pianos. l began learning piano technology, attended many piano technician conventions, joined the PTG ( Piano Technicians Guild) and after a good 10 years of much study and many tests, I finally passed all the registered piano technician exams and received my RPT certification.
As for my family life, I am a husband, a father, and a grandpa with eight grandchildren. I have spent over twenty years as a Sunday School teacher, and now I do some street preaching and evangelism. My reflections on why I believe in Jesus Christ are something that I have pondered for quite a long time, probably a good 40 years.
Here are some conclusions I have reached. The longer I live, the more absolutely convinced I have become of the value and truthfulness of Jesus’ teachings. The lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, which so many people live, clearly and tragically does not work. It only destroys individuals, marriages, children, and families. The teachings of Jesus, on the other hand, promote peace, contentment, and wholeness.
My father became a Baptist shortly before his marriage to my mother. My mother, who graduated from a Baptist seminary, was quite interested in missions work. Dad and Mom always kept us three boys and our two sisters in church three times a week. One of my earliest memories was standing on the pew beside my father in church and singing as he pointed out the words. My mother sang solos at church and had “jiffy clubs” for the neighborhood children, where she taught Bible stories on a flannel-graph board.
When I was about nine years old, my parents sent me to a Christian summer camp in upstate New York. I had a great time and remember two distinct events about that summer. One was a lightning hit that severely damaged a huge tree just outside the door of our little cottage. The second was that I wrote my dad a letter saying that I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. You would think that because I had always attended church, I would have understood the basic teachings of Jesus Christ from childhood, but I didn’t – not at all! I know the Holy Spirit sparked something in my nine year-old heart, but spiritual maturity and an understanding of faith took some time in coming.
If someone had asked me, “Are you saved?” I would have said, “Sure.” As a teenager, I knew the vocabulary and some of the Bible verses, but little real relationship existed between Jesus Christ and me. Because I had not internalized it, my presence in church culture made little difference in my life. I had no real interest in studying the Bible. Whenever someone would mention death or the second coming of Jesus, I experienced real fear. I tried to live what I thought was a good life, but it was mostly self-centered. You see, my confidence was in a prayer I did not remember or understand and in a church membership card which I had lost. I was a nominal Christian at best, even though I went to church regularly.
In my early thirties, I began teaching Sunday School at Calvary Church in Charlotte, whereDr. Ross Rhoads was the pastor. My primary motivation for teaching was to help boys avoid some of the mistakes I had made. After a time, I knew that I had to figure out what the primary teaching of Jesus Christ was, especially regarding the doctrine of salvation. I needed to explain this point to the boys, but I did not understand it well enough myself to enable me to teach it to them. It is sad to realize how many years one can sit in a pew hearing sermons and not really understand them.
I knew that Jesus died on a cross. What I didn’t understand was how His death related to me. What was I supposed to do with that fact? Who was Jesus, and why were so many people willing to die for Him? The apostle John remembered Jesus saying that God loved the world so much that he sent his only son, so that anyone who believed in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16, emphasis mine, but what did believing in Jesus really mean? And how were you supposed to know if you believed enough or the right way?
One night, I took a piece of paper and wrote at the top of the page, “What did Jesus say that we should do?” I went through all four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and wrote down the things that Jesus said we should do. I came up with a very interesting list. Here are just a few of the items on the list:
- “‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).
- “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” (Luke 6:27, emphasis mine).
- “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” (Luke 6:30).
- “Give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up thy cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21).
- “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).
- “You must be born again.” (John 3:7).
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8).
- “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20).
I said to myself, “That’s what I will do!” Well, have you ever tried to be pure in heart or perfect? I quickly discovered that I did not love God with all my heart and mind, did not even like my enemies, was selfish instead of giving, and did not even come close to God’s holiness. I could never live up to the standard Jesus set! I realized that the standard Jesus taught is not just difficult to meet; it is impossible because it is a standard of absolute perfection. It is who Jesus was.
I discovered the same thing that Jeremiah did when he wrote: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). When Isaiah realized the same thing, he wrote: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). He also said: “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). The apostle Paul, who wrote almost half of the New Testament, said: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15) and “The things I want to do I don’t do, while the things I don’t allow I do.” (Romans 7:15).
I almost couldn’t believe that these men, who seemed so close to God, all admitted a real sin nature of their own, but God makes another way for us, one that takes into account our inability to be holy like Him or even to desire to be holy like Him. All that this other way requires of us is faith.
What is faith? According to the Bible, faith is a gift given by God to those who seek it. It is a treasure worth more than gold. My own definition is faith is a decision to believe based on knowledge, agreement, and trust. Faith is only as strong as the object in which we place it. Faith can be dead, deaf, blind, pretend, wrongly assumed, or mature. The choice is yours. I think if it is not growing it is dead.
The focus of most people’s faith is self. If God asked them why He should let them into heaven, they might want to tell God about how good they had been and what good things they’d done. They hope to buy their way into heaven. They assume they will be able to trick God, but God sees, hears, and remembers everything. The judgement of everyone is promised. Truth will be made know to everyone. Salvation by a person’s own efforts is impossible. It can not be earned or purchased. Instead, God asks us to refocus our faith on Jesus Christ and look to His strength and His work on the cross.
We can remember the meaning of faith using the simple acronym KATE.
- K Knowledge
- A Agreement
- T Trust
- E Eternal life
First, the K stands for knowledge. God wants you to know just three things, and they’re not hard to grasp or remember.
The first thing we need to know is really good news. God truly loves you!The apostle John wrote in his first epistle: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, remembered Jesus saying: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned.” (John 3:16-17).
Secondly, we need to know that sin separates us from God’s love. Isaiah wrote: “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1). The apostle Paul wrote that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), including Paul himself, all the prophets, you, me, and every person who has ever lived – except Jesus Christ. Scripture expresses the consequences of our sin in terms of a payment, as though we did some work and were going to be paid for it. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That death means separation from God’s Holy Spirit now and eternal separation from God and punishment for those who refuse to accept Him during this lifetime. God’s standard for heaven is perfect holiness. No human can achieve that. That is why Jesus died for us and asks us to believe in him.
The third thing we need to know is that God came to earth, became a man (the man Jesus Christ), and provided a complete and perfect sacrifice (by allowing the world to crucify Him), which totally paid for the penalty of our sins.
Is saving faith just knowledge? Is faith just something we know? I had known these facts for years, and just knowing these things had brought me no sense of assurance. No, saving faith is not just knowledge of some historical facts or some Bible verses. One major concern of mine is the fact that we can know the four spiritual laws but not know the Lord. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). No, knowledge alone does not save us.
The second part of saving faith is agreement (the letter A in our KATE acronym). Unless we agree with God, the way we feel, rationalize, or believe does not matter. Our thoughts and feelings are not the standard for right and wrong or for faith. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8). People today want to base their faith on personal experiences, feelings, faulty logic, or inappropriate analogies. I recently heard a woman try to defend her disbelief in Christ’s teachings on hell based on the workings of an apple sorting machine! The Bible clearly says that we must base our theology on Scripture, not on our feelings. Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine” (2 Timothy 3:16). He did not say that our feelings or experiences are profitable for doctrine. We are far too good at rationalizing evil as good. Our feelings or logic can never form our basis for theology.
Jesus Christ is the standard of right and wrong. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He did not say, “I am one option or one path among many that lead to God.” He declared that He was the ONLY way to God; so the ONLY correct teaching on how to be acceptable to God comes from Him. He said so, not me. We must agree with God that we desperately need His forgiveness and His ability to cleanse our hearts. We desperately need His love and His sacrifice on Calvary. When Billy Graham asked new believers to follow him in a prayer, they were hopefully expressing an agreement with God’s Word. God’s response and promise to us is: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).
The next letter, T, stands for trust. Our trust must rest in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. We cannot trust our own good works, experiences, church memberships, religious acts, baptisms, or sacraments. The apostle Paul wrote: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8), and “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20).
You see, the only thing that God asks us to do in order to receive the gift of eternal life is to depend on Jesus Christ who paid all our debt for sin on Calvary’s cross. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31).
Our confidence must be in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary’s cross:
- not in our good works,
- not in sacraments,
- not in experiences,
- not in churches or their traditions,
- not in religious works,
- not in people with degrees in theology,
- and not in what we know, but in Jesus Christ alone.
Jesus did all the tough stuff! Jesus did all the work. He totally paid the price so that anyone can be saved. We must depend on Him for our salvation and nothing else!
If we were to believe that our salvation partially depended on one of these items in the above list, we would then have to consider all the theological problems that such dependence would cause. For example, let’s suppose we take the attitude that our salvation depended on our faith plus our baptism. Suddenly, baptism becomes immensely important, and we must begin asking ourselves about the validity of our baptism. Just how are we to be baptized? Are we to be poured, sprinkled, or dunked, and at what age and how often? Suddenly, our assurance of salvation disappears, because now it partially depends on our works. We could be baptized weekly until our hair was bleached white from the chlorine, and we would still have no confidence in our salvation.
Such a qualification would also mean that Christ must have been wrong, because when He was being crucified on the cross, He told the thief who was crucified with Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). This man was totally incapable of being baptized, joining a church, or doing anything else to earn his salvation. He was nailed to a cross. His death was just hours away. The apostle Paul also would have been wrong in saying “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38, quoting Habakkuk 2:4) and in saying “for by grace you are saved, it is not of works.” (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus and Paul were not wrong, however. God’s grace allows a person who is totally incapable of any kind of work (such as a blind, isolated quadriplegic) to be saved, because Jesus Christ completed the payment of our salvation on Calvary’s cross. John records the last word Jesus said on the cross as the Greek word tetellisti (John 19:30). We translate it as the phrase: “It is finished,” but to a person living at that time, it meant much more. It meant that the legal requirements of the law had been totally satisfied. It was the word written at the bottom of a sales receipt or loan contract, indicating that a debt had been paid in full. It states to us that our salvation does not even partially depend on our poor works, but totally on Christ’s perfect and finished work on the cross.
Returning to our acronym of the concept of saving faith, the E in the name KATE stands for eternal life. Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36, emphasis mine). Please notice that word “hath” is present tense; so at the moment you place your confidence in Jesus as your savior, eternal life begins, and it is not something you earn. It is God’s gift to us, and the blood of Jesus paid for it. The apostle Paul wrote, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (emphasis mine).
Here is an excellent, succinct statement that summarizes a lot of important theology: We are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone based on the Bible alone.
If you have never asked Christ to be part of your life, then you might want to pray to Jesus and ask Him to come into your heart. Tell Him that you completely depend on Him for your salvation and for making your heart pure and perfect in God’s sight. Thank Him for dying on the cross for you.
If God ever asked me why He should let me into heaven, I’d answer in two parts.
First, I believe in Jesus because Jesus:
- has the power to save
- has the right to save
- has the authority to save
- has promised to save (John 3:16)
- has paid the ransom for our salvation
- has taken the penalty of our sins upon Himself
- has hidden our sins in the deepest sea
- has willed to forget our sin
- has clothed us with His righteousness
Second, I believe in Jesus because:
- Jesus is God, whose word is final, unchanging, and absolutely true.
- Jesus is not willing that any should perish.
- Jesus is the living water, my daily bread, and the light of life.
- Jesus is the judge and my defense attorney.
- Jesus is the solid rock, the chief cornerstone, and the sure foundation (Deuteronomy 32:4).
- Jesus is the Lamb of God, who was sacrificed at Calvary for me.
- Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
- Jesus loves you and me, and He wants what is best for us.
Two excellent books would be a great deal of help to a new believer or anyone who is still trying to understand the gospel. They are both available in paperback very inexpensively.
Learning to Walk with God by Charlie Riggs is available from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. The first chapter reviews the basic principles of salvation which I have discussed here and which are so important. The rest of this book will also be very helpful to a new believer. It is available at amazon.com
Also, I recommend Why I Believe by D. James Kennedy. This really excellent book helps to strengthen your faith, because it discusses why Christians believe in God, Jesus, heaven, and hell, as well as why all the apostles and thousands of other early church Christians would rather die than deny the Lord Jesus. Why I Believe is also available from amazon.com.
If I can help you answer some of your questions regarding the Christian faith, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget to pray about your questions too. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NIV). Don’t give up! Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6).
I am a member TrinityBible Church in Durham, NC and http://www.trinitybiblenc.com/ is a resource where you can find good information.
God bless you!
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Trinity Bible Church
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Church in Durham County, North Carolina