Growing up in a smallish city (around 280,000 at the time) in the South Island of New Zealand, it was pretty easy to hide, unless like our family, you belonged to a religious sect.
Our clothes, hairstyles, head coverings (for the women at least), and the indecent hour we were expected to be at church on Sunday (6:30 am) were akin to being Amish or perhaps Orthodox Jews, meaning we sure stood out, everyone knew us!
When I was around seven, something happened for our family that was quite life-changing: We hastily left what I now know was more of a cult. But it came at a high cost. We were stripped of our family and financial connections, as well as all fellowship with friends. Our lives changed forever. It was as if we no longer existed in their eyes. In fact, going to a school where other members of the church, including family members went, was painful as we experienced very personal rejection and were regularly shunned in the streets. What was a confusing, painful, and traumatic experience for us all, however, became a part of God’s divine plan that ultimately lead to my salvation. My parents did a great thing when they turned their backs on religiosity and followed their biblical convictions in pursuit of truth, which ultimately lead them to a Bible-teaching church that included grace and truth. It was there that I personally experienced Christian love and acceptance as well as sound Bible teaching and where I gave my life to Christ and was later baptized.
When you consider the decision every human being—Jewish and Gentile alike—must make, you realize he or she must ask, “What must I do to be saved?” Think of every person you share the gospel with—little children, teenagers, parents, or friends and colleagues. What exactly are you calling them to do?
Today, when communicating biblical truth about the Messiah with young backpackers who vacation and stay with us in New Zealand, I am acutely aware of what I am calling them to when I explain that Jesus (Yeshua) is the only way to be saved. In many ways, it’s like the decision my parents were faced with, at least in terms of the cost, and is something most are unwilling to do. It just seems too hard. In Acts 16:25–30, the jailer keeping watch over the apostle Paul and Silas had a crisis of faith when God intervened and sent an earthquake that shook the prison so violently the prisoners’ shackles were loosened and the prison doors swung open. The jailer, fearful the prisoners had escaped and he would be held responsible, took his sword and was about to commit suicide when Paul called out, “We are all here.” Trembling and afraid, the jailer fell to his knees and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
As Paul and Silas answered the humbled jailer, they did so with crystal clarity yet powerful implications, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” The jailer did believe, together with his family, and later that day all were baptized.
When you consider the decision every human being—Jewish and Gentile alike—must make, you realize he or she must ask, “What must I do to be saved?” Think of every person you share the gospel with—little children, teenagers, parents, or friends and colleagues. What exactly are you calling them to do? It is to believe, to put their faith and trust in Jesus. But are you not also calling them to die?
We may not consider this as we share the gospel with our Westernised agnostic or atheistic contacts, but it becomes acutely obvious when you witness to Middle Easterners: Salvation will cost them far more than you realize. Family, finances, friendships, and possibly their lives. That is why baptism becomes such an important step beyond profession: It symbolically demonstrates death to self and is a powerful witness to all who are watching that you are publicly confessing, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), and when rising up out of the water to the new life you rise to the reality, “the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What you have said with your mouth when you believed ought to be followed by your obedience even unto death.
Here in our home in Auckland, New Zealand, we host travelers from all over the world, including young Israelis fresh from the Israel Defense Forces who are resting and traveling throughout the world and love to explore our country. It’s both a privilege and responsibility to share with every person who walks through our doors who Jesus is and why they need to receive Him as their personal Messiah. But in doing so, it is never to say this choice is easy. Rather, if you truly want to live, then first you have to die, since it is through the death of Christ that life has come for those who are willing to die to self and live for Him.