your next step: resolving to find hope in Jesus

“Social distancing” has become a term, and way of life, that we’ve become far too comfortable with in the last year. In addition to having to stay distant from those outside our social bubble, many of us feel distant from God. The weight of 2020 was crushing, including crushing our souls. While this feeling of distance from God may be new to some of us, it’s a common feeling in many. In fact, it’s a reality for all of us until God takes the initiative to come near to us.   


The most profound and inspiring approach of God wasn’t visiting Abraham or meeting Moses on Mt. Sinai; it wasn’t the visions of Daniel or John on the Isle of Patmos, either.  It was when God squeezed Himself into the body of an infant. When the second person of the Trinity, God the Son – Jesus – was born of the Virgin Mary. This was when God has come nearest.   


Due to what happened back in that very first “Silent Night,” we have hope in knowing how God came near. And He is reaching out to us even today.   


The biggest question in this new year can only be answered by you. Only you can answer “Do I believe in Jesus as my own Savior?”  

 

The truth is that we all have something that holds us back from the life-giving joy Jesus wants to gift to us. We all have done things we should not have done, and we have all not done the things we should have done. The Bible calls that sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The reality of this moral debt, this sin, is that it has a nasty price on it – death, the ultimate defeat. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

 

Death means we’re unable to accomplish God’s vision for our lives, with no chance of a relationship with God, and no entrance into Heaven when we die. It is the opposite of thriving. Sin puts us in a big dilemma. This sin-condition goes from bad to worse because there is no way for us to cancel or pay this debt on our own. We can’t work it off, can’t do good to counter it, can’t buy our way out, can’t give sacrificially enough, and church attendance won’t erase it, either. The Bible is clear: we can’t win this one on our own. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).


But God, through His grace provided us a Savior: Jesus, who is the only available solution. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 


Jesus came to earth to reconcile us to God. Through his death Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. To receive the benefit of what Jesus did on the cross and receive the gift of salvation, we need to believe. Belief is more than having a mental understanding that Jesus died on the cross for our sin. Saving faith means recognizing we are sinful and need someone to rescue us. That Savior is Jesus. It is also making a commitment to follow Jesus’ way of life as part of His family forever. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Instead of being estranged from God due to sin, we can be adopted into His loving family of followers forever! To be a child of God is to live life God’s way, which is explained in the Bible. We have the ultimate example of it in Jesus.  


Do you agree with these truths from the Bible? Would you like to follow Jesus? If your answer is “yes,” then let God know through a simple prayer like this: 


Lord Jesus, I know I am held back from making room for you because of sin. I am a sinner, and I know this sin stops me from living the way you intended me to live my life.  I recognize this sin holds me back from relating to You and keeps me out of Heaven.  I know I need a Savior and I believe You, Jesus, paid the penalty for my sin.  So right now I ask You to forgive my sin, and I accept You as my Lord and Savior. Amen. 


If you just prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God! Your sins are forgiven and you are now free to follow God’s way of life. You have secured the greatest victory possible – a relationship with God! This is the life you were created to live (look up Psalm 139). If you made a decision to follow Jesus today, we’d love to know and celebrate with you! Please email connect@neighborhoodchurch.com or call us at 714-952-3001 (our office). We have some materials to send you that will help you thrive in your relationship with God! 


How do we grow in this relationship with God? The next step is to begin reading the Bible and praying. Some good places to start reading are the Bible books of James and Mark. To start, read a few verses and ask yourself what these verses say about who God is and how He wants you to live.  Some days you may have answers, some days you won’t, but keep reading. The more consistent you become, the more you will grow in your relationship with God and discover the great joy of a close, personal relationship with Him. One easy way to start this season is with one of our favorite daily devotions for Christmastime


It’s also important to attend church regularly. If you live in our area, we would love for you to come to one of our branches at either our Cypress campus or Los Alamitos campus. Wherever you attend church, get involved in a small group Bible study soon. Here, we call them Life Groups.


We are so happy that you want to investigate Jesus and wrestle with what it means to know God is near! We are praying for you! 


 - Pastor Mike McKay