Do I Really Need A Parachute?

Parachute 1  Imagine the scene. You’re on a commercial airliner flying to the destination of your dream vacation. You’ve saved your money for several years to pay for this trip and your excitement level couldn’t be higher. You’re no stranger to flying, but this trip is definitely special. The flight attendant takes you through the usual flight safety warnings and before you know it the plane is up in the air. Only ten hours of flight time and you’ll be there!

Then the captain makes an announcement that catches you by surprise: “Ladies and gentlemen, the flight attendants will be coming through the cabin shortly with a parachute for each of you. Please take the parachute and strap it on your back.” Now if the announcement ends there, you will probably be wondering why they are handing out parachutes. You’ve flown before and this has never happened so you’re probably wondering all kinds of things; maybe even looking out the window to see if there is smoke or fire or anything out of the ordinary.

But what if the captain’s announcement continued this way, “Folks, the parachutes will make your flight more enjoyable, please strap the parachute on, sit back and enjoy your flight.” Now the flight attendant hands you this thing about the size of a small backpack, you strap it on and sit back in your seat. Except you can’t get comfortable. The parachute makes it impossible to sit normally and soon your back is sore and you start to become angry at the airline. What in the world is going on? After not too much time, you take the parachute off and make it known you will not wear this thing.

The parachute most certainly did not make your flight more enjoyable and you now have  backache causing you to feel contempt for the airline, the captain, and the parachute. You will have nothing to do with any of them after this flight. They are already ruining your dream vacation.

But what if the captain’s announcement went this way instead, “Folks, the flight attendant will soon hand each of you a parachute. Please calmly strap your chute on before helping those around you. The plane has developed a serious malfunction and will soon crash to the earth, but you will be guided to a door where your parachute will help you land safely on the ground.” With this additional information, won’t you gladly strap on your parachute and endure whatever discomfort it might bring for the assurance of safety that comes with it? I should think so!

So you see it is only when you have the complete picture of the situation that wearing the parachute makes any sense at all. Likewise, it is the same with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I were to come to you and say, “Friend, you need to accept Christ,” you would likely wonder to yourself why in the world would you need to do that. My statement simply wouldn’t make sense. And if I said to you, “If you accept Christ it will make your life better,” you might very well give it a try, but eventually something would happen to make you question if your life was truly better, and you might end up turning away from Christ because the promise I gave you was not fulfilled. It is only when we have the complete picture that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes sense.

So to fully understand the Gospel (which means “good news”) you need to first understand your need for it. Just as understanding that the plane is about to crash made the need for a parachute understandable, knowing that we are sinners helps us understand our need for Jesus. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23) and the reality is, deep down inside, we all know we have made mistakes; we all have done things that have hurt others, we are all guilty. In fact, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have likely felt the weight of that guilt much more often than we care to admit to others. To deny this is to be disingenuous just as the Apostle John wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8)

Perhaps the bigger problem for most of us is that we tend to compare ourselves to others and then, despite our self-knowledge and the guilt we feel, we conclude we’re “not that bad” especially compared to (insert name of notorious sinner). And isn’t that natural? In fact, not only is it human nature, it is the very ploy of the devil to make us think we don’t need God, for Satan is the father of lies just as Jesus says in John 8:44: “He (Satan) has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And the Apostle Peter warns us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

So don’t believe the devil. Believe the Bible instead! And the Bible says, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12)  I honestly think the reality is that I don’t need to convince you of your guilt. I believe we all instinctively know the truth about ourselves deep down inside. And, therefore, being knowledgeable of our sin, what we really need to comprehend is that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God said about Himself in Exodus 34:6-7: “I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.”

God does not let the guilty go unpunished. Not the guilt of the worst person you can think of, not my guilt, and not yours. The guilty receive punishment, and that punishment is death. But God, in his infinite love and mercy, made a way for us to escape that punishment and to receive eternal life. And that way is Jesus because Jesus paid the penalty for us. So the Gospel is this: “God so loved the world He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And just as the impending plane crash is why you need the parachute, sin is why you need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Availing yourself of the Gospel is almost as easy as strapping on the parachute; just talk to God. Admit to him you have sinned and you need his mercy. Accept the free gift of grace he offers through Jesus Christ; for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And now you know the full story! God bless.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Where Do I Start?

Where Do I Start 3 Whether you are a new Christian or just curious as to what the Bible is all about, you’ve made the decision to start reading this important book. But the Bible is a really big book, with lots of pages, and it may seem a little intimidating at first. And there’s the Old Testament and the New Testament and, looking at the shelves in a book store, there seem to be so many different versions. It can all seem very confusing, so where do you start?

I was there once, too. Twenty-five years ago, when I started thinking about God and the Bible, I faced this same dilemma. One day I simply walked into a local bookstore, bought a $3.99 paperback Bible, found a quiet place, and started reading. At page 1. “In the beginning…”

To my linear mind, this seemed perfectly logical. But was it? I learned later on that there are many ways to read the Bible and some ways could be better than others. I did go on to read the Bible from cover to cover, but also jumped around a lot as I got involved in a church small group study and followed along with my church’s weekly sermons. But I do think there is a better way for someone who is new to the Bible.

First a word about Bible versions. There are many English translations available, from the very Shakespearean sounding King James Version to the contemporary Message Bible, and all points in between. Regardless of the translation you choose, if your mind and spirit are open to God, the Holy Spirit will bring the words alive to you; all are based on the inerrant original manuscripts and translated by dedicated people committed to making God’s Word available to all. With that said, I feel the New Living Translation, or NLT, is a reliable translation that is very easy to read and understand. Perfect for getting started!

Now, for where to start. As much as I love the book of Genesis, I do not necessarily recommend starting there as I did. I think there is a better way. In terms of an overview; the Bible is actually one large book made up of several smaller books. And those smaller books are divided into two larger sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament. Within the Bible there are eight “genres” or types of writing. They are: historical, law, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, apocalyptic, the Gospels, and the Epistles (or letters). All these various books and genres can be a source of confusion and when we’re getting started, it really helps to have some guidance.

I can think of no better guidance than that of the late Reverend Billy Graham. Almost certainly the greatest evangelist of the last 100 years, Graham is known to have suggested starting with the Gospel of John. This is the fourth book of the New Testament. John was one of Jesus’ disciples, having walked and studied with Jesus for three years before Jesus was crucified. John went on the be a great leader in the early Christian church and his Gospel account helps us understand the depth and breadth of God’s love for us. It tells the story of the greatest life ever lived, the life of Jesus, and what Jesus did for us. It is an excellent place to get started so start here.

Next, according to information I found on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associations’ website, Graham suggested reading the Acts of the Apostles (also called, simply, Acts), because it tells us what His first disciples did in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. In the days, months, and years following the ascension of the risen Jesus into heaven, the church grew rapidly, led by the courageous twelve apostles (and later, Paul) who literally risked their very lives to tell others about Jesus. The book of Acts is exciting and riveting, to this day I find it hard to put it down once I get started reading. I am confident you will experience the same!

After the Gospel of John and the book of Acts, Graham suggests we would do well to read the letters (epistles) of John (they are very short and there are three of them) followed by Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Then you may want to read Romans, which sets forth the great doctrines which Paul taught. Once you have finished reading these books, read through the rest of the New Testament. There will be certain things you read and may not understand, but ask God to help you and trust the Holy Spirit to bring you understanding. As you progress in your reading I am certain you will begin to experience the nearness of our Creator.

At first, commit to reading 10-20 minutes every day. Promise yourself you will do this every day for a whole month. I think you will be amazed before you are halfway through. The Bible is not a book about perfect people, quite the contrary, it is a book full of amazing stories of imperfect people just like you and I. Once you get started you will find the characters easy to relate to and their various stories as gripping as any movie you’ve ever seen. Try to read at the same time each day. And it can help to find a special quiet place where you can read undisturbed. Ask God to help you understand and trust that He will guide you.

My prayer for you is that you will be captivated by the Bible and that you will find yourself growing closer to God every time you read!

For more information, please check out the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website by clicking here.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.