“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) How many times have you heard this scripture in sermons that justify the sinful nature of a person? Typically it goes like this: “Well even Paul called himself a wretched man, that he’s a sinner. And if Paul was like this, then what can we say about ourselves?” But what is Paul really writing about here? Is this the condition (the condition of a wretched man) of a person who is born again, born from above? Paul is writing about the condition of war, a condition where you are in constant battle between the law (which is good) and sin (which is bad). This is the condition of a person who is under the law. Christ came to free us from the law and from the wretched state, from sin!
The First Three Steps of Faith or The Steps to Holiness.
Step 1 – Believe that God Exists.
Step 2 – Realize what God wants from you: Holiness.
Step 3 – Become Holy through faith in the Cross (repentance, death, resurrection).
Today with access to information, it is easy to find step-by-step instructions for just about anything you would like to achieve. If you wish to lose weight, just find a book or a website and follow the recommended steps. If you wish to be skilled at an instrument, follow the steps to learn that instrument. However, to achieve anything worthwhile, there are steps to be taken and effort to be applied.
So, what steps are necessary to become a believer in God, a worthwhile believer? There’s very good reason to find the correct steps and follow them, because the rewards and the benefits are far greater and more permanent than losing weight, or playing an instrument, or any other achievement. To be a believer, a true believer, means to become righteous and holy, otherwise it’s not worth the effort. Why not? Because only the righteous and the Holy inherit the Kingdom of God, and if your belief does not give you those results – it’s not working. The Heavenly Kingdom has no room for the unclean and the sinful (1 Cor 6:9; Rev 21:27).
Before we can talk about the Kingdom of God, let’s go back to the basics. When we were children, before we learned how to run, we first had to learn how to walk. Before taking the first steps, you first had to learn how to stand. Each attempt may not have been successful at first, but without completing each one of them, the following steps would not be possible. Faith, or believing, is very similar.
So, what are the first, the most fundamental steps of faith that need to be researched, studied, tried, taken and finally achieved?
Step 1: Believe that there is a God.
This is the most basic of steps, similar to standing. Without this step, the belief that God exists, the other steps will not be possible. Even though this step appears to be obvious and even trivial to many people, to many others this is the most difficult and time-consuming to overcome. What exactly does it take to believe that God exists? There are so many religions available today, and even if a person believes in a God, which God is The God? Is there just one God that all religions describe differently, or is only one of those religions correct? Are there many gods? Perhaps there’s no God at all and all of this is just an artifact of old culture?
The basic and simple step of believing that there is one God may not be so simple for you, after all. One can spend a lifetime searching for proof of one theory, or theology vs. another. In fact many people did and many continue to search, prove, disprove, and there will be many in the future. If you spend a lifetime on just the first step, then you would have not achieved the other important steps and ultimately wasted your life stuck on Step I. It would be like learning how to stand all your life, always debating whether it’s necessary or not, and missing the important things that would follow after this step.
So, how do you take the first step of faith? How do you believe that there’s only one God? The answer is: through hearing. Someone has to tell you that there’s a God, only then, you can make a choice whether to believe this information. Instead of spending a lifetime on the first step, simply believe that there is a God, and that He is Real, that He IS. If you are believer already, you can find proof of this required step in Hebrews 11, verse 6.
The first step is a leap of faith that may be grounded in available overwhelming proof in the creation, in experience, or simply grounded in a simple but honest acceptance. In fact, all of the steps require faith. However, it is unwise to believe things totally blindly, superficially and without any thought. Therefore, spend time searching, studying, discussing, if necessary.
The words to hear and believe are: God exists and He spoke to all the people through the Jews, and today, to everyone through the Bible. If you do not believe this, or have doubts deep inside, it is necessary to spend time on this step and do it correctly, to finish it. Again, this step is foundational, and if the foundation is flawed then the rest of the faith structure will not be strong and will collapse. Believe that there is only ONE HOLY GOD, and that the Bible is His Word.
When the first step is taken correctly, then fundamentally many things will fall into place in your understanding. Understanding that God is Holy, that God lives in another Kingdom and another World, that God is the Creator, that God is Eternal, that He cares about each person, and that God has a plan. Again, to know these things, you have to hear them, read them, understand and believe them by referencing God’s Word – The Bible. However, you will only believe them and understand them if you first believe that He Is Real. All of these things you have to hear, and hearing comes from someone who tells you. The Truth is always based on God’s Spoken Word – The Bible.
Step 2: Recognition of what God wants from you: Be Holy!
Realizing that God exists is only the first basic step. The following step is to realize what does God want from you? In short: realize your role in His plan, realize yourself. What is the relationship between Man and God? What should be your relationship with God?
Again, some people spend their lifetime searching for answers, while others can simply believe what God already explained in the Bible. God created Adam (Man, or Person) in His likeness, and He created the person with a purpose. The purpose was not “just for fun”, but God had (and has) a major purpose for people in His Heavenly Kingdom. In fact, the role of people in His Plan is more important than that of God’s Angels. So, what is that purpose? God created our human race so that He could live in us. God wanted to build Himself a House, a new kind of a House, and we would make up that House. God wants to live in you, to manifest Him through you, to be one with you, in your Spirit, Body and Soul, and to do all of this through mutual agreement with you. In other words, He has no desire to force you and wants you to make a conscious choice to be part of this plan. To be part of His Grand Plan there is one condition: You have to be Holy! God, who is Holy by the very nature, only lives in Holy Places, and He explicitly demands this from people. God first explained this demand to the Jewish people through The Law of Moses. The Ten Commandments were the basis of this command, and the 5 books of Moses along with the other writings, all described God’s expectations of people. The Law, however, did not make anyone perfect and Holy, it only demanded it. At the end of it, after thousands of years it did one thing very well: it showed to people that while God’s nature is Holy, the human nature is not. No matter how hard any one tried to be righteous, no one was able to achieve this. It is important to understand this, that the human nature, the natural state of any person who was born of a woman is sinful, and not Holy like God. Again, for Christians this is a very well known fact, but for others, they may not realize that they are sinful simply by inheritance, by your genes. For example, some try to argue that children are born “clean” and sin is something that people do later in life. However, if you seriously research this question, or even observe the children, it will be clear to you that their nature is certainly not holy. Sometimes children are loving, happy and simple. But, other times they are selfish, grumpy, and cunning. In short – they are only human and need to be taught, corrected, and molded into decent human beings. Those are certainly not the characteristics of a perfect and absolute God and His Nature of Holiness.
Recognize and accept that through Adam you are a sinner, and God will not accept this condition as “ok”. To be a sinner is not a worthy state of nature acceptable to God. God wants righteousness, holiness, and sinless-ness. Only those who achieve this step are worthy of Him and His Kingdom.
Some may think: “I am not a sinner. I’ve always tried to be good, followed the rules, loved God and never did anything bad to anyone”. Well, it is not a question of how you are towards others, or whether you loved God or not. It is a question of your nature and how God sees you in His Eyes. Even the basic 10 commandments outline things that you have most likely broken. No one is worthy of God. There are no exceptions, but one, in the entire history of humanity, and you are certainly not that exception. The One Exception is another topic.
In summary, step 2 is to recognize and accept that God is Holy and you are not, and such state of things is not acceptable. How do you recognize this? This is recognized through researching the Bible and hearing this Word of Truth. Not everyone speaks the Truth; therefore, seek the preachers who follow the clean and untainted Word of God, His Scriptures.
Step 3: Achieve Holiness through Faith in Jesus Christ.
To be Holy, or to achieve Holiness sounds like a tall order that is impossible to achieve. Didn’t we just realize in step 2 that people are sinful? Even if you do nothing wrong, your ancestral nature from Adam is carnal. So, how can holiness be possible?
Achieving Holiness is not only possible, it is necessary, it is absolutely required for the Kingdom of God. Spend time studying the Bible, not only the Old Testament that calls for righteousness by “doing things”, but also the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is more demanding and requires not only acting righteously, but to be righteous and holy from the heart without any hypocrisy, without being fake as we often see in religion. The New Testament calls for, and reveals the way to get the Holy Nature. How? Again, you have to hear this teaching, and then believe it. That’s the way.
The way to Holiness is through the Cross, or Calvary. The teaching of the Cross is the teaching of Jesus Christ, that explains this important step. In fact, this step can be described with many steps of its own, or as a process.
First, it’s important to repent before God, to humble your heart. Repent for what? For your Sin. What is sin? Sin is unbelief in the right teaching of God. To be a sinner stems from following and believing the wrong teachings. The topic of Sin is very important, and requires significant study and understanding, because one must completely die for Sin. Repentance along with rejection of everything you know, everything you achieved, and everything you have and stand for.
After repentance comes Crucifixion by faith: death for yourself, death for the law, death for sin and this world. This is complete rejection of self, your will, your life. This is proved and confirmed by you through Baptism in the water, by full submerging of yourself by a person in the same body of water who baptizes you.
After complete death and burial of your old nature comes resurrection of the new nature, the Holy and the Righteous Nature by birth. In this nature, the old has passed away, and now, everything is new. God is Holy, and he who is born of the Holy Teaching; the Holy Word of God is born according to God’s Nature – Holy. Only the True teaching of Jesus Christ can give you a way to complete this step. This step is worth spending your life on, and most importantly – make sure to complete this step while you are alive.
Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive!