But there is such HOPE!
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23 (NIV). God is good and in His infinite love and desire for continued communion with us, He put in place a series of events leading up to the ultimate redemption of His plan. His son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth, both fully God and fully man. He lived a life of complete perfection and was without sin. Catch that again- Jesus was without sin! He was a man… who was sinless. Let that sink in a minute. Can you imagine what that even looks like? He came to us for one purpose and one only, to be the ultimate and final answer to that pesky sin issue that had plagued man since the dawn of humanity. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 (NIV emphasis mine). In Christ Jesus we finally see the period on the end of a long, sinful sentence. At the ripe age of 33, Jesus was ultimately crucified on a cross; ironically because He claimed to be the Messiah (the Jewish long-awaiting Savior. Which is exactly what He was! They just did not believe Him- super ironic right?!). But by doing so, His willing sacrifice through death, Jesus covered over our sins and became the ultimate scapegoat for our own fallen-ness. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NIV). Jesus (as God) allowed Himself (as a sinless man) to be killed. He was a willing sacrifice that He offered to God (His Father) in our place. And His death on that cross two centuries ago, finally and fully opened the heavenly venues for entry. All we have to do is to accept our ticket to gain entry to the heavenly show!
But we must actually, physically (or spiritually depending on how you look at it), grab the ticket. It takes an act of will to take it. This gift of eternal life is free… but it must be accepted… the present must actually be opened by us. The opening of the gift is an act of faith on our part. As I mentioned, just as we cannot get into heaven of our own volition, so also is accepting Christ something we cannot work our way towards. “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT). The word faith is a big word, it can be a wriggly word too to nail down the meaning of, but put simply “…faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). Our salvation is based on our faith in the One who offers it to us- that He is Who He says He is, that He has done what He says He did, that He will do what He promises to. It cannot be won, attained, fought for, worked towards, or otherwise earned. It is already purchased for us because of God’s great grace, accepted through our faith in Him.
I must also warn you that we cannot take advantage of this free gift. Many doctrines or speakers out there will say that in the end God is so good and so loving that He couldn’t possibly allow anyone to go to hell- He just loves us so much. Wrong! God is perfectly loving and He is also perfectly just. And what that means is that the rules He has set in place in the annals of eternity will not change! God Almighty is perfect… He cannot go against His own nature. All this bogus spiritual “Love Wins” nonsense is simply wrong. It belies a basic misunderstanding of what love actually is. As we know, all parents love their children desperately, but that does not mean that they let their kids do and act like anything they want. There are rules they must follow, there are fences they cannot go past, and there are guidelines that must be obeyed. Those of us who are parents knows these rules are in place to keep them safe right? To set them up for success, to place them on a safe and ultimately prosperous path. We put the rules in place for their own good… because parents know better than children do.
Why, then would we expect God’s parenting style to be different? For as often as we fail as parents, thankfully He does not. He is the perfect parent. Therefore, expectantly, we as His children, have rules set in place for us, instructions that He in His perfect sovereignty put up as eternal guidelines to be followed. He wants us to be safe, protected, successful, happy, whole, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. He wants the very best for us! But just as we set rules for our kids, so also has God set boundaries for us. These are there because He loves us, and ultimately He knows better than we do. And He won’t be changing these rules ever… I guarantee it… better yet, He guarantees it (see Hebrews 10:23, 13:8, James 1:17). Because after all, why would we want to give our hearts to One who changes the rules all the time, who is prone to wishy-washiness (is that a word?) and one with whom we would constantly be wondering what the boundaries were day to day. God is resolute, unfailing, and unchanging in His ways. We can stand firm on His foundation! Let us not be foolish in our expectations or discernment of who and what He actually is.
“So we’ve acknowledged that:
We are sinners.
God wants to be with us forever but cannot hang with sinners,
So He sent His son Jesus to be a perfect sacrifice in our place.”
But the story does not end there. It would be have been a nice end to the story if Jesus died for us by sacrificing Himself. But none of that would have mattered. Death still had to be defeated. I imagine even in those moments after Jesus took His last breaths and committed His spirit to God, that Satan was doing a happy dance. In his mind, I am sure, he had won. Jesus was dead. The final answer had fallen short. But no! Scripture tells us that three days later, Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28, Mark 16). He lived! He arose! He overcame even death! The avenue to defeating death once and for all had to be paved for us. We as humans could not do this ourselves (for obvious reasons), and yet, Christ being fully God, could. And He did. So the story ends not with His death, but with His resurrection. He lives dear friend! Even death could not slow Him down. And today, even this day, He is seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19)… awaiting our acceptance of the gift He so graciously offers us.
Romans 10:13 (NIV) says, for “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Do you hear how wonderful that is? Whoever calls on God will be saved! And let me tell you- if you read my testimony page, you know my own list of fallen-ness and sins cannot be outdone. I have the corner on sinning for sure! But there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). He desperately desires for us to be reconciled to Him and all it takes is opening this gift!“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV emphasis mine). Without Christ we are most certainly condemned to death, we are condemned to hell, from total and eternal separation from God. But with Jesus, our sentence has been pardoned by His blood. We are free! I beg you to not let His present just sit in front of you without being unwrapped.
So what now? Let’s unwrap the gift! Grab that shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). If you are feeling like today is the day, now is the time, the moment has arrived to accept Christ into your life then we have some praying to do. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV). We need confession and repentance of our sins, acknowledgment of our fallen-ness and how it stops far short of what God requires, belief that Jesus was both God and man and He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for us, and overcame death by His resurrection. Search your heart, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to you, and let’s pray…
Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and totally unworthy of You. You are perfect, good, and holy. I confess that I am riddled with sin, and apart from You there is nothing good in me. There is nothing I can do by myself to make me worthy of you. I repent of my sins. I acknowledge that Jesus came to die for me and that His death on the cross was to cover my transgressions totally and completely. I believe that He rose from the dead overcoming death once and for all. I accept this free gift of salvation that You offer me. I am still and always will be a sinner, but with Your help I will learn to walk in Your ways and grow closer to You. I deeply desire to have you be the Lord of my Life. I give my heart to you and ask that You draw me close to Yourself. Show me how to learn about You and fall in love with You. God, thank you for the gift of Your son Jesus, thank you for this gift of salvation. Amen.
Whew! Wow, I am thrilled to the bone that this just happened. Can you believe it?!
“I hope your smile right now is as big as mine is! I am awestruck by the work of God in your life already. What an amazing thing! If you just prayed that prayer, dear one you just made not only the most important and eternal decision of your life, but one that you will never regret. It will not always be easy, but it will be worth it. I am so very proud of you and can now officially call you family in Christ. Welcome to the Body of Christ! Find yourself a Bible, find yourself a church to start attending, proclaim the amazing thing that you just did to everyone! Let me know too. I cannot wait to hear from you! ”