I spent most of my life doing the things I liked. I never saw anything wrong with spending time on the things that interested me. I made the most of every moment for fun, comfort and pleasure. It was my life–why not do what I want? Interestingly, the book of Proverbs says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15).
When I thought about religion, it made sense to me that all people really worshiped the same god–even if they called him by different names. Individuals were born into different religions based on where they lived, so I was pretty sure that it didn’t really matter which path a man or woman followed, so long as they were sincere and they tried to be a good person. I figured there was probably a hell for really bad people, but for most folks, and certainly for me, heaven was where I belonged. I assumed that if God was watching, he was most definitely delighted with me.
If I had taken the time to investigate the truth claims made by different religions, I would have found that they assert contradictory things about God, man, salvation and eternity and that it is not possible for them to all be TRUE. Since it is IMPOSSIBLE that all religions are true, that would mean that finding out what is actually true and which God is actually there when you die is of supreme importance.
Because God is at work in the lives of people, He saw to it that I would hear His way of salvation–just like He is seeing to it today, that you hear His message of salvation.
I was living my life, enjoying the things I liked and confident of my own basic goodness. Then one day in 2004, I received an email with a sermon on it. I listened to a man talk about the Bible. He explained that God was the Creator of the Universe and that He owned everything in it (Psalm 24:1) (Isaiah 44:24). He said that the purpose of every created thing was to bring honor, glory and pleasure to God.
He read from the Bible that God is not like us–“only bigger”. God is altogether different from us–He is perfect and holy and hates all sin with a holy hatred. There is not a sin so small that His hatred towards it is not real and right (Matthew 5:48).
Living perfectly, without error or sin, was the moral obligation of all human beings. This standard was the same for all people, in all places and at all times. The Bible reveals that God applies the perfect standard to our thoughts and our motives and not just our actions. Since God knows everything accurately and fully, He knows our motives even better than we do.
My God-given conscience confirmed that I had broken God’s moral law repeatedly. I had told lies and I had coveted things that I didn’t own. I had looked at other people in a lustful way. I had taken small things. I most certainly didn’t always honor my parents. Worst of all, I had given the love and honor that should have been for God to many other things. I loved my accomplishments, clothes, friends and family much more than God. Every human being has loved other things more than God. The first commandment says that we should love the Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls and strength. Failure to fulfill the purpose for which we were created is the worst treason and sin. I was shocked to learn that even my heart was deceitful –not only did I do things that were wrong, my own heart convinced me that it was ok and not really a big deal (Jeremiah 17:9). I compared myself to other people and looked pretty good. I had never considered that at the end of my life, God’s standard would determine what manner of person I really was. I would be found to be a divine lawbreaker.
I learned that God was good and just. His Justice would require that my crimes against his broken Law be paid. Even a good human judge demands that crimes against a broken law be paid. It is impossible for God to ignore sin and yet remain good, holy and just.
Because my sins had not yet received punishment, I thought that there was no future danger. But, the Bible says that God is also patient and long-suffering. He doesn’t lash out in fits of uncontrolled anger, but instead gives us opportunity to turn and repent (2 Peter 3:9). God’s righteous anger against sin is NOT like our contaminated human anger. God has an unchanging and settled determination that all evil –even the seemingly smallest in our eyes, will not go unanswered. Like many people, I thought God’s forgiveness was a plan to set aside punishment for sin and just give me a big hug as I entered heaven. However, God does not stop being holy and righteous when He is merciful and gracious.
So, while God’s justice is certain, it is not always immediate. But, be assured that God has appointed a day that He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). As I compared my own life to God’s standard, I came to realize that I was at war with God and His Law. I was God’s enemy, but even worse, God was my enemy. God was not delighted with me. God was not smiling upon me. Even though things seemed to be fine in my life, I was not under God’s blessing. In fact, I was under a curse–For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:9-11).
God is serious about the consequence of sin. The Bible states that “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The payment we earn for our sin is death: physical death and then eternal death in hell. Your physical death will prove that sin is a reality in your life. Your eternal death will reveal that your sin is against a holy God. Hell is not a place “to receive punishment” and then go to Heaven. It is permanent. God’s judgement is eternal and irrevocable.
My heart was telling me I was a good person. My heart told me God was my friend. Yet, here I was cursed and condemned, deserving of wrath and eternity in hell. The reality was the exact opposite of what I thought and felt.
I also found out that every single human being everywhere was in the exact same position as me–cursed and condemned.
The Bible proclaims that ?all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The book of James says “if you break the law at one point, you have broken the whole thing” (James 2:10). Our world is populated by people that have fallen infinitely short of God’s perfect standard.
I realized for the first time that the most important question I could ask was the great question of all humanity: “How can a perfectly just and holy God accept imperfect and sinful people into His presence forever without compromising His own character?”
The preacher went on to say that God had done something about my hopeless condition. The book of Romans says that God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). If it was true that God can make the ungodly right in his sight, that would be really good news.
The speaker explained that God had sent his own Son–Jesus Christ–who was fully God and fully Man (Colossians 2:9) to live a perfect, righteous and obedient life on earth. Jesus lived the life I failed to live. Then, Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sins against God.
What happened on the cross was God pouring out his just wrath–the wrath that HAD TO fall against my sin–onto Jesus as if it were me. This is the Biblical doctrine of substitution. Jesus suffered God’s wrath in my place. Christ’s infinitely valuable blood was the ONLY thing that could satisfy the infinite wrath of God against my infinitely offensive sin.
When God justifies the ungodly, He doesn’t leave crimes unpunished. The debt is really paid. The sins are really punished. Justice was fully served when Jesus Christ willingly took my punishment in His own body on the cross. That is why Jesus’s final words on the cross were “it is finished”.
But, the fact of God’s wrath wasn’t my only problem. I also needed perfect obedience to God’s Law to have any claim to Heaven (Matthew 5:48). My performance wasn’t even good much less perfect.
While God credited Christ with my sin and treated Him accordingly on the Cross, He credits me with Christ’s active obedience to God’s Law. The Bible says it this way “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Apostle Paul talks about the “gift of righteousness” that God provides to those individuals that Jesus saves (Romans 5:17). This is not an imaginary righteousness, Jesus really fulfilled the Law and lived the only life perfectly pleasing to God. The Apostle Paul says to “clothe yourself in righteousness” and to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. He means to trust Christ like a sky-diver trusts a parachute when he jumps out of a plane. He puts it on and depends on it completely. The skydiver does not also flap his wings to help the parachute become effectual.
What Good News!!!! God not only removed my sin debt, but he also provided the right standing under His Law that I need to dwell in His presence. This amazing accomplishment by Christ has made it possible for me, a sinner, to stand with great joy in the day of Judgment. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
What does God require of me? He requires me to repent and turn from my sins, to confess or agree with him about sin and judgment. He requires me to believe in Jesus and to trust that He fully saves those who come to Him through repentance and faith (Isaiah 55:7).
God commands that I don’t trust in anything that I DO to obligate God to save me. Good works, giving money, baptism, sacraments,–none of those cleanse from sin–only the atoning blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from sin. We must repent from trusting in ANYTHING else for salvation. We can cover sin many ways, but there is only ONE way to remove it.
This repentance towards God and faith in His Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, are both GIFTS from God. We cannot just feel guilty and “decide” to change and follow God.If Christ is becoming attractive to you. If you are starting to see who Christ is and what He did. If you desire this repentance and faith, it is because God has placed that desire in your heart.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the giftof God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8).
In 2 Timothy 2:25, the apostle prayed that God may grant repentance.
Every man-made religion presents a plan to please their God. Men everywhere create systems to cover their sins and appease their own consciences. Some men have imagined capricious and angry gods and lived in fear of them. There are even groups of people that take the Lord Jesus Christ as part of their salvation plan and then add their own performance to secure salvation. Christians are to be “rich in good works”. But they are because we are saved, not in order to be saved.
The Lord Himself declares the mingling of grace and works in the expectation of salvation to be both futile and deadly in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
In Mark 7:7, Jesus calls it vanity to think that our own efforts will make God our debtor.
There are other men who convince themselves that God doesn’t exist. Some people are indifferent and insist that He hasn’t made Himself known. They refuse to believe the obvious to avoid dealing with their Maker. God says they are without excuse (Romans 1). Their folly will be exposed on Judgment Day.
God has provided ONE WAY to be saved (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He accepts no other plans. God detests the attempts of man to earn His favor. The Bible says that God considers our attempts at righteousness as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Even our civil courts regard an attempt to bribe a judge as a gross offence against the court. How much more is presenting our own tainted works to a Holy God as payment for our entry to heaven. There is no other Savior–There is ONE mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). We go to Heaven God’s way, or we don’t go at all.
God confirmed His own plan of salvation for all people everywhere by raising Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most important event in human history (1 Corinthians 15:4). One should consider why it is that for over two thousand years people have tried in vain to disprove the resurrection of Christ. If God is not really there, they might not be accountable. Man desperately wants to avoid His Creator and be free to do what he wants.
Watch your bookstores every Easter at all the attempts of men to discredit God. If you want to know how God views their foolishness, read Psalm 2:3-6. Look around and you can easily confirm that each person wants to do what is right in his own eyes.
I am far from perfect and I still sin–but when I do, I have an advocate with the Father–the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This verse again confirms that our agreement with God about sin leads to His constant cleansing from unrighteousness. If we humble ourselves before God and man, we will be lifted up in due time. By the same token, if we remain proud and stubborn, God is actively opposed to us and will bring each person down to open shame and humiliation.
Since I became a Christian, I no longer love what I used to love: sin. And I no longer hate what I used to hate: righteousness and the true God.
The activities that were so gratifying to me before God saved me, have become strangely unappealing. God indeed gives a new heart and new desires when he regenerates a person. The Lord described through the prophet Ezekiel hundreds of years before Christ came that He would change the hearts of the people He redeemed (Ezekiel 36:24-28). When I am obedient to God’s commands, it adds nothing to salvation–it is simply a logical, grateful and loving response to what has been done for me. When I confess my sins daily to my Heavenly Father, I am not “fallen from grace’ or needing to be ?resaved”. God has adopted me into His family through Christ. That can never change. But, just like in a human family, when sin breaks fellowship, confession and forgiveness restores it. This is a parental pardon, not a judicial pardon.
While eternity in Heaven is secure, there are still struggles in the Christian life. Jesus Himself warns that in this world, we will have tribulations. Jesus tells us we will be hated by many because when we tell people God’s word, we shine the light on their sins. Those very sins that they love. When we tell them of their need for Christ as a sin bearer, we show the futility and vanity of their self-righteousness. The natural man HATES this. Do we not see this all around us? People offended when biblical truth is spoken. People insisting the Bible means something other than what it plainly says. We live in a world of selfish, sin-loving people and that doesn’t change when we become Christians. Accordingly, Jesus Himself advises us to COUNT THE COST before following Him so that we will not be confused when we are faced with difficulty (Luke 14).
We know that various trials are certain. But, we have the Word of God providing wisdom, clarity and truth.. We have the Spirit of God working patience and self control (Galatians 5:22). We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. We have unspeakable joy because God is no longer our enemy.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
What does God now require of YOU? Repent, turn from sin and stop trusting that your good life will be acceptable to God. Don’t compare yourself to hell-bound people and take comfort because you are not as bad as they are. Don’t just hope for the best. Don’t depend on religious activity, church-going or the faith of your parents.
If you are to be saved, you MUST have your sin debt paid before you die and you must have a righteousness provided BY GOD.
Your war with God must end before you step into eternity If you reject God’s mercy now, you will die in your sins and there will be no hope for you to receive it on Judgment Day. You will face the unbuffered fury of Almighty God forever.
It is wise to lay down your arms of rebellion in a war you cannot win. But, there is an even better reason to come to God on His terms.
Come because God is so kind. God is so patient and loving towards you. Do you see that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)?
God could have rightly done away with you the first time you sinned. But, He didn’t. He has given you many good gifts of family, food, clothes, job, friends, beautiful weather, homes–and the list goes on.
You didn’t even know of your desperate condition and God had already provided a way of escape from hell. Do you not find this patience and sacrificial love exceedingly beautiful? Do you not have tears of grief for the awful price willingly paid by an innocent man for your sin? This man, Jesus Christ, whose name you have used as a careless utterance or even a curse word. Is your heart yet so hard that you cannot not bend the knee to this compassionate King whom you have treated with indifference, disrespect and even contempt? Think of the things you have found more worthy of your love, devotion and obedience than the Son of God.
Do not reject Him through hostility or indecision. Run to Him immediately and receive all that He is and has done today. The Bible recognizes that you may not have tomorrow and that is why it says “today is the day of salvation”.
If you hear His voice, do not harden your heart (Hebrews 3:15). If the Good News of the Gospel is becoming clear to you, do not put it aside as something to consider another day–your soul may be demanded of you tonight (Luke 12).
God’s judgement is real and inescapable and it is also right. His wrath is abiding over everyman who has not been saved His way. It makes no difference whether you sense this wrath or not, it is there and it is increasing daily. If you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, He will not fail in His promises. He will never forsake you and He will keep you forever. Jesus Himself said “of all those that The Father has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).
It is my heart’s desire that you be among the people that Jesus Christ saves.