How can man find peace with God? How can a personal relationship be established? How is God appeased? Can mankind attain a unity with God? Is there a dimension of life beyond the natural (physical)? What about life after death?
These and many similar questions have been the object of discussion, debate, confusion, and enlightenment since the beginning of time. These questions have spawned many religions, cults, beliefs, and philosophies.
Is there an answer? The good news is YES!
Sin left mankind with another problem…a void! An emptiness that can only be filled by God. If a person would pause long enough from their busy lives and reflect upon this void, they would discover a vacuum so strong as to drive them toward answering these questions. Separation from God left mankind without purpose or hope. It is this emptiness, hopelessness, and purposelessness that mankind is frantically trying to fill.
In an attempt to find the truth people will travel a multitude of paths seeking the right one. Some pursue religious paths. "Is this the right religion? What about that church? or this preacher? or that leader? What about this philosophy or that theology?"
Others pursue of life of piousness - a life full of good works. They contribute to society and are champions of good causes.
Still others seek to fill the void in social and financial status. Many seek it in fulfilling the pleasures of life. If it feels good, do it. There are many paths, but they do not all lead to the same end. Just because something seems right for you, doesn't mean it is right.
A man is sitting in the airport. His destination is Chicago. Because of a computer error he and several other passengers are misinformed regarding the departure gate. He is unaware of this and sincerely believes the plane he is about to board is headed to Chicago. Unfortunately it is headed to San Francisco.
He strikes up small talk with a couple sitting next to him. They believe they are going to Chicago too. That's what their tickets say. Being preoccupied in conversation, he doesn't hear the destination of the flight during boarding call. He's in the air when the captain announces the details of the flight to San Francisco.
Just because a person is sincere in their beliefs, doesn't mean they're going where they think they are. We can be sincerely wrong. Sincerity doesn't relieve us from the consequences of our misinformation.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12, KJV).
God's law in context of the whole Bible makes the truth very clear. The law was given to reveal God's holiness, show man's sinfulness, and lead man to peace with God.
The law proves man a failure at keeping the law perfectly. This was it's intent as we've discovered previously. Man falls short of the righteousness required for reconciliation with God. Regardless of how "good" one is - it's never good enough! Acknowledging this point is the first step in the right direction.
Many ask, "What if my good works outweigh the bad? Will God disregard this? Surely this counts for something?
"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away" (Isaiah 64:6, NLV).
We can proudly present God with our gifts of good works, but in the light of His holiness they amount to a pile of dirty old rags.
Others say, "At least I'm not as bad as those people. I admit, I'm not perfect, but I sure am better than a lot of people. If anyone deserves God's favor it's me. I can see how God could reject someone like Hitler, but save someone like Mother Theresa."
The standard for union with God is God himself. How good or evil a person's work might be is not relevant to being acceptable to God. In His eyes all have sinned and all sin is evil. Mankind is on level ground. No sin is so great that God can't forgive it and no goodness is so righteous as not to need God's pardon. If a shirt is drenched in mud the shirt is dirty. If the shirt has a small stain on it, the shirt is dirty. Dirt makes the shirt dirty regardless of the degree. Likewise sin contaminates mankind regardless of its degree!
“Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were [unlawful].’ Matthew 7:21-23, NLB).
A person's good works are not enough to deliver from sin. It is impossible to attain unto God or earn His favor.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5, KJV).
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).
As we have already seen, the work of sin brings a wage of death (see "Reveals the Nature of Man") A price must be paid. Though the death penalty is mankind's due wage, the GOOD NEWS is that Jesus Christ took this wage upon Himself for us.
Who is Jesus? He is part of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Jesus is the Son of God, but He is also God.
The law was not sufficient to save mankind from his sin - only convict him of his sin and condemn him. Jesus Christ came to earth in human form (born of the virgin Mary) to live a perfect life. Jesus actually fulfilled the law perfectly. He lived a sinless life.
"But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children" (Galatians 4:4-5, NLB).
"…but [Jesus] was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15, KJV).
"The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering to pay for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin. He did this so that we could be the kind of people the law correctly wants us to be. Now we do not live following our sinful selves, but we live following the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-4 NCV).
This is a critical point to understand. Only Christ has ever or could ever perfectly fulfill the law. This was God's standard for salvation from our sins and Christ did it! You see, the point of the law is to bring people to Christ (the One who was able to fulfill it.)
"In other words, the law was our guardian leading us to Christ so that we could be made right with God through faith" (Galatians 3:24, NCV).
It is only through Jesus Christ that mankind can be made holy to God's standard. Through this holiness mankind can once again relate with God.
"And because of this, we are made holy through the sacrifice Christ made in his body once and for all time" (Hebrews 10:10, NCV).
In addition to living a sinless life, Jesus died with the burden of our sin wages. He took upon himself the wages of death in our place.
"He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God" (I Peter 1:19 NLB).
"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ" (II Corinthians 5:21, NLB).
And why did Jesus Christ take the punishment we deserve? Simply because God loves people more than anything! He is a personal God and wants a relationship with every human being.
"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
"And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God" (Romans 5:6-11, NLB).
GOD LOVES PEOPLE!!
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17, KJV).
This good news message is not "religion". Religion is man's attempt to reach God; the gospel is God reaching down to reunite man with Himself. Though there are many religions there is only one way…through the person of Jesus Christ. This is not a subjective fact. It is not an opinion. It is objective because Jesus himself made the statement and then proved it through His sinless life, death, and miraculous resurrection!
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved". (Acts 4:12, KJV).
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6, KJV).
The chasm of sin separating mankind from God was bridged through Jesus Christ.
"There is one God and one way human beings can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who is himself human. He gave himself as a payment to free all people" (I Timothy 2:5, NCV).
Through His being raised up from the dead, Jesus gained victory over the death that held mankind. His death saved us from our sins and His resurrection gave us eternal life.
"He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life" (Titus 3:7, NLB).
"And since we died with Christ, we know we will also share his new life. We are sure of this because Christ rose from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God" (Romans 6:8-10, NLB).
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23, KJV).
How is a person to respond to these facts? Is everyone automatically exempt from the wages of sin because of what Jesus did? No. As in the beginning when God created man, he gave mankind a will. God never forces people to love Him and have a relationship with him. God has given mankind a very special gift in Jesus Christ. A gift is not really useful unless it is received and accepted. God makes this Gift available to everyone.
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).
A person must receive and accept God's gift if they are to be saved from sin and restored with God. The gift is Jesus.
"For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, 'Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed'" (Romans 10:9-11, NLB).
This act seems too simple for some. It is simple, yet it is the most powerful confession a person can make in their entire life. It requires a great humility and a childlike faith.
Remember God is personal. He is a God of relationship. He simply desires us to come before Him and:
Confess our sins. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9, KJV).
Be willing to turn from our sins
Believe that the work of Jesus (death, burial, and resurrection) was total payment for our sins.
Accept the GIFT (Jesus) into our life. When He comes in He cleanses us of our sins and restores us to fellowship with God.
Some would say they have sinned too much for God to forgive them. Sin is sin regardless of the degree. God conquered ALL sin. No sin is too big for God to forgive. A person must not wait until they have stopped "sinning" to come to God. This becomes an act of works, not an act of receiving God's free gift. Jesus did not come to save the "righteous" but sinners. The ground is level. Though we may say one sin is worse than another, every sin is equally offensive to God.
Others would not stoop so low as to make such a confession. After all, this is the kind of response you might expect of a common criminal. This would be the response of someone sentenced to death begging for mercy. Many do not see themselves in this position. Blinded by their own pious acts of righteousness and good works they look down upon the "greater sinners" around them and feel deserving of God's favor.
Still others count on their "religion" to satisfy God's demands. To receive God's Gift is not enough. There must be an ever greater measure of religious service, works, and devotion to the church.
One day Jesus addressed some very religious leaders with these words:
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39-40, KJV).
Some are willing to go anywhere, except to Jesus. But when a person comes to Jesus with this confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ they are guaranteed His acceptance.
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37, KJV).