Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time to Get Real: The Gospel Story

If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 

In the beginning the one true God (the all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever present One whom the Bible says is by His very nature love), in order to make His love known and in order to bring glory to Himself (Isaiah 43:7 & Revelation 21:6-7), created the world and mankind in it. He created all things and without Him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:1-3). The Bible says that God said to Himself “let us make man in our own image,” and He did. He created men and women both in His image (Genesis 1:27). He made them priests and Kings: Kings, in that they were given dominion over all the earth that they might rule over it in His name to bring Him glory and priests, in that they stood before Him as the representatives of all creation bringing its praise and worship to the Creator  (Genesis 1:28-30 & Revelation 1:6). When God had finished his creation, He saw that it was good.

But it did not stay that way for long. Humanity chose to rebel against God. A serpent who was under the control of the Devil tempted Adam and Eve with the promise of equality with God. The Lord had already put all of creation under their rule, but that was not enough. Just like us today, they had an insatiable appetite for more. They desired to be equal with God, and so disobeyed God’s command and ate of the fruit of the tree (Genesis 3). The Bible says that because of their rebellion not only was the creation marred with imperfection but the first man and woman died, not physically but spiritually. Since two spiritually dead people cannot give birth to spiritually living ones, all humans since Adam and Eve have been born in sin (Romans 5:12-21). At birth we are no more able to love God or desire the things of Him than a dead man is able to walk. Thus, from that day on, all of mankind has been in rebellion against God. A great gulf has been fixed between us and Him, and that gulf is our sin. For all of us have chosen to rebel against God our own ways (Romans 3:23).

The scary truth of the gospel—the truth that we don’t talk about nearly as much as we should—is that God responds to our sin with righteous wrath. God hates sin! Though this is hard for us to understand, it would be ungodly for Him not to hate it. I know that many of us like to think of God as all loving and only loving but Scripture does not portray Him that way. He is all loving but He is not only loving. His character is much too complex and righteous for that. He exhibits wrath (Nahum 1:2-3) under the right circumstances and in the right proportions. Our sin is deserving of God’s wrath and so all humans by our own choice of rebellion have become God's enemies, deserving of Hell (Romans 5:9-11).

But herein lies the good news of God’s grace. While we were still sinners... while we were still rebelling against God's authority, He chose to love us with an indescribable love and to offer us forgiveness. God the Father sent God the Son to take the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8). Do you remember that Adam and Eve found out that the penalty for sin was spiritual death? Well it is also physical death (it just isn't as immediate as the spiritual death). Thus, because of sin all humans die and when we die we face God's judgment where those who have chosen to join Satan in rebellion are thrown into Hell (Romans 6:23). So the Father sent the Son. In Christ the Creator took humanity upon Himself, dwelt among us and eventually died for our sins. He walked this earth and was tempted in every way just as we are but He remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15). He was wholly God and wholly man. And this man, the only innocent man in the history of the world, died a criminal's death so that we could be forgiven. He bore the shame of the Roman cross so that He might satisfy God’s wrath. He died the death that we deserved. This is the greatest news the world has ever heard.

But our story does not end there, because Jesus not only died for you, He was also raised from the dead for you (Matthew 28). At the cross Jesus paid the price for your sin, but in His resurrection from the dead He beat the power that sin holds over you: death (Hebrews 2:14-15). No longer does sin have the power to enslave you. Sin has been beaten by Christ in His death and resurrection. Those who have believed in Him have been set free. What's more, in the resurrected Christ we glimpse the great promise He has made for our future. Christ has promised to return one day and put this world to rights. All the marring effects of sin will be erased. The earth will once again be what it was created to be. So too you and I, if we have believed in Jesus, will be resurrected for life. We will be given incorruptible bodies like Christ's resurrection body and we will reign with our God (II Timothy 2:11-12 I Corinthians 6:1-3, I Corinthians 15). Those who have not believed will also be resurrected, but not for life. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire which is the final resting place of those who participate in Satan's rebellion (Revelation 21:1-8).

So what must you do to accept the incredible gift of forgiveness? Romans 10:9 says that, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." It's that simple. Believe that Jesus was who He said He was, i.e. God's Son. Believe that He died on the cross for your sins and that He was raised from the dead. Repent (turn) from your sin and confess Jesus as Lord (master) of your life. Surrender your life to Him today and experience true freedom.

For further reading...check out any of the passages above.

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