When I was 25 years old, I blew out my knee playing basketball. What do you do when that happens? You lay down on the floor and groan, and then you go see a doctor. In that order.
The doctor began by showing me x-rays of my knee and explaining that I tore one ligament, stretched a second ligament, and damaged the meniscus. Further, he explained what would happen if my knee remained like this. Finally, he explained that surgery and physical therapy would provide a solution to my problems. I thanked him and agreed to proceed.
Here's the point: If the doctor hadn't convinced me of my need, I wouldn't have seen any value in his solution. (Why would I want surgery if I didn't need it, right?)
The same is true with God. We can only embrace his solution if we first understand our need. (See Matthew 9:11-13.)
Think About This
If you're like most people, you believe that everyone will continue to exist somewhere after death. Surveys show a majority of Americans believe in a heaven of some sort. Fewer believe in hell.
If God appeared to you and asked you, "Why should I let you into heaven?" what would you say? Again, if you're like most people, you would answer by pointing to your effort to live a good life. Why? Because most people believe that good people go to heaven. In other words, behave yourself now and heaven awaits you on the other side.*
But is that true?
Wouldn't it be worth your time to know what the Bible says about this important topic? It's what Easter weekend is about.
My guess is you're like the majority of people I know -- good people seeking to live good lives. But if you and I were totally honest with ourselves, hand-on-heart, we would probably acknowledge that there are some things in the past we wish we would have done differently.
A summary of God's standard can be read here and here. The Bible says it only takes one sin, just one, to fall short of God's standard: "For whoever keeps the whole law (of God) and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10). So even if we live perfectly every second of our lives from this day forward, we've already missed the mark. God sees our sin as a debt that is impossible for us to repay (see Matthew 18:21-35), and the consequences of sin is spiritual death, including eternity apart from him: "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23). And we're all in the same boat: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Simply put, we are totally unable to fix the situation by ourselves.
So, God's two choices at this point seem to be:
- Compromise his integrity as a judge by ignoring justice ("Don't worry about your sin. It's ok."); or
- Condemn all people to an eternity apart from him.
He can't do option one, and he doesn't want to do option two. So, what did God choose to do?
When you were a kid in school and your teacher was out sick, who did the school send to your classroom? A substitute. That person wasn't your teacher, she was there in place of your teacher.
When Jesus died on the cross, he wasn't the sinner. He was there in place of the sinner. He offered himself as our substitute.
Jesus sacrificed himself on Good Friday to pay the penalty for our sin. Then, God raised him from the dead on Easter morning, showing he had accepted the sacrifice. The solution was finished.
Look at God's heartfelt motive of love described in Ephesians 2:4-9: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.
Years ago, I realized my need and asked him to give me his solution. I asked him to forgive me, I believed that he died and rose again to pay the penalty for my sin, and I confessed my faith in him. Though I am far from perfect, I can say that he came to live inside of me and has changed my life.
God doesn't play favorites, and nobody has sinned too much to receive his grace. The good news is he offers his solution as a free gift to anyone who truly believes. If you haven't responded to him like this before, he loves you and longs for you to do so.
*See Andy Stanley's book, "Since Nobody's Perfect, How Good is Good Enough?"