The Truth – It sounds like something that you would ask a child for when it’s obvious that they’re lying. But what about when it isn’t so obvious? The truth doesn’t always seem to be so black and white in our world, yet even when the truth isn’t clear, the truth is still the truth.
We live in a world that prefers to see things in context – a world that doesn’t want to see things in black and white, but rather to look for the gray areas. However, no matter how you choose to look at or word deceptions, the truth remains the truth. There is a very real truth that millions, if not billions, of people are being deceived about.
The truth that I’m talking about is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the begotten Son of God (John 3:16). If you were to take a survey of Christians and non-Christians alike asking them to define the Gospel, you would get a wide variety of answers – both about its meaning and its importance. However, God’s Word – the Holy Bible – is very clear on the matter. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the single most important thing that anyone will ever hear.
Because it determines our eternity. Allow me explain:
The Gospel Defined
The Bible says that we were created by God – He placed us on earth to live full lives and have community with Him (Colossians 1:16). He created us to love us. However, something went terribly wrong. God’s very love for us demanded that He give us free will – for forced love is no love at all – and with that free will we chose not to love Him back. We chose to love ourselves and live our lives chasing after our own desires. Nevertheless, God didn’t give up on us. He was willing to lay down His life, not only to prove His love for us, but also because the lives we have chosen to live have dire consequences that He didn’t want us to have to experience.
An easy example of this that has been used time and time again is thinking of God like a judge in a court room. One day, we will stand in that court room and have to be judged by Him for what we did in our lives. Now, He isn’t going to get all emotional and throw us in jail because we chose not to love Him, yet He is going to hold us accountable for the things we have done.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have done some pretty rotten things in my life, things that I would really rather not discuss nor have to pay the consequences for. Yet our lives are open books to God. He is all-seeing and all-knowing. He not only knows what we’ve done, but He also knows what we have been thinking every moment of our lives (Proverbs 16:2). Nothing is hidden from Him (Hebrews 4:13).
So when we stand before Him on judgment day, He isn’t going to get out a scale and determine whether we did more good than bad. I’ve never seen a judge do that, nor would I think it was okay for someone to get away with committing a crime just because they did a lot of good before or after. That wouldn’t be justice, and a judge that allowed it wouldn’t be a good judge.
When it comes down to it, we will stand before God and be held accountable for the things we have done that were wrong. God has what I like to call a “short list” of some of the things He will be holding us accountable for in the book of Exodus – most people know them as the Ten Commandments. It includes things like not stealing, killing, or lying, and while this is the “short list” it’s usually long enough to convict each and every one of us (because – who hasn’t told a lie?), Jesus broke it down a little further for us in His famous Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22). Scary, huh?
The point is that a human judge would convict a man for killing another man, but God has even higher standards. He created us to love, and when we hate others that’s exactly the opposite of what He created us for. He further pushes that point when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Based on those standards, we are all guilty of committing crimes against the God that created us. This means that we will be convicted and sentenced on the day that we stand before Him – and that is just the beginning. What we so often want to overlook is the fact that God doesn’t offer community service. Once we are convicted of breaking His laws, there is only punishment – banishment from God’s presence into the lake of fire (known more commonly as Hell) for all eternity.
Now let me stop for a moment, because I know what you might be thinking: “If God is so good, how could He send good people to Hell? He set His standards too high and no one could ever live up to them.” If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re exactly right. He did set His standards so high that no one has ever, or will ever be able to meet them – well, no mere human anyway. Mainly because none of us are ‘good’ – we might not be as bad as Hitler, still that doesn’t make us good (Romans 3:10). We have all broken God’s laws and hated Him (John 3:20). But where there was no way, God has made a way.
God loves us so much, that He chose to become a human and take our punishment for us. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life. He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He didn’t sin – not even once (Hebrews 4:15). He knew it would be impossible for us, so He did it Himself. In doing so, He became not only our role model, but also our Savior. The perfect judge sentenced us so that justice would be done, but then He posted our bail.
When God first created the world, He issued a warning. There was only one thing that Adam and Eve couldn’t do, but if they did, God told them that they would die (Genesis 2:17). Physical death was the original punishment for sin, then after our physical death we face judgment for our eternal punishment. But Jesus never sinned. He was God in human flesh – sinless and eternal. We couldn’t handle that though. Jesus threatened our ability to make it on our own. Before He came, people had to observe hundreds of laws and sacrifice animals to be forgiven when they failed, and if they did everything they were supposed to just right, then they would be okay. But what everyone was missing was that it was impossible to do.
When Jesus came, He changed everything, and the religious leaders of the day were jealous and devised a plan to get rid of the threat that Jesus posed. They hung Him on the cross for professing to be who He really was. In doing so, He paid for a crime that He didn’t commit. To quote the prophet Isaiah: “…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (53:5).
That is the Gospel truth.
We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), which means that we all deserve to be punished by God’s standards. But God loved us so much, that even though we have fallen short, He paid the price for our crimes against Him so that we could still spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).
Before going any further, I need to address a very important question: Why was there a need for the Gospel in the first place? Why did Christ have to come and die? Why didn’t God make a different way?
I’m not going to pretend to know all of the answers. After all, God tells us in Isaiah 55:9 that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. But I can tell you why I’m glad He didn’t choose a different way. It’s not that I’m happy that Jesus had to suffer and die, I’m just thankful that He did – here’s why:
Any other way would have left salvation in the hands of sinners.
If God would have changed the rules, if He would have said that sin was forgivable without punishment as long as ______. If ‘x’ amount of sin could go unpunished, then it would be up to us to get into Heaven. Salvation would be something that we had to earn. No one would know if they were safe. “What if I screwed up the next day? What if I thought I was doing enough good, but barely missed the mark? Would God alter the guidelines for those of us who were almost making it?”
I’m so thankful that we don’t have to address those questions – that we don’t have to worry. Because of Christ, we can lay all of our cares at His feet. We can relax and let His grace wash over us. We can rest in the knowledge that there is nothing left for us to do – Christ completed it all at the cross.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God sees sin as a very serious thing – something punishable by death, something that has to be covered in blood. And Christ became the perfect sacrifice. “The One who had no sin (1 John 3:5) died for our sins and shed His blood so that we could be forgiven.” We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and we could never make it on our own.
Jesus paid our price, one time for all time. He finished it at the cross, so now when we see our sin and our failures, we don’t have to wonder if this is the sin, if this is the time, that will push us over the edge and condemn us to Hell for eternity. No, when we screw up, when we fail, we can look to the cross and know that we are forgiven. I don’t need to know the exact reason that God chose to die in our place to be thankful that He did. After all, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend (John 15:13) – It’s good to be loved by God!