Feb 01 2023 The Gospel: How To Begin a Relationship with Jesus Christ
The Bible states that, in the beginning, God made humanity flawless. The first people were morally perfect, living in complete harmony with God and the rest of creation. But it wasn’t a forced obedience. He gave
them the gift of autonomy, self-determination, the privilege of making choices and the dignity of living by the consequences of those choices. The first people were free to either obey God or disobey Him. He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). After all, God didn’t want the love of robots; He created people to enjoy a relationship based on freely given love and complete trust in Him.
The first people obeyed for a time, and then did the unthinkable. They chose to disobey. They chose to go their own way rather than live God’s way. And they brought upon the world four lingering consequences that impacted them, and continue to impact us today.
FIRST, we are cut off from God.
Our relationship with Him is broken, and we are spiritually disconnected from Him. When I unplug a lamp, the light goes out. The same has happened to us. We are cut off from the One who made us, gives us life, provides for our needs, and gives us purpose. We might fill our lives with things to make us feel alive, feel meaningful, or feel hopeful, but it’s nothing that will ever replace what we’re missing from the Life-giver.
SECOND, we are cut off from ourselves.
There’s nobody on the planet who has it all together. Emotionally. Psychologically. Mentally. Physically. All of us are born out-of-kilter. All of us have wounds and deficiencies that go back further than we can remember. When a man is unplugged from God, it has a devastating effect on how he views himself. The same is true of a woman. And our society bears that out. This futile search for significance has spawned an endless variety of vices, and addictions, and psychological problems, and coping mechanisms.
THIRD, we are cut off from each other.
Soon after the first man and woman disobeyed God, they started pointing the finger at one another, and we’ve been throwing each other under the bus ever since. The national divorce rate is nearly fifty percent. People don’t live in peace, so we have police, attorneys, judges, and jails to contain crime.
They don’t keep their word, so we have a civil code that takes people years to understand. Countries covet the territories of their neighbors, so all of them train soldiers in the science of killing and destroying. The world is now defined by conflict.
FOURTH, everything in the created world has been affected.
To put it simply, there’s something terribly wrong with everything. Nothing in the world remains unaffected by the evil humanity first introduced through one disobedient act. And each of us continues to make the problem of evil worse by adding our own wrongdoings to the chaos. All of us are guilty; none of us can claim moral perfection. All we can do is point to the next guy and try to prove that his sins are worse than our own.
According to the Bible, God is one-hundred-percent perfect, and He will tolerate nothing less than one-hundred-percent moral perfection in His presence. To violate any portion of His moral code is to reject Him personally. Deep in the core of His nature is justice, so all wrongdoing must be punished. So even the most moral person in the world cannot meet God’s standard of goodness if he or she bears the guilt of just one, single, solitary sin.
That’s the bad news. We are hopelessly lost if the task of restoring the relationship is our responsibility. Fortunately, there’s good news! If a restored relationship with God is the goal line, there are four “downs” we must consider:
FIRST DOWN: God looked down.
The Lord could have said, “Well, you blew it. You had your chance. I gave you everything you needed to be happy, healthy, whole, and fulfilled, but you had to do it your own way. You made this mess, now live with it. In fact, the just penalty of your rebellion is death (Romans 6:23), so I’m going to let justice take its course.”
But He didn’t say that. Instead, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He didn’t love what people did to disconnect themselves from Him, but He loved people. He loved us and had compassion for us. But He didn’t stop there.
SECOND DOWN: God came down.
While God hates evil, He loves people. But that causes a dilemma. You see, the problem isn’t merely the bad things we have done; we are infected with what might be called the disease of sin. We are entirely corrupted with a moral cancer called “sin.” And until the disease of sin is eradicated from within, we cannot avoid future wrongdoing. That’s why willpower is never enough. As hard as you try, you cannot keep from sinning because you are sinful all the way down to your DNA. Consequently, it’s going to take something miraculous to cure us of this moral disease.
The cure came to earth when God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. Fully human, so He could represent us. Morally perfect, so He was qualified to bear the penalty of others. And fully God, so that He could not only die the death owed by all people, but rise again to conquer death and live on. Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, was born and then lived as people ought to live. And for thirty-plus years, He lived an incredible life. When He spoke, people listened. When He touched people, their diseases were healed. When He confronted evil, it shrank from His presence. But through it all, He knew He had a mission.
THIRD DOWN: Christ laid down.
Jesus came to earth to become our substitute, to pay the penalty of death that we owe for all the bad things we have done. He came as the perfect representation of good on earth, which drew the wrath of evil. As Jesus, Himself, stated, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Rather than accept Jesus as their king, evil people rejected Him, beat Him to a bloody pulp, and executed Him on a cross to get rid of Him.
Evil put the Son of God down, but He didn’t stay down. Evil put Jesus to death, but He didn’t stay dead. Having paid the penalty of sin on behalf of all people, He rose from the dead—literally, not just figuratively or spiritually. He left behind an empty tomb, having risen to a new kind of life. And now He offers this new kind of life to all who will receive His gift.
FOURTH DOWN: Every knee must bow down.
From the beginning, God said that the just penalty for rebelling against Him is death (Genesis 2:16–17; Romans 6:23). Not just the demise of the physical body, but spiritual death (Revelation 20:14–15), which is eternal torment in hell. That’s not a pleasant thought, but it is nonetheless true. While Jesus bore the penalty on behalf of all humanity, He didn’t set aside the gift of autonomy originally given to people back in Genesis. We are not automatically saved from sin whether we want it or not. We still possess the gift of choice and the dignity of living with the consequences of our choices. And so it is with the gift of Christ’s death on our behalf.
The penalty of sin is death, and you have a choice as to how that debt will be paid. You can reject Christ’s sacrificial gift and pay it yourself by choosing hell, or you can let His death satisfy your debt.
To accept His gift, you merely admit you cannot overcome the internal problem of evil on your own. You admit you are powerless to save yourself or even clean up your own act. And in that realization of helplessness, you ask for Christ to accomplish for you, and within you, what you cannot do yourself. You say, “Lord, I bow down. I give You everything. I want You to come into my life, rid me of the disease of sin, clean up my mess, make me the person You created me to be, and someday welcome me into Your eternal presence when my physical life ends.”
If you’re at the place right now where you would like to bow your knee and accept this gift of healing from the disease of sin and the promise of eternal life, you simply pray something like the following. This is just an example prayer; there are no magic words. This is not about saying or doing the right thing. All you’re doing is admitting you need God to save you, believing His promise to welcome you, and accepting His free gift of Himself in your life.
I admit that I am helpless to overcome my shortcomings to be the man/woman You want me to be. I also admit that the things I have done and the disease of sin within me have disconnected me from You, and that I deserve eternal death as a penalty for my sin. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die in my place. I trust in Him alone to pay the penalty of my sins and to grant me forgiveness. I accept His gift of eternal life, and I ask Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Thank You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If that prayer expresses your thoughts, then you have received a wonderful gift. Your life will never be the same. Moreover, you have joined an extended family of believers. So let me be the first to say, Welcome to the family of God!
You have begun a new journey, but you don’t have to walk alone. You have many brothers and sisters who would count it a privilege to help you know what comes next. We would love to hear from you and help put you in touch with other men and women who have walked the path you have begun!