The story of the Gospel is the most beautiful, glorious, precious truth in all of history and all of creation. God has created us with a conscience, He has revealed Himself through creation, and humanity has enough understanding of God’s righteous and moral law to condemn ourselves (Rom 1). People have sought a variety of methods to alleviate the guilt, the fear, the shame and the burden of sin, and it is because of this ultimate reality that all world religions have been developed. Every single major world religion attempts to alleviate the conscience by action. Islam teaches that the believer must pray, give alms, recite the creed, go to Mecca and fast during Ramadan. Each of these actions will pay off a bit of the sin debt to God. Catholicism teaches penance, prayer and recitation of “Hail Mary’s”, purchasing of indulgences and the like to buy good credit with God. If enough credit has not been earned, then the believer will go to purgatory to pay off the remainder of the sin debt. Judaism still espouses the animal sacrifice system. Hinduism seeks to appease an angry consortium of gods through offerings, prayers and rituals, and Buddhism worships and offers prayers to ancestors for help and guidance.
The Eastern religions, by believing in reincarnation, have a slight variation on the merit system – but at their core it is the same. Buddhism teaches that your reincarnation within the circle of possibilities is based directly on your past life, and the goal is to get out of the circle – because it is all suffering. Hinduism, likewise, believes that the reincarnated state is directly tied to sins of the past life, and enlightenment comes with attaining freedom from it.
Atheism, in a sense, also attempts to understand morality by simply denying it. In claiming that there is no absolute, they seek to alleviate the weight of guilt, shame or fear of eternity and our inability to control it.
Something is broken, and we want to fix it. And human nature thinks that we have the ability to fix it.
But here is the glory and simplicity of the Gospel. We cannot fix it. A person, in his flesh, can never been good enough. Every single person who has walked the face of the Earth has committed sins and felt the weight of guilt. Even Mother Theresa has sinned. A disobedient child felt the guilt and fear of being caught by his parents. A young person felt the guilt and fear of being caught and punished for cheating on his homework or a test. And the simple fact that there is a moral law by which we have been condemned even in our own hearts means that we have fallen short of perfection. And perfection is the standard, because God is perfect and wrote the perfect law. And even though we all hope that we are good enough, and most would defend ourselves when cornered, we all know in our Spirits that we are not good enough.
But God. God knows that we cannot be good enough, that we cannot alleviate our sin guilt by any action, because He has declared the punishment for any and all sin is death and damnation (Rom 3.23). But He loves us, and because of that love, He sent His son as the only one who was able to live a perfect and sinless life on the Earth, and then offered Himself as a sacrifice and died in our place (John 3.16). He did not deserve to die because never sinned. But He did die, and when He died God poured on Him the sin of the world. Not only that, but God caused Him to actually become that sin (2 Cor 5.21).
Jesus took my place. Jesus took your place. He the raised from the dead and conquered death, such that the simple and beautiful truth of salvation is: Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10.13). If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10.9). There is nothing that you can do to obtain God’s forgiveness through Jesus, you only have to recognize the fact that you cannot do it on your own and believe God for salvation.
This truth is so simple that a child can understand. But it is not easy. It goes against everything in us to believe and admit that I am totally sinful and incapable of saving myself. The belief and confession that is required to find salvation is the understanding that we cannot do it, and that we deserve damnation because we can not do it. Do you truly believe that? Do you truly surrender everything that you are to the leadership of God through the Holy Spirit because you will taint your actions by sin without Him? Or did you ask Jesus to save you so that you can go to Heaven when you die, and have continued in life on your own strength?
Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Confessing Jesus as Lord does not simply mean posting that picture on Facebook that declares yourself a Christian. Confessing Jesus as Lord means humility and submission. It is saying, “Jesus I can’t do this, I need you, You do this through me”. It is giving Him control, it is letting Him define right and wrong, and letting Him choose the next steps in your life. It is abiding in Him so that the Spirit can tell you what God desires.
Scripture commands us to love one another by putting each other before ourselves. It is fighting against the flesh and sin. It is crucifying our earthly desires that dishonor God. This is extremely difficult. It is simple, but it is extremely difficult. That is why Paul says,
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
– Gal 5.17
But when we confess and repent from our sins, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and begins living through us.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
– Gal 2.20
The Gospel is beautiful and simple. Children can understand Christ’s death in our place. But the humility required to not only admit but to truly and fully believe that we cannot earn anything from God, that we truly cannot be good enough, to fully rely on and need Him is completely counter intuitive and against our nature. Scripture tells us that we were made only a little lower than God:
“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!”
– Ps 8.4-5
Therefore it is natural for us to want to glorify ourselves, rely on ourselves, and make ourselves the highest authority. But we are not God and we cannot be God.
Do you believe that today? Are you relying on Him for sustenance, for direction, for help? Are you letting Him live through you and put to death your sinful flesh? Or are you still trying to do it on your own? Only when we fully surrender and place ourselves in submission to God does He take over, and in that He gives us rest.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
– Matt 11.28