Recommended approach

Sojourner's paradigm challenges atheists and skeptics to make a shift in the way they examine and approach the claims of the Bible and Christianity. It is best to first watch the gospel message video and read the foundational truth of God. Other blogs speak on a variety of topics.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Good News in miniature

Those of us who have been followers of Jesus Christ for sometime know without any hesitancy the foundation upon which we stand. When discussing our faith with skeptics, the tendency is to want to provide evidence for our faith. Or we may use our own personal testimony to try and draw others to Christ. In some cases we may be tempted to present Jesus as the “best way to live” or perhaps use Him as therapy for what ills us. Or in trying to be courteous we present faith in Christ as nothing more than our opinion in a culture where everyone’s opinion is as valid as the next.

The case for Christ has little to do with our arguments or testimony or opinions. The entire message of faith in Christ must hinge on the foundational truth of the gospel message as presented in Scripture. The gospel, or “good news” as it is interpreted is the break in the clouds. It is the one message which is aimed directly at the heart and brings about changes both in the mind and in the heart of an individual. For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at this message of good news which does what no other message can do.

This gospel is so central to anything else, that if we don’t this one message correct, nothing else in life makes any sense. It’s as if we are trying to make our way around in a dark room with no light. We stumble and fall as we recklessly make our way through the room. But then someone lights a match. We can then see enough to make sense of the obstacles in our path. That light is the gospel. Only by hearing and receiving this good news can we then begin to have the resources we need to overcome. What is this light… this gospel message? Here it is.

First, we must acknowledge that God is far more powerful and awesome than any of us can imagine. A glance up at the night sky, or observing a bird in flight, or the face of a newborn, or examining the intricacies of the basic fabric of life found in DNA; all reveal just how powerful and intelligent our Creator is. He is beyond anything we can calculate or measure or observe. Psalm 19 puts it this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…” God is, as he told Moses, the Great I Am.

And yet, we can only learn so much through natural revelation of this majestic God. If He can create all this and have it all work in such harmony, then surely there must be design and purpose in creation. He must surely reveal himself further in some special way. He did so through the pages of the Bible. Through the Bible we discover the true character of God. We learn that He is both loving and merciful but he also judges sin. But please let me caution you before you jump in with arguments against these characteristics of God or the divine authorship of Scripture. We’re still making our way through a darkened room. The full light has not yet been fully revealed through the complete gospel message.

Following close behind this fact that God is God is the fact that you and I are not god. If he is the Great I Am, we are the great I am nots. By this I mean that we must acknowledge the fact that we are messed up. We have limitations. A quick look around the world at all the pain and suffering along with the struggles we face due to our poor choices, the pain we have caused others, the fact that we hate not getting our own way, the lust we indulge and the consequences of those sins, along with our own ineptness to overcome these maladies, makes it clear that we need a merciful God to intervene.

We learn through Scripture that we were made to enjoy a relationship with God. But something went terribly wrong. Again, an honest appraisal of our lives reveals that this relationship is lacking. We either ignore God or we make up a god to fit our own criteria. The Bible reveals that this snub against God is engrained within us even from birth. We carry within us the very sinful nature which originated in our distant relatives, Adam and Eve. They disobeyed and we suffer the consequences. We may, in fact, feel the harsh reality of his judgment on our lives and wonder if he truly does love us.

So far it’s not sounding very much like “good news”, is it?

But then enter Jesus Christ. Jesus was born from the Spirit of God thus making him both fully human and fully divine. He lived a fully devoted, obedient, and intimate relationship with His Father. But then was crucified by those who rejected this man who was claiming equality with God. As Christ said, “Before Abraham was, ‘I Am’. Sound familiar?  Or as he told Philip, one of his disciples who had asked to see God, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Upon seeing the risen Christ, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Many more passages could be sited which reveal the divinity of Jesus. And because of these claims, they crucified Him. And in a way, so do we.

But because of Jesus’ sinless life, death could not hold him for “the wages of sin is death” we are told in Romans. He rose again. We learn that he paid the full penalty for the sins of all mankind. It was our rebellion which caused him to die on a cross. You see, since God is fully just, meaning he must judge sin perfectly, but also merciful, then the price Jesus paid has made it possible for His mercy to be reconciled with His justice. The first Adam, whose nature still indwells you, results in your guilt. The new Adam, Jesus Christ, offers a new nature which can now overcome the old nature. That relationship you and I were created to have with God can now be fully restored…. But… that relationship…. that love and mercy, the new life God is extending to you must be received. Your eyes must be opened to your own sinful state and need for salvation. You must repent and receive that sacrifice on your part through faith.

Think long and hard on this. As long as you and I continue to live with ourselves on the throne of our lives… as long as we are still our own god… as long as we think the ability to overcome problems come from within us, as long as we try and control our own destiny and remain the captain of our own souls, ignoring the resources and provision God through Christ has made available to us, then God cannot become Lord in our life.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ In the book of Romans in the 10th chapter we read this, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and confesses with his lips and so is saved.”

By receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, we now have that relationship with God restored. The Holy Spirit will bring new life into your soul and awaken your need for God. He is alive, and now offers you that same life. His grace saves us through faith in Christ’s atoning work, according to His Word and in His promise. This is what we stand on. We have faith knowing that we will stand before God not on the basis of our own goodness which, by the way, the Bible describes as filthy disgusting rags, but on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ.

In this life you can now appropriate the many resources and provision God has for you. You can overcome. Trust in His unfailing love. Place your hope and trust in Christ right now and begin to see his hand engaged in all that goes on in your life. The hope the Bible speaks of is better defined as “certain assurance”. It is this hope, this certain assurance which carries through the remainder of our life and then brings us into an eternal relationship with God once we leave this life behind.

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