Many people suppose that Christians are people who think they are getting into heaven because they have been good enough. The truth is, people who think they are good enough to get into heaven, are not Christians at all. In fact, such people are not even ready to hear the good news about what Christ has done for His people. They first have to be convinced that they have been bad enough to need Jesus' help in the first place.
What they don't understand is that God does not grade on a curve. He doesn't weigh good deeds against bad deeds or let us into heaven because we've been pretty good. God says that every sin against His holy law makes us deserving of an eternity in Hell. Every sin--not just the big ones, such as murder or adultery, but the little ones, too, such as cheating on a math test or stealing cigarettes from Mother's purse. God demands that we be perfect.
This puts us all in the same tough spot, because, as the Bible tells us, "there is none righteous, no, not one." From the sweetest 'goody-two-shoes' to the meanest criminal--from the most successful, upstanding businessman to the most miserable failure--we will all stand before God and be found unacceptable in His sight.
It is not God's desire that everyone go to Hell forever. He wants to save from Hell a huge number of people--more than we can count and from every race and nationality of people on the earth. In this case, we can be particularly glad that God always gets what He wants!
But God must save us in a just way. After all, if a man was a judge in a courtroom and he knowlingly let a guilty man go free, we would rightly say he was an unjust judge. God sees to it that every sin gets the just punishment it deserves. He is perfectly just.
The Son of God, in the greatest act of love that ever was, took on human flesh and became the Man, Jesus Christ. So Jesus was fully God and fully human in one person. Then Jesus did something that no other human being has ever done. He lived a perfect life. That's right, He never sinned--not even a little bit. He never rolled His eyes at His mother. He never had a lustful thought. He never stole a piece of bread.
Then Jesus presented Himself to God the Father as a perfect substitute for the people He would save. He agreed that He would take the punishment His people deserve, so God could justly declare that those sins were already paid for. It's as if I borrowed a hundred dollars, but someone else paid off the loan. My debt is paid and can't be brought up to me again, even though I didn't pay it.
This is what Jesus was doing when He died on the cross. He took upon Himself all the guilt of His people and He paid the debt they owed. He allowed His human flesh to be punished for the sins of others. And because Jesus is also God--the Giver of Life--He was able to overcome death and rise again to life.
Did Jesus make Himself a sacrifice for people who earned it and deserved it? No! He died for people who had no way of gaining entrance to heaven on their own. The Bible calls this gift He gave an act of grace. Grace is the giving of a gift to someone who does not deserve it and has done nothing to earn it.
Now when His people die and stand before the throne of God and Satan accuses them of this sin or that, Jesus answers, "But I have paid for that sin. There is no condemnation left for this person."
No condemnation! What a wonderful thought! In fact, it is a life-changing thought. But only if you believe it is true. If I told you that if you believe it, you could turn stones into gold, you couldn't make yourself believe such a thing no matter how hard you tried. You might be able to pretend you believed it, but you wouldn't really believe it.
Believing that Christ died for your sins and that you can stand before God with no condemnation is like that, too. Either people believe it or they don't. It is God who enables people to believe this, and when He does, it changes their lives. We call this faith.
Faith is trusting Christ alone to save you from your sins. It is not trusting your own good behavior or the blessing of some church or another. It is not trusting in prayers or altar calls. Christ saves His people and we can add nothing to His work to make it better. Sometimes we have trouble believing this because we feel like there must be something we can do or something we must do. It is so amazing to think this grace is free!
Faith is something that we cannot see. But we can see that faith is there by what it does to a person. After coming to faith a person who lived a wicked life, now begins to resist temptation and grows more and more toward godliness. All those bad habits he tried to stop with his own strength now fade as he relies on God's strength. It doesn’t all happen in a day--many people of faith struggle a long time with their sins, and no one conquers them all in this life--but there is a definite turning away from sin when a person comes to faith. The Bible calls this turning away repentance. We are commanded to repent, and those with faith are able to do it.
Another way faith shows itself is by love. The person with faith loves God and loves others. Again, it doesn't all happen suddenly, but a person being changed by faith wants to help others. He or she begins to set aside grudges and look on others with more understanding. He or she wants to please God, not out of a fear of Hell--there is no condemnation left--but out of a genuine love for God.
Faith is something that grows. It is a gift of God, and yet He has given us many ways to nurture it. He has given us the Bible. The Bible says that the Word of God does for our souls what bread does for the body. It feeds it and makes it grow. If you have faith, and would like that faith to be stronger, you must read the Bible.
You must also hear the Word preached and taught. God tells us not to "forsake the assembly." In other words, we should be attending worship services. Perhaps you haven't been in a church for years. It is natural to feel uncomfortable at the thought of attending one now. Yet you should remember that Christians ought to be people who consider ourselves bad enough to need Christ. If you think you are bad enough to need Christ, too, then we stand on equal ground. If a church you visit doesn't feel this way, keep looking until you find one that does.
God also gave His people a most precious privilege--the privilege of prayer. Remember, if you have faith, you do not stand before God now as a condemned criminal. You stand before Him in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God tells us that His people are adopted sons and daughters. You can speak to God as a child speaks to a loving father. When we pray to God, we can safely admit our sins to Him. We can ask for the things we need. We can ask for food and clothing and wisdom and a stronger faith. Unlike many earthly fathers, our heavenly Father will never forget us, nor forsake us, nor do us any wrong.
So, if you think you are bad enough to need Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, and if you believe His death on the cross is the only means by which you can be saved, I urge you to do these things: 1) Repent, that is, turn away from your sins with the power of Christ, 2) Pray to God every day, 3) Read the Bible every day, and 4) Find a good church that believes the Bible and teaches it faithfully so you can grow in faith and obedience.
May God bless you with a growing faith and confidence in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Matthew 9:12-13 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice, For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'
Romans 5:6-9 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.