“Does anybody know what we’re living for?” (Freddie Mercury (died 1991), lead vocalist of Queen, in a song from the Miracle album). That must be the most important question in the universe. It captures concerns like: Where did we come from? Who am I? Where are we going? In response, I’d like to invite you to check out with me 6 things which Christianity claims God wants us to know. Together, we’ll check out 6 points the Bible presents as facts which, when taken together, give a satisfying answer to that most important question. The message at the heart of Christianity is from the Bible and is about God and his son Jesus; it’s also about life and death and the choice we all face.
The first point of the Christian message is that God is a loving Creator. He’s the ruler, the boss, the king – the one who’s in charge of the world. He owns it because he made it. He also made us, and set us to look after the world under his authority and by obeying his directions. This is nothing other than what the Bible itself tells us – beginning with those famous words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … in the image of God He … created … male and female … blessed them and … said to them … rule over … every living thing” (Genesis, chapter 1). So summing up then, God is the ruler and we were created to live in and rule God’s world for him under his own loving authority. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But that’s not how things are now. What happened? What’s gone wrong? Something has – for it’s not even safe to walk the streets after dark. There’s racist thuggery of the most poisonous kind in the towns and cities we live in. What’s gone wrong? The answer is: we have!
Rebels at heart
The fact is: we rebelled. We’re all rebels at heart, rebelling against God. From the beginning, we’ve rejected God by doing things our own way. We don’t like someone telling us what to do or how to live – least of all God – so it’s as if we shake our puny fists in his face and tell him to go away. It doesn’t have to be as blatant as that: either we just ignore him and get on with our own lives or we disregard his instructions for living in his world. However we do it, we’re all rebels, because we don’t live God’s way, but want to be our own boss instead. Like little kings, we want to run things our own way, without God. Doing this is what the Bible calls ‘sin’. And it underlines it like this: “Each of us has turned to his own way” (The Bible prophet Isaiah, chapter 53 verse 6). ‘Doing our own thing’, as we would say.The trouble is, in rejecting God’s way, we make a mess – not only of our own lives, but of society around us. The world is full of people doing what suits them and not following God’s way. We all act like little gods and the result is misery. The suffering and injustices around us go back to our basic rebellion against God. The Bible diagnoses that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. “There is no-one … who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
So what’s God going to do about it all? Well, God cares enough about us to take our rebellion seriously. Because it matters to him how we treat him and other people, he calls us to account for our actions. The sentence God passes against us is fair. In rebelling against God, we are saying to him, “Go away. I don’t want you telling me what to do. Leave me alone.” And this is precisely what God does – he gives us exactly what we ask for – his judgement on rebels is to withdraw from them – permanently. As the Bible says: “They will be punished … shut out from the presence of the Lord” (Second Thessalonians chapter 1 verses 8,9).But since God is the source of life and, indeed, of all good things, to actually be cut off from him means death in its ultimate form. God’s judgement against rebels is an endless, God-less death. If we can just pause a moment and state the obvious: it’s a terrible thing, to fall under a sentence like that, and it’s a prospect we all face – since we’re all guilty of rebelling against God. So is that it then? Well, if it were not for God’s own miraculous intervention, it would be – since, as the Bible puts it: “[We’re] destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
God’s Peace Plan
However, because of his great love and generosity God didn’t leave us to suffer the consequences of our foolish rebellion. He did something to save us – he sent his own divine son into our world to become also a man – Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike us, Jesus didn’t rebel – he always lived under God’s rule, and so didn’t deserve death or punishment. But Jesus did die. Although he had the power of God to heal the sick, walk on water and even raise the dead, Jesus allowed himself to be executed on a cross. Why? We can let the Bible answer directly: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter in 3:18). Yes, the amazing news is clear: Jesus died as a substitute for us (rebels)! Jesus paid the debt we owed God (which was due to our having rebelled) by dying in our place -so that forgiveness and pardon might be available to us. All this is undeserved by us – it’s a generous gift – from start to finish! As the apostle Peter said in his first Bible letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
God accepted Jesus’ death as payment in full for our sins, and raised him from the dead. Jesus is now what humanity was always meant to be: God’s ruler of the world. As God’s ruler, he’s been appointed God’s judge of the world. The Bible promises that one day, he’ll return to hold all of us accountable for our actions. Here’s exactly what it says: “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).In the meantime, Jesus offers us new life – both now and eternally we’re forgiven: a fresh start with God, no longer as rebels but as friends – for in this new life, God himself comes to live within us by his Spirit. This makes it possible for us to experience the joy of that new relationship with God. What’s more, when we’re pardoned through Jesus’ death – not because we’ve earned it, or deserve it, but because he’s died in our place, we can be sure that when Jesus does return to judge, we’ll be acceptable to him. The Bible promises: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
So now it’s our choice. We can stay rebels against God and try to run our own lives in our own way without him. Sadly, this is the option that a lot of people persist in. The end result is that God gives us what we ask for, and indeed deserve – he condemns us for our rejection of his rightful rule over our lives. Not only do we have to put up with the messy consequences of rejecting God here and now, but we face the dreadful prospect of being separated from him for ever – without life or love or relationship. As the Bible says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (The Gospel by John, chapter 3, verse 36).
Taking the lifeline
For those of us who realize that our situation is hopeless, there’s a lifeline. If we turn back to God and appeal for mercy, trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection, then everything changes. God wipes our slate clean – he accepts Jesus’ death as payment for our sins and totally forgives us. He pours his own Spirit into our hearts and gives us a new life that stretches past death into forever. We’re no longer rebels, but part of God’s own family and live with Jesus as our ruler. “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 6 verse 2).
A possible prayer:
I recognize, before a holy God, that I’m a sinner (for ‘all have sinned’ & ‘the wages of sin is death’ – Romans 3:23; 6:23)
I realize I can do nothing, but repent of the offence this is to a holy God (for salvation ‘is …not of works’ – Ephesians 2:8,9)
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God – and that he died to bear the punishment for my sins (for ‘Christ died for our sins’ – 1 Corinthians 15:3)
I invite him into my life and so receive the gift of God’s grace, even forgiveness (for ‘as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God’ – John 1:12).