Why do I need Jesus?|
How can Jesus help me?
What's the catch?
WHY DO I NEED JESUS?
We aren't saying you're a special case. In fact, that's the beauty of it -- you're no worse than anyone else!
Unfortunately, you're no better than anyone else, either. Not quite as appealing an idea, is it? God's Word tells us that "there is no one righteous, not even one... there is no difference, for all have sinned and are fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10,23). Bummer. I had plans to be prejudiced later today.
It really doesn't matter if you're a relatively good person. Even if you know all Ten Commandments and you've kept almost all of them for most of your life, James 2:10 says plainly that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." Maybe that's why "by the works of the law no one will be justified" (Galatians 2:16).
You can see what Jesus had to say about it here, in His famous Sermon on the Mount. Every time he brought up a commonly-held mora standard, He raised it higher so that no one was innocent. Rather than praising the so-called righteous and the proud, He said that the poor, the meek, and those who mourn are in a state of blessedness.
When we apply the Law to ourselves honestly, we despair of ever being completely "holy." We have sin in our hearts. What does this sin earn us? "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23). In this case, God means the second death -- eternal hatred for Him. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you..." (Isaiah 59:2).
God's standards are perfect, and all of us are imperfect. As much as God loves us, He wouldn't be a just being, a truly good being, if He never punished evil.
Through God's original covenant with Abraham, as He revealed in the Law of Moses, sin can't just be swept under the rug. There has to be justice. God and Batman have that in common. In all seriousness, though, God made it very clear that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). No matter how many good deeds we perform, it doesn't undo the bad ones. Imagine a priest saying, "Sure, I molested those kids, but look how much I gave to charity!" That's not really the point, is it? Justice must be done.
Now, God could kill us for our sins and condemn us to work off our sin for all eternity, but that would be pretty awful, wouldn't it?
And frankly, that isn't what God wants for us. The Bible doesn't say that He hopes we all rot in hell. It says that He "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:4). God loves us, -- that's just who He is (I John 4:8).
But if we're really all that evil, how can God love us and still be good? That's where Jesus comes in. Scroll down to see what I mean.
HOW CAN JESUS HELP ME?
"The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
We've all heard a million times that Jesus "died for our sins," but what does that mean, exactly? Like I said, a good God punishes evil, but He wants to love us, too. How could He blend justice and mercy? By sacrificing Himself. God became man and took our punishment. Or, as He put it, "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Bible promises in no uncertain terms that "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36); "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9); and "therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
Does it sound too easy? Does it imply that people you hate have a shot at getting into heaven? Does it mean you might spend eternity with someone you look down on? Yes. Yes, it does. (You self-righteous bigot.) But look at it this way: if there were some people out there who Jesus' grace did not extend to, the rest of us would have no assurance that we'd made the cut. We would have to spend the rest of our lives worrying about whether we'd sinned just a little too much. Grading on a curve is hardly fair, hardly justice. But instead of doing that, because "anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13), God made sure we don't have to live in fear.
God is far more egalitarian than we are. We all stand condemned, but in Jesus, we can all stand free. He promises, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
Bothered that someone who sinned more than you might get into heaven? Bothered that God treats others with the same goodness that He extends to you? God replies, "I am not being unfair to you, friend... Don't I have the right to do what I want with My own [grace]? Or are you envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:13-15); "My son ... you are always with Me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (John 15:31-32).
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
Jesus has given his life for us, and in return, all He asks is that we buy only Apple products.
Wait, no. Jesus has infinite value. There's no way we can ever repay Him after He gave His life. Which means: There is no catch. Some would have you believe that you need to obey a bunch of rules or you'll lose your salvation, but the Bible states that this is not Christianity: "...a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified" (Galatians 2:16); "and if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).
"Works righteousness," the attempt to bribe God with good behavior, is our way of subconsciously making our faith about us instead of Jesus.
All good things come from God (James 1:17), including our salvation. That means God gets 100% of the glory, and we get none of it.
BUT! This is not a license for us to sin. No such license exists -- sin is evil, no matter who commits it. But if we really understand what God has done for us, if we really understand how hopeless we were without Jesus, then we'll be so grateful for our salvation that we'll gladly serve God and stop doing the things that grieve God. Actions speak louder than words, right? "Faith without works is dead" (James 2). We aren't good in return for His thankfulness -- that's not a relationship, it's blackmail! We are good out of thankfulness, and not by our power, but by God's power.
It's like how Chewbacca has a life debt to Han Solo. Han took Chewie back to his home planet and intended to leave him with his family, but the Wookiees were outraged by this. They considered it an honor for Chewie to spend his life thanking Han for saving his life.
If you are a Christian, you can live in holiness, and you will live in holiness. Of course, seeking spiritual guidance and getting to know God's Word will make that a lot easier.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
"...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." (Philippians 1:6)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works..." (Ephesians 2:8-10)
"If you love Me, you will obey My commands." (Jesus, John 14:15)
THE REST OF THIS
PAGE WILL FOREVER BE
HOW CAN GOD BE BOTH LOVING AND ALL-POWERFUL IF THERE IS EVIL IN THE WORLD?
There is so much to be said on this topic, and I can only begin to summarize the ideas of dudes who are much smarter than I am. This page will be updated sporadically.
Before attempting to answer this question, I would want to know why it is being asked: for emotional reasons, or intellectual reasons? There are plenty of plausible intellectual answers to this question, but they won't take your pain away, or make your circumstances more bearable. So if you are asking out of heartache, there will never be a satisfying answer. What you need is for the people in your life to demonstrate the reality of God's love to you.
In When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner writes:
A contemporary teacher has used this image: if a man who knew nothing about medicine were to walk into the operating room of a hospital and see doctors and nurses performing an operation, he might assume that they were a band of criminals torturing their unfortunate victim. He would see them tying the patient down, forcing a cone over his mouth so that he could not breathe, and sticking knives and needles into him. Only someone who understood surgery would realize that they were doing all this to help the patient, not to torment him. So too, it is suggested, God does painful things to us as His way of helping us. The problem with a line of reasoning like this one is that it isn't really meant to help the sufferer or to explain his suffering. It is meant primarily to defend God...
Here Kushner points out that many who are suffering will ask questions about The Problem of Evil, as philosophers call it, but often they don't really want answers. They simply need to vent their frustration and pain. When friends or clergy try to defend God's character, it often ends up causing more damage than good. No matter how clever the answers are.
So if you're asking this because you're hurting, you should know there is no answer that makes the pain go away. Evil is a terrible reality in this world and I'm sorry that you had to experience it. That's all I can say.
If you are simply intellectually curious, I offer the following.
In Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias points out:
Gabriel Marcel defined a mystery as a problem that encroaches on its own data. By that he meant that the questioner unwittingly becomes the object of the question. We are not merely observers to the reality of evil. We are involved in it beyond any mere academic discussion... One cannot address the problem of evil without ending up as a focus of that problem. Skeptics calmly bypass this reality and proceed as if they were spectators observing a phenomenon, when in reality, they are part of the phenomenon.
The problem with the Problem of Evil often lies in its presuppositions. Take, for example, this quote from atheist David Attenborough:
...When Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy.'"
This quote seems to be attacking the Judeo-Christian God, yet it doesn't take into account what Jews and Christians teach about the origins of evil. In the biblical Genesis story, it is stressed over and over that God created the world "good." The vast majority of Christians will assert that this goodness included free will so that people could make a conscious choice to love God and each other. Humanity chose "knowledge of good and evil" instead, and it was only after this point that God said there would be death, pain and hardship. It was not until the advent of sin that things took on a "fallen nature," and genetic mutations not only had the capacity to great the stunning blue of the morpho butterfly, but the dependent and destructive nature of a parasite.
Many (not all) Jews and Christians deny macroevolution (molten rock becoming complex living organisms), but they do not deny microevolution (one worm becoming another worm). Everyone believes in microevolution. It is the only observable and testable form of evolution, and it is clearly evident.
I believe that God created worms good. God made worms good. Some worms have in the meantime become parasitic. I am not ignorant of the existence of parasites. I know how they fit into my worldview.
Many of the New Atheist logic traps don't even apply to Christian teaching; they're what is called straw man arguments. Long before Christianity existed, Epicurus claimed that God is either evil, weak, or nonexistent, because evil exists in the universe. But Christians believe that God made the universe good and then turned its dominion over to us, and we turned it over to evil. We also believe that God is going to take it back.
Why hasn't He already? Beats me. He has given us many chances to repent before the final judgment. If I were Him, I would have given up on us by now. Luckily, I'm not God.
We should also keep in mind that many, many Christians have no problem reconciling evolutionary theory to their faith. The Big Bang theory was discovered by a Catholic priest! His name was Georges Henri Joseph Edouard Lemaitre. When he first suggested it, a few atheist scientists went against the evidence and denied the Big Bang theory because they saw that it clearly meant the universe had a beginning -- an uncaused cause we theists refer to as God. Molecular biophysicist Alister McGrath, in his book The Passionate Intellect, pointed out that St. Augustine warned against tying any interpretation of Scripture to a scientific theory, since scientific theories tend to change.
Another common response to the problem of evil is that, by pointing out the existence of evil, you're actually reinforcing a belief in absolutes, and therefore in God. In The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft phrased it this way:
If [the skeptic] is right in responding to these [evil] events with outrage, that presupposes there really is a difference between good and evil. The fact that he's using the standard of good to judge evil -- the fact that he's saying quite rightly that this horrible suffering isn't what ought to be -- means that he has a notion of what ought to be; that this notion corresponds to something real; and that there is, therefore, a reality called the Supreme Good. Well, that's another name for God.
As Ravi Zacharias put it,
When you say there's too much evil in this world you assume there's good. When you assume there's good, you assume there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that's Who you're trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there's no moral Law Giver, there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there's no good. If there's no good, there's no evil. What is your question?
Philosophers say it is better to debate a question before settling it than to settle a question before debating it. We tend to choose comfort over truth. Truth can be very painful. If your heart is open and ardently searching for truth (not comfort), you will find it. If you're looking for a reason to be more sure of what you've chosen to believe (comfort), again, that's what you'll find. In a way, you're really choosing between two different kinds of discomfort: existential meaninglessness or the personal insult of Christianity's veracity.
The surest evidence that evil is not the enemy of meaning is this inescapable existential reality: that meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure. This obvious truth is conspicuously absent in the arguments of skeptics. It is not pain that has driven the West into emptiness; it has been the drowning of meaning in the oceans of our pleasures.
IS IT TRUE THAT THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF FOR MANY OF CHRISTIANITY'S CORE BELIEFS?
How can we know that the Bible is accurate? And isn't creationism obviously faulty?
No miraculous sign, much less any evidence, will convince someone who opposed to a belief system. William Lane Craig once cleverly pointed out -- to a man arguing that people hallucinate constantly, but that he would believe in God if He would only appear to him -- "Wouldn't you just say, 'Boy, I was having a hallucination'?"
We need to go over what "scientific proof" means, and what the scientific process is. In More than a Carpenter, ex-atheist Josh McDowell explains,
The scientific method can be used only to prove repeatable things; it isn't adequate for proving or disproving many questions about a person or event in history. The scientific method isn't appropriate for answering such questions as "Did George Washington live?"
Ravi Zacharias, in Jesus Among Other Gods, relates:
Some years ago, I was having dinner with a few scholars, most of whom were scientists. They were a fine group of people, and I was honored to be in their company. At one point, our discussion veered into the conflict between naturalism's starting point -- nature and nature alone -- and supernaturalism's starting point, which is that God is the only sufficient explanation for our origin. I asked them a couple of questions. "If the Big Bang were indeed where it all began [...], may I ask what preceded the Big Bang?" Their answer, which I had anticipated, was that the universe was shrunk down to a singularity. I pursued, "But isn't it correct that a singularity as defined by science is a point at which all the laws of physics break down?"
And how would a lawyer approach the evidence for Christ and Christianity? Sir Edward Clarke wrote,
To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. As a lawyer I accept the gospel evidence unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts that they were able to substantiate.
Lee Strobel was a Pullitzer-winning courtroom reporter who also put Christianity to the legal-historical test (hoping to disprove it). In Strobel's book, The Case for Faith, Norman Geisler, Ph.D. brought up the burden of proof. Who is responsible for proving or disproving their beliefs? Who should be on the offensive, and who on the defensive? He claims,
When a scientist comes upon an anomaly in nature, does he give up science? When our space probe found braided rings around Jupiter, this was contrary to all scientific explanations. So do you remember when all the NASA scientists resigned because they couldn't explain it? ... Exactly. They didn't give up. They said, "Ah, there must be an explanation," and they continued to study. I approach the Bible the same way. It has proven over and over to be accurate even when I initially thought it wasn't. Why shouldn't I give it the benefit of the doubt now? ... When it has proven to be accurate over and over again in hundreds of details, the burden of proof is on the critic, not on the Bible.
ISN'T CHRISTIANITY NARROW-MINDED?
But not in the way you're thinking. As Catholic progressive G.K. Chesterton wrote,
All intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist.
I should point out that narrow-mindedness is not synonymous with bigotry, although everyone ought to admit that they can go hand-in-hand. People will often use the exclusionary nature of truth as an excuse to continue being prejudiced, and that is inexcusable. However, to stay on topic, truth is exclusionary -- meaning that by nature of what it is, it calls opposing ideas false.
If you're new to this subject, I highly recommend a concise little book by Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing entitled, Is the Bible Intolerant? Oppressive? Homophobic? Outdated? Irrelevant? It's a fair and cutting look into postmodern views on race and gender, particularly where the Bible and Christian tradition are concerned, and Orr-Ewing isn't overly liberal or conservative, which I find a rare and refreshing plus. On the topic of women's roles, she writes:
While it is true that the Bible was written over a long period of time in specific cultures, and some of these contexts did not give equal social advantages to women, it would not be true to say that the message of the Bible is sexist or discriminatory against women... In the Old Testament ... the primary teaching text describing wifely duties does not conform at all to the stereotype of a disempowered woman... It is true to say that the Old Testament does also contain stories in which terrible things such as rape or violence occur against women, but these are not condoned. Much of the text of the Old Testament is narrative and not didactic in style... In the New Testament there are quite a number of significant events involving women -- particularly considering the conservative cultural attitudes of the context in which it was written... [Jesus] does this first by having female disciples... By mentioning these women by name, the tradition offers praise and gratitude to them... In Matthew 12:46-50, when Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are waiting outside to see Him, He points to His disciples and says, "Here are my mother and brothers." This statement is unthinkable unless there were women among the disciples. In the Middle Eastern culture of the first century it would be unspeakably offensive to point to male disciples and use female imagery to describe them... In contrast to the cultural norms of the time, Jesus made a habit of revealing great theological truths to women... His parables were drawn from the life experience of both men and women... But Jesus goes further than this in His teaching; He actually portrays God in feminine form... In Isaiah 42:13-14 God draws an analogy between Himself and a warrior, and then between Himself and a woman giving birth... Another example of God ascribing female characteristics to Himself comes in Isaiah 66:13: "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you..." It does seem likely that the Jounian in Paul's letter [Romans] refers to a woman, in which case at least one woman was recognized as fulfilling the important early church role of an apostle... While some Christians believe that [I Timothy 2] should be taken to mean that women should not have the position of ultimate authority in a church, this would not mean that women are somehow second-class citizens or worthless; rather, it would be an issue of role... The apostle Paul, who is often demonized as being sexist, in fact freely ministered alongside women, and the two passages in his writings which are sometimes taken as a blanket denial of female ministry need to be seen in this broader perspective.
There are probably many, many others who have a better understanding of persecution than I do; nevertheless, I know what it feels like to be an outsider, ostracized and marginalized. My faith has never done this to me. Maybe it has done so to you. If that's the case, I can't be more sorry for it.
In some situations, Christianity does call us to give up desires and even rights -- you might say all of our rights. Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). Having had Christ working in my life for over 20 years, I can definitely attest that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs" our suffering (II Corinthians 4:17).