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)
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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 G