What You Need to Hear

People think they know Christianity in the west. Hundreds of years of associating cultural identity with Christian identity has embedded such a mentality into most western cultures. This is the reason why a majority of baby-boomers identify themselves as Christians, irrespective of their church attendance or biblical views; it’s part of their culture, their tradition, their moral climate. As such, “the gospel”, for them, is stories they heard from childhood; tales they see as moral guides or markers for how to live nicely.

That’s what Christianity amounts to for many, but that’s not Christianity.

Others, see Christianity as an irrelevant relic; a past feature of culture that is rendered unneeded by a society dominated by scientific advancements and philosophical speculation. For many of these, the Christian perspective is not one that deserves a voice in the public square, it’s a belief people can hold personally and privately, but is not a relevant component for public life.

That’s what Christianity amounts to for many, but that’s not Christianity.

Yet others, see Christianity as something for all and everyone. It’s not a defined, fixed thing, but “whatever you make it”. Christian beliefs are ground down into just another option in the new age milieu, a “mix and match” or “choose your own religion” affair, where perspectives on any, and all, beliefs can be chopped up and recombined as the individual sees fit. Christianity is rendered but pieces in a vast Lego collection of new age ideas and lifestyle options.

That’s what Christianity amounts to for many, but that’s not Christianity.

The Fundamental Problem – God and the Plight of Mankind

The issue starts between God and man.

God is a holy God (Lev 21:8; Ps 99; Isa 6:3-5; Rev 4:8), that is that He is perfectly and uniquely “other”; there is nothing in the universe like Him. He possesses no fallibility, no sickness, no sin. There is no analogy that can capture Him in any complete sense, and no one can ever fully comprehend His entirety.

God is also just and good (Deut 32:4; Job 34:12; Ps 7:11-12; Ps 11:7; Rev 16:7). He is the sovereign righteous judge and He governs all that He has created, by the standard of His own immutable character. There is not one wicked deed that goes by Him that will remain unpunished. “The judge of the all the earth will do right” (Gen 18:25).

God is also perfect in His love (Ex 34:6; Ps 36:7; Mic 7:17; Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 4:8). Like the rest of His attributes (many more than can be articulated here, c.f. A.W. Pink “Attributes of God” for a good list), His love and holiness are united. His love is completely pure and “other”. It is unique to the point where scripture directs us to look at Him if we desire to know what love is (1 Jn 3:16; 4:7-8, 16).

So God is perfect in every way; righteous, holy, just, loving, good, and the list goes on and on… so… what’s the problem?

The big problem is that God is holy, good, just and loving, and you… are not.

God’s standard for truth and morality, right and wrong; how He knows what is wicked and what is not, is Himself. He is the moral standard. Human beings might play moral games, comparing one another, always able to find someone worse than ourselves in a “well at least I’m not as bad as Hitler” excuse. But God’s standard is the ultimate, unchanging standard by which everything in the universe, that He created, is governed. And He is free to judge everything in this universe by that standard. Our biggest problem then, is God. We do not meet His standard.

It’s much worse than that, though. We have not just failed an exam, and need to make up the class at a later date. We have sinned. We have rebelled. We have shown such extreme hatred to God  that even our best moments are, to Him, as filthy menstrual rags (Isa 64:6). Such is our condition before the creator and sustainer of the universe; the God whose air we steal when we do not breathe it for Him; whose time we steal when every second is not for Him; whose glory we steal when we do not give Him praise for every good thing in this life that we enjoy, though we deserve only His wrath.

This is the God who is our big issue; not weapons or poverty, not angels or demons, not rulers or countries. Our biggest problem is God, because He is worthy of far more respect and fear (yes, fear) than all of them put together. He is the king of kings, for He will judge all the rulers of this world, and He will judge you. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matt 10:28). The judgement He will pass will be an eternity in Hell. Hell because it’s a place prepared for punishment, and eternity because of the one who has been sinned against, the eternal God (Matt 25:41; John 3:36; 2 Thess 1:9).

Someone might say, “that’s not true. God is not judgemental; God is love!”, but scripture says God “hates all who do evil” (Ps 5:5). We need to realise that it is His perfect love and goodness that is the reason for His hatred of sin (Ps 11:5; Lev 20:23; Prov 6:16-19; Hos 9:15). Because He is a loving God, there are things that He must hate. Even at the human level, we know this. If someone loves people, they hate murder. Similarly if someone loves and cares for women, they must hate rape. God does not possess a lesser love than we do, but instead a greater, deeper, more fervent and pure love. And His love is dangerous to us, because we are those in the wrong.

As Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23). Our problem, evil, is not some exterior force that forces people to do wrong things. The problem is us, because evil comes from our hearts. As such, all people have sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), all stand condemned before God as wilful rebels against Him (Rom 1:21); dead men walking (Eph 2:1).

A hopeless situation, right? Wrong.

The Solution – God’s Gracious Provision

A problem that began with the rebellion of man against a God who deserved no evil, has been solved by God. Though Christians deserve it not, God, who is rich in mercy, has provided a way out of judgement. And the way out is through Him.

In love, God sent His Son, God in the flesh, to live the perfect life that none of us could ever live; to fulfil every righteous requirement that God requires of mankind. He did not sin, not once, not even His closest companions could fault Him. But He did not just live for Christians, He died for us, on a Roman cross; executed under Roman governor Pontius Pilate, at the behest of the Jewish ruling council. But, that wasn’t the big issue. A man dying on a cross was a common thing in the ancient world, and recall that our biggest problem isn’t with the rulers or countries of this world, it’s with God. What occurred on that cross was something that has never occurred and will never again occur. As God the Son (Jesus Christ), the second person of the triune God, hung upon that cross, God the Father poured His wrath, full-strength, upon the Son. Every last drop of that cup of eternal torment was poured out for the six hours he hung there, until it was finished (John 19:30). In a real sense, Christians can say that their saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, drank their Hell.

It doesn’t end there, though. He did not remain dead. Three days later He rose, conquering death by the power of God. By his enduring the cross for our sake, He bought us our justification, a right legal standing before God. Whereas, before we stood as men and women condemned, but now we stand “not guilty”, justified by the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 4:25; 1 Jn 4:10). More than that, though; in His resurrection He has conquered death and bought us eternal life in Him. It is in the knowledge of this, that Christians for over two thousand years have echoed the words of the apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”. Christians do not fear death, because death has been conquered. We live for Christ, and to die is to gain, for we will be with Him in eternity (Phil 1:21).

As such, Christians are now said to be new creations (2 Cor 5:17), purchased by Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5), the one who does the renovation work of sanctification (Rom 15:16), making us more and more Christ-like, day by day.

Repent and Believe

The cross and resurrection is the heart of what is called “the gospel” (or “good news”), the core of Christianity, but it’s not a universal salvation. Not everyone will be going to Heaven to be with Jesus Christ. Hell is real, and people will go there. In fact, a majority of people will be going there, according to Jesus, “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-14). It’s clear from scripture that God saves, and God alone, but it’s also clear that a work of God in someone changes them (Isaiah 6:1-8, Acts 9:1-19). The Bible is littered with examples of men and women alike proclaiming (or preaching), the “good news” and those hearing (or receiving), it. God saves people through His word being spoken by Christians, or read in His scripture (the Bible).

This receiving of the gospel can be summed up in two words, “repent & believe” (Mark 1:15). It all begins with a recognition and confession that what God says about us is true, that we have sinned. King David provides a good example, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:3-4).

Such a genuine recognition of our sinfulness and guilt will necessarily be accompanied by a genuine sorrow, shame and even hatred for the sin we have done. As Paul says in Romans 7:15, 24, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”

However, sincerity of confession alone is never definite evidence of genuine Christian repentance. It will be accompanied by a turning away from sin (Matt 3:10). A turning from the sin you once loved, to the saviour you once hated. A complete character reversal has occurred in your vision of life. You no longer want sin as you once did, you want more of Him. You want God in your life, ruling you. He has become the centre of your love and adoration. The focus is off yourself, and your earthly desires and upon the one who saved you (2 Cor 5:17).

That’s what biblical repentance looks like, believing on Christ and conforming your steps to that reality. And for Christians, this will last. It might often feel like three steps forward, two steps back, but if you have this genuine faith/trust in Christ (Heb 11:1), because He has saved you, then it will last. You will persevere.

If you are not a Christian, and are reading this page, I urge you, do not take these things lightly. Do not treat the pearls of God as though they were rubbish to be cast aside. In a sense, the gospel is both good news and bad, depending on how a person reacts to it. It’s good news to those who repent and believe in faith, for they are indeed better off. But, to others, it’s not so good news. For those who neglect such a great salvation (Heb 2:3), there will be harsher judgement, because they have rejected the light of God (John 3:20) in a clearer way than the many who have never heard the gospel proclaimed to them.

If you come from a Christian background, but do not have assurance that you are a Christian, then check out the book of 1 John. It was written so that those who read it could discern how they has assurance of being saved (1 John 5:13). Do not make the mistake in assuming that because you, or others, attend church weekly, that it somehow makes you alright with God. Only those saved by the blood of Christ, and not by works, who are born again by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:5). Christians look to discern all things by the light of scripture, and that includes issues of salvation, and having assurance of it (2 Cor 13:5). We are not a people swept around by mere superstition, such as magical prayers or moving emotions, but we are anchored firmly to the truth of God, revealed infallibly in the word of God.
If you wish to contact us regarding anything written here, whether it be clarification on doctrine, or you’re in need of biblical counseling, do not hesitate to send us your details via the “connect” page.

~ Peter Smith, Elder at Sola Reformed Baptist Church