None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:10-11)
Our world is a troubled place. Turn on cable news and you’ll see videos of war, riots, and natural disasters. Open the newspaper and you’ll read about brutal murders, or brazen robberies, or child abuse, or government corruption.
It’s not just something in the news, either. Arguments with family members. Jealousy of your friend’s new car or house or promotion. Fear that makes you lock the doors at night. The world is a troubled place, and it affects you personally. Indeed, your life is troubled, in big ways and in small ways.
Even worse, we’re part of the problem. Just like any of us, you’re not perfect. You lose your temper. You fail to tell the truth sometimes. You talk behind a friend’s back. You resent others for their possessions and opportunities.
Why does everyone do bad things? You’ve probably heard the word “sin” before. A sin is a bad deed, something done that breaks God’s rules. We all sin. Every one of us.
Here’s the problem. We aren’t sinners because we sin. In other words, the bad things we do don’t make us sinners. We sin because we are sinful—that is, there’s something broken, rotten, inside every person, and that’s why we all sin.
The Bible explains the problem, in Genesis chapter three. The very first man who ever lived, Adam, was given one simple rule, and he broke it. Told to stay away from the fruit of one tree, he decided to try it anyway. Adam thought he knew better than God. He didn’t like being told what to do and what not to do. And so he rebelled. When he did, he led all humanity—every one of his descendants, including us, including you—into sin. Now, we are all born with a “sinful nature.” Now, as a result of sin, we all die; “the wages of sin is death.” We all rebel against God by sinning, by resisting his authority, by trying to make our own rules and live how we please.
God is good. God is just. God is righteous. These truths sound encouraging, until we realize that his very goodness and justice and righteousness demand that he destroy sin and evil, and punish those who do them.
God is the judge of sinners, and that makes him the enemy of sinners. When we rebel against him and make war on him by trying to live life our own way, we’re guilty of treason. We are made in God’s image and are supposed to represent and resemble him, but when we sin we make a mockery of him. Our sins are grave crimes—infinite crimes, calling for infinite punishment. We are guilty—and God has promised to punish sin. Every human being is guilty and deserves eternal punishment.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5a)
We’re all guilty. Left on our own, we’re all bound for hell. Sure, we can do good things, but they won’t change what we’ve already done—or deal with the real problem, which is our own sinful nature.
We can’t save ourselves. But how can God help? He’s pure and perfect and can’t tolerate sin. If he were to close a blind eye to what we’ve done, he would be unjust—what would we think of a judge who let criminals walk?
But God chose to show both his justice and his mercy, his goodness and his love, by paying the price himself. God became a man, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived the perfect life we were supposed to live, a life that pleased God his Father. Jesus never sinned. Like Adam, the first man, Jesus was tempted. But unlike Adam, Jesus passed the test.
God must punish sin. So Jesus took the punishment for us. Jesus submitted to a kangaroo court and was sentenced to death, though he did nothing wrong. On the Cross the Father poured out his wrath against sin on his own Son. Being a human being, Jesus could be punished in the place of sinners. Being God, Jesus could pay the infinite price required. And when it was done, on the third day afterward, Jesus rose from the dead—showing that sin and death were defeated and that God had accepted his sacrifice. One day, Jesus will return to set everything right.
Jesus paid the penalty for sin. And God is pleased to forgive the sins of people just like us, just like you, counting those sins as nailed to the cross, as punished in Christ.
Everyone joined to Adam, descended from Adam, is a sinner and deserves death, but everyone joined to Jesus Christ by faith is counted as righteous and perfect. God now looks at those who belong to Jesus, counting Jesus’ perfect life as if it was done by and belongs to them. We stand before God “justified,” declared righteous even though we’re not, because God accepts Jesus’ life and death in place of our own. And even more—God adopts us as his own children, gives us an inheritance with Jesus Christ, and grants us everlasting life—if, and only if, we belong to him.
That is the life-and-eternal-death question. Do you belong to him?
[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Every religion on earth has its own formula for “fixing” the human problem. Do these good deeds. Perform these rituals. Avoid this food. Avoid that food. Empty yourself of all passion. But none of these address the problem: we need a new nature.
You must be “born again,” “born from above.” God has to change your heart. That’s something you can’t do, or cause in any way. It comes only by God’s Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word—the Bible and its message of salvation—as it is told to sinners. Through that preaching—like in churches on Sunday mornings, or even through words of truth like the ones you’re reading right now—the Holy Spirit brings “conviction” of sin, showing sinners like you that you are guilty and need a Saviour.
Do you realize that you are guilty, and destined for hell? Please, if you are reading this and haven’t yet reckoned with this fact, don’t wait. Don’t put this off. If you don’t belong to Jesus, what you need to do is simple. Repent—realize you’re a sinner, and turn from your old ways. Believe—believe that Jesus paid the price for sin, and trust in him, lean on him and what he did, to save you from God’s judgment.
Faith alone saves. Remember that Adam tried to do it his own way—trying to save yourself won’t do it. You can’t earn points or “buy off” God with good deeds, because God intends to have all the glory and honour, all the credit, for saving you. Stop trying to be “good enough,” because it won’t work. Only an empty-handed faith and trust, that abandons one’s own efforts to be “good enough,” and trusts instead in the Only One, Jesus, who actually was Good Enough, will save you.
And if you believe, God commands you to serve him as one of his people. You need to be baptized—immersed in water as a declaration and confession of your new faith. You need to join a family of Christian believers—a local church, such as our own at Grace Church, where you can regularly hear the Bible, God’s Word, preached and taught and so grow in your faith in and understanding of God.
Look to this Christ. Turn from your sin. Believe in Jesus—faith alone saves. That’s it.
Do you have questions about God, sin, Christ, or salvation? Do you believe and need baptism? Need a local church family in which to serve? Don’t hesitate to contact us!