This has been an emotional journey for me, and if you'll permit, I'll continue. Along our way Paul answered another good question:
So, I can't "deserve" it, how do I get in?
Paul says in Romans 3:21—5:19, that no one, absolutely no one, has a right standing before God and Bad News Paul adds, we're gonna need to fix that if we want in. The beginning of this trip started in "Selfland," and I know the end destination is a place called "New Jerusalem," right? But, since we are not born citizens in this new city that God is creating, we know we must establish an eternal relationship with God if we want to get in; which means we must pass through a place called "Submissive to His Will." Submissive. Ugh. Submissive is where I struggle and have struggled for an eternity, but God isn't finished with me yet.
I was living a foolish life for a long time and, forget about the suitcase, I had a luggage cart full of junk! In fact, even after my repentance and return to Him, I still had a booty full. And, maybe like you, once upon a time, I didn't want to reach out to God and apologize. I felt like my life was messed up. I felt like I was at rock bottom and somehow now I wanted Christ to come along and fix me, if He even would. But, sometimes that's just the way it goes. Sometimes we have to be at rock bottom, flat on our backs, looking UP at God, before we can see Him. Want to know a secret? He doesn't mind if we come in all dirty and bedraggled. In fact, I kinda think we're His sort.
I have a dear friend whose father placed his belief in Christ on his deathbed. She really struggled with his conversion and the "fairness" of it all. She had lived a good life, been a good mom, and a good moral person, and he, her father, not so much. In fact, she would say he had been a pretty good-sized louse. How was it "right" that he gets to live life the way he wanted, in a virtual "Sin'atopia," while she followed the rules and now, NOW, at the end, he's going to Heaven? Where's the justice!! My response, my only thought actually, was, "PRAISE GOD!! Your dad is in Heaven!" Really, what is the other option? No, really! She has religion, he has relationship. Like so many other churches, she is singing the "Do/Be" song. Do good/ Be saved. Do'be do'be do (wop wop). This story has so many more facets to explore, but if I go down that rabbit hole it may take a while to resurface here, so, I'll wait. Remind me later to tell you about the prodigal son. Love that story.
::Side Note … This guy was the exception, not the rule. Most people don't get the opportunity to "linger" long enough to choose Christ. Please, choose early! :)::
"Sin is not how bad we are, but how good we are not," Josh reminds us. We were all born into sin… thanks Adam, for that. Josh says that he thinks Adam is gonna have a pretty tough go of it when we all get to Heaven someday. 'Hey Adam!' ::Slaps on his back:: 'Way to go, man', or 'Smooth, man, real smooth.' Truth is though, Adam made a selfish choice to eat from the tree he knew not to eat from. He introduced the sin "virus" into his body: Selfishness. And we have inherited Adam's virus, Adam's choice for all of us, just like we inherit cataracts or blonde hair. But Paul says we can unchoose! The opportunity is available because of one man. Just like one man's disobedience caused us to move out of the garden, one man's obedience gives us righteousness and a way back in. His blood is our perfect antivirus; perfect and sufficient because He paid the price for us through the cross, our "door of hope."
It must be a faith decision. We must believe. Our faith must be placed solely on the work of the cross to get us across the ginormous pot hole in the middle of the road. There is nothing we can do to bridge it. Nothing we can do can catapult us across… only faith in Jesus gets us onto the bridge He has created. Even Abraham wasn't justified by his works; he "believed" God and it was counted to him as righteousness (4:18-22). When Abraham placed his faith in God something happened on the inside of him, as real as what happened to Adam when he made his selfish decision. God took all the debt of sin from Abraham's suitcase and replaced it with His own righteousness. Even still, Abraham needed atonement. Abraham could not enter into God's presence without the sacrifice of Christ and His saving blood. The Bible says the dead were resting in a place called "Abraham's Bosom", (Eph 4) (Heb 10:4) because no one could be in the Father's presence without the atoning blood of Christ. No one got in by their works, or by their circumcision, or by their Jewishness. Not even Abraham.
Atonement? In the Old Testament a lamb without blemish was brought to the priest to "pay" for sins. The priest would put his hand on the top of the lambs head and then cut its throat. The blood would be carried into the temple and set on the altar as substitution for the sins of the sinner. God would accept this as payment.
Jesus is the lamb, without blemish, without sin. If we want to be declared right with God, we must place our faith in Christ as He hangs on the cross so he can bear our sin. Because His blood has no junk, no virus, no sin, it is sufficient payment for all of our guilt and all of our sin. This plan is the same plan for everyone! There isn't a different plan for the flamboyantly sinful vs. the once-in-awhile sinner. Sin is sin. Remember, as Paul taught us earlier, its pass or fail.
So what do I do with this?
Do I place my hand on the head of Jesus, as He hangs on the cross, and willingly transfer my shame and guilt and sin to Him? [3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.] None of us meet the standards. Some are more moral, but NONE OF US measure up.
**Dang pot hole**
No matter how hard I have tried to leap the gap between God and myself, I have failed. And, if I continue trying the end will be the same, I will end up in the ditch, dead and eternally separated from God. I need Jesus. He is the bridge. His cross is the ONLY way I can get to the other side where God is. This means I must step out and rely solely on the work of the cross to get me there. No matter how moral I think I am compared to the others around me, it must be my reliance on Him, and Him alone, that grants me citizenship into Gods new world.
There is NO other way.
I'm getting off this path and getting on a new one. Hey there, I see Highway 777 right up ahead. My indicator is on!
~ J ~
Lee Strobel: The Case For Christ. Amazing atheist on a journey to discover how to disprove Christ.
Thanks again, to my pastor, Josh White, and other pastors, for their unintentional assistance with this blog. I am a voracious note taker, and if you said it, I probably wrote it down. Thank you for letting me plagiarize you for Christ.