How does Christianity affect me?

“Simply Christianity”

A Short (5 week) course for the Curious

Beginning Sunday afternoons in Jan 2014

 

What we believe, the gospel of Jesus Christ (as outlined on the previous page) cannot just be ignored. If it is true, it is life-changing. Every person who has heard it has to make the decision whether to accept it or reject it. And that includes you.

 

Paul, one of the great evangelists of the early church, has written your biography in Romans 3:10-18. Part of it reads:

“…There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…”

Paul won’t budge on this; he doesn’t think this applies only to people we see as bad, but to everyone. All are guilty and need to be judged by a Holy God. And the judgment for sin is death, followed by eternal punishment.

 

We may say, “Why doesn’t God just forgive sin?” but is it really JUST to just forgive sin? What if a judge in a murder trial was to suddenly well up, wipe his eyes and say he has decided to overlook the murderer’s sin and forgive him? That isn’t justice; it makes a mockery of justice! What about the victims, their families and the obligation to pay for what you have done? If God is to forgive sins (and there’s no reason why he should) he has to do it righteously, justly. Somehow the penalty for the sin that has taken place must be paid for.

 

So, rather than inflict us all with death and eternal punishment, God, the righteous judge, decided to pay the penalty himself, in the person of his Son.

P.T. Forsyth once told a story about a man named Shamel who was fighting against the Czarist regime in Russia in about 1870:

 

…His was a guerilla group, including not only the fighting men, but also their families and their livestock. His organisation was his own little universe, with laws fundamental to its own existence. Then one day stealing broke out in his camp and his organisation began to fall apart in mutual suspicion. So Shamel laid down the law and announced the penalty. ‘Thou shalt not steal’ and the penalty was one hundred lashes. Before long the thief was caught, and it was Shamel’s own mother! Now he had the problem of the law and love. For the sake of his universe the law must stand, in no society can stealing be treated with indifference. At the same time he loved his mother and could not face the requirements of his own law that she should bear the one hundred lashes. Who could bear to see his own mother get such a beating? Shamel shut himself in his tent for three days trying to find his solution and finally came out with his mind made up. His mother, for the sake of the law and for the whole society, must receive the lashes. How many societies have failed because at this very point they could not hold to the law!

 

But, before three blows had fallen, Shamel had his real and final solution, his revelation. He removed his mother from her penalty and required that they lay on his own back the full measure of every blow. The price had to be paid in full, but the price was paid by him. His law stood; his love stood. The only possible solution was to receive the punishment in his own person.

(As related by Addison H. Leitch, Interpreting Basic theology, 110-11)

‘The only possible solution was to receive the punishment in his own person.’ That is how God worked out forgiveness- he received the punishment in the person of his Son, who ‘was pierced for our rebellions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him’. (Isaiah 53:5)

 

The Bible describes us, not just as guilty, but as dirty. Sin defiles us, it pollutes us, it makes us filthy. And we cannot clean ourselves, just as dirty water cannot clean the dishes. However, when Jesus cleanses us, we are really clean- no matter how filthy we were. Some people cannot believe this, but the word of God says:

 

“Don’t you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers….nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And this is what some of you were. But you were washed…”

 

There is no stain too deep or lurid that the blood of Jesus cannot totally erase it.

 

However, there is a third problem- we are enslaved to sin. Sin isn’t just something we do, or fail to do. It is a strong, powerful force that holds us in its grip. We cannot fully explain this but we are hopeless against the power of sin. Even if we manage not to do some bad things, we will still think about them. For some reason we seem to prefer holding onto misery rather than humbling ourselves to Christ. We think that if we hold on to sin we have control over our lives and we are in charge, but in fact the opposite is true- we are letting sin play us and letting evil win. This is what Paul means when he says we are ‘under sin’. Sin is a tyrant that holds you tightly in its grip and you have no hope unless the strong Son of God wrenches you from its clutches. (Luke 11:21-22) This Jesus has done, Jesus is ‘the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his blood.’ (Rev 1:5)

We are guilty, dirty, enslaved people, subject to the penalty, pollution and power of sin. From all of this, Christ’s death releases us!

 

So what will you do with Jesus? What have you done with Him? Jesus said “All that the Father has given me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) Faith is coming to Christ. You can be assured of a glad welcome, he will never cast you out! And you can be assured that faith will save you from the penalty, pollution and power of sin. So, are you ready to come?

 

But wait! Do you understand what you are getting into? Following Jesus is costly. Jesus said “Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…anyone who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37-8) Jesus demands a place of supreme affection in your life. Faith also means surrender. Are you willing to surrender to Him? Are you willing to let go of your sin and allow Him to be Lord of your life? And what about this ‘cross’? The cross was the way the Romans put people to death, if you are to follow Jesus you must be ready, if need be, to die for him, as he died for you. Jesus also predicted that his disciples would be hated on account of his name (Mark 13:13). It doesn’t matter why the world hates Jesus’ disciples- it just does. This is the cost of following Jesus. Are you ready? Are you willing?

 

If so, we want to hear from you. Only God can change your heart and give you the faith to believe in him, but when you do we have a responsibility as a church to take this further and help to ‘make you a disciple’. We take that responsibility seriously and if you are serious about Jesus, you will too.