by Mitch Cervinka
The gospel tells us that each of us is by nature a wicked, rebellious sinner who hates our blessed Creator. It tells us that we sin daily, by our ingratitude and neglect of God, by despising or neglecting His holy word, by impure and unkind thoughts, words and actions, and at times, by open rebellion against His holiness and authority.
Because we are so quick to think well of ourselves, and so unwilling to believe that we are the wicked sinners God declares us to be, God gave us His Law. God's Law reveals to us what things are sinful... worshipping false Gods, making and worshipping idols, misusing God's name, neglecting the true worship of God, dishonoring parents, commiting murder, engaging in illicit sex, stealing, giving false testimony, desiring things that belong to someone else. It is wicked even to contemplate doing such things.
The gospel tells us that, because of our wickedness, we richly deserve God's fierce anger and eternal wrath, and that God would be perfectly just to condemn us to everlasting torment in the same hell He created for Satan and his demonic angels.
Yet, the great wonder is that God freely set His love upon certain members of our fallen race.. not because of any merit or potential goodness He saw in us.. but to show forth the greatness of His own mercy and compassion.
And, out of His tremendous love for these whom He had chosen for Himself, God determined to do absolutely everything necessary to save them from the guilt that condemned them and from the sin that polluted their souls, no matter what the cost to Himself, and to bring them ultimately and infallibly into the glorious kingdom that He has prepared for them, where He will dwell with them for all eternity, being their God, and they being His people.
The greatest obstacle to His saving us was our infinite guilt and His own incorruptible justice.. He could not simply overlook our sin, because that would make Him unjust and tolerant of evil. To simply overlook sin would show that He is not worthy to be God.
God, in His infinite wisdom, knew how He could remain just, and yet forgive the sins of His chosen people. What was needed was a willing Victim, a Substitute, who would take full responsibility for the sins of God's chosen people, and would accept the full penalty which they deserved.
This Substitute would have to be absolutely sinless.. if He had sins of his own to answer for, then He would have to be punished for His own sins, and could not serve as a Substitute for others.
This Substitute would also have to be a person of infinite glory and worth. How could He, in a finite interval of time, bear the full punishment for even one person who deserved eternal hell? And God had purposed to save a vast multitude, which no man can count. How could just one man bear the sins of many?
The answer is that, God has a Son, whose name is "Jesus." Jesus is not God's Son by being born, nor by being created. Jesus is God's special Son.. the Bible calls Him the only begotten or unique Son of God. Jesus is uniquely God's Son in that He Himself is God. The child of a sheep is itself also fully a sheep, and the child of a lion is itself a lion. Many passages of the Bible affirm that Jesus is fully God, and that He bears the exact image of His Father. There is also a third distinct person, the Holy Spirit, whom the Bible identifies as being God. The Bible identifies these three persons as the one true and living God.
Jesus has been the Son of God from all eternity, and the Father loves His Son (together with the Holy Spirit) more than anything else. Jesus was a person of infinite worth and absolute perfection, who would be the perfect and acceptable Substitute and Savior for God's chosen people.
In order for the Son to save those whom God had chosen, it was necessary that He become a man, live a sinless life, and then suffer and die to bear the punishment for these chosen ones.
Jesus was born as a human baby in Israel, in the town of Bethlehem, of a virgin mother named "Mary." She was a Jew, a descendant of King David. Jesus, though tempted in all points just as we are, lived a sinless life. He was unjustly accused and then put to death by crucifixion.. one of the most cruel forms of execution, where, after having been beaten, whipped and ridiculed, was then nailed to a large wooden cross by His hands and feet, and left there six hours to die as a crowd of witnesses watched, and as the sky turned dark and an earthquake ripped the temple curtain in two from top to bottom.
Just before He died, He cried out "It is finished!" This was an expression of victory! God's eternal plan to save His people from their sins was sealed when Jesus, the eternal, only-begotten Son of God, died on the cross. Their punishment had been fully poured out upon their Substitute. All their sins.. past, present and future, were laid on Jesus in those six anguished hours on the cross and when He died, He had drunk dry the cup of God's fierce anger against their sins. From that time on, nothing could ever condemn one of God's elect.
After He died, He was placed in the tomb of a rich man, and there He remained for three days and three nights. When some of His friends came to visit the tomb on the first day of the week, they found that the massive stone which had sealed the tomb had been rolled away, and when they looked inside, Jesus was gone. On numerous occasions, He appeared to them, in the flesh, alive again from the dead! This proved that He had paid the full penalty for the sins of His people, and that He had triumphed over both sin and death. By using His divine power to raise Himself from the dead, He proved Himself to be God. Forty days later, He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of His heavenly Father.
Jesus will return someday soon.. not as a weak victim to be slaughtered, but as the Sovereign Lord and Judge of His creation. On that day, he will judge each human being by what they have done. Those who are righteous He will welcome into His eternal kingdom. Those who are guilty of sin will be tormented day and night for ever and ever in the lake of fire.
God knows all things, and He has a perfect memory. He knows all that you have done in your life, and His holy character will not allow Him to overlook sin. What will you say to Him on that day when He opens the books which record the sinful deeds you have done? Do you have a Savior, or will you have to be punished for your own sins? If there had been another way for us to be saved, God would not have sent His dearly loved, only-begotten Son to die such a horrible death. He is the only one who can save us from our sins and from God's righteous wrath and fury. No other person, no religion, can save you from your sins and from God's wrath. Only Jesus can save us from our sins.
How can you know if you are one of God's chosen people whom God, from all eternity, has purposed to save? The Bible commands us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and promises that God will save all who do. Faith is a gift which God gives, by His Holy Spirit, to those whom He has chosen. If you genuinely believe in Jesus Christ as your Substitute and Lord, then you are one of God's elect, and you can rest assured that you will be saved.
One word of warning, however.. not everything that is called "faith" is true saving faith.
Having come to Christ, you (and others) should witness a profound change in your character, appetites and priorities. You are no longer the person you once were. As you progress in sanctification, you become more like Christ, and the following fruits should become increasingly apparent:
May God hasten the day when we will be brought into the glorious perfection of His promised kingdom!