How are you doing today?
I’m not asking to be polite. I really want to know. How are you doing?
Are you fulfilled in your life? Are you happy in your relationships? Are you content with the significance of your existence? Are you at peace with your past and confident in the future?
If you have no feeling at all that there is a problem in your life, a great problem, then there’s not much point in reading this pamphlet. I’m not going to try to convince you that you have a problem. I believe that you do have one, and I’m going to identify it for you and provide a solution. But a doctor doesn’t come to treat healthy people. So if you think you’re healthy, then I’ll bid you adieu. But I’ll leave you with this thought- the time will come when the reality of this problem becomes undeniable to you. At that time, I hope you will remember what I said. Perhaps you should keep this pamphlet with you and read it again when that happens.
The problem you are experiencing at its heart is guilt. People are supposed to be a certain kind of thing, and it is all too apparent that we are not the kind of thing we are supposed to be. Why is that? A bird never fails to be a bird. A tree is always a tree. Sometimes some force from the outside like a bolt of lightning or a hunter’s rifle prevents the tree or the bird from being what it is. But with people, it’s different. It’s not what is on the outside that causes us to fail to be what we are supposed to be. It’s what is on the inside. We know we should not steal, yet we steal. We know we should be kind to other people, yet most of the time we care far more about ourselves than we do anyone else. We don’t live up to even the moral principles we hold ourselves, and it’s not because something else has forced us to. It’s because there’s something wrong inside of us. And we try to suppress the awareness of this very basic truth or to convince ourselves that it’s other people’s fault that we feel this way. But it’s not anyone else’s fault. It’s our fault. People are special- different than birds or trees. We have souls. We are spiritual entities unlike birds or trees and were created in order to voluntarily give our love and praise to the God that made us. But a long time ago the first man decided that he would decide right and wrong for himself, live for himself and rebel against God’s rule. And as a result, that man, Adam, and all of the human race after him, were separated from God and we all continue to live in Adam’s rebellion.
At heart, guilt is an awareness of separation. When you were a kid and did something naughty and your parents were angry at you, you had this terrible feeling that your parents were now alienated from you, didn’t love you anymore. The pain of a spanking didn’t bother me all that much. I would routinely cause myself more pain than that just in the course of playing. When my parents would spank me, it was the feeling of disapproval, or worse- the idea that my parents simply didn’t love me anymore- that was far more devastating than physical pain. That feeling would always pass soon, because I had loving parents who would reassure me of their love even when disciplining me. But the persistent feeling of guilt in our lives is the knowledge that we are alienated from God, that God is actually hostile to us. The desire to overcome this alienation is the reason people do most of what they do. Work, entertainment, religion and politics- all of it is so often pursued as different ways of either earning God’s favor or distracting ourselves from the pain of His displeasure. But it will not go away. It cannot be ignored. And if we don’t do something about it, it will kill us. God is the source of our life, and separation from Him will eventually destroy us.
The good news is, there is hope. God has provided a solution to the problem. Two thousand years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, to earth to become a human being in order to bridge this gap. He came and pronounced the hopelessness of ever earning favor with God by our works, the need we all therefore have for a savior who can rescue us, and the fact that Jesus Himself is that savior. The self-righteous religious authorities of the day, in envy and hatred of Jesus for His exposure of their hypocrisy, murdered Him by falsely accusing Him to the political authorities of the day, leading to His crucifixion. But Jesus had predicted that He would die, and that He would rise from the dead on the third day after He was crucified, and this is what happened. When He rose from the dead He told His disciples that His death was necessary for the salvation of sinners and that they were to go out into all the world and spread the good news of Jesus so that the whole world would know of this salvation. And thus the Christian church was born.
Jesus had to die because God is just. He will not simply ignore sin. Wickedness must be punished. But God’s great mercy is seen in that He sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to voluntarily pay the price for our sins so that we could be reunited to God. When Jesus died on the cross He became a substitute for us and all the wrath of God against sin was poured out on Him. He said on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus, who was perfect and never sinned, felt the separation and guilt that we feel because of our sin. And the death that we deserve, He took in our place. When we believe what God has said, put our trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ, then we become part of the body of God’s people on earth, the church, under the umbrella of Jesus’ own perfect righteousness. And now God regards us not as individual wicked sinners, but as members of Jesus’ people, and therefore beloved of God because Jesus is beloved of God.
So the Christian is freed from guilt. And when he is freed from guilt, he is also freed of all the self-destructive and evil thoughts and deeds that come from guilt, from the pain and despair of separation from God. With the love of God, we learn to love our fellow man, to love the creation that God has made, and to live our lives as God has intended.
This is all a process. Faith in Christ is just the beginning of the journey. Christians are still sinners, and hurt others and fail in many different ways. The journey can be quite painful at times. But it is the most rewarding thing any of us can do.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, and still think you’d rather stick with your old way of thinking, then the question I have for you is, “How’s that worked out for you so far?” Is your life such a bang-up success that you can be confident rejecting this offer of rescue and salvation? Are you so secure in the meaning and purpose of your life that you feel content going back to your old way? Do you truly believe in your own ability to pull yourself up by your bootstraps? What in your own experience or in the history of the world gives you such confidence in man’s ability to save himself?
But if it sounds like giving your life to Jesus is the way to go, then do it. And don’t be half-hearted about it. It’s all or nothing. Faith in Jesus means making a whole-hearted decision to believe what God has said. You don’t have to understand everything right now. But you have to be committed to believing.
If you do believe what God has told you, then there are some important steps you need to take right now.
1. Pray to God, and tell Him what you have decided. He hears, and He has promised to answer every prayer prayed to Him in sincerity. He answers in lots of different ways, so be patient. But tell Him that you recognize your hopelessness, your guilt, and your need for a savior. Confess your sins, and ask for forgiveness. Tell Him that you accept His Son Jesus Christ as your savior, and pledge to make Jesus the Lord of your life.
2. Get into church. You need the support of like-minded people. A lone ranger is a dead ranger, and you need people in your life who will encourage and teach you to live your life for God. Find a church that believes and preaches the word of God, the Bible (unfortunately, not all churches do).
3. Get a Bible, and start reading it. It is God’s message to mankind and contains everything you need to know. As a suggestion, start by getting acquainted with Jesus, in the book of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Then read 1 Peter or Ephesians to gain a great deal of instruction about Christian doctrine and life. Then just start reading from the beginning and go all the way through.
It is my great desire and prayer that more are added to the number of Christ’s people. But don’t wait forever. The guilt that I mentioned earlier is in fact God’s warning to people that judgment is coming, and it could come at any time. Christ is coming again, and if you die or if Christ comes again before you have made this decision, then it is too late. Judgment has come, you have refused and rejected God’s offer of salvation, and you will then receive the just penalty for your rebellion against the God that made you. I pray that you will instead receive the offered mercy, believe in Jesus Christ and live forever with Christ, and with all of Christ’s people.