|The Best 15 Minutes You'll Ever Spend|
I can promise you that if you'll spend just 15 minutes reading this that it may just be some of the most important 15 minutes you'll ever spend in your life. If nothing else, you'll find it helpful in clarifying your own beliefs about life.
We all deep-down have questions about life that we often ignore or suppress, such as:
In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), we discover that there is a God and that He created the world. The first line is "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
And let's pause right there. Because that one sentence alone clearly divides all people on this world into 2 camps: those who believe that and those who don't. It has well been said that if a person believes this first sentence of the Bible (Genesis 1:1), then they should have no problem believing the rest of the Bible because whatever it is that causes them to believe that this first verse is true, should also cause them to believe the rest as well. If the Bible really is truth and is a book from God to humanity and we're willing to believe what it says in its first sentence, then we need to take the rest of it just as seriously.
Those that don't believe this first sentence or are skeptical are forced to try to explain the existence of this world outside of God. And thus in its first sentence, the Bible forces people to go into 1 of 2 camps:
People that believe what the Bible says, believe that there is a loving God that made this Universe with perfect design and order. We'll explore the "loving" part later. But people in this camp look at the world with all of its intricacies and detail and order and realize that a being greater than them MUST have been involved. They realize that all of creation, even their own bodies - down to the lines on their hands - testify of a being greater than them. They realize that all of the animals doing what they do, the plants doing what they do - all of creation - screams out "There is a God!" They look at the order and design of things (just think of a spider's web for instance!) and realize something had to order all of that.
People that do not believe what the Bible says are forced to explain things outside of God and try to come up with their own "theories" on how an ordered Universe could come out of nothingness or disorder. Even though everything in our world showcases things going from order -> disorder (a result of sin which we'll get to in a moment), they are forced to explain that instead disorder -> order. Thus they come up with thoughts such as a "big bang" where out of nothing something appeared after millions and millions of years and then over more millions grew and "evolved" and developed legs and over more millions of years, eyes, and so forth - eventually evolving to the point of "man".
Honestly it takes MUCH more faith in my opinion to believe that everything came from nothing, then to believe in simplicity Genesis 1:1, that there is a Being greater than me that made everything with purpose and design. But we all have to choose.
With that initial background, we'll now continue on with looking at the Biblical/Creation account of things. Continuing on in Genesis, we discover that originally the earth was created and humans were made to live in perfect fellowship with God. We discover that everything God created was declared to be "good", including those first two humans. But God gave those two humans "choice" so they could choose to obey God or disobey God. Had God not done this, we would be nothing more than mindless robots - but God wanted us to freely choose Him. God put the humans over all the creation and allowed them to freely eat of anything, except 1 tree that He told them they would die from if they ate of it (Genesis 2:16-17). That tree had to be there for there to truly be a "choice". The choice was even more real because satan (an evil fallen angel) was allowed to tempt them. Those first humans chose to disobey God and instead listen to the lies of satan, who convinced Eve (the first woman) that God had lied to them and was withholding good from them.
When they disobeyed and ate from the tree, they brought "sin" into the world because the fellowship with God became broken. A gap now existed between a holy, righteous God and sinful humans who rejected God and His ways. Death entered the world. Shortly thereafter we read of the first recorded death where one of Adam & Eve's (the first 2 humans) sons kills their other son (Genesis 4:8). The horribleness of death and of pain became realized in a very tangible way.
We all can ultimately trace our heritage back to Adam & Eve. They as the first two humans set the course for the rest of us and we all have their seed in us. God loves each person on this planet. He made this world perfectly, but we humans mucked it up by choosing to sin against God. He gave us choice to choose to love and obey Him or to disobey Him (sin) and we chose the sin. And sin has been in the world ever since. If we're honest, each of us knows that since we were born, we've sinned more times than we can count.
God could have just ignored Adam & Eve's sin or just started over, but then our choices would be of no importance and thus we could not have any choice in whether we loved God and wanted to be with Him. God could also have just punished us forever with no hope. And yet, God's heart was to restore the broken fellowship. He wanted us to be with him forever. And so His plan went into motion.
Since we could never pay the penalty for our sin and right the wrong because we were the sinners, the only way the wrong could be righted was if He Himself paid for the wrong. God spent a long time from the time of those first humans until the time of Jesus, showing us that we as humans would never be good enough and could never do enough to cover our sins. We couldn't even keep 10 simple commandments from Him. Much of the Old Testament of the Bible showcases this very clearly and shows us our inability to save ourselves.
Because God who is holy and pure also is a just and fair God, there had to be an act to satisfy God's justice. And yet, we could not satisfy it. So, in His love, He Himself satisfied His justice by sacrificing Himself on our behalf. Jesus, who is referred to as "God's son", but is also one of the 3 parts that makes up who God is (yes, there is a mystery in this), caused Himself to enter our world to fulfill His divinely orchestrated plan.
Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life on this earth, was put to death by sinful humans on a cross. It could not have been us dying on the cross because even if my death could satisfy God's justice, at best it could only satisfy His justice in regards to me because as a sinful human, I certainly could not atone for everyone else's sin. Only God Himself, perfect in every way, could atone for all mankind. When you get down to it, Jesus dying on the cross was the most unjust thing ever! It shows us the depths of His love for you and for me. There is no greater love. (see Romans 5:6-11).
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and yours, so that we all can stand righteous before God by acknowledging our sinfulness and believing in and accepting His work to pay the penalty for our sin. See, Jesus died and satisfied the righteous requirements of God to atone for our sin. But there still is the element of choice in all of us. We must now choose to either accept His sacrifice on our behalf or not. It was a global human act and yet, it is very personal in application. If we do not WANT Jesus to pay for our sin, God will not force it. If we choose to try to come to Him in some other way, He will allow us to try. We can try, but we will fail.
Jesus alone is the bridge that closes the gap between sinful man in rebellion to God and a holy, just, righteous God who loves everyone and wants ALL to come to full repentance. Jesus Himself stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). The choice to believe that, or not believe that, is ours. We can choose to believe in and accept the sacrifice of God on our behalf or reject it in our pride. You can stand in belief or in unbelief in regards to what the Bible teaches. One way leads to life (now and forever) and the other death (now and forever).
It is our choice. God is inclusive. He is inclusive in that He wants ALL to come to Him. But He also claims to be exclusive in that believing in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation is the only way in which we can come to Him and be with Him for all eternity. You can read Jesus' words as plainly as I can. We either believe or we don't.
The best part of the Gospel story is that it doesn't end with Jesus bloody and naked, hanging dead on a cross. Jesus did die for our sins. But He also rose from the dead. Jesus Himself, speaking of His life, said "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (John 10:18). Jesus proved He was God by rising from the dead, because only the One who made the universe and had total authority over life and death itself could do it! He showed Himself to many after He was raised and many of those people eventually ended up being put to death themselves for their unwavering assertion of what had transpired.
The Bible tells us that He now is again outside of our world in the Heavenly realm. He is forever interceding on the behalf of all those whose faith is in Him. And yet, the Bible does also teach that there will be a time when He will come back into this world. When He comes back, it will not be as a baby in a manger, but as the King of Kings coming to Himself pronounce judgment on an unbelieving world that would not believe in Him. "The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions." - A.W. Tozer
See, sin has to be paid for. We all have sinned. Even if the only sin I did in my entire life was just tell 1 lie or hurt 1 person, I could not live forever with a holy, just, righteous God without that sin being paid for. The truth is I've sinned much more than once and so have you. If we're honest, we realize that in ourselves, we are selfish sinners down to the core. God provided the way whereby we all can be put back into a right standing with Him - where the sin has been paid for - and where He Himself will help us live rightly. But we must choose to accept that gift from God.
The main purpose of life here is for each person to choose Life for all eternity. Everything else is secondary to that.
When God created Adam & Eve, He created them to be in fellowship with Him (Spirit). But when they sinned and that fellowship was broken, a deep void entered inside of them. This void is the result of a lack of peace with God. Many people try to fill that void with all sorts of other things. They try all sorts of religious philosophies of men, drinking, mind altering drugs, entertaining themselves constantly, finding fulfillment in men or women, pleasure, living for sports, and on and on and on this goes. It all stems from a lack of peace with God and people trying to find things to bring them peace. The truth though is that we will only have peace with God when we accept His terms and the way in which He ordained for that peace to occur.
If we choose to try to come some other way, God will, in sadness, let us try. But in so doing, we will come up short on that day when we stand before Him - and it will be a horrible tragedy as we are cast from His presence. No amount of good works could ever eliminate even 1 sin against God, let alone thousands upon thousands. But, God has provided the way for our sin to be forgiven. All we have to do is accept that gift and believe it in faith. Once we do that, we come to the place where we have peace with God because the broken fellowship has been restored. Romans 5:1-2 says "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." We only will ever have peace with God by humbling ourselves (letting go of our pride) and admitting that we are sinners in need of a Savior and believing in faith that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.
Jesus said: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:16-21)
It is so ironic that it is SO EASY for humanity to be saved for all eternity and be in a right standing with God, and yet, it seems to be the hardest thing for men and women to do: to just simply believe what God has said and stop trying to justify themselves and their behavior before God!
Rather than believing in God and what He says, we love to come up with excuses such as:
"I can't believe in a God who would send people to hell."
and on and on this goes. People are not limited at all so to the sheer number of excuses for why they "can't" believe in God or "won't" come to Him. Why? Because we are full of pride and want to do things our way. We want to be "in control" - in control of our bodies; in control of what we do or do not do. We don't like someone telling us that we can't do something. It offends us. We want to be the "master's of our fate"; the determiners of right and wrong. We take offense when someone suggests that we really aren't in control - that there is a standard of right and wrong that is NOT determined by us, but rather by the One that made us. This offends people! It may even be offending you right now!
It sometimes amazes me just how vehemently someone will defend their unbelief because they want to come to God on their terms. They want God to be who THEY want Him to be, rather than what He clearly has revealed Himself to be. "Much of our difficulty...stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image." - A.W. Tozer
I may be bursting some bubbles, but you must understand, you can be "open minded" and "tolerant" in your unbelief all day long - and even convince yourself that you are the enlightened one - and that all who believe what God says are "haters", "bigoted", "closed-minded", "intolerant", and the like. You can do this if you want. You can reject God and His truth in unbelief.
But if He is the standard of truth and you reject that standard because you want to make your own standard of truth and what is right or wrong, you can foolishly do so. He loves you so much that He gives you the choice to choose Him and His truth or not. And if you don't want Him, He, in sadness, will honor that choice when you breathe your last here on this planet.
How foolish for the creation to try to tell the Creator what is right or wrong. We have no place. It is utterly ludicrous. We can think whatever we want. We can have any opinions we want. God gave us the ability to have choice and decide what we want to believe. We can have any opinions that we want. But all that REALLY matters is what God's opinions are. The smartest thing that we can do is align our thinking with what God has revealed about what He thinks. And if people want to label us as backwards-thinking, intolerant, bigoted people, because in simple belief we accept what God says, then so be it. In the end, God will be proven true.
We come to God on His terms, or we don't come at all. We don't get to negotiate terms upon which we come to Him. He made the terms. We either believe and accept those terms or we don't. We either believe in sin or we don't. We either believe that we are sinners or we don't. We either believe that He loved us so much that He paid the penalty for our sin, or we don't. We either believe that the way He provided is the only way for us to be right with Him, or we don't. We either believe that those who choose Him go to Heaven and those who don't choose Him go to hell by their own choice, or we don't. It all comes down to simple belief...simple faith in what God says is so.
God most definitely is Love (see 1 John 4:8-9). His heart is one of absolute love for all. He is merciful and He is compassionate. He wants all to come to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
But He is also righteous. He is just. He is holy. He has standards on what is right and what is not. He has conditions upon how we can come to Him. One of those conditions is that we acknowledge that we are sinners who have fallen short of His righteous standards. We must acknowledge who we are and what we've done, and then who He is and what He's done for us! He loves us so much that He suffered for us by coming to earth as a man and dying for us as a sinless sacrifice, so we could be with Him forever! He loves you and me that much.
Physical death is not the end of anyone. We were created with a spirit and that spirit lives on after our physical bodies die. The Bible makes clear that there is both a heaven and a hell. Jesus spoke about hell quite a bit, describing it as a place of "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." People can (and do) debate about exactly what that means, but it clearly is bad...really bad. It is also clear that God doesn't want anyone to go there, but rather to live with Him in Heaven. He's made the way - His hand is outstretched to you. Will you take it? Or will you continue to fight Him and try to come some other way?
There are lots of religions in the world that men have come up with to try to "come another way". They can't all be right. People love to believe that all religions lead to being right with God - "you believe what you want to believe, I'll believe what I want to believe, and all is fine." Strictly speaking from just a logic perspective here: They can all be wrong, but they can't all be right. Because most CLAIM to be the right and only way. When Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6), He either was telling the truth or He wasn't. Using purely logic: All religions could be wrong, but they can't all be right. Somebody is right and the rest are wrong.
All man-made religions in one way or another are based in what you can DO to get right with God. If you do enough works, if you do enough good, if you do this and do that, then God HAS to accept you. They appeal to us in our pride because we like the idea that WE can make it to heaven ourselves without any help or as some religions teach that we can become our own god. This is in stark contrast to Christianity which is not about what we can do, but about what God has done for us. Christians don't do good because we're trying to get to heaven - we do good BECAUSE we have peace with God and want to obey Him. That's the difference right there. Christianity is not really a religion at all, but a relationship with God.
God wants to have that relationship with you. He wants the broken fellowship to be restored. He wants you to have peace with Him and know that you will be with Him for all eternity. He loves you and wants you to choose Him. Jesus died for your sins - He paid the price. Now you must just admit that you are a sinner that has sinned, desire to turn from sin, and in faith believe that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin.
It is as simple as praying a prayer like this one, in faith. It isn't about the prayer but about the faith in your heart.
"Lord Jesus, I admit and confess that I am a sinner. I have done bad things and have hurt myself and others. I have been living for wrong reasons and bought the lie that I would be happy if I only had enough of what the world has to offer. I now realize that the world cannot satisfy me because it can't address my deep spiritual need of having peace with You. I repent and turn from my sin, and I believe Jesus that You came into this world and lived a perfect life to die for me and pay the penalty for my sin. I thank you for that and I receive your free gift of eternal life. Please forgive me of my sin and come into my life today. Fill me with your peace and help me to live rightly. Set me right with You. Amen."
If you've prayed this prayer sincerely from a heart of faith, the Bible says that you are now "born again" - meaning that you have passed from death to life. We're all born physically but are separated from God. To be "born again" means that you literally become a new creation where your fellowship with God is restored. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ..."
God Himself actually comes to reside in you by His Spirit as a part of that fellowship restoration. He will help you to live a life where you can obey God and live rightly and live a life where sin does not dominate you.
The next step is to seek out a local church in your area that teaches the Bible and believes that all of it is the true Word of God. Tell them that you have just given your heart and life to Jesus and you would like their help to go forward. They will be glad to assist you. Also, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me and let me know of your decision as well so that I might pray for you! You can contact me here: http://www.laughandlift.com/contact.html
With love to you in Christ Jesus,
This is version 1.2 of this document (May 11, 2012).