Friday, January 8, 2016

Our good deeds can't save us

One of the most common misconceptions about the Bible and God is that it is the “good people” who make it to heaven and those who have broken the rules in the Bible will end up in hell. I think the reason we assume this is the way Christianity works is that we are so used to this way of thinking ourselves. We marry “the one” and as long as our husband lives up to all our expectations on him and keeps all our “rules” we will love him, if he breaks a lot of the rules we will eventually divorce him. When a person in our society follows the law everything is fine, but if a person starts to break many laws he or she will eventually be thrown into prison. Us humans like the idea of karma; “you get what you deserve”, but God has a totally different way of relating to us.

When God sent Jesus to Earth it changed everything, rather than “you will get what you deserve” it became “When we do something wrong, Jesus gets what we deserve.” When Jesus died on the cross he willingly paid the price for all the sins committed of everyone in the whole world and died for us, for our mistakes. The reason someone had to pay for all our mistakes was that God is a God of justice, he won’t let any wrongdoing go unpunished. When someone murders another person God doesn’t think: “Oh that’s okay, I will just look in the other direction”.

When Jesus died he took all the sins of humanity on himself, the sins from the past, the present and the future. Jesus paid for all our mistakes once and for all, so that the day each one of us will meet God we will be faultless in front of an all-powerful perfect God. Jesus dying on the cross is as if you were being sentenced to the death penalty and Jesus shows up in court and says: “Take me instead, let this person go, I’m willing to die instead of this person.” Why would anyone do such a thing? The answer is love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NLT

Jesus died so that every single sin of mankind could become forgiven, but each one of us are free to choose if we want this to apply to our own lives or not. During our short lives on earth our main task here will be to either accept God and invite him into our lives or to reject God. This will be the most important decision we make in our lives, the moment we decide to accept God and invite him into our lives it changes everything, we become forgiven and washed clean of all our past mistakes. We become a brand new person (spiritually speaking that is, don’t expect your wrinkles to be gone).

We often tend to think that God wants peace on Earth today but the Bible makes it clear that Jesus didn’t come to Earth to bring peace, he came to bring division. God is interested in seeing who is with him, and who is against him. One of the places this is mentioned in The Bible is in Matthew 25:

All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
Matthew 25:32-34 NLT 

This world that we live in today will never see peace, it will always see different forms of chaos, but when we become followers of Christ we can have peace on the inside despite the chaos that surrounds us. The good news is that this chaotic world is only temporary. The Bible makes it clear that there will be a day in the future when everything of this old world will pass away and there will be a new world where there is no more death, no more mourning and no more suffering. God will be in the world with us and we will see him face to face. The Bible talks about this in Revelation 21:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
Revelation 21:4 NLT

The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus will come back to Earth one day and nobody will know what day that will be, we now live in what is called the end times. One day, maybe sooner than we think, we will stand in front of the God of the universe and have to answer for all our choices in life. Our days in this life are numbered, from the day we are born our clock starts ticking, we move closer and closer to death every day and we never know what day will be our last. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, we only have today. The days we are given on this Earth are our chance to decide, are we going to choose to accept God or reject God, the rest is details.

I used to work as a nursing assistant in a nursing home when I was younger and sometimes I noticed that it seemed almost like all the good people would die quicker while the really mean people would live longer. I wondered why God would let some really mean people live for so long, while others who were so loving would die at a younger age. It makes more sense to me today. Life is short for all of us, we only have a few years on this Earth to decide how we feel about God, to pick a side. Some people seem to need more time than others to make the right choice.

Once we choose to accept God and invite him into our hearts God starts to change each one of us from the inside out through the Holy Spirit. When you see someone going from being a non-believer to a Christian you might see them start doing a lot of good things, but it is important to remember that it is never a person’s good works that saves them. The Bible makes it clear that anyone who believes in Jesus, repents and asks for forgiveness for his or her sins will become saved.

Most of us understand that for example a woman who loves God and loves people will go to heaven the day she dies. We are also aware that a man who for example was a rapist and murderer and who continued to do evil up until the moment he died will go to hell. What many of us have missed on the other hand is that even the criminal who has committed many crimes but at the end of his life becomes a believer in Jesus, repents and asks for forgiveness for all of his sins will go to heaven when he dies. We also tend to miss the fact that even the woman who thinks of herself as a good person but who doesn’t accept Jesus into her heart during her life will not go to heaven the day she dies. This is radical and couldn’t be further away from how humans see things.

Humans see love as something you earn, while God loves everyone on this earth and is willing to forgive any sin as long as the person is truly regretful and wants to turn away from his or her former way of living and start following Jesus. It is not our long lists of good things we did during our lives on earth that will get us into heaven, it is our faith in Jesus that saves us. It is so simple, yet so radical. God’s love for humanity is unlike anything else you will ever discover on this earth.

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