Faith in God Through Jesus Christ
We live by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
Spiritual Belief, Saving Faith, Eternal Hope. OK, pretty words but what do they mean? It all sounds rather vague and mystical at times. Can “Faith in Jesus Christ” be described without using big churchy terms? Well, let’s see…
Is there a Grand Design?
First, we have to start with the concept that something (or rather Someone) created all that is around us and that it was all created for some type of purpose. Furthermore that this Supreme Someone, we’ll call “God”, has a desire to communicate with us and has made us in such a way as to fulfill that purpose.
Just look around. You can see that there does seem to be an order to things in life, nature, the universe, etc. (although we are still trying to figure it all out). And as for humankind, the most complex life-form on this planet (and as far as we know, even in this universe!) … It seems that each one of us has many built-in desires that are quite similar (no matter what the culture). One is the desire to communicate with others. Another is the desire to discover where we came from and why we are here on Earth. And finally, we each have the desire to love and be loved. Of course, there are many others but let’s just stick with those three.
These desires are so strong that we actually hunger for them! Think of the technological advanced in the past century, many (if not all) somehow involve these desires. The desire to communicate is only a simple example; telephones, radios, televisions, modems, pagers, cellular phones, the Internet, email, instant messaging, chat rooms, and the list goes on. We are so hungry for communication that many of us spend more money a month on communication in it’s various forms than we do on food!
And what about the desire to know where we came from and why we are here? Like orphaned children, we are often so desperate for those answers that we happily settle for any manufactured explanation than to possess no answer at all. Think of all the now silly explanations we have accepted just in the description of the physical world around us. Is the Earth really strapped to a turtle’s back? Is it really flat? Are stars really just mere candles mounted in some celestial dome high above? And, what was the moon suppose to made of again?
Before we laugh too hard, we are now only steps away from superstition ourselves! In our modern society, experts devote their lives to answer for us life’s toughest questions. However, the method to find these answers leaves the possibility that they might be found incorrect later. We call this process the scientific method and the answers that this process creates we call scientific theories. Some scientists would go so far to say that a good theory must adjust to the finding of new facts.(1)This is not to say that there is not much truth to be found in today’s scientific community. Only to say that on such crucial and life-changing topics as “why are we here?” it is dangerous to give any such scientific theory full authority in our lives because of it’s very necessity of adjustment to newly found facts. So, why would we do this? Again, we are happier with an answer that maybe be found wrong later than to be taunted now with no answer at all. We simply must know!
Why am I here?
Maybe it’s just to complete school. And after graduation, maybe it’s to work a job. And after getting established in a career, maybe it’s to find the love of my life and marry. And after the honeymoon, kids? After the labor pains, diapers, their first step, their first word, their first day of school, their last day of school, and then finally their wedding day; what then? Grandkids? Maybe retirement? Now what’s after that? Running out of options yet? Or can all of life be summed up on a bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”Is that all life amounts to?
Now, I’m not saying anything about achieving those things. Because, it’s like the boy who was caught in his room playing a video game rather than doing his homework. It’s true that he was accomplishing many a wonderful thing in the video game (maybe even the top score) but that’s not the reason he was sent to his room. At the end of time, will we have completed the important things in life or will we be guilty of merely playing games?
So, if there is a God that wants to communicate with humankind (and there is), then won’t it make sense to think that He would build in us the desires to seek Him out? To communicate with Him? To ask how we got here? And, of course, the big question … why?
So, God wants to talk with us. Now what?
How can we learn to communicate with this Being that created all things but never seem to be available for a Larry King Live interview? This is where the Bible comes in. The Bible itself is a form of God’s communication with us. And it is in fact also called the “Word of God.” Of course, it’s a monologue; a one-way street, it seems. But it is a way God speaks with us. Now, there are some who would argue against the validity of the Bible. For now, lets just imagine that the Bible, also called the Scriptures, is exactly what it says it is; “All Scripture is inspired by God.”(2) and “God’s word is truth.”(3)
Why would God make it so difficult? Why not just hard-wire us to respond to Him when He called? Well I can’t speak on God’s behalf. But if He did just hard-wire our responses, could you imagine the conversation? It would be about as exciting as listening to a pet shop owner and a trained parakeet! “Say ‘Hello.'” “Hello.” “Say ‘How are you?'” “How are you?” “Say ‘I love you.'” “I love you.”… What’s the point?!?
What’s Love got to do with it?
Remember, we all have the common God-given desire to love and be loved. Why do we need a book called the Bible to tell us how to talk to God? I mean He made us, right? Doesn’t He understand English? Sure, God can understand us fine and He can even speak to us directly in ways we can understand (the Bible records many accounts of how He does just that). But the real problem is our relationship to God; not His lack or even our lack of communicational skills.
So, if God can understand us and He can speak so we can understand Him … why is it that there are so many people who have absolutely no communication with God? They have no communication with God because they have no relationship with God; they don’t love Him. They are strangers to God. Why talk to Someone you don’t know and don’t really care to know? The bible goes so far as to say that we all start out in life as not only strangers but enemies of God (4); neither talking to God nor caring to.
Hey, I didn’t choose to be God’s enemy!
Well, in a way, none of us today individually choose to be God’s enemy. See, it wasn’t soon after God created the first humans that humankind’s relationship with God turned sour. God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, to live in a beautiful garden He made called Eden. At first, Adam and Eve had a purely good relationship with God. God even would often visit them in Eden.
Adam and Eve were allowed to do anything their hearts desired except for one thing … eat the fruit off a special tree called, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And wouldn’t you know that soon after God said don’t do this one thing that someone tried to go behind God’s back and tell Adam and Eve that it was OK to disobey God! That was Satan, a disobedient angel, and he tricked Eve into disobeying God and Adam just caved in after seeing his wife eat and ate the fruit himself. Adam disobeyed God’s direct command and became an enemy to God.
So what does this have to do with me?
Of course, God saw everything that happened with Adam and Eve. And since He was the one who created them, God had every right to just start over with a clean the slate and create a newer version of Adam and Eve. But because of God’s love for Adam and Eve, He allowed them to live and raise a family outside of Eden. However, Adam and Eve did suffer serious consequences for their disobedience. First, Adam and Eve felt shame of there nakedness and had to begin wearing clothes. Second, they would both experience physical suffering; Adam through hard work and Eve through childbirth. Finally, Adam and Eve became mortal and eventually died. And all these consequences were passed on to their children.
Because of their disobedience, all of the children of Adam and Eve were born with a heart of disobedience in them. Matter-of-fact, it was their first born son, Cain, that committed the first murder! And since we all can somehow trace our ancestry back to Adam and Eve, we all inherited that disobedient heart. If you don’t believe it, just ask any parent who is raising children. Children don’t have to be taught how to be selfish or disobedient or crafty or proud; they have to be taught how to be giving and obedient and honest and humble. And as we get older because of our disobedient heart, we willfully do what we know is not right.
But, wait. What if I was not taught what is right and wrong? And since I was born with a heart of disobedience, how can my bad actions be counted against me?!? Well, remember the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from? That is another thing we inherit from them; the ability to know what is right and what is wrong. There is no excuse. We can claim that we weren’t taught properly or that society didn’t give us a chance to know what was expected of us. But inside each of us is the ability to know the difference; it’s called a conscience.(5)
When we are born, most have a pretty soft conscience. If you’ve seen a young child scolded, you know it doesn’t take many words to make them cry. But as we grow up we get tired of the pain of that guilty feeling when we do something wrong. So, we simply allow the guilt to harden our conscience until doing those bad things don’t feel so bad anymore. But just like a callous on your feet or hands, as our conscience hardens, it also lessen our feelings for everything else as well. In an attempt to regain that feeling of our ç”°hildlike innocenceãƒ» we often resort to progressively worse wrong doings which in turns hardens our conscience further until finally we have a heart of stone. Now we are in a mess! What are we to do? Like a fly in a spider’s web, the more we try to free ourselves the more entangled we become.
God: Judge, Jury, and Plaintiff
Although all those wrong doings ended up hurting ourselves and others, the one we wrong most is the One who made us; God. And although God is merciful and He longs to love us, He holds the title of the eternal, cosmic, “Righteous Judge.” Just as in our society, judges must sentence punishment on wrong doing; if they don’t then they are not good judges.
Imagine it is a warm summer’s afternoon in some distant, picturesque countryside. A business man on vacation is driving his rented sports car through another unknown town. As he enters the town square, he sees the traffic light ahead of him just turning red. He’s had a busy day of sightseeing and is very ready to get back to the hotel for some supper. So, he presses his luck and guns the engine to try to make it through the red light. And as soon as he enters the intersection, his sports car broadsides a brand new SUV at full speed; putting many of the passengers in the hospital. The business man survives the wreck unharmed and is soon after brought to court to stand before the judge. If all the facts are properly presented, how do you think the judge would rule? Because the man did wrong, he should be found guilt and properly sentenced … if the judge is a good judge.
Because of the serious nature of wrong doings toward God and because God is a good judge, all who do wrong must be punished. Why? Because God is a good judge. But aren’t we left stuck with a heart of stone that has no desire to love God? Is that fair, really? Well, yes. But, this is where God did what appears to be the most ridiculous thing imaginable. Although we became God’s enemy and deserve the worst sort of treatment, God prepared for us a way out of our punishment.
Now imagine that courtroom again. But this time, imagine it was you who ran that red light. The judge has just declared you guilty and as you look into that judge’s face you notice that he looks as if he has been crying. And right before he serves you the punishment that you rightly deserve, he states that the SUV you broadsided was his very own SUV and the people that you put in the hospital were his dear loved ones!
Can you imagine the guilt that you would feel as he accounts the pain you have caused? Can you imagine the dread you would feel as he openly declares the type of punishment that not only you deserve but that he would personally like to administer on you? I would personally be cowering in fear and looking for some slimy rock to hide under! As you wait for the judge to come to the conclusion, you feel your heart pumping in your ears, your mouth and throat are painfully dry, you feel weak and you are sweating all over. And as the judge raises the gavel to pronounce the punishment, you are finding it hard to breathe. And as the gavel swings down, your ears perk to hear those words that you know you will never hear…
Now, why would that judge set you free? What have you done to deserve it? Would he be a fair judge if he did? In our selfish self-preservation, we would say as long as I don’t have to take that punishment, it’s fair. But really, would it be fair in the eyes of the law? Would it be fair in the eyes of the people who saw what you did? Would it be fair in the eyes of the judge’s family? No, of course not. Could we say that we were ignorant of the traffic laws? No, there is a familiar phrase in our courthouses that says “there is no claiming ignorance to the law.” No defense that you invite seems to work. How could you possibly imagine that he would set you free?
Before we discuss that, we need to talk about one of those mysterious aspects of God. We have been referring to God as a single person or an single entity. Although that is true, God is also known as the Three-Person God or Trinity. The Bible often talks about God the Father (The Invisible God of Heaven), God the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit). They are wholly one and individual at the same time. Now this is a mystery and anyone who tries to explain it will admit that any example they can generate will not fully describe this Three-Person God.
With that in mind, here is a very rough analogy. Think of the Three-Person God as you would a business corporation. In a corporation, you have individuals who all work in an entity called the corporation. Without the people, the corporation would not exist; without the corporation, the people would not be considered one entity. In the corporation, there are official titles for it’s members and each do special duties. We can try to use this analogy to describe God. Ok, God is not a business that sells goods or services. But, God is an entity that is made up of three definably individual beings that work in total harmony with one another (Wouldn’t that be nice to see more of that in the corporate world!).
Ok, why all the deep analogies and mystical business? (Sorry for the pun) Because it’s necessary to establish what God did in response to all of the wrong doings we committed against Him. It is almost unimaginable to think about it! God gave the ultimate sacrifice for our sake; He gave up His only Son for us!
Jesus Christ, God made flesh
A member of the Three-Person God, stepped out of Heaven and humbled Himself to become a man for us and took on the name Jesus while here on Earth. Even though He was God, Jesus wasn’t looking for any special allowances from His Heavenly Father. Jesus didn’t just appear on Earth one day; He allowed Himself to be brought into this world the same humbling way the rest of us are. He was born and nursed; He learned to walk and talk; He suffered growing pains and puberty; and eventually He grew into a man. Jesus wasn’t born into a rich family or even an important one. Matter of fact, the Bible says that there wasn’t even anything special about Him physically that would draw us to Him. It even goes so far as to say that He wasn’t even good-looking!(6) So much for the Hollywood version of Jesus!
Now, His birth was very special because God decided to make sure that no one would miss the fact that Jesus was God’s own Son and not someone else’s. Jesus was born by a young woman named Mary from Israel who was still a virgin! Matter of fact, she was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph when she became pregnant; and at first Joseph was not exactly pleased with the whole idea.
Some might dismiss Mary’s claim of virginity as merely an outrageous lie told by a young woman trying vainly to guard her reputation from an embarrassing act of indiscretion. So, God had long ago told the people of Israel through His messengers, called prophets, that He would send Jesus to them and carefully crafted a list of credentials. One criteria was that, Jesus would be born from a virgin. However, there were many other points like family genealogy, location of His birth, and where He would grow up. So, all the details surrounding Jesus’ birth and life declared that He was the Son of God.
Later Jesus became a man and experienced life just like us. The only difference was that because He was still God he did not inherit a disobedient heart like ours. And since He loved His Heavenly Father, Jesus made sure that all He did was good. He lived a blameless life among humankind and declared who God was with His words and by His actions. Jesus also taught how God planned to fix the bad relationship we have with God.
God’s plan was that Jesus would suffer the punishment for our wrong doings so that we could be forgiven. God did just that. After Jesus had been preaching and teaching and performing miracles throughout Israel, He was arrested and falsely accused of blasphemy and was sentenced to death by crucifixion; which is being nailed to a cross then left to hang there until the person died of sheer exhaustion. Jesus willingly went to the cross and died, not because He didn’t have a case but because this was all God’s plan from the beginning and God had already told Israel years ago how it would all happen.
Now, the story doesn’t end just there. Remember, Jesus is a part of the Three-Person God. So, after Jesus was dead and buried for three days, God did what only God can do; He raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus returned to Heaven. Again, just like He said He would do!
Now how does these relate to us today?
Jesus said that all those who believe on Him, His sacrifice on the cross, and the life giving power of His resurrection can enjoy a right and pleasing relationship with God the Father. There is no good work anyone else can do to earn it. If there were something we could do to earn it, do you think God would have killed His own Son for us?
Remember the judge in the courtroom? Justice has to be served; someone has to pay for the wrong that was committed. So, what if that judge suggested that someone stand in our place to receive punishment? The legal term for such a person who acts for another as a substitute is called a proxy. Jesus came to Earth to be our proxy. He takes our punishment and He gives us His spotless record from His sinless life here on Earth.
Is that it? Do we have to do anything to be made free? Sure, but it’s pretty simple. You have to receive God’s free gift to you through Jesus Christ. What this means practically is that you must admit to God that you are a wrongdoer (the Bible calls that a sinner) and that you can’t do anything about your disobedient heart or totally pay from the wrongs you have done. Then confess that Jesus is the God made flesh and that He did just what the Bible said He did, died for your sins on the cross and He was later raised from dead. Finally, you accept God’s free gift of salvation and thank Him for it!
Put your trust wholly and completely in Christ and what He did on the cross. Give your entire life (mind, body, heart, and soul) to Him. If for no other reason than Jesus is God and God, the Creator of all things, deserves nothing less. That is the reason we were created in the first place; to commune with God, to love God, and to find our purpose in life through Him.
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1. Darwin’s Enigma p 36-37 by Luther D. Sunderland
2. Timothy 3:11
3. John 17:17b
4. Romans 3:10-18, Romans 5:10a
5. Romans 2:14-15 6. Isaiah 53:2-3