Let’s begin with a look inside. Most of us love to look at ourselves and reference things to ourselves. That’s not always a good idea, but it will serve us as a starting point. If there is one characteristic of people in general it is that we are consumed with getting our needs met. Our first cry registers our displeasure with the way things are and some of us never stop complaining until our last gasp.
At first, our concern is with satisfying our hunger pangs and our desire to be warm and dry. As we grow up, we become aware of other needs, personal, emotional, and spiritual emptiness that we seek to fill. Then there are the wants. We see things we want and strive to get them. In some ways material things and relationships can help address those deeper personal, emotional, and spiritual issues that are so hard to satisfy.
The problem comes from the fact that this focus on ourselves and our needs can lead to deep dissatisfaction and disillusionment. In the search for self-fulfillment, we can easily slip into patterns of self-destructive behavior without even noticing it. Unbridled sexual expression, lust for things, powerful desires to control our own lives and the lives of others through things like sorcery, hate, the inability to get along with others, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, breaking up of relationships, petty political intrigues, powerful desire for what others have and sometimes taking it, substance abuse of various forms, overindulgence in physical pleasure and the like. All of these become substitutes for what is really significant. So our search for meaning continues.
Actually, that list of things that I just mentioned was not my own invention. I adjusted some of the terms to make them easier to relate to, but the list itself comes from the Bible, God’s word. There are several lists of the kind of attitudes and action that mankind resorts to in the search for meaning, but this one is from the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to his Christian friends in Galatia. I should mention what he says as he concludes that list. These words are not mine, but the Bible’s: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
There you have our situation: the characteristics and activities of man trying to fill his life with meaning and God’s response to his attempts. God says if that’s the way you behave and that’s the way you are, then you’re on a one way trip out of My presence forever. The Bible uses terms like “Hell,” and “the lake of fire” to describe this horrible state of separation from the source of life.
The same passage in Galatians where we found that list of what God calls “the works of the flesh,” also gives us a clear indication of what God wants us to be like. In another list, He says that our lives should be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Now you have to admit that it is a huge leap from the first list to the second list. Some process of major proportions would have to take place to get you from one to the other. You can’t make a pure, loving person headed for heaven out of a sinful, selfish person headed for hell without a fundamental change. God uses the analogy of birth. He tells us that we must be born again. The change in us needs to be so complete that He must, in fact, start all over again with us. We need to be born for a second time into God’s family; external changes are not sufficient.
If there is a flicker of desire on your part to enter God’s kingdom, you need to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith. Now, you may ask, “What on earth does that mean?” It means that you believe in Him. It means that you act on that knowledge. It means that you allow God to turn you from being a fundamentally self-centered person to a God-centered person. Faith is based on facts and evidenced by experience. Here are the facts of the Gospel succinctly, directly, simply.
Romans 3:10-12 says: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Your life is characterized by sinful self-centeredness. You care most about your own convenience, comfort, pleasure, status, reputation, fulfillment, and so on. Because of this you resort to sinful measures to meet your needs and goals in life. And because of this, you can never be what God wants you to be, because …
Romans 1:18 says: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Your sinful, selfish life offends God. He doesn’t like it. He won’t have it. He condemns you to death for it. Everything you do to fill your life outside of God is sin. Everything that takes the place of God and His provisions for your life is an idol which cannot save you and calls for God’s anger and judgment. But …
In spite of all this, God loves you. John 3:16 says: “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.” He wants to restore you to the privileged place in His family that He made His human creation to enjoy. God wants reconciliation with you and so He designed the way to make you new, fresh, clean, and acceptable before His holiness. He sent His Son–the man called Jesus–to die for your sin. In God’s account book, Jesus’ perfect life is exchanged for your sinful one and your death sentence was born by Him. Through faith, you see and accept the death of the Lord Jesus Christ as your own. When you do that, God does as well. So when God looks at you He sees you alive in his Son. However …
This is not something which God universally applies to everyone without their consent. Romans 10:9,10 says: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.'” Each individual has to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the payment for his debt and the sufficiency for his need. You do this by faith. You believe in your heart, in your innermost being with your intellect, emotions and will, that when the Lord Jesus Christ died, He died for your sin. The instant you do that you are saved. God gives you new life by his Holy Spirit. He washes you and delivers you into His spiritual family.
That, quite simply, is the Gospel. We dare not depend on our own righteousness. Our deceitful hearts tell us, “You’re okay. You’re different. You’re not like the rest. You’re good.” Yet God’s standard condemns us. He knows us. He knows that the man who has committed the most despicable crime was born in what we call innocence. Sin contaminates us long before we see the light of day as so called innocent little children.
It is so important to be born again. Without it, we will never see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We need to receive the new birth and then go on receiving the daily working of God’s Spirit in our lives to bring us to maturity.
We’ve come to the end of these few thoughts on the Gospel. I hope they have been helpful to you. If you’d like to know more about the Gospel and how to become a Christian, please contact us. May God bless you!
Ron Hughes is radio host of Family Bible Hour. You can listen to their international broadcasts at http://www.FamilyBibleHour.com