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Around the 4th of February 1988, after three months of being around Christians for the first time in my life and arguing against Christianity, I could no longer resist the pull of God’s love on my heart. I knew it was the truth.
A few days later I realised how much I had done against God, including being drawn to occult books and signing my name on a piece of paper in my own blood (out of a strange compulsion). I told God what I had done and cried hot tears, and felt washed completely clean from all my sins. I no longer belonged to the darkness, I was forgiven and loved and belonged to God now and for eternity! My conscience became clear in that moment too (which was a big deal because I had constantly felt guilt and shame). My sins were all gone and I was not “accusable’ of them any more.
The experience of being forgiven, washed clean and free from guilt and shame is what God wants for every person on earth. It is available as a free gift to anyone who comes to him.
One descriptions of people who do not know God is “lost,” which has two meanings. They are wandering around in the dark, unable to find the way to the life they need and long for. But they are also something God has lost and deeply wants back:
So if sin is the problem, one solution is to try and be better – to be a good person. But our problem runs much deeper than that. The issue isn’t really so much our behaviour as our hearts. We were born broken, with an inner pull towards sin. We need a brand new heart. And this is just what God promises when someone becomes a Christian: new life, or what Jesus called being born again.
The other thing God saves us from is himself! Or rather, his judgement.
There are a few possible objections:
People aren’t really that bad
In a way, the idea of Jesus dying for our sins is very offensive. If he died in our place, that means we were the ones who deserved to die. It also means we are completely helpless and unable to make ourselves acceptable to God by being good. But remember that God doesn’t want to condemn people, just to save them. He doesn’t say “your sins deserve death” in order to make us feel bad, but only so that we can accept his offer of forgiveness. If we didn’t think we had done anything wrong – let alone deserved death – then we would have no reason to accept Jesus’ death on our behalf. But if we know we really are sinful and need a Saviour, then we can accept his gift with joy and amazement that he would do such a thing.
It seems unfair for God to hold it against people if they were born that way
If you were born with a fatal genetic defect, that would hardly be your fault. But it would still be real. We were born broken because our first parents (Adam and Eve) sinned. That was their choice and not ours. But the damage has been done: we were “born dead.” But God has provided the solution and the way out. Focusing on whether people are to blame for their own brokenness is kind of missing the point. God just holds out an offer of forgiveness, and whoever wants it – it’s theirs.
God should accept people who are trying to be good
A common way people try to deal with the sense that something is wrong inside is to try to do enough good to outweigh the bad. But this strategy doesn’t really work, as their conscience affirms: no amount of good can either erase the bad or change our hearts. We need someone else to save us; our own efforts can never do it. This is not bad news though: someone has come along and saved us! This takes the pressure off to “perform” for God. The performance of Jesus gets credited to us: he lived a perfect life, and when we accept God’s gift, it is as if we did too.
The compulsion to try and be good so that God will accept us is so deeply ingrained that God spent over a thousand years proving it would never work. He did this through the Law – the Ten Commandments and so on – saying, “If you keep the whole law perfectly and never sin, you will be righteous” (paraphrasing Deuteronomy 6:25). This includes loving God with all your being, as well as loving your neighbour as yourself, never thinking evil of them and never desiring their possessions. But all the Law does is make people worse. This was Paul’s experience before he became a Christian:
The real purpose of the Law was not for people to keep it, but to discover they could never keep it, and they needed a Saviour instead:
People sometimes look at the Law and decide that he is a harsh and demanding God. But the Law is an incredible kindness: it addresses the deep need inside us to feel “good enough” by saying, “Nope! Trying to be good is not the way. Try this other way instead.”
God makes us “good enough” as a free gift. It is the only way it could possibly be; we simply can’t save ourselves. The good news is, we don’t have to! The pressure is off. All we need to do is receive God’s forgiveness as a gift, without trying to earn or deserve it.
If you know what is waiting on the other side – cleansing and forgiveness – then confessing your sins to God is a wonderful thing rather than an opportunity for self condemnation. Confession is not about trying to feel bad for your sins, it is simply being real with God and agreeing with the truth: that you have sinned and you acknowledge it was wrong.
Becoming a Christian starts with confessing your sins and asking God for forgiveness. What happens next is amazing.
First he washes you clean:
~ ~ for more about being a Christian, see the page on christianity and part two.
Have a look at the notes on The Grace of God for more about this idea.
Questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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