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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.

God’s intention

Many people see God as accusing and condemning, but Jesus said the very opposite:
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
(John 3:17)
Far from wanting to condemn them, God is on a mission to track people down so he can rescue them and bring them home into his arms.

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:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ ”
(Luke 15:4-6)
If a sheep gets stuck somewhere, it doesn’t have many other options than just waiting to be rescued. But humans have more choices, and what they choose depends on their point of view. People who expect God to condemn them tend to run and hide, but those who realise they are lost and need help are open to being saved.

The rescue

There are two things God intends to save us from. One is our brokenness:
“Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21)
Jesus said “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). We were created to be free and whole, but things like greed, selfishness and hatred damage people and their relationships in ways they barely understand.

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.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!”
(Romans 5:8-9)
“Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
(Ephesians 2:3-5)
Jesus said:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
(John 3:36)
People get afraid of God’s judgement, but that really makes no sense at all when there is an offer of free forgiveness. Ever since Adam first sinned, people have been afraid to approach God. Jesus died to reverse that so we could be close to God again, knowing that we are completely accepted and loved as his sons and daughters.

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:

“I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet’. But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”
(Romans 7:7-8)

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:

“The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”
(Galatians 3:24)
To rephrase that: the Law was put there so that we would give up on our own righteousness, and accept Jesus’ righteousness as a gift from God 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.

Confessing sins

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:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:9)
Then he forgets your sins forever:

“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:34)
He makes you a new person (but more “yourself” than ever):

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
And he adopts you as his child:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(1 John 3:1)
Who would not want that?

~ ~ for more about being a Christian, see the page on christianity and part two.


Once you are a Christian, Jesus is your “righteousness” (right standing with God) from then on. You do not need to maintain it by your actions; Jesus’ death is a once-and-for-all thing. He said on the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30) – and it really is. He accomplished what he set out to do:
“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
(Hebrews 10:14)
In other words, your future sins are forgiven. Which is incredible! When Christians sin they still confess them to God, because they want to keep everything in the open with the one who loves them. But there is a terrible lie in some circles that God still holds unconfessed sin against Christians – which is simply not true. We are not the ones who keep ourselves right (like under the Law); we are “clothed in righteousness” from the moment we first turn to God and become Christians, and that clothing is never taken away.

Have a look at the notes on The Grace of God for more about this idea.

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