First published 20 February 2012
We learnt last time that the equality of human beings within a Christian worldview involves not only being created as special by God, in His image, but certain other things that are universally true of human beings. As human beings we are universally tainted by sin – we have a sinful nature. Our natural inclination is to sin and to be self-centred, rather than God-centred. And as universally sinful we are all headed towards a Judgment Day that will not go well for us, and we would all be sent to Hell without some intervention. The fact that we all die is one sign of that truth. Physical death in human beings would not have happened except as a consequence of sin. But we face the prospect of something much worse than death.
The good news is that Jesus Christ, God’s own Son visible 2,000 years ago as a human being, died to take away sin and take away wrath. His death was the punishment for the sins of all those who believe in Him. He took our place. He suffered not just the physical agony of the crucifixion, preceded by the beatings, lashings, ridicule and betrayal. He suffered the separation from God that we deserve – on the cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) That was a reference to a psalm of the old scriptures, but it reflected what He was going through on the cross. He was put out of God’s presence, away from everything good. In a very real way, He suffered hell for us.
But He didn’t suffer hell forever, as we would. He rose from the dead, with a perfected body, to show that He has conquered sin and death and Hell. Instead of those bad things, we can look forward to also rising from the dead and having a perfected body. And on that day we will also see a perfected creation, what the Bible calls “the New Heaven and New Earth” (Revelation 21; see also 2 Peter 3:13).
And Jesus did that all for us, for whoever will put their trust in Him.
The offer is universal, to every single human being on the planet. We are all equally graciously offered eternal life, forgiveness of our sins, renewed access to God (the source of all good) forever.
Going back to Romans chapter 5, verses 6-11, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But 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! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
And later in verses 18-19, “just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
We are all sinners, we all deserve God’s wrath, and we are all offered forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ. “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.” (John 3:16)
The way that we get access to this free gift of eternal life is simply through repentance and faith (see Acts 3:19 and 16:31, for example).
Faith is believing not just the facts about Jesus, not just believing that the Bible is true. Faith is trusting in the person, Jesus Christ, that He has done the necessary work so that you can look forward to receiving the promised forgiveness and eternal life.
Repentance means you stop doing sinful things. It means you stop acting like you are the final authority, and you acknowledge that God is the final authority and you submit to His authority. You stop doing things because of your self-centred desires, and start doing things because you want to do what God wants.
Sometimes I feel like we ought to be specific occasionally. So, for instance, repentance means that if you are an abortionist, you give up your job killing babies. If you are a prostitute, you stop selling sex. If you engage in homosexual sex, you do so no longer. If you are sleeping with a person you are not married to, you stop. If you are violently aggressive, you become peaceful. If you are involved in fraud, you stop and be honest. If you are greedy and selfish, you start to be selfless and open. And I could go on…
Repentance means acknowledging the sins of the past as sins, and resolving never to return to them.
But it’s also much more than specific lists of dos and don’ts. Repentance is about recognising that God is above all, and we should obey Him, and trust Him, and if that means giving up something that He says is sinful then we do it happily. Repentance means we no longer usurp God’s authority in our own lives. We no longer act as if we are the final authority when it comes to right and wrong in our thoughts, words and deeds. We acknowledge God’s final authority. And that is a fundamental shift in worldview. I hope that has become clear over the nine parts of this series so far.
Hence when Christians speak about morality, calling for purity and repentance, we do so from a standpoint of equality, not supposed superiority. We are not only equally created, but equally sinners, equally wrath-deserving and equally called to repentance and faith, equally offered forgiveness and eternal life.
Our view of ourselves should give us a humble attitude when we stand for God’s morality, and maintain that abortion is wrong, pornography is wrong, etc, because we know that we are not superior in God’s sight.
It is Jesus Christ alone who makes the difference.