Suppose you were to die, and you found yourself face to face with God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into heaven with me?” What would your answer be?
We have surveyed many people with this question. Though it can be answered a thousand ways, every response falls into two basic categories. In fact, more than nine out of ten are basically the same.
Most people’s answers focus on their own merit. We try to find something in ourselves that might redeem us. We might look at good things we might have done, at our motives and intentions, or our desires. We might compare ourselves with others or look at things we didn’t do or temptations we resisted; good deeds, generous thoughts, religious acts etc. “I never tried to hurt anyone.” “I tried to do my best.” I kept the golden rule.” ” I never murdered anyone.” “Even though I’ve done things I’m ashamed of, I didn’t mean to do wrong.” “I am a product of my environment.”
But who can measure up to God’s standard? Very few people face the truth that compared to God, who is Holy, perfectly loving, and who is perfect Light, we are not able to come into His presence. Very few people acknowledge the deep depravity the hides within the human heart.
The truth is that human history proves beyond doubt, what God’s word says about us,“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” The worst evil in human history is committed consistently by average ordinary people. The worst obscenities in human history are repeated over and over again, as a whole, by people from all walks of life who loved their wives and kids, and cried when their pets died. Given the right circumstances, the right conditioning, the right culture, any of us could have been guards in the concentration camps. This is what Jesus said about you and me.
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” — Mark 7:21-23
That’s why we need him; not just to forgive us, not just to bear our punishment in our place only, but to change our hearts. The Old Testament promised that one day He would come to do exactly that!
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” — Ezekiel 36:25-27
That’s exactly what Jesus does for us when we come to him — in grace — freely and totally undeserved!
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. 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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” — Ephesians 2:1-10
The good news of Jesus is that when we trust him, he forgives us and makes us new — inside! Good works can’t save us, but when He saves us good works come as a result of that change!
The following two websites are helpful for investigating the historical accuracy of the gospel record.
Josh McDowell’s story tells how as a skeptical History lecturer he set about disproving Christianity only to find the evidence showed he was wrong. His website is rich with all kinds of material that will not only fascinate someone searching for truth, but will also greatly equip anyone to share the reason for their hope with others.
Lee Strobel is a journalist who has published his discoveries as he researched for himself the Christian faith. Originally a hard nosed agnostic, his wife’s conversion left him needing some answers about how much damage this development might mean for their relationship. As he sought to unravel the basis of her experience his research eventually led to the demolishing of his own world view and radically changed his life. The resources on his website are compelling reading!
Listen to what Jesus says…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” — John 3:5-7
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” — John 5:24
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:37-38
“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — John 4:14
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” — Revelation 3:20
Believe in the Lord Jesus… that is trust in, cling to, and rely on him. He will do something incredible within you. His own spirit —the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that raised Him from the dead — will transform you from the inside out, giving you a new nature — his own nature — making you a brand new person — being born all over again with Jesus nature! Forgiven cleansed and empowered to live the way you were meant to!
This is what these verses say. This is his promise to you today! What a Saviour!
You can receive Him today. Right where you are. Right now. Is there anything stopping you from praying a prayer like the one below?
“Lord Jesus, I know you love me. I know you died for me. I know you paid for all my sin. You know I can’t deal with the sinfulness of my heart myself. I come to you as you told me to. And I ask you to forgive me. Come into my life. I am sick of the person I am. Come into my heart. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Give me your spirit to change me on the inside into what you are like. I believe you rose from the dead to give me life, and I trust you now to keep your promise, not because of anything in me, but because I know you are faithful. Thank you for loving me, and for all these things that you have guaranteed to do. Amen.”
The resurrection of Jesus is the central issue on which Christianity rests. Without it our faith is “useless."
Peter declared this when he vehemently affirmed, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
John, near the end of his life earnestly assures his hearers, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”
The apostle Paul likewise made the historicity of the resurrection the defining issue for Christianity when he wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.”
If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead then Christianity is useless.
This story was not easy to believe even for the disciples themselves. The gospels tell us that Jesus disciples were crippled with disillusionment after His death and burial. Piecing together the different perspectives of the four gospels we get a vivid picture of the confusion and disbelief that characterised the disciples response. As Jesus followers were laying low from the authorities, various reports filtered back from various people. Their skepticism was eventually dispelled only when Jesus himself appeared among them together in the upper room where they were hiding out.
There have been a number of books written by people who were skeptics and critics of Christianity, whose purpose was to debunk the myth of the resurrection. As the facts were researched and the various arguments were explored, the inescapable conclusion became more and more compelling. Each of these authors eventually came to same conclusion. They ended up writing books which outline the way overwhelming evidence supporting the resurrection led them to faith.
The reason the resurrection is so important is threefold.
It proves that Jesus death is sufficient for our salvation. The fact that the one who carried our guilt for us to the cross was raised from the dead shows that His work on our behalf is accepted by God.
It shows that Jesus is Lord of both life and death itself. He has eternal life and he has the authority to give it to us. At the same time he has the authority to judge us and our eternal destiny is in his hands.
It also assures us that he has the power to raise us from the spiritual death that sin has brought to our souls. The spiritual lifelessness that is the result of our sin can be cured. That we can be raised with Christ’s own resurrected life to live lives free not just from sin’s condemnation but from its day to day, moment by moment control.