Every day we are bombarded with bad news: children are abducted; natural disasters devastate lives all over the world; people kill strangers and loved ones; neighbor turning against neighbor, further division within communities, sexual misconduct is running rampant from Hollywood to the halls of Congress…the list seems endless.
Early in the first century, Judah lived under Roman occupation. The narrow city streets of Jerusalem echoed with the sound of marching Roman soldiers, the hillsides were dotted with victims hanging on crosses, the religious system was corrupted by priests appointed by Roman oppressors, taxes were nearing extortion levels, the people were weighed down and God seemed silent. Then one day, in a small synagogue of Nazareth, the son of a local carpenter’s widow stood and read from the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) When He sat down, He announced that Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in Him that very day. He had come to proclaim good news!
Jesus came to “set the oppressed free” from our chains to sin. So we must first understand that we were born sinful creatures, and are therefore God’s enemies. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) And in our sinful state, we need a Savior. “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:21-23). Without faith in Christ, we are destined to death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23)
He came to save “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord [Jesus]” (Acts 2:21). And because He wants everyone to have an opportunity to receive eternal life, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And Jesus is the only way to the Father: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)
This morning I was contemplating just how simple the Lord offered us forgiveness of our sin. “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) I think it’s important to look at what is required by the word “believe”, because even the devil and his minions believe in Jesus. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24)
What is missing is not believing in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God but delighting in that fact, embracing that fact, and making Christ the treasure and the Lord of your life by surrendering to Him. In other words, “belief” is seeing Him for who He really is, seeing Him as infinitely valuable as the Son of God. It’s not just acknowledging the fact that He is the Son, but also seeing Him as infinitely precious and valuable. Satan, on the other hand, does not view God as precious and valuable. He hates Christ and Christ is a threat to his own value.
But when the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives we’re not deceived like that anymore. We recognize that our value is nothing compared to Jesus’ value. Instead, we just want to know Him, be with Him, enjoy Him, follow Him, and celebrate Him. That transition—that change of heart, so that we are now looking away from ourselves to Christ and embracing all that God is for us in Him—that is what faith is. That is what belief is. That is what saves.
We must understand that without our faith in Him, we are destined to a bleak future for eternity; we must humble ourselves before the Lord and ask for His saving grace. “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)
That change of heart only comes through the redemption we receive as a gift “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7). For our redemption wasn’t purchased with silver or gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), for “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). That is the love the Lord has for us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
All we have to do to receive our salvation is to have faith in Him as our Savior. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation, except to recognize we need it, know it is a gift from God accessed only by our faith, and to humble ourselves before Him, and if we do, Jesus says that we will inherit “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Who can you share this good news with today?
- Bible study in Into The Word
- What Does It Mean to Believe?