I am a Child of God

Among the many wonderful benefits of our salvation, none is more uplifting and assuring than the doctrine of adoption.  It brings comfort to the most troubled and distressed soul.

Adoption is the gracious and loving act of God where he takes children of Adam – those who are sinners by nature and by choice, and He brings them into His household, into his family, and grants to them all the legal entitlements of being a child of God.

There are a number of passages in the Scripture that teach adoption; one of the clearest is in Galatians chapter 4 verses 4-7:

“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.”

Notice how the entire Godhead is at work here.  The Father chooses us for adoption.  Ephesians 1:5 tells us that, He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”.  The Son goes to the cross and redeems us and secures our adoption legally.  And then the Spirit comes and indwells us and assures us that we are God’s children, so that we cry out “Abba Father.”   The result is we are no longer slaves but sons.

It all seems too good to be true doesn’t it?  Like a fairy-tale.  But it’s not a fairy-tale. It’s the story of every Christian in every age.  From slavery to Sonship through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Every Christian is a rags to riches story.

Don’t you find this truth to be absolutely marvellous?  John the Apostle thought it was.  He exclaims in 1 John 3:1:

“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.”

Notice his astonishment – “See what great love!” (or “Behold, what manner of love”).  He’s amazed, astounded, and stunned over the fact that God’s love would be so great as to make him – a rebellious sinner, a son in God’s own family.

Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on adoption and this is what he says:

“A man, when he adopts a child sometimes is moved by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But, beloved, when God passed by the field in which we were lying, he saw no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself; he saw no contrition in us until he had given us repentance; and there was no beauty in us that could induce him to adopt us — on the contrary, we were everything that was repulsive; and if he had said, when he passed by, ‘You are cursed, be lost forever,‘ it would have been nothing but what we might have expected from a God who had been so long provoked, and whose majesty had been so terribly insulted.

 But no; he found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; he took it to his bosom, and said, ‘You who are dirty, you are comely in my eyes through my son Jesus; unworthy though you are, yet I cover you with his robe, and in thy brother’s garments I accept you;’ and taking us, all unholy and unclean, just as we were, he took us to be his—his children, his forever.”

Christian, do you grasp the astonishing and astounding reality of your adoption?

Adoption is not a recent or modern invention.  It has been around for centuries.  Paul’s readers would have been very familiar with it.  Adoption was a legal act in Roman times and it was taken very seriously.  The adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural born sons.  According to the Roman law the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family.  He got a new father and he became the heir of his new father’s estate.  He became co-heir with the other sons in the family.  The old life was completely wiped out.  All debts were cancelled, and he was absolutely the son of his new father.

Paul tells us that this is what God has done for us. We were sons and daughters of Adam.  We inherited his sin and guilt.  God took us out of that family and adopted us into His new family.  We have been completely released of all responsibility and debts of sin because Jesus paid the debt in full.  And we inherit everything that Jesus inherits.  All that is his is now ours.

Adoption applied

The implications of this doctrine of adoption in our Christian lives are rich and profound.  I would like to offer three of them.

1. Intimacy with the Father

Intimacy is what we experience when we feel when we really know and are known by another person.   An intimate friend is someone we feel very close to; they know us at a deep level.  When intimacy is damaged or broken, there is a feeling of distancing with that person.

That’s what children of God experience in their relationship with God the Father.  They are intimate with him and he with them.  There is a deep sense of closeness, of being known, and of love for each other.

I am a father of four children.  I have very fond memories of going into their rooms when they were asleep.  I would look down upon them, as see them sleeping peacefully.  I would look at their faces and a great sense of love and affection for that child would well up in my heart.  Well, I am certain the Father looks down upon his children and experiences that same kind of affection for us.  He loves us.  He adores us.  We are his children.

2. Trust in the Father

Children are very trusting – have you noticed that?  Sometimes they are too trusting!  Sadly, as they grow older, they grow less and less trusting of their parents and anyone else for that matter.  Your heavenly father wants you to be like a child, trusting him with everything.  I know that’s hard.  We want to be in control.  We struggle handing over the wheel of our lives to someone else.

Your heavenly father can be trusted with every detail of your life – no matter how insignificant or small.  “Look at the birds,” Jesus said, “they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns (like you do), yet your heavenly father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?”  He cares for birds.  Dum birds.  You are more important to him than a dumb bird.  So trust him.  Stop fretting and trust him.  Don’t lose sleep over a bill you can’t pay, or someone you can’t change or a problem you can’t fix.  Trust him.  He’s got the whole world in his hands.  He can handle your problems.  Trust him.

3. Love for the Father’s family

Not only do we become sons and daughters of the living God.  We become brothers and sisters of each other.  You know how it is with your earthly brothers and sisters.  They can be a bit of a pain at times, can’t they?  But you still love them.  You love them because they are family.  And so, it is in the family of God.

The Christians that are in your life – the one’s you sit beside in church on Sunday or work alongside – they are not simply friends and acquaintances.  They are your family.  Jesus calls you to love them and serve them and encourage them.  He calls you to pray for them and watch out for them.  And that means each and every one of them; not just the ones you like!  When you care for them and serve them and show kindness towards them and forgive them when they wrong us, your heavenly Father smiles down upon you.  For in the same way you show love to them, you show love to him also.

Conclusion

The Father loves you.  It can sound so trite, can’t it?  But it’s not.  He loves you.  He has proven his love by sending his own Son to redeem you.  He has doubly proved it by then sending his Spirit to indwell you and place his stamp on you.

Who am I?  I am a child of God.  I have been adopted into God’s family.  He says to me, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

This is my identity.  And this is my destiny.

This post was based on a sermon called I am a Child of God.  It is part of a series on the Christian’s identity that we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

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Who am I?


Who are you?  What is it about you that defines you?  Is it your job or career?  Is it your role as a parent or wife?  Or is it some great achievement you have attained in life?  How you answer this is important because it will tell you something about the way you understand yourself.  It will tell you about your identity.

Some find their identity in their career.  Work is not just a means to an end.  It is their end.  That’s what they live for.  Others find their identity in relationships.  They view themselves as someone’s wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend.  Some find their identity in their possessions.  Others find their identity in their sexual orientation.

For the Christian, none of those things have a bearing on their true identity.  When you go to the bible, you never find Paul or James or Peter identifying themselves by their job title or who they are related to or what they own or by their sexual orientation.  They use an entirely different set of self-designations.  These designations, which reveal the Christian’s true identity, have become lost in the church today.

I am in Christ

Foundational to your new identity as a Christian is this truth: you are in Christ.  The term “in Christ” is one of the Apostle Paul’s favourite expressions.  He uses it more than 160 times in his letters in the New Testament.  The term “Christian” in comparison, is only found three times in the bible, twice by Luke in the book of Acts and other by the Apostle Peter – never by Paul.  So, we know this an important concept.  He doesn’t want us to miss it.

So what does it mean to be in Christ?  Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.  To be in Christ does not mean to be ‘inside’ Christ as a person is inside a house, or tools are kept inside a toolbox.  It is not a matter of physical location.  It is a spiritual reality.  “In Christ” is Paul’s shorthand for our union Christ.  Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology, defines union with Christ as, “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.”

You say, “I’m still having difficulty getting my head around this.  It’s not like being in a room or a house and it’s not like belonging to a club or an association.  Then what is it?”  The answer is it’s the opposite of being “in Adam”.

Christ, the Second Adam

In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul says this: “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Note the two key expressions here – “in Adam” verses “in Christ.”  When God looks over all humanity he places every single man and woman into one of two categories: those who are “in Adam” and those who are “in Christ.”  There is no third category.  Those who are “in Adam” – those who have Adam as their representative head, will die.  Those who are “in Christ – those who have Jesus as their representative head, will live.  This is the idea that Paul develops in Romans chapter 5:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

God placed Adam in the garden and gave him specific instructions not to eat from a certain tree.  If he did he would die.  He disobeyed, and so did Eve.  They both ate and guess what?  They both died.  The first death was spiritual and instantaneous.  Their relationship with God was broken – cut off.  Eventually they died physically.  But here’s the catch: Adam was no ordinary man.  God appointed Adam to represent the entire human race.  What he did affected us all.

So when Paul writes in verse 12, “in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned,” he is referring, not to our individual sins but to the fact that we were united to Adam as our representative head.  When Adam sinned, we all sinned.  And we all suffer the consequences of his sin.  Look also at verse 18 – Paul is saying the same thing:

“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone…” (Romans 5:18)

And again, in verse 19,

“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…” (Romans 5:19) 

In answer to the question “Who am I?”, we would all have to say therefore, “I am a sinner.”  That is how God identifies me.  I was made a sinner through Adam.

You say, “Well that’s just not fair.  I never asked for Adam to be my representative head!”  No, and I didn’t ask for the Queen to be the head of our State and I didn’t ask Steve Hanson to be the coach for our national rugby team.  But that’s the way it is.

But here’s the good news: what Adam ruined, Christ reclaimed.  What Adam lost, Christ restored.  That is why Jesus is called the second or last Adam.  The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden.  The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam substituted himself for sinners.  The first Adam sinned beside a tree; the last Adam bore our sin on a tree.  The first Adam died as a sinner; the last Adam died for sinners.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “It isn’t fair that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, came to die for the sin of humankind. I don’t want to be represented by Christ.”  Yes, Adam sank our spiritual ship, but God has thrown a life-preserver to us.  His name is Jesus.  What Adam did was the worst thing that ever happened, but what Christ did was the best thing that ever happened.

To be ‘’in Christ’’ therefore is to trust in him in such a way that we are united to him in the all his saving acts.  When he died on that cross, I died with him.  When he was buried, I was buried.  And when he rose to new life, I rose to life with him.  The day I put my trust in Christ, my union with Adam was severed.  He ceased from being my representative head.  I formed a brand union with Christ, who became my new representative head.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Consider these words from John Wesley’s great hymn, “And Can it Be?”

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold, I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

You see there in line 3, Wesley is talking about representative headship.  He’s talking about being united with Christ.  This is not “deeper theology” for spiritual elites.  This is fundamental to the gospel.  And it’s crucial to understanding our identity as a Christian.

As a Christian, you are not defined by what you do – your job or your career.  You are not defined by your possessions – the things you own.  You are not defined by your role as a wife or mother or a husband or a father.  Nor are you defined by your successes or your failures in this world.  When God looks at you, he sees none of these things.  When God looks at you, he sees who you are in Christ.

  • You are chosen (Eph 1:4)
  • You are redeemed (Eph 1:5)
  • You are loved (1 John 3:1)
  • You are forgiven (Eph 1:7)
  • You are a son or daughter of the living God (Eph 1:5)
  • You are a saint (Eph 1:1, Phil 1:1, Col 2:1)
  • You are dead to sin (Rom 6:11)
  • You are spiritually alive (Rom 6:11)
  • You are Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
  • You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works (Eph 2:10)
  • You are a temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:19)
  • You are a co-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17)
  • You are chosen (1 Peter 2:4)
  • You are called (Gal 5:13)
  • You are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)
  • You are the light of the world (Matt 5:14-15; Phil 2:15)
  • You are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)
  • You are an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20)
  • You are God’s prized possession (1 Pet 2:9)

Don’t listen to what the word tells you who you are.  And don’t let the devil start telling you who you are.  Let God tell you who you are.  It will free you in a thousand ways.

This post was based on a sermon called I am in Christ.  It is part of a series on the Christian’s identity that we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

 

 

Transgender

 

A couple of weeks back I watched a Sunday documentary about a downhill mountain bike rider who is causing a bit of a stir in the sporting community.  Anton Weatherly rode as a male until December last year.  His performance was average, crossing the finish line midway in the field.  Then Anton switched genders and became Kate and started riding in the women’s division.  In January she raced in the New Zealand national women’s championship in Wanaka and won by almost 13 seconds.  The other female riders are crying foul.

You can hardly blame them.

Sporting bodies in NZ and worldwide are grappling with how to accommodate transgender athletes.  How do you support human rights and diversity while ensuring a level playing field?  No one knows.  Like the saying goes – it’s complicated.  The first thing we need to do is get our heads around what transgenderism is all about.  Let’s start with some terminology.

Transgender terminology

When we use the word gender, we are referring to the social and cultural aspects of being male or female.  Think masculine verses feminine; facial hair verses lipstick.

 Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of their own gender, whether male or female or something else.  If I asked you the question, “Do you sense you are male or female?” (not, do you look male or female), I’m enquiring about your gender identity.

The term Transgender (the “T” part in LGBT) is an umbrella term to describe a person who experiences a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.

 Gender dysphoria is the term used to describe a person experiencing distress or discomfort because of a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.  They often use phrases such as being “trapped in the wrong body.”

Tansitioning refers to the steps a trans person takes to live in the gender with which they identify.  Sometimes this involves hormone therapy, medical intervention, surgery, and almost always some kind of counseling.

If you want to know where the transgender trend is heading, just look at the social networks.  Facebook, which is on a mission to be the most “progressive” social network on the web now has 71 gender options to choose from.  They’ve been outdone by Tumblr which has at least 300 (to date).

How did we get to this?

The answer lies where all societal changes lie – in a worldview or a belief system.  Everyone has a worldview.  It is what we use to make sense of life.  There’s a belief system driving transgenderism.  And you need to understand it (I wrote about this in a previous post on Love Thy Body, so I apologize if it appears that I am repeating myself).

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s there was a very well-known Christian thinker and apologist by the name of Francis Schaeffer.  Schaeffer recognized a deep division running through all Western thought and culture, between science and morality; between facts and values.  This division has its roots in the period of the Enlightenment when intellectuals began to put human reason over and above divine revelation.  He illustrated it with the metaphor of a two-story building:

THEOLOGY, MORALITY
Private, Subjective, Relativistic
___________________________________________
SCIENCE
Objectively true, Testable

In the lower story is empirical science – that which is objectively true and testable.  On the upper story is the realm of theology and morality, which is considered subjective and relative.  When you hear people say, “That can be true for you but not for me,” you’re looking at the upper story.

Here is the same fragmented worldview using different terms:

VALUES
Private, Subjective, Relativistic
____________________________________________
FACTS
Objectively true, Testable

Nancy Pearcey points out in her book Love Thy Body this two-story worldview is the underlying current beneath many of the social issues in our society.  What has happened, she explains, is our concept of what it is to be a human being has also become fragmented into an upper and lower story, with the body in the lower story and the real person in the upper story.  The two-story worldview for them looks like this:

PERSONHOOD / AUTHENTIC SELF
Gender
_________________________________________________
THE BODY
Sex

So, you no longer have an integrated but fragmented human being, in which the body is treated as something different from and in some cases disconnected from the authentic self.

How is it possible people think this way?  Because of our dualistic worldview, spawned in the period of the enlightenment, nurtured in our education system, and now bearing fruit in society.  For those who saw it coming, it’s of no surprise.  But it is also tragically wrong.  And I want to tell you why.

Real answers from a Caring Creator

True freedom is not found in asserting our independence and trying to be something we are not made to be.  True freedom is found in being who we are.  Vaughn Roberts describes it this way:

“A fish that decides to make a bid for freedom by jumping out of the water will not be free – because it is created to live in the environment of water. And as soon as we try and become what we are not, far enjoying freedom, we can’t expect to flourish.”

So then, who are we?  How should we as human beings view ourselves?  God, our Creator reveals that to us in the opening pages of the Bible in Genesis chapter 1.

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26–27)

The Bible tells us we are first and foremost creatures.  We are not machines.  We are not just atoms and molecules banging into each other.  We are secondly, embodied creatures.  Our bodies are an essential part of our true selves.  God sees us as an integrated whole.  Third, we see that we are embodied sexual creatures, in the form of male or female.

You might have heard of the “brain-sex” theory.  It claims that sex differentiation of the genitals and the brain takes place at different stages of fetal development[1].  OK, so they are partly right in that.  We had scans on all our kids and their biological sex wasn’t determined until a later stage.  But then they go on to say that a baby in the womb can be developed with male genitals and a female brain.

There are over 37 trillion cells in my body.  There are 46 chromosomes in every human cell. ‘Two of these are specialized chromosomes called sex chromosomes.  I have one X and one Y chromosome in every cell of my body (if you are a female you have two X’s).  These remain in my cells from conception until death and do not change.  I am “hard-wired” to be a male down to every cell in my body.

You say, “Well if that’s true – if we are really ‘hard-wired’ to be male or female since birth, how is it that some people seem to be genuinely struggling with their identity?  Why the disorders?  Why do some men feel they are women trapped in a man’s body and some women feel they are really men trapped in a woman’s body?”

The answer lies in Genesis chapter 3: The Fall.  Sin has corrupted us in two ways: physically, with our bodies and psychologically, with our minds.  The result is we have disordered bodies.  We have sickness and disease.  There are corruptions in the genetic code causing all kinds of defections and abnormalities in our bodies.  But we also have disordered minds.  We struggle with stress and depression and all kinds of mental health issues.  None of us are immune.  Some of us are born with a predisposition toward addiction or schizophrenia or OCD or ADHD.  Some experience gender dysphoria.  It’s all part of the fall.  And it’s not right to point to one group of people over here and say, “you’re queer” or “you’re not normal” because, since the fall, none of us are normal.  We have dysfunctions of one kind or another.  So we need to be understanding to people who are experiencing these strange feelings.

The question we want to ask next is – is there any hope for them (and us!)?  Has God offered any solution?  Yes, he has!  He put into plan something wonderful: a rescue mission, to set right all that had gone wrong.

God sent his very own Son into this world to redeem us.  Jesus Christ was born as a human being – a wonderful affirmation that God values the human body.  He lived in perfect submission to his heavenly Father.  Then he took our place on the cross, bearing our sin, and taking the place we deserve for punishment for our sins.  On the third day, he rose from the dead – bodily.  Again, another powerful statement about the importance of our human bodies.

After his resurrection Jesus told his followers to take the good news to the world: every man, woman, and child can be completely forgiven and renewed, simply by turning from their sin and rebellion and putting their trust in Jesus to save them.  They will, in return, receive a new identity, a new mind, new desires, a new citizenship, a new family (the family of God), and one day, a new resurrected body.

That doesn’t mean that everything changes completely overnight.  The change is sometimes slow, and agonizing.  There will be an ongoing struggle with our disordered bodies and disordered minds.  Some of us struggle with depression and anxiety.  Others struggle with addictions and lust.  There are even those who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.  God does not promise to take these things away immediately.  But he does give us His Holy Spirit, which gives us the power to work on them.  He calls us to deny some of those desires, take up our cross and follow Him.  There is pain involved with that.  But the temporary pain is worth every much the final gain.

Conclusion

If you are reading this and you struggle with some kind of sexual disorder – whether it be pornography or same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, Jesus’ message to you is the same for everyone:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28–29)

I’m not telling you, “Get your sexual disorders sorted out and then come to Jesus.”  That’s not how it works.  I am saying, “Come to Jesus and he will start to put you together again.”

Jesus the rescuer has come.  He has died, he has risen, and he has sent his Spirit to make it possible for us to be changed and transformed to what God, in the beginning, intended us to be – men and women who are made in the image of God, wholly integrated in soul, mind and body.

That’s where I am convinced our ultimate freedom and happiness is found.

[1] Mark A. Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, p.67.

This post was based on a sermon on Gender Identity.  It is part of a Hot Topics series we are working through at our church.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.  You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

Here’s the Sunday documentary I referred to in my introduction.  It is interesting viewing and runs for around 12 minutes.

God, suffering and the meaning of life

 

There’s no doubt about it: one of the most difficult and perplexing questions that any of us face – whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic, is the problem of pain and suffering.

It is a matter that is particularly difficult for the Christian.  The Christian believes in a God who is all-loving and all-powerful.  Immediately he is presented with a dilemma: if God is all-powerful, he has the ability to put an end to suffering.  If God is all-loving, he would care enough to put a stop to human suffering.  Since we continue to suffer God must either not be good and loving or he is not all-powerful.  This is the card the atheist continually throws in the Christian’s face.

John Lennox, Oxford Mathematician and Christian apologist says there are two different perspectives to this problem: the intellectual and the personal.  Both need addressing.  If you were told you had a terminal disease, you need a clear and accurate diagnosis so that you know exactly where you stand.  But that’s not all you need.  You also want someone who can empathize with you.  You need someone who will sit with you and hold your hand.

Let’s start with the personal.  I know what it is to experience suffering.  I haven’t suffered as much as others have.  I’ve never experienced Nazi gas chambers or been a victim of ethnic cleansing or been told by a doctor that I have incurable liver cancer and have 3 months to live.  But I’ve still seen and experienced suffering.

I remember, as a young boy, watching my grandfather vomiting up his food all over the table because his stomach lining was falling to pieces from the tins of bully-beef he ate in the trenches of Gallipoli.  I remember the day I was told that my brother Michael was killed after stalling his plane on a top-dressing run.  He immediately put the plane into a dive to build up air speed but never pulled out.  He was married only a month.  It was something my dad never fully got over.  We were all profoundly affected by it.

My wife’s upbringing wasn’t much easier.  Her dad left when she was only two years old.  Her mother had to raise two children on her own, working two jobs to make ends meet.  Then she developed Multiple Sclerosis and had to stop working, with no sickness benefit or family assistance.  One morning she found her mother dead on the kitchen floor.  She was 17.  Her mother was only 39.

Francelle tried staying in touch with her brother but he remained aloof from the family.  She wrote him many letters and prayed for him daily, but he never replied.  A few years back she received a phone call from her Aunt: her brother’s body was found in a hotel room, with a bottle of pain killers.  He had overdosed on pain medication and alcohol.  I don’t think he ever got over his father abandoning him.

Over the years of ministering together, we have seen people suffer greatly.  We’ve held a lifeless 6-month-old baby in our arms, days after his little life was taken by a brain tumor.  We’ve comforted parents of teenage son, who slipped under the waters of a lake while swimming with friends and never resurfaced.  We’ve sat with people overwhelmed with grief after learning their loved one has terminal cancer.

Our world is full of suffering.  None of us can escape it.  In one way or another, each of us have been personally affected.  So how do we make sense of it all?  Let’s begin with some inadequate answers.

Inadequate answers to the problem of suffering

Naturalism / Materialism

The naturalist says ultimate reality in life consists of matter and energy.  That’s all life is: atoms and particles banging into each other.  There is no God, there is no good and there is no evil.  Richard Dawkins, a leading 21st century spokesman for atheism says:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.[1]

This is what happens when you take Atheism to its logical conclusion.  Terrorists and murderers and rapists are simply dancing to the music of their DNA.  So how can you blame them?  Well Dawkins would say you can’t because there is no good and no evil.  The problem of evil simply vanishes – intellectually.  How people find that satisfying I have no idea.

Pantheism

Pantheism is the view that God is everything and everyone and everything is God.  A tree is God, a rock is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God.  Hinduism, Buddhism, and the New Age Movement are all forms of Pantheism.  But there’s a problem: if God is pure goodness (as God should be), then everything must be good – I’m good, you’re good, Hitler was good, the Holocaust was good.  Child abuse is good.  Cancer is good.  It’s all good because it’s all God.  Pantheism, as an answer for suffering, isn’t much better.

Theism

The theist believes in a personal/transcendent God who is both Creator and Ruler over all things, including suffering and evil.  All Christians are theists, as are orthodox Jews and Muslims (and some others).  Ask a Jewish a Jewish Rabbi about why suffering exists in the world and he won’t want to answer (especially since the Holocaust).  Ask a Muslim and he will say “it is the will of Allah.”  If you are suffering, Allah wills it.

The only adequate answer to the problem of suffering

None of those are adequate answers to the problem of pain and suffering.  That leaves one last option: Christianity.  Most of us a familiar with the biblical story.  God creates a perfect world, free from any disease or death or suffering.  Everything was as it should be.  Then Adam believes the serpent’s lie that he could be like God.  He disobeys and plunges the entire human race into sin.  Both Adam and Eve, along with the planet they inhabit, are cursed.  Death enters the scene and pain and suffering becomes his constant companion.

Why is the world the way it is?  Because we humans messed it up.  Natural disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis: it all comes back to human sin.  Don’t blame God for what we see.  We caused it.

Now all that is true and useful as far as it goes.  But it doesn’t go far enough.  It leaves the impression that God has washed his hands of the problem.  In trying to absolve God from any responsibility for suffering and evil, we end up with a God who has no say or control over human suffering.  He is merely a spectator.

But that not what we find in Scripture.  And Isaiah chapter 45 is just one very good example.  Here you have Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia.  The Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, a world empire.  Cyrus led that conquest.  In verse 1 God calls him “My anointed” – my chosen one.  God is going to use this pagan king to accomplish his good purposes.  Cyrus is going to kill people – lots of people.  He is going to cause much suffering.  But God has control of him, as the following verses indicate.  Then in verse 7 we find this very difficult verse:

“I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

The word “disaster” could also be translated adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, or misery.  The Lord, at times, for his own good purposes, cause adversity, affliction, distress and yes – when needed, even misery.

  • He sent an evil spirit to torment Saul
  • He sends poisonous snakes to bite the grumbling Israelites
  • Under King David he sends a pestilence that takes the lives of 70,000 men.

Evangelist Tony Evans says it this way: “Everything is either caused by God or allowed by God and there is no third category.”  When it comes down to it, I’d rather worship a God who suddenly and without warning does things that make no sense to me, who gives life as well as takes it, who sends prosperity as well as trouble – a God who at times leaves me speechless and confused, than worship a God who I can understand.  Because that would be a god who would be just like me.

Conclusion

There is one more important piece of the puzzle we haven’t yet touched on.  And I believe it’s the most important.  How do we make sense of all the suffering we see in the world?  We look to the cross.

The cross is the ultimate proof that God does not stand aloof from the suffering of the world.  He entered into it.  Two thousand years ago Jesus left the glories of heaven for the indignity of a lowly stable.  He entered our world, took our nature, and then died a sacrificial atoning death in our place. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

He didn’t simply die with us.
He died for us.

But it doesn’t finish there.  Jesus came back from the dead.  He reversed the curse, broke the chains of sin and death and set in motion a chain of events that will one day mean an end to all hurricanes and tsunamis and earthquakes and cancer and suffering and pain that plagues us  in this world.

God has not left us without hope.  He has provided a way for us to be made whole, to be made new, and to live forever in the new creation.  Our bodies, our loved ones, our earthy home will one day be redeemed, restored and renewed.  This is how God is going to fix everything, and it’s all going to happen when Jesus returns.

In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovers instead that he is still alive and all his friends are around him.  “Gandalf!” he cries out, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The answer is YES.
And the answer of the Bible is YES.
Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the answer for those who believe is YES.

Note: This post was based on a sermon on Suffering and Evil from our “Hot Topics” series.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.  You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

[1] Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, page 133.

Restoring the Fallen

We all know how it feels when we disappoint someone – particularly someone we are close to.  It might be our spouse.  It might be a close friend.  It might even be our boss.  We’ve let that person down.  When they needed us, we didn’t come through.  And we hate ourselves for it.

That’s how Peter felt after failing Jesus.  He boasted that he would never desert Jesus; he would never let him down, and then he denies him three times.  He’s full of shame and guilt.  He’s no use to God or anyone else now – how could he be?  I can just imagine Peter doing what we all do in those situations.  He’s replaying the tape in his mind, over and over, frame by frame – why did I do it? why did I do it?

That’s where we find Peter when we come to John chapter 21.  He’s with a handful of other disciples by the Lake of Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee).  Peter says, “I’m going fishing.”  The other disciples, say, “We’re coming with you.” 

So, you see what’s going on here.  Peter has failed Jesus – badly.  He’s no use to Jesus anymore.  There is one thing he can do however; he can fish.  But that night they catch nothing.  And the reason is because Jesus doesn’t let him catch anything.  Peter is running away.  He is running away, and Jesus is saying,

“You think you can do something without me Peter, but I want you to see you can do nothing without me.  Not even fish.”

Then at dawn, a shadowy figure is seen on the shore and it calls out, “Friends, you don’t have any fish, do you?”  Then the voice says, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat.”  You can imagine what these experienced fishermen are thinking: “Oh that’s just rich.  I like that.  Like, the fish know the difference between the left side and right side.”  John tells us in verse 6, “So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.” 

As they are hauling it in, the disciple whom Jesus loved (that’s code-name for John), puts two and two together and says to Peter, “It is the Lord!”  Peter, without hesitation, dives into the water.  He’s swimming to shore, and he can’t get there fast enough.  He wants to be with Jesus again, in spite of his shame and guilt.  He’s messed up, but he loves Jesus all the same.

When they all get to the shore they find there a charcoal fire, bread and fish.  It’s déjà vu for the disciples.  It’s all happened before.  It’s the same miracle Jesus performed when he first met Peter back in Luke chapter 5.  It’s the same crowd, the same Peter, the same lake, and the same figure on the shore asking how many fish they had caught.  And the same thing happens, except back then, the nets did tear.

What is Jesus doing?  He’s bringing it all back for them.  He’s recalling their memory.  He’s calling them back.  The bread and the fish, recalling the miraculous feeding of the 5000 and later, the 4000.  Jesus is saying, “Do you remember?  Do you remember that we did this together?  Do you recall what I did?”  Jesus has a special way of drawing his straying ones back to himself.  He stirs their memory and touches their conscience.

So there they all are, sitting there by the fire, eating breakfast together.  Then at some point I imagine, Jesus takes Peter on a little walk.  He says to him, “Simon son of John…”  Now you may remember earlier in the book, in chapter 1 verse 42, Jesus said to Peter, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated “Peter”). 

Jesus is taking him back. He is taking him back to the beginning – back to the place where they had begun in Galilee, so he uses the name with which they had begun.  You see, Jesus is willing to start over with Peter.

Then Jesus says to him in verse 15, “Do you love Me more than these?”  Now the question here is, what does the “these” refer to?  Is Jesus asking, “Do you love me more than these boats and fish?” or “Do you love me more than these men you are working with?”  I tend to lean toward the latter.  Remember Peter’s earlier boast: he vowed to stay faithful to Jesus even if all the others fell away.  The irony is, it is Peter who denies Jesus, not the others.  I think that Jesus may be asking,

“Do you really love me more than these other men love me?  You made that pledge Peter; did you really mean it?” 

Jesus asks this not just once, not twice, but three times.  On the third time, Peter is grieved (recalling no doubt, his 3-fold denial).

I have a wonderful little book on my shelf called, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes.  In it he unpacks Isaiah 42:3 where it says (in speaking of Christ), “A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not put out.”  You know what a reed is.  A reed is thin and frail and fragile.  If the wind blows too hard on a reed it often breaks.  Sibbes writes,

“God’s children are bruised reeds, before their conversion and many times after. For usually God empties men of themselves and makes them nothing before He will use them in any great service.”

A little further on Sibbes writes,

“As a mother is tenderest to her most diseased child, to her weakest child, so does Christ. Christ most mercifully inclines to the weakest and His way is first to wound and then to heal. And we see that there is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us.”

Jesus is tending to a bruised reed.  He is restoring a wounded conscience.  But the way you restore a wounded or guilty conscience is not put a band-aid on it.  You have to do heart surgery.  You need to open the wound.  It’s painful.  And that’s exactly what we see happening here.  Jesus is doing surgery on Peter’s conscience.  And it nearly brings him to tears.

Following Jesus’ 3-fold probing of Peter’s love for him is a 3-fold commission to service:

  • “Feed (basko) my lambs” (v.15)
  • “Shepherd (poimaino) my sheep” (v.16)
  • “Feed (basko) my sheep” (v.17)

This was Jesus’ call to Peter from the beginning.  He’s putting him right back into service.  He not only restoring Peter, he is reinstating him.  He’s saying,

“These sheep Peter, they are mine.  I bought them.  I died for them.  Now I want you to look after them.  Feed them.  Lead them.  Protect them.  Care for them.  And the lambs Peter, my little ones; the ones that are weak and vulnerable and prone to wander.  I’m putting them into your hands.  Look after them.”

And what would be the one thing that would hold Peter to this, that would keep him faithful?  Love for Christ.  You can see it now, can’t you.  You can see how all this fits together.  You can see what makes a good pastor – or any Christian leader for that matter, one who will give the sheep what they need, not what they want, who will faithfully feed them the Word of God and protect them from error and lay down his own life for them if necessary:

It’s not love for the flock.  It’s love for the Shepherd.  It’s love for Jesus.

I’ll leave you with two points of application:

Firstly: no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, you can start anew; you can start afresh.  What Peter encounters in John 21 is a Saviour who is always eager and always waiting to start over.  There’s new grace.  There’s fresh mercy.

Secondly: What if you are a great failure and you are a great sinner and you can’t say with Peter, “Yes, Lord, I love you,” either because you don’t know Christ or because you do know Him but you feel like such a mixed bag?  Sometimes you love Him; sometimes you don’t love Him.  What do you do with that?  Where do you go?  You can’t cultivate it or create it or manufacture this love on your own.  If you don’t have a love for Jesus, where do you get it?

Here’s the answer.  The answer is very simple.  God gives you that love, when you completely surrender yourself to him.   The good news of the gospel is Christ grants his righteousness to us as a gift.  Salvation is by grace – free, unmerited, undeserved grace.  And God grants that grace to those who fall before him in worship and absolute surrender.  Don’t try to start acting better.  Don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to be a better person.”  Open your heart and allow Jesus to come in and change and transform you.  He will give you what you need.  All he asks is for you to trust him.

Pray, “God, change my heart and make me new,” and then hang on and see how His grace upon grace will burst into your life.

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

 

Dealing with Doubt

DOUBT.  Every person has struggled with it at some time or another, whether they be an atheist, agnostic or religious.  The atheist questions, “What if I’m wrong and there really is a God?”  The Christian questions, “What if I’m wrong and Christianity is not true?”  The agnostic (who maintains that no one can know whether God exists or not) lives in a perpetual state of doubt.

Now you might be one of those individuals who has never doubted God’s existence or doubted that you are truly saved.  Good for you.  But you may have doubted other things such as election and free will or whether God listens to your prayers.  Or perhaps, during a particularly difficult season in your life you have doubted God’s goodness.

That brings us to one of the most famous doubters in the bible: Thomas.  His story is told in John chapter 20.  Jesus has risen from the dead and appeared to a number of his followers.  The only one not to have seen him is Thomas.  When they tell him about it, he just won’t buy it.  Maybe he thinks they have imagined it or they saw someone who looked just like Jesus.  What ever his reasons, he’s not swallowing any of it.  Finally, in exasperation he says,

“If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)

Now it is very easy from the vantage point we have, to rag on this guy for his scepticism and unbelief.  But we need to be careful that we don’t sell Thomas short.  There are two other places in John’s gospel where Thomas appears.  And what we learn about him may just surprise you.

Scene 1: John 11

Jesus is out beyond the Jordan River with His disciples – preaching and baptizing.  He then gets word that his friend Lazarus is sick – very sick.  After two days Jesus says, “Let’s go to Judea.”  Well the disciples aren’t too keen on this because the last time Jesus was there the Jews had tried to stone Him.  Jesus says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”  They reply, “That’s great, if he’s asleep, he’s going to get well.”  Jesus replies (in a manner of words), “No you idiots, he’s dead.  He’s meant to die so you can see the power of God at work.  So, let’s go to him.”  Thomas, in response to this says, “Let’s go too so that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16)

Ok, so the disciples really don’t get it.  But what I want you to see here is Thomas’ devotion to Jesus.  He thinks that Jesus is going to join Lazarus in death.  And he is willing to go and risk his life and follow him.  He even challenges the others to come along.  So that’s our first portrait of Thomas: devoted, committed and willing to follow Jesus to death.

Scene 2: John 14

Jesus has just told the disciples that He’s leaving them.  He is returning to his Father.  Jesus says, “You know the way where I’m going” (verse 4).  Thomas asks, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how do we know the way?”  That’s the question everyone else is thinking but don’t want to ask in case they look stupid.  Thomas takes the initiative.  He doesn’t mind asking the hard questions.  He’s not afraid to speak up.  That’s the Thomas we’re looking at here – devoted, committed, and unafraid to speak up and ask the hard questions.

The fact that Thomas has serious doubts that Jesus has come back to life – physically and bodily, doesn’t change any of that.  It doesn’t make him a failure.  It doesn’t mean he is spiritually weak, just like you having doubts about something doesn’t make you spiritually weak.

A week goes by, and the disciples are together again, behind locked doors.  Jesus appears to the disciples the same way he had before, out of nowhere.  This time Thomas is there.  Can you imagine his expression, when he sees Jesus with his own eyes?  Jesus heads straight to Thomas and says to him,

“Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” (John 20:27)

This is how Jesus often deals with our ignorance and our stubbornness isn’t it?  He’s gentle and accommodating.  He knows our faults; He knows what we are made of; and whatever the doubts, whatever the uncertainty Jesus accepts it, and meets us in the middle of it.  Our Saviour is big-hearted.  He loves Thomas and he wants to see him come to a fullness of faith and belief.  “Thomas, come now; don’t come unbelievingly. Come with faith; come with trust to Me.”

Take heart Christian, if this big-hearted Saviour was patient with Thomas, then he’ll be patient with us too.  He says to us,

“Come to Me.  Come with your questions.  Come to Me with your doubts. Come to me with your concerns.  Come to me even with your demands, and I will be able to answer all of them.”

There’s a wonderful verse in a hymn written by William Bright,

How oft, O Lord, Thy face hath shone
On doubting souls whose wills were true!
Thou Christ of Cephas and of John,
Thou art the Christ of Thomas, too.

Thomas’ response is just wonderful.  He says, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas declares that Jesus is the God.  To look into the face of Jesus is to look into the face of God – the Almighty – the one true God.  For Thomas – there’s no doubt.  Only belief.  God has come to Him.  Whatever doubts he may have had Jesus has responded to them.  God’s truth has been revealed.  He sees now with his own eyes: Jesus is the risen Lord – victorious over sin and death.  Jesus responds in verse 29,

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

What an astounding statement from our Lord here.  He is looking forward, past Thomas, past the disciples to those who will believe Him in the future.  He is saying, “How blessed will be those not because they have seen me, not because they have prodded and touched me, but because they trust in the infallible, inerrant Word of God.  How blessed will be those people!”

Conclusion

And so, bringing all this to a close, it is not wrong or sinful for you to doubt.  The question is, what will you do with your doubt?  Will you push forward to faith or will you slip backwards to unbelief?  Because you can’t stay where you are.  To linger in doubt is dangerous.

Faith is sometimes difficult.  I’m the first to admit it.  It’s not always easy.  And for faith to be genuine, it will always have questions and doubts accompanying it, otherwise it isn’t real faith.

It’s not always an easy road to walk – Jesus never promised us that.  But he does promise to be with us in the middle of it.  He will meet us in our doubts.  And when he comes, he won’t come to scold, he won’t come to rebuke, but to gently and patiently work with us so that we progress through to faith.

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.

 

 

It is Finished

Last words have always fascinated people, particularly from the lips of famous people.  Consider the last words from these individuals:

  • Frank Sinatra – “I’m losing it.”
  • Henry VIII – “All is lost”
  • Elizabeth I – “All my possessions for a moment of time.”
  • Princess Diana, after her car accident – “My God. What’s happened?”

Now compare these to the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.”  They are strikingly different aren’t they?  These three words, which summarize the heart of the gospel, have brought hope and comfort to millions throughout the world. “At these words,” says F.W. Krummacher, “you hear fetters burst and prison walls falling down; barriers as high as heaven are overthrown, and gates which had been closed for thousands of years again move on their hinges.”

But what did Jesus mean by these words?  What exactly was finished?  To answer that, we need to revisit the crucifixion.

Revisiting Golgotha

Early Friday morning, a group of soldiers gathered at a place called Golgotha – the place of the skull.  It was on the north side of the city of Jerusalem, just outside the Damascus Gate.  After stripping Jesus naked, the soldiers laid the large upright beam of the cross on the ground and then placed him on it, and then drove large nails through his feet and wrists.  Above Jesus’ head they attached a sign: “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  This was Pilate’ doing.  It was his way of getting back at the Jewish Religious leaders for the way they manipulated him to hand Jesus over.

The cross, with Jesus on it was then lifted up in the air and dropped into a hole in the ground.  Jesus was now crucified.  For three hours he hung there, in agony; the open wounds on his back rubbing painfully on the rough wood as he moved up and down, gasping for air.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  For during that time, Jesus was bearing our sin.  He was suffering in our place.  The full fury of a holy and righteous God was being hurled at his Son.  In the words of the Apostle Paul, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

None of us could possibly imagine what Jesus was experiencing during this time.  None of us know what it is like to suffer the penalty of the sins of millions of people – sins of hate and greed, sins of anger and lust, sins of lying and cheating, sins of envy and pride – when you have never once committed any of them.  None of us know what it is like to have enjoyed perfect fellowship with the Father before time began, and then suddenly, in an instant, to have that fellowship broken and the One you love deeply and affectionately, turn his back on you.  This was the hell Jesus endured.

At exactly 12 noon, the sky went black – so black that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  For three hours darkness fell across the land.  Then, just as suddenly as it started, the darkness lifted, disappeared, vanished, and normality returned to the earth.  The soldiers who looked at Jesus on the cross would have noticed that his breathing was slowing and his movements less pronounced.  He was nearing the end.

Then suddenly, without warning, Jesus cried out with a loud voice – “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Someone in the crowed shouted back – “He’s calling for Elijah.”  Moments passed, death drew near, then a hoarse whisper, “I thirst.”  The soldiers put some sour vinegar on a sponge and lifted it to his lips with a stalk of hyssop.  He moistened his lips and took a deep breath.  Then he spoke again.  It was a quick shout.  If you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed it in all the confusion.  It was just one word in Greek. . . Tetelestai . . . “It is finished.”

Note that Jesus did not say, “I am finished.”  This is not the cry of a helpless martyr.  He said, “IT is finished.”  He was making a pronouncement – a declaration.  The work of redemption was complete.  Full atonement for sin had been made.  Our debt was paid and it was PAID IN FULL.  That means every sin a Christian has have ever done, is presently doing and will do in the future is fully covered, fully atoned for, and completely wiped out – on that blood-stained cross.

I love how Spurgeon puts it:

“The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once for all, and for ever, by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the tree. There was the cup, hell was in it, the Saviour drank it — not a sip and then a pause; not a draught and then a ceasing, but he drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of his people. The great ten-thonged whip of the law was worn out upon his back, there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition, there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God. Sheathed is thy sword, O Justice! Silenced is thy thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs, and pains, and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for his own beloved, and “it is finished.”

I think of all the sins I have committed over my lifetime.  There are a fair number of them.  Every year, the list just keeps growing longer.  Before I even reached the age of twenty, I could no longer live with them.  God brought conviction to my heart and I was crushed under the weight of them.  Then came the gospel, the wonderful, life-changing, liberating news that I didn’t have suffer for those sins; someone has paid the debt for me.

  • My sins of lust – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of lying and deceiving – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of jealousy and envy – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of selfishness and pride – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of drunkenness and idolatry – PAID IN FULL
  • My sins of pornography and immorality – PAID IN FULL

Do you have some sins you can add to that list?  I’m sure you do.  God must pronounce judgment of each one of them.  They cannot be excused.  They cannot be simply written off.  Either you pay for them – in hell, or Jesus pays for them on the cross.  But someone must pay.  I gratefully accepted Jesus payment.  So today I can say, “It is finished.  It is done.  My debt has been paid in full.”

If you are a believer in Christ who is troubled with doubt and despair, hear these words of Jesus:  “It is finished.”  Your sin has been paid for.  Your salvation is complete.  There is nothing left to do than receive the benefits of this work; to put your faith in the one who offered his life as a sacrifice for sin.

If you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ; if you don’t know what it is to have your sins forgiven and your conscience cleansed, your burdens lifted and your guilt taken away, why not surrender your life to him today?  He is there waiting for you, with open arms.  Believe in Him; trust in his atoning work on your behalf.

Then you too will be able to confidently say, “It is finished.  My debt is paid in full.”

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.