According to a recent Gallup poll, 89% of Americans believe in God. Another study done by San Diego State University discovered that 80% of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife. Although the overwhelming majority of people on earth believe in the existence of God and in life after death, many people are still unsure of the answers to the following questions:
Who is God?
What does he want for us?
How do we get to heaven?
Maybe you have yet to find satisfactory answers to these questions. The Bible, God’s revelation to us, has given us the answers to these questions – and there is good news for everyone!
God’s Goal For Humanity
If you turned on the news right now, chances are you would see coverage of great suffering and evil either in some distant country or in your own neighborhood. We see terrible things happen every single day, and it can be easy to blame God for allowing such atrocities. However, evil and tragedy have not always been a part of this life, and are not a part of God’s ultimate goal for humanity.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
The first two chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1-2, describe the perfect world that God created at the beginning of time when relationships between God and humans, humans and humans, and humans and nature were uninhibited by tragedy, violence, and evil. The last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22, describe the same perfect world, but at the end of time. The Bible promises that tragedy, violence, sorrow, and even death will cease to exist as humans live in perfect harmony with God and each other in a city called the New Jerusalem. This is God’s ultimate intention for our world.
What Went Wrong?
“The Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” –Genesis 3:23
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” – Romans 1:25
God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, with the ability to make their own decisions. So, God made the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from it. Unfortunately, they decided to disobey God, believing that eating from the tree would make them like God. Because of their choice to do evil, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the place where they lived in God’s presence. Because God is perfectly good and has no evil in him, he could no longer live in closeness and perfect harmony with humankind.
Adam and Eve believed in lies instead of the truth that God spoke to them. We still do that today. Ever since Eden, we humans want to “be like God.” We desire to call our own shots and ignore God. That decision still separates us from God and creates conflict in our own relationships.
From Adam and Eve to You and Me
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, every single human being has disobeyed God, and therefore cannot be in his presence. To demonstrate this, please answer the following questions honestly:
Have you ever told a lie? (“You shall not give false testimony.” – Exodus 20:16)
Have you ever stolen something? (“You shall not steal” – Exodus 20:15)
Have you ever looked at someone lustfully? (Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has… committed adultery… in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28)
Have you ever disobeyed your parents? (“Honor your father and your mother.” – Exodus 20:12)
Have you ever made something more important than God in your life? (“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3)
Have you ever hated anyone? (“Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” – Matthew 5:22)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have failed the test, and there is no extra credit available to make up for lost points. Our sin automatically disqualifies us from heaven, and no matter how many good deeds we do, we can never balance out our disobedience. All of us are in the same boat, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that we are dead in our sins because we have turned away from the giver of eternal life (Ephesians 2:1; John 3:36).
Let’s pretend that you have been placed on death row because of a string of serious crimes. You have no hope for bail or parole. On the day of your execution, an innocent man walks into your cell, sits down next to you, and says, “The judge has allowed me to carry out your sentence. I have chosen to die in your place.” You are quickly escorted out of the prison and given a new life as a free person, while the innocent man dies for you. That’s exactly what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person 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.” – Romans 5:6-8
Jesus was God in human form. He walked the streets of first century Palestine, proclaiming the good news of his new kingdom by healing and forgiving. He was tempted to sin in many ways, but never did. He had a perfect relationship with nature, with others, and with God. Though the authorities of his time didn’t believe that he was God in the flesh and sentenced him to death for claiming to be so, he knew that his death was coming and endured it for our salvation. He took on our sins while hanging on a tree, and when he died our sins died with him – all because God loves you and me. Three days later, Jesus’ tomb was empty. He was alive! He appeared to over 500 different people before ascending into heaven. His resurrection defeated the final consequence of sin: death. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can have forgiveness and eternal life with God! We are no longer separated from him, and we can be restored to good relationships with others, living the life that God intended for us to live.
Accept God’s Gift
God’s grace is a gift, and just like any other gift that we are offered, we can either accept or reject it. Forgiveness and eternal life are offered to everyone on earth, completely unearned, but only a few receive it. So, how do we receive God’s grace?
1. Believe. “Everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” – John 3:15
Believing in Jesus goes beyond mere knowledge of his existence, and even beyond believing that his death and resurrection happened. It’s a belief that Jesus is Lord, which means that Jesus gets to be in charge of your life. If we are to have a right relationship with God, we must obey and put our trust in him. Do you believe that Jesus showed you God’s love and that his death and resurrection can take away your guilt?
2. Repent. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” – Acts 3:19
Repentance is not only feeling sorry for your sin, but it’s also the act of turning away from sin. It’s saying, “I have lived in disobedience to God. I am sorry, and from now on I will live for God and not for myself.” Are you willing to “reverse course” and let God be in charge of your life instead of you?
3. Be baptized. “Repent and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” – Acts 2:38
The word “baptize” in the Bible literally means “to immerse.” When we are immersed in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:3-4). When we go under the water, we die to our old, sinful selves, just like Jesus died for us. When we come out of the water, we rise with a new life, just like Jesus’ resurrection. Are you ready to put an end to a “me-centered” life and commit to a “Jesus-centered” one?
The Life God Wants For You
God created humankind for a specific kind of life, with him at the center. Once you accept God’s gift of salvation, you are brought into the life God desires for you. Here are just some of the aspects of this new life:
You are forgiven. (Acts 2:38)
The Holy Spirit lives in you. (2 Corinthians 1:22)
You inherit eternal life. (1 Peter 1:4)
You are adopted by God into his family. (Ephesians 1:5)
You are a part of Christ’s kingdom. (Colossians 1:13)
You receive spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
You are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)
You anticipate Christ’s return. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
You represent Jesus to others. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
God has work planned for you to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
You have joy. (1 Peter 1:8)
God teaches you through the Bible. (Hebrews 4:12)
You can talk to God through prayer. (Philippians 4:6)
Difficulties in life are opportunities to grow. (Romans 5:3-4)
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you want to make him Lord of your life? If yes, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive all the gifts written above! If you want to talk to someone about this decision, click on the “Interested in talking about Jesus?” banner below.
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