A Reasoning Faith — Lesson 4
Some Common Mistakes
Having considered the fact that there is a God and that the Bible is the Word of God, we are faced with the reality that each one of us has broken the laws of God. Each one of us must now be aware that he has sinned and stands exposed to the judgment of God. We have also examined the unique history of Jesus Christ and the clear meaning of His death on the cross for human sin.
We must now consider some of the more common misconceptions people have regarding these issues. Although it is plausible That the Bible is true, aren't alternative views also plausible?
Is Sincerity Enough?
After explaining my convictions to a friend, he said,
You're right, but so am I, although I don't see things like you do. It seems to me that it doesn't matter so much what a man believes, so long as he is sincere in his belief.
Let's test that statement.
One Sunday morning a neighbor of mine said to his wife and family, "Let's go for a drive." Traveling north, they came to a railroad crossing. Sincerely believing there would be no train on a Sunday morning, he attempted to drive across without looking. He was killed on the spot by an oncoming train while a son received a broken arm and his little daughter was seriously injured and lay in a body cast for months.
Did his sincere belief that all was clear save him? No, it did not.
I know a nurse who, on night duty, sincerely believed she held the right medicine in her hand, but she was wrong, and in twenty minutes her patient was dead in spite of frantic efforts to save him.
The Importance Of Being Right
Of course we need sincerity, but we must sincerely believe truth, not error. In fact having sincere belief in error can be the very means of deceiving us and finally destroying us.
The Bible leaves no room for doubt.
In John 14:6 Christ says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Acts 4:12 says, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
If you can get to heaven in any other way you will be a witness throughout eternity to the fact that Jesus Christ lied when He said He was the only way. But since He gives full evidence of being the Son of God, isn't it folly to attempt coming to God by any other way than Christ Himself?
The real reason we want some other way is because the way of the cross is a humbling way and we are proud at heart. But remember the way of the cross was a humbling way for Christ also, as we read in Philippians 2:5, 8.
Let the spirit of Christ Jesus be yours also. Though the divine nature was his from the beginning, yet he did not look upon equality with God as a above all things to be clung to, but impoverished himself by taking the nature of a servant ... and still further humbled himself by submitting even to death-to death on a cross!
Will Reformation Do? (What If I Change?)
Some people have suggested that all a person needs to do is sincerely change, do better in the future, and live down the past. This is supposed to make a person ready for heaven. Will it work?
Assume that the manager of a business goes to his accountant and finds that his company owes $50,000 to manufacturers and other suppliers. He says, "Write letters to all those people and tell them that we are not going to trouble about the past, that we have turned over new pages in our ledger, but we promise to pay 100 cents on the dollar in all future business, and from now on live up to the highest standard of business integrity." The accountant would think his employer had gone mad, and would refuse to put such a proposition to the creditors. Yet thousands of otherwise sensible people are trying to get to heaven by just such a proposal, offering to meet their obligations toward God for the future, but refusing to worry about the past at all. In Ecclesiastes 3:15 we read,
God requireth that which is past.
Even if we assume that we can somehow begin to live an absolutely perfect life - which is certainly impossible for us - we are still sinners. God's righteousness demands that no past account is considered settled till it has been paid in full and every claim of justice met. The murderer may cover his sin and live the life of a model citizen for ten years after his crime, but man's law, when he is located, condemns him to death. Though he has murdered no one for ten long years-it still judges him a murderer.
To hide past sin, either thoughts, words, or deeds, by what seems to be an absolutely perfect life, still leaves us sinners. In God's sight the past and future are as open as the present. According to God's standard of holiness, we have all sinned, and we must bring sin out into the open and have it dealt with righteously.
The Bible declares that Jesus Christ is the only One who could pay this penalty. "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10). Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ gave up His life in place of ours that we might go free. Our past sin is paid for, and God, against whom we have sinned, has given us His receipt, showing His satisfaction with the completed work of Christ on the cross in that He raised Him from the dead. Christ, once crucified, is now our living Saviour. He died to save us from the penalty of sin and now He lives to deliver us from the power of sin.
Jesus Paid It All
But why did Christ need to die? Couldn't He have saved us without that? Man had broken God's law and the penalty was death. How could Christ righteously deliver us without meeting our full penalty? Don't you see, if He paid anything less than the full price, there would still be judgment for us to meet? But because He died, the law we broke can judge us no more.
The Bible says in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
On one occasion an unfinished court case had to be extended another day. So that no outside influence could be brought to bear, the jury was sequestered overnight. When they arrived at court the next morning, the judge said, "Gentlemen, the case is dismissed; the prisoner has been called to a higher court. " The accused had died in his cell during the night and there was no use going on with the case, as the law cannot judge a dead man.
Again, if a man should murder one person, he may receive the death penalty, but if he should murder six people he can still die only once, because this is the utmost penalty of the law, and no matter what a man's sins may be, the law knows no greater penalty than to take his life.
Therefore, it doesn't matter that there are sins in my life that I have long since forgotten; I fear none of them, for I have confidence that the Lord Jesus Christ, my substitute, suffered the utmost penalty of the law on my account, freeing me absolutely from all the claims the law had against me, both great and small.
Salvation Must Be Personally Received
Because of the greatness of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, some have suggested that if Christ died for all, then everyone must be saved. But God does not say that. He says there is salvation for all, but that not all are saved.
Let me illustrate. Picture a bitterly cold winter. Many are in dire straights because of successive unemployment. The city officials provide free meals for any in need. You meet a man on the street who says he is starving. Naturally, you ask if he doesn't believe the notices posted all over the city, that there is enough food for all provided free? "Yes," he replies, "I believe that's true, in a general sort of way, but I am still hungry." You tell him that he will remain hungry in spite of the provision if he doesn't eat and drink personally of what is provided for all."
Although the death of Christ provides salvation for who ever comes, only those are saved who personally receive Christ and believe that He died in their place. I must take Christ as MY Saviour, or His death will avail me nothing, just as a man could die of thirst beside a spring of water if he refused to drink its life-giving stream for himself.
How Can One Death Atone for All Mankind?
Some may still question: How can the Lord Jesus Christ's one life be considered the substitute for the lives of so many, so that God offers salvation to whosoever repents and believes in Christ? That's a fair question. Christ was God manifest in the flesh - Divinity in humanity - so that the life He gave was an infinite life, able to meet the needs of any number of finite lives. Get a sheet of paper and write down all the big figures you can think of - millions or more - add them up. Now you have a big number; then multiply your sum by 10, a 100, or a million if you like. Use as many sheets of paper as you want. When you're done, you still have a finite number - a number that has bounds set about it - it has a beginning and an end, no matter how large it may be. No, by adding finite things together no man has ever been able to make that which is infinite. The infinite life of Christ given for sinners is more than sufficient to save all who accept Him as the One who died for them.
But how could Christ suffer for our sins when they were not committed until more than 1900 years after He died? At first this seemed a problem. But the more I thought, the more readily I understood. God is omniscient (that is, He knows all things), and God is eternal. In Exodus 3:14 God calls Himself "I AM" (present tense), and Christ says in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (present tense). In other words, to One who knows all things and is eternal, there is, neither past nor future, but one eternal present. Events yet to take place 2000 years ahead must be as clear to Him as events which happened 2000 years ago, and both must, of necessity, be just as clear to God as events happening now.
In this lesson we have tried to face honestly some of the questions people raise when faced with their need of Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and Lord. In our next lesson we are going to look at some more common objections to this truth.
Have you squarely faced your doubts and difficulties? If not, will you do so now?