Reposted from our FAQ evangelism page.
When many people think of God they wonder about His relevance, or desire more than a get out of hell free card (in that case, “I’ll just wait until closer to death before pursuing Him,” they think, which itself is dangerous, c.f. Isa 55:6, “seek the LORD while He may be found.”]).
I’m reminded of Jesus’ comment in Mk 12:27, that “He [God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the context of the Resurrection this means He’s the God of those who are spiritually alive, both those in Heaven along with followers of Jesus today. More broadly spun you could say God is not just a God for the afterlife but for life today.
Christianity is a religion for today and not simply the afterlife. Here are some examples as to why:
1. Peace with God
The heart of the Bible’s message is that humanity has fallen from its original state of friendship with God and now in sinful rebellion is under just condemnation. We are God’s enemy. Having an enemy such as this along with the eternal guilt that accompanies it bears heavily upon one’s body, soul and spirit. Suppressing the truth of our condemnation, we seek to evade the thought of this rebellion with still more rebellion. We try to substitute being made for God with other things (e.g. money, sex, power, etc). While some of these things may satisfy for a time they do not do so completely. As such we’re left with anxiety and depression. The only solution that can bring us peace is to become at peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus. The moment we believe, we enjoy this peace; peace from the penalty of sin, friendship with God. Ro 5:1 says, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Life to the Full
Many people think they are living a full life; however, our fullness can only extend as far as our sin inhibits—not far at all. We’re not living life fully because we’re not living as we were design to live. We’re not living for God and His glory; we’re living for self and today. As a result of not being at peace with God we’re actually spiritually dead. We may think we’re alive but it isn’t even a shadow of what we were created for. Jesus came not only to give us eternal life (Jn 3:16) but abundant life today. “I came that you may have life,” He said, “and life to the full.” (Jn 10:10). This life comes through His Spirit that He gives every believer; the purpose He enables them to fulfil.
Not only does the believer gain peace and life but also wisdom. The Holy Spirit is called the “teacher.” He, through Scripture, teaches us in the way of God. When we do what pleases God, we not only honour Him, but life generally goes better for us. Proverbs 3:8 says, “[Wisdom] will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Walking in the Lord’s wisdom brings the steadfastness of truth to our lives that we don’t naturally have in this world tossed to and fro by changing ideas and thought patterns.
4. Strength For Today
Life can be difficult, even for Christians. God never promised that it wouldn’t. Believers have been freed from the penalty of sin (through the Cross), are being set free from the power of sin (by the Spirit) and will be freed from the presence of sin when Jesus returns. Yet in the meantime Jesus promised to comfort us through His Spirit’s presence. Christ “dwelling in our hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17) and such promises as “I am with you always, to the end of the age” Mt 28) mean that even in the valley of deep darkness the believer can be assured of the Lord’s presence, comfort, help and strength. All of this increases our relational knowledge of God and produces character. This is an assurance and experience a believer does not enjoy.
5. Bright Hope for Tomorrow
Yet not only “Strength for today” but “bright hope for tomorrow” as the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness reminds us. Yes, but I thought we were talking about the here and now, not the future. Indeed, but the future impacts how we live today. The assurance of eternal life means that the believer has hope amidst of the hopelessness of today. One’s belief about tomorrow does shape how we live today after all.
So don’t just think of God when you think about tomorrow, know He is immensely relevant for today too. Would you “call upon Him while He while He is near” today through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?
A question that is often asked of Christianity is this:
“What about all those who never hear about Jesus; is God just to sentence them to hell?”
The question is usually asked because someone wonders as to the ethic of such an exclusive claim of salvation.
So let’s begin with an example of an exclusive claim to salvation, Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The objection then often arises, but what about someone in a secular community or a remote island nation who has never heard of Jesus, doesn’t have missionaries or a church or a Bible to instruct them in the way of salvation, is that person eternally damned to hell?
Yes, they are “without excuse.” Why?
To understand this one must realize what the Bible says about humans, we’re fallen, sinful beings, cut off from God and incapable of any spiritual good that might please Him and therefore earn our salvation (read more here). This is why God graciously sent Jesus, to be the rescuer of all those who’d hear the Gospel message and put their trust in Him. This is the basis for an exclusive salvation. We’re sinners, God appointed a means for salvation, we must believe in Jesus in order to be saved.
But is that fair? (Another option would have been for God not to have saved anyone, we see His grace in that He choose to save some; something to think about). Yes, because people are “without excuse.” Why are people without excuse?
If I were born on a stranded desert island with no knowledge of Jesus I would be without excuse for not believing in Him for three simple reasons from Romans 1:
For these sorts of reasons Paul says that unbelievers, everywhere, are “without excuse” (Ro 1:20b); even if they’ve never heard of Jesus. Knowing of Jesus and rejecting Him only increases our culpability; not knowing of Jesus doesn’t diminish it.
One of the largest stumbling blocks to the Christian faith, or rather seeing ones need of Christ, is the belief that one is too good for the Gospel. Why would I need Christianity when I live a decent life already? Maybe Christianity is okay for really bad people but it has nothing to offer me. I’m a firefighter, not an arsonist. I’m a nurse, not a chemical weapons specialist. I’m a farmer, not a cattle rustler. With the exception of maybe a few rough edges I’m basically a good person, too good to need Christ, too good for the Gospel to be good news to me.
How do we answer those who raise this point when we seek to share the Gospel with them? How can we help them see their need of Christ (I say help because conviction of sin is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit, Jn 16:8).
We might start by freely acknowledging our own sinfulness before them, that the Gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. But still, they might protest that neither of us are beggars, we’re both basically good people, and I have enough bread thank you.
Okay, Mr. Good, let’s turn to Ro 3:23, a very famous and helpful verse on this subject:
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But I’m not a sinner they may still exclaim. I’m not an Adolph Hitler or a Genghis Khan, nor a mafia boss nor an online fraudster. HERE is the problem. Here is the key to unlocking this stumbling block and excuse. Their standard for measuring goodness is either themselves or someone else. When we, rather subjectively, set the bar it is no wonder we measure up, we set it far too low!
But that is the complete opposite of what Ro 3:23 is saying. Why have we all, without exception, sinned? Because we fall short of the glory of God. God’s glory is His character, His reality, His person. He is holy, radiant, pure and good and He calls us to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). He is and sets the standard and not us or others. He makes this standard known through His Divine Laws, all that He has said in His Word as to that which is right and wrong. Take the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:1–17) or even the Great Commandment (Mk 12:28–31) as but an example. Find me someone who has kept those simple lists perfectly and I’ll make pigs fly!
WOW! That changes the weights and measurements doesn’t it? That revolutionizes our perspective on goodness. No longer is my goodness adequate, no longer do I measure up, now there is a great gulf between what goodness I may have and the goodness that God requires of me—perfection. Truly, now all of my “righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Even any good we may have do is unacceptable because it wasn’t done in faith to love, honour and glorify God (Heb 11:6).
Once Mr. Good has grasped this by the Spirit, Mr. Bad is ready for Good News, the Gospel, for he sees his need of it. Ro 3 continues in vv. 24–25:
And are justified [declared right] by His grace [unmerited favour] as a gift [we cannot earn it for our deeds are imperfect], through the redemption [rescue] that is in Christ Jesus [what? Read on…], whom God put forward as a propitiation [a sacrifice that turns God’s wrath toward sin into favour] by his blood [dying on the cross], to be received by faith. [that believing this and asking, in trust, for God to forgive your sins according to the merits of Christ’s blood. That is how we can be saved from our sins and gain eternal life; that is how a relationship with our Maker can be restored].
God willing, your stumbling block removed, would you see your need for Christ and call on Him, asking Him to be Saviour and Lord of your life?
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.