Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Following Jesus

One thing that I didn't get right away in my relationship with Jesus was that I was someone who sinned. I guess I knew it intellectually, but I didn't realize the seriousness of it. I knew that God was holy and just, and that the penalty for sin is death. Somebody has to die spiritually to pay the price for my sin. But death was a long way away in my mind and I just didn't think I was that bad. I learned that sin was more than a set of acts that are wrong - sin is a position that we take, in that we choose to reject God. God, by very virtue of being God, makes the terms. Heaven is His domain. I realized that I couldn't expect to live my life as if He didn't exist, or to insult Him totally by telling Him that I would be in charge of this relationship and He would adapt to me, and still show up in Heaven looking for my mansion. The last thing that I needed was a God that I could control. I couldn't even control myself by putting the fork down when I needed to, and was overweight because of it. And that was only one of the areas of my weakness. No, I needed a powerful, just, all-knowing, ever-present God. And the only thing separating me from Him was my sin. As all of this began to sink into my mind, I began to be overwhelmingly grateful and amazed at the solution God provided. Someone had to pay the price. What I needed was to be forgiven of my sin, to have the debt erased, which seems like a pretty wild thing to even expect or hope for. Could God let me get away with years of rejecting Him?

Then I read this, from the apostle Paul in Acts 13:38, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."

In Romans 3:21 - 27, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so that to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

Justice says that no, God can't let me get away with it. It's funny, how there are times when we think that our "stuff" isn't so bad and should be overlooked, but we certainly don't want those who hurt us to have their "stuff" overlooked. I understood the feeling. But I was beginning to understand that God loves everyone as much as He loves me, and as angry as it makes Him when others hurt me, He is also angered by the things I do and say to hurt others. It just wouldn't be fair. And at this point, there was no point pretending that I hadn't ever really hurt anyone. I had. There was also, hallelujah, no reason to pretend I hadn't hurt anyone. Because not only was Jesus my new "best thing that had ever happened to me" friend, He was also the payment for my sin. When He died on the cross, He was paying my sin debt, along with the sin debt of the entire world, if they wanted Him to. It was my choice. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb.

In a very real sense, by believing that Jesus lived and still lives today and died to pay my sin debt, and by asking Him to provide forgiveness for me, I was tying myself to Him for life. I belonged to Him. I was His disciple. But what a person to belong to! I asked a question at the end of yesterday's post. Why (and when) did it get all complicated and difficult? I think it got complicated and difficult when I began to confuse belonging to the person of Jesus Christ with belonging to religion, or a set of man-made rules and regulations that we hope will enable us to please God. It may sound like the two go together, but in fact they are total opposites. Tomorrow I'll discuss why.

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