This is the thirteenth post in a series based on John Maisel’s lecture and book “Is Jesus God?” Click here to receive your free download of this resource.
As I share these remarks, may I stress the most important aspect of this little series. If you remember anything from these thoughts, I would like you to remember how you can know Jesus Christ personally.
First, you must understand that God loves you. We are told that God loves the world so much that He gave us Jesus Christ (John 3:16). God loves us so much that He provided a way for us to reach him.
But to reach Him—and this is the second point, we must acknowledge that we need Him. We must acknowledge that because of our rebellion, there is a chasm between us and Him.
That brings up the third point. Jesus said, “But unless you repent [or turn from your former ways] you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance simply means a change of mind.
All of life you have moved in a direction away from God. God desires to have a relationship with you; He wants you to turn around and move toward Him. We do this by acknowledging before God that we are sinners and that we wish to change our thinking about Him. Then you must understand that Jesus died on the cross for you.
To illustrate the sin issue let’s say you and I each have a debt of sin. A debt means I have an obligation I owe. We have an impossible debt to God that we cannot pay back to Him. I cannot pay your debt because I have my own debt. You cannot pay my debt because you have your own debt. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” In other words a wage is something I earn—I work so I receive the wage of so many dollars. What I have earned (the wage I receive) for my sins is—death—eternal separation from God.
It is as if you owe someone ten million dollars and you make only one dollar a day. There is no way that you can pay off that debt. You need someone who has the capacity to pay your debt because the wages of sin have a consequence—that of eternal separation from God.
When Nicholas II was Czar of Russia, a father enlisted his son in the military with the hope of instilling discipline and direction in his life. Among other things, the young fellow had a weakness for gambling, and the atmosphere of army life seemed to hurt rather than help.
His army job was bookkeeping. As his gambling debts grew, he borrowed money from the outpost treasury to pay his debts. He kept losing instead of winning and sank deeper and deeper into debt.
One night, contemplating his situation, he added up his debts. When he saw the immense total, he wrote across the ledger, “So great a debt, who can pay?” He sat back in his chair, gun in hand, to reflect a few moments. As he contemplated his life and his death, he dozed off.
Czar Nicholas II was inspecting the outpost that night. When he entered the bookkeeper’s shack, he saw the sleeping man, the loaded gun, and the revealing ledger.
When the soldier awoke, he stared at the ledger and read the words, “So great a debt, who can pay?” Underneath were the words, “Paid in full, Czar Nicholas II!” You see, Czar Nicholas II had the resources to pay the debt.
A debt is what I owe someone. A penalty is what I receive when I can’t pay my debtor when I break a law. If I break the speeding law in my auto, I receive a penalty, that of having to pay so many dollars for breaking the law. That is my penalty, it is my debt to society. If I kill someone I receive a more painful penalty—that of death. I will be executed for breaking the law and committing murder. As you can see, the greater the law broken the greater the penalty. The reason there is eternal separation from God is because of the severity of the law broken—that of not living according to the standards of a perfectly holy and righteous God.
The greatest violations in the universe carry with them the greatest consequences.
That is why God the Son became a man and lived a perfect life. He had no sin. He had no debt. So what God did with the debt we owe for our sins was to put it on Jesus Christ, and Christ in His love for us paid our debt by dying in our place. God now can forgive you and give you a new life if you choose to receive Christ. Roman 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Suppose your friend was dying of cancer, and because you loved and cared so much for your friend you asked the doctor to do a transfusion that would take the cancer cells out of his body and put them in your body. What would happen? He would live and you would die. Why? Because that which was causing his death was placed in you and you would die in his place and he would live.
That is what Christ did for you at the cross.
It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
But just accepting your sinfulness and Christ’s death, and understanding it intellectually, does not bring you into a relationship with God. You must make a decision. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
So each person individually must receive Christ in order to become a member of God’s family.
What we accept from God is a gift because there is nothing we can give God in return. We cannot say, “Here are my good works. I want to cover my debt with my good works; they should get me into heaven.” The Bible says, “For it is by grace [unmerited kindness] you have been saved [made a child of God], through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). The Bible also says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)
Suppose I say I have a pen that I wish to give you as a gift. You may say it is a beautiful pen, and you may want to have the pen. What must you do to have it? You must take it. You may believe in the pen and personally have great intellectual information about the pen. But the pen is not yours until you accept it.
Of course, you can stay where you are right now, separated from God. Regarding that decision, He says the wages of sin is death. Then He adds, “But the gift of God is eternal life.”
The gift is free, but you must accept it to make it yours.
How do you receive the gift? You must make a decision, a choice to reach out and take the gift. It is as if I were to knock at the door of your home. You might choose to remain seated and say, “That’s John, I don’t want to see him.” I finally would go away. Or you might choose to come to the door and say, “John, I don’t like you and don’t want to see you. Good-bye.” And I would leave. Or you could choose to open the door and say, “John, good to see you, come in. Join me in my home.” And at your invitation I would come into your home. You made a decision to receive me into your home.
That is exactly the picture Jesus Christ paints of His relationship with you. He says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with Him, and He with me” (Revelation 3:20). This decision is by faith. It is trust in the truth of God. This faith in Jesus Christ involves three things.
- You must have knowledge of the fact of what God did through Jesus Christ because of His love for you.
- You must believe that fact and accept it as true.
Most importantly, to have true faith you must put your personal trust in the facts and rely on Christ’s work on the cross to be the sufficient payment for your sins.