The biblical term to describe God's free forgiveness through Christ's sacrificial death is grace. Whereas mercy saves us from what we deserve, the grace of God gives us what we don't deserve. Let's review for a minute how Christ has done for us what we could not do for ourselves:
• God loves us and created us for a relationship with Himself 11
• We have been given the freedom to accept or reject that relationship 12
• Our sin and rebellion against God and His laws have created a wall of separation between us and Him 13
• Though we are deserving of eternal judgment, God has paid our debt in full by Jesus' death in our place, making eternal life with Him possible. 14
"Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff...I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge...It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity." 15
We now have the picture of God's plan of the ages coming together. But there still is one missing ingredient. According to Jesus and the authors of the New Testament, each of us individually must respond to the free gift Jesus offers us. He won't force us to take it.
We continually make choices—what to wear, what to eat, our career, marriage partner, etc. It is the same when it comes to a relationship with God. Author Ravi Zacharias writes:
"Jesus' message reveals that every individual…comes to know God not by virtue of birth, but by a conscious choice to let Him have His rule in his or her individual life." 16
Our choices are often influenced by others. But in some instances we are given the wrong advice. On September 11, 2001, 600 innocent people put their trust in the wrong advice, and innocently suffered the consequences. The true story goes like this:
One man who was on the 92nd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center had just heard a jet crashing into the north tower. Stunned by the explosion, he called the police for instructions on what to do. "We need to know if we need to get out of here, because we know there's an explosion," he said urgently on the phone.
The voice on the other end advised him not to evacuate. "I would wait 'til further notice." "All right," the caller said. "Don't evacuate." He then hung up.
Shortly after 9:00 A.M., another jet crashed into the 80th floor of the south tower. Nearly all 600 people in the top floors of the south tower perished. The failure to evacuate the building was one of the day's great tragedies. 17
Those 600 people perished because they relied on the wrong information, even though it was given by a person who was trying to help. The tragedy would not have occurred had the 600 victims been given the right information.
Our conscious choice about Jesus is infinitely more important than the one facing the illinformed 9/11 victims. Eternity is at stake. We can choose one of three different responses. We can ignore him. We can reject him. Or, we can accept him.
The reason many people go through life ignoring God is that they are too busy pushing their own agenda. Chuck Colson was like that. At age 39, Colson occupied the office next to the president of the United States. He was the "tough guy" of the Nixon White House, the "hatchet man" who could make the hard decisions. Yet, in 1972, the Watergate scandal ruined his reputation and his world became unglued. Later he writes: "I had been concerned with myself. I had done this and that, I had achieved, I had succeeded and I had given God none of the credit, never once thanking Him for any of His gifts to me. I had never thought of anything being ‘immeasurably superior' to myself, or if I had in fleeting moments thought about the infinite power of God, I had not related Him to my life." 18
Many can identify with Colson. It's easy to get caught in the fast pace of life and have little or no time for God. Yet ignoring God's gracious offer of forgiveness has the same dire consequences as outright rejection. Our sin debt would still remain unpaid.
In criminal cases, few ever turn down a full pardon. In 1915, George Burdick, city editor for the New York Tribune, had refused to reveal sources and broken the law. President Woodrow Wilson declared a full pardon to Burdick for all offenses he had "committed or may have committed." What made Burdick's case historic is that he refused the pardon. That brought the case to the Supreme Court, which sided with Burdick, stating that a presidential pardon could not be forced on anyone.
When it comes to rejecting Christ's full pardon, people give a variety of reasons. Many say there isn't sufficient evidence, but, like Bertrand Russell and a host of other skeptics, they aren't interested enough to really investigate. Others refuse to look beyond some hypocritical Christians they know, pointing to unloving or inconsistent behavior as an excuse. And still others reject Christ because they blame God for some sad or tragic experience they have suffered.
However, Zacharias, who has debated with intellectuals on hundreds of college campuses believes that the real reason most people reject God is moral. He writes:
"A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God." 19
The desire for moral freedom kept C. S. Lewis from God for most of his college years. After his quest for truth led him to God, Lewis explains how acceptance of Christ involves more than just intellectual agreement with the facts. He writes:
"Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again...is what Christians call repentance.". 21
Repentance is a word that means a dramatic turn-around in thinking. That's what happened to Nixon's former "hatchet man". After Watergate was exposed, Colson began thinking about life differently. Sensing his own lack of purpose, he began reading Lewis's Mere Christianity, given to him by a friend. Trained as a lawyer, Colson took out a yellow legal pad and began writing down Lewis's arguments. Colson recalled:
"I knew the time had come for me... Was I to accept without reservations Jesus Christ as Lord of my life? It was like a gate before me. There was no way to walk around it. I would step through, or I would remain outside. A ‘maybe' or ‘I need more time' was kidding myself."
After an inner struggle, this former aide to the president of the United States finally realized that Jesus Christ was deserving of his full allegiance. He writes: "And so early Friday morning, while I sat alone staring at the sea I love, words I had not been certain I could understand or say fell naturally from my lips: ‘Lord Jesus, I believe You. I accept You. Please come into my life. I commit it to You.'" 21
Colson discovered that his questions, "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" and "Where am I going?" are all answered in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes, "It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for." (Ephesians 1:11, The Message)
When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he fills our inner void, gives us peace, and satisfies our desire for meaning and hope. And we no longer need to resort to temporary stimuli for our fulfillment. When He enters into us, he also satisfies our deepest longings and needs for true, lasting love and security.
And the staggering thing is that God Himself came as a man to pay our entire debt. Therefore, no longer are we under the penalty of sin. Paul states this clearly to the Colossians when he writes,
"You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault." (Colossians 1:21b-22a NLT).
Thus God did what we were unable to do for ourselves. We are set free from our sins by Jesus' sacrificial death. It is like a mass murderer going before a judge and being granted a full and complete pardon. He doesn't deserve a pardon, and neither do we. God's gift of eternal life is absolutely free-—and it is for the taking. But even though the pardon is offered to us, it is up to us to accept it. The choice is yours.
Are you at the point in your life where you would like to accept God's free offer? Perhaps like Madonna, Bono, Lewis and Colson, your life has also been empty. Nothing you have tried satisfies the inner void you feel. God can fill that void and change you in a moment. He created you to have life that is flooded with meaning and purpose. Jesus said, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." (John 10:10b)
Or perhaps things are going well for you in life but you are restless and lack peace. You realize that you have broken God's laws and are separated from his love and forgiveness. You fear God's judgment. Jesus said, "I am leaving you with a gift---peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives."
So whether you are simply tired of a life of empty pursuits or are troubled by a lack of peace with your Creator, the answer is in Jesus Christ.
When you put your trust in Jesus Christ, God will forgive you of all your sins—past, present, and future and make you His child. And as His loving child, He gives you purpose and meaning in life on Earth and the promise of eternal life with Him. God's Word says, "to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12)
Forgiveness of sin, purpose in life, and eternal life are all yours for the asking. You can invite Christ into your life right now by faith through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not as concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:
"Dear God, I want to know You personally and live eternally with You. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life and change me, making me the kind of person You want me to be."
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If so, simply pray the above suggested prayer in your own native language.
When you make a commitment to Jesus Christ, he enters your life, becoming your guide, your counselor, your comforter, and your best friend. Furthermore, he gives you strength to overcome trials and temptation, freeing you to experience a new life full of meaning, purpose, and power.
Chuck Colson discovered that new purpose and power. Colson readily admits that before becoming a Christian, he was ambitious, prideful, and self-centered. He had no desire or power to love others in need. But his thoughts and motives radically changed once he committed himself to Christ.
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© 2010 JesusOnline Ministries. This article is a supplement to Y-Jesus magazine by Bright Media Foundation & B&L Publications: Larry Chapman, Chief Editor.
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