Your Free Gift

“Christ with Thorns”, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1865-1879.

Friend, in visiting this site, I hope it’s become clear to you that I care about truth, and I care about every visitor knowing the truth. I’m not a Christian because it comforts me (though Christ has so many times), or because it makes me feel good (though He has brought me much joy and peace). If it were just about emotional support, I might not want to be a Christian when I do wrong and He convicts me, and makes me miserable until I repent and change my ways. It’s also not about simply trying to justify a viewpoint, or winning an argument about some abstract concepts. God is not simply an idea to be debated, but a real, living, personal Being, who is also my Creator, and worthy of my respect and trust and worship, whether I ever acknowledged it or not. That is the nature of truth; something is the way it is regardless of whether I like it or agree with it, or even acknowledge its existence. I grew up in church, in the “Bible Belt” of America, where it is convenient to at least to pay lip service to Christianity, but I’m not a Christian because of my heritage.  Regardless of how we are raised, there comes a time for all of us when we must decide for ourselves what we believe.

This is why I am a Christian: because I believe it’s true. This is why I am still a Christian after comparing the alternatives. Even when following Christ is inconvenient, costly, and time-consuming, it is necessary. For if we claim that we relentlessly pursue truth, then a useful delusion, or any alternative less than the truth, can never satisfy.  But when we find ultimate truth,  no price is too high to hold on to it. God’s truth can be a cold, hard truth in its stubborn refusal to conform to our desires, but it’s also a beautiful truth – and here’s why.

  • Salvation is open to all, but forced on no one.
  • He has made the world such that those who sincerely seek Him can see His calling cards everywhere, yet no one can say “God forced me to accept Him.” As Blaise Pascal said, “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.” [1]
  • Unlike every man-made religion on Earth, God doesn’t expect us to earn our way to Him (as if we could ever meet His perfect standard on our own). Rather, He lovingly, graciously paid the price for our sins that we never could afford to pay [Rom 5:8, Eph 2:8-9, Ti 3:5].
  • Rather than a list of dos and don’ts to struggle to keep on our own, God promises to renew our hearts and minds, and cause His Spirit to dwell in us, so that we will want to obey Him and forsake our old ways [Ezk 36:26-27, 2Co 5:17, 1Co 6:19, Rom 12:2]. Is it any wonder that the apostle John would say “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”[1Jo 5:3]?
  • While the study of God’s Bible is a vein of intellectual ore that can be mined for lifetimes on end and never exhausted, the simplest, most uneducated child can understand all he needs to receive salvation.
  • He calls us to “be holy, even as He is holy’ [1Pe 1:15-16] –  a perfect standard we can never fully meet – and yet He does not bar the door against the vilest, most despicable villain who repents and makes Jesus his master, and follows Him.
  • God calls us to dedicate our lives to His service, and yet the one who realizes the error of his ways a minute before he dies can still choose God’s free gift of salvation, in spite of a lifetime of rebellion against God.
  • He has the power to overwhelm us, to ravage us, to destroy us, yet He shows His love for us by allowing us freedom to love Him or reject Him. His is omnipotence restrained by love. And as one whose methods have too often had more hammer than heart, I never cease to be amazed  at God’s loving restraint and gentleness in my life. As C.S. Lewis would say, “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”[2]

He has worked out His plan throughout human history to redeem us from the error of our ways. The climax of this plan was Jesus Christ taking the punishment we all deserved, to satisfy the perfect justice of a perfect and holy God. No mere man could satisfy that standard of perfection, for as they say, “nobody’s perfect.” People don’t like the idea of a wrathful God, but that’s the only just response to a fallible human standing before a perfect God. It’s only His love that protects us from that wrath. And yet, He would not be just if He simply overlooked our crimes against Him. So great was His love for us that He sent Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Godhead, to be born in human flesh [Rom 1:3-4], to live the perfect life we never could [Mat 5:17], to become the payment for our sin that we were unqualified to make [Mk 10:45], to rise from the dead as proof of His victory and a sign of the hope we have [1Co 15:20,23], and to be the only effective mediator [1Ti 2:5] so that we could be reconciled to God and adopted as sons and daughters of the King [2Co 5:18-21, Eph 1:5, 1Jo 3:1]!

His plan may seem too good to be true. He certainly didn’t owe any of us this free gift [Rom 6:23, 11:29], and we could never pay for it. Frankly, it seems overwhelmingly lopsided – in our favor! So what does one do to accept this free gift?

  • Admit your condition and repent of it. Like a lot of things, there’s no fixing a problem until you admit there is a problem. So first, simply admit to Him that you are a sinner. The Bible tells us that “there are none righteous, not even one” [Rom3:10], and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Rom 3:23]. That’s a reality we see played out on the news every day around the world, but if we’re honest, the same darkness is inside each of us, even on our best days. For sin isn’t just actively doing wrong, but also refraining from doing what’s right, by God’s standard. And when the standard is perfection, no mere human passes that test. The more we understand our our sinful condition, the more it grieves us and causes us to repent – to turn away from it [Ac 3:19, 17:30].
  • Recognize that Jesus is God. He was not simply some good teacher or great moral example, although He was those as well. Yet when simply good teachers die, they stay dead.  But Jesus was also divine – God the Son – and God the Father raised Jesus from the dead as irrefutable proof of who Jesus was [Acts 17:31]. There is no getting around Jesus’ complete uniqueness among all who ever walked the earth.
  • Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead [Rom 10:10]. That’s it? Of everything in the Bible, just the Resurrection? Really? Oh, but that one thing is the linchpin that ties everything together! Christ’s resurrection was the proof that confirmed Jesus was the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer. It was the proof no mere human could duplicate, and it is the confirmation of our hope of eternal life [2Co 4:14]. If that happened, everything else in the Bible follows. And while we may be able to put on masks for other people, there is no fooling our Creator who knows each of better than we know ourselves, and sees our true self that we hide from everyone else. He who sees the end from the beginning only needs to see your sincere belief to justify you – to reckon Christ’s perfect righteousness to your account [Rom 4:24-25], and He is faithful to complete the good work begun in you [Phil 1:6]. Of course good fruit will necessarily grow from that [Jam 2:26, Mat 12:33], but God doesn’t require that first.
  • Confess Jesus as your Lord, your Master [Rom 10:9]. This is to acknowledge His rightful, sovereign position openly and unashamedly, and is the only reasonable response of the genuine belief mentioned above.  We might recoil at the slave/master terminology these days, but I’d rather be a slave to God all my life than have a moment of autonomy to make a mess of things on my own. We might want to be shy and secretive about this step, but consider this: what would you think of a “friend” who wouldn’t admit you were his friend to anyone else? Is he really much of a friend, then? Don’t be that kind of friend of Jesus [Mat 10:32-33].

Ultimately, everything I write on this blog is with this goal in mind: that if you, dear reader, are far from God, that you may come to know Him – not merely in some abstract way, but in a real, personal relationship with your Creator, your Father, your All. If you are already a Christian, then I rejoice for you! I hope to encourage, edify, and equip you for a life of service for our King. But for everyone else, if there are intellectual objections, emotional walls, or just plain stubborn roadblocks between you and God, I want to help clear those out of the way so you can get a clear view of God, realize what you’ve been missing, and accept the gift of salvation – the costliest gift possible, bought with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and freely offered to you.

If you’d like to personally discuss any questions you may have, or need help finding someone local in your area to talk to, please contact me on the form below. And may God direct your paths always closer to Him!

[1] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #430.
[2] C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harvest/HBJ Publishers, 1955), p.229.

At the intersection of faith and design

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