Sunday School 9:40  |  Worship Service 11:00

The Gospel of Grace

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:  not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."  (C.S. Lewis)

 

Being a Christian means more than identifying yourself with a particular religious group or agreeing with a certain philosophy or set of beliefs. It means more than simply following a set of guidelines or living according to a certain ethical code. And it means more than merely knowing things about God. No doubt these are all part of what it means to be a Christian, but none of them captures the essence of what Christianity is all about. At its core, Christianity is about knowing God personally through His Son Jesus Christ (see John 17:3).

Every human being has been created by God to know Him in this personal way. Many of us are not really interested in knowing God or haven’t been up to this point. As a result, we have lived our lives with a “God-shaped void” or a restlessness that we can’t quite pinpoint or get rid of. We are constantly looking for the next experience or new purchase or relationship that we think will fill up this void and bring real and lasting satisfaction. But that kind of satisfaction never comes. Every time we buy the new car or the new house or enter into a new relationship or accomplish a seemingly unattainable goal, we find out that the restlessness returns. That is because it actually never left. To borrow the words of Ecclesiastes, we quickly discover that the things of this world are “vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl 1:14, 17; 2:11, 17, 26).

We cannot quench the restlessness we feel or fill up the void in our lives with the things of this world. This fact ought to point us to something outside of this world, namely, to God Himself. This is precisely what CS Lewis argued in his book Mere Christianity:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

The “real thing” that Lewis refers to is quite obviously God Himself. He is true and lasting satisfaction. He is the one and only “thing” to which all the pleasures of the world point. He alone fills the void and provides permanent rest. But what does it mean to have a personal relationship with God? Quite simply, it means knowing and acting upon three things: who we are, who God is and what He has done, and what we must do.

 

1. Who you are.

Each one of us is a sinner, living in rebellion against God. We have chosen and continue to choose to live for ourselves, the way we want to live. We do not worship God, and we do not give Him the honor that He is due. Instead, we honor and worship created things, like ourselves, our spouses, our children, sports, jobs, entertainment, money, possessions, etc. These are the idols that we set up for ourselves in the place of God.

Each one of us is trying to live apart from God even though God has made us for Himself. We are like fish who try to go on living out of the water. This is the pathway of death—physical death for the fish who lives out of water and spiritual death for the person who lives apart from God.

 

2. Who God is and what He has done.

God is completely and perfectly pure and just. He cannot even look upon sin. He is perfect light; and in Him, there is no darkness at all—not even a shifting shadow (1 John 1:5). But God is also good and loving. The combination of His attributes means that He must punish our sin and rebellion. He cannot simply look the other way with a nod and a wink, and He cannot just sweep it under the rug. That would be injustice, the exact opposite of goodness and justice. It would also be unloving, because the opposite of love is actually not anger or hatred, as some might think, but apathy or indifference (i.e., the more you love someone, the less indifferent you are toward them and the more you hate in them all that is not good).

Imagine for a moment an earthly judge, who is also a father and who sits in judgment at the trial of his rebellious son. Though he loves his son, yet because he is good and just, he must punish his son’s rebellion. Well, the same is true for God. But God has gone even further. God’s love for us—rebellious sons that we are—ultimately manifested itself in this, that God Himself—the just, good, and loving judge—decided to take His rebellious son’s punishment upon Himself. The gavel was struck. The verdict was pronounced. Justice was rendered. But it was not the rebellious sons who paid the price. It was God Himself!

1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son [Jesus, who is and was one with Himself] into the world, so that we might live through him.”

 

3. What you must do.

Each one of us must first acknowledge that we are rebellious sons and daughters who deserve to be pronounced guilty by the just verdict of the Judge. We must confess our sins to God and turn away from our previous way of life—away from our idolatry, our selfishness, our living apart from God (as fish out of water)—and turn to Jesus Christ in faith.

What is faith? Faith is knowing Jesus Christ, loving Him, and trusting Him with everything that we are and have. At its heart it involves transferring our trust from ourselves and our own accomplishments and efforts to Jesus. We must lean upon Him and not upon our own understanding. We must come just as we are to the foot of the cross, and there we will find our burdens removed and our sins forgiven forevermore.

You may find the following prayer helpful in this regard:

Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner who justly deserves your judgment and punishment forevermore. But I also acknowledge that, because of what you have done, I have been forgiven completely and totally and am now free from this dreadful verdict. I thank you for taking my place, for paying my debt, for bearing my punishment. I humbly turn away from my sins and receive you as my Lord and Savior, resting in your grace alone for my salvation. Amen.

If you are not yet ready to make the step of putting your faith in Christ, we would encourage you to read one or more of the books listed below or to contact a pastor, an elder, or one of the members of our church staff. Call the office at (228) 863-2664 and we will be happy to speak with you.

 

Suggested reading:

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

John Stott, Basic Christianity

Michael Green, Who is this Jesus?

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ

John Blanchard, Ultimate Questions

J.M. Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship

Guy M. Richard, What is Faith?

 

The content of this page is greatly influenced by the ministry of Timothy Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.