by Dr Gavin D Williams

Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval. His wounds have healed you. 1 Peter 2:24. (God's Word.)

Every journey must have a starting point. Planning and packing can be exciting experiences. Saying goodbye to family and friends can be difficult especially if we will be away for a long time. Then the day comes when we leave our home and commence the journey. Excitement, anticipation, nervousness or even fear of the unknown are some of the emotions we may feel, but the only way to experience all the discoveries and excitement of the journey is to set out.

Our journey toward spiritual maturity is one that must have a very special beginning. I am sure that most people who read this book have already begun the journey. However, it may be that some of my readers are still seeking to understand the Christian way of life. No matter who you are or where you are on the journey toward maturity, I remind you that our journey begins at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.

If we are to discover everything that God has in store for us in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we must begin at the Cross. Perhaps your family has a long Christian heritage. Your heritage is will not allow you to by-pass the Cross. You may be a student of Christian literature or may even have read the Bible from cover to cover. Your learning will not allow you to by-pass the Cross. Perhaps you have been a very religious person attending many Christian events and rituals. Your religion will not allow you to by-pass the Cross. The greatest saints and heroes of the Christian faith began their journey at the same place; as sinners seeking forgiveness at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

There is only one way to enter the family of God and discover all that he has for you in a relationship with Himself. You must come to Him, recognize your need as a sinner, and seek His forgiveness that is available through the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for you on the Cross[1].

Me – A Sinner!

In our modern society, few people think of themselves as sinners. Society has changed our definitions of right and wrong. Things which were once seen as being evil are now regarded as acceptable behaviour. I have found it interesting to ask people what they understand by the word 'sin'. Most name crimes like murder, child abuse or terrorism. It no longer occurs to people that thinking unclean thoughts, telling untruths, being unfaithful to your marriage partner or taking something that is not yours, might be sin.

However, God's standard has never changed. When He created our world, He established a set of standards by which he requires all of us to live. One word the Bible uses to name this set of standards is righteousness. God knew that this world He had created would function at its best when people lived by the standard of righteousness.

Since the beginning of mankind's journey on this earth, we have thought we knew better than the Creator. We have insisted on doing things our way and not His way. The Bible describes this behaviour as sin and declares that we are all guilty.

The Apostle Paul was quoting from the Old Testament when he wrote, "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12) We must accept the fact that none of us have reached the standard of righteousness that God requires. Therefore, we are sinners.

In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul writes about our true situation as sinners.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Consider the things Paul says about us as sinners:

· "You were dead..." How can living people be dead? Paul's words describe our spiritual state, not our physical state. People caught in the trap of sin are spiritually dead. This means we are cut off from God who is the source of real life.

· "... you followed the ways of this world..." Just doing what everyone else is doing. Just doing what comes naturally.

· "... you followed ... the ruler of the kingdom of the air..." These words are a description of satan, the prince of evil. He is determined to lead all mankind away from God. As sinners we follow his ways without thinking.

· "...gratifying the desires of our sinful nature..." The person who is spiritually dead lives to satisfy the demands of their physical bodies and human nature. Under the influence of satan this leads us naturally to do that which is against God's standard of righteousness.

· "... we were objects of wrath." Wrath is a word used in the Bible to describe God's holy hatred of sin. As a holy and righteous God, he cannot tolerate sin. If offends His very being. He has no choice but to punish sin. That means we as sinners stand under the wrath of God because of our sin. This is not a pleasant prospect.

Is it any wonder that Paul began this passage describing us as being "... dead in your transgressions and sins..." Let us make no mistake. We are all sinners who have chosen our own way rather than God's way of righteousness. As a result we stand under the judgment of God and face the ultimate penalty of eternal death and separation from Him. We have no excuse. There is no right of appeal. The sentence is already passed. "For the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) The punishment is irrevocable. "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

God's Great Love

How thankful I am that the Apostle Paul did not finish his letter to the Ephesians at the end of chapter 2 verse 3. He went on to write, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5) The possibility of a change in every sinner's situation does not come about because of anything good or desirable in us. It is the result of the great love and mercy of God. He took the initiative to provide a way to save us from the consequences of our sinfulness. It is good to be reminded of what God has done for us.

One of the most familiar passages from the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Beginning in His great heart of love, God sent his only son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to our earth. He lived among us as one who obeyed God's requirements of righteousness in all things. The Writer to the Hebrews wrote about Jesus, "...but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

After just 33 short years, He was executed as a common criminal because His life and message challenged the standards by which men lived. The Apostle John wrote, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) As Jesus hung suffering and dying on that cruel Roman Cross, an incredible spiritual transaction was taking place. The Apostle Peter wrote, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24 NIV) On another place Paul wrote, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians. 5:21)

The message is so simple: As Jesus hung dying on that cross, He was paying the penalty for our sin. When He cried out from the cross "It is finished" (John 19:30 ), the great work of our salvation was indeed finished. Sin's penalty was paid in full. God's justice had been satisfied. The way was open for us to come back into fellowship with God.

Through the Cross, the Lord Jesus opened the way for us to break free of spiritual death and come into a whole new experience of life. Instead of being people destined to face the wrath of God and judgment for our sins, Jesus offers us life that is new, abundant and eternal. We receive that incredibly generous offer when we determine to put our faith in Him, turn from our old life of sin and follow Him. The Bible calls this repentance.

How do we know?

The claims made in the Bible are incredible. Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth , is the Son of God and messiah of the world. He lived a life that was totally without sin. His death was a sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Through faith in Him we have eternal life. How do we know these seemingly outrageous claims are true? How do we know that He was not just another well meaning religious teacher making big claims that could never be proved? How can we be sure that faith in Him is well founded?

There is a one word answer to those very real questions: Resurrection. The Bible clearly declares that on the third day after His death on the Cross, Jesus rose from the dead. Death simply could not hold Him in its grip. We have the recorded testimony of many people who saw Jesus and spoke with Him after His resurrection. The Apostle Paul gives us a list of those who saw the living Christ. "... and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also..." (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) The resurrection from the dead is one of the best documented facts of human history.

Think about this: When God raised Jesus from the dead, He placed His seal of authority and authenticity upon the life and ministry of Jesus. Because of the resurrection we know that He is the Son of God and Messiah of the world. Because of the resurrection we know that we can trust the things He said and the promises He made. Because of the resurrection we know that His sacrifice on the Cross did indeed pay the penalty for our sin. Because of His resurrection we know that Jesus has the power to give eternal life to all who put their faith in Him. The Apostle Paul declared, "...regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 1:3-4) The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves everything.

A Fitting Response

Because of these things, Jesus Christ is one person about whom we cannot be indifferent. He is not merely another religious teacher whose views we can either accept or reject. He is the Son of God and Lord of all things. He is the Saviour of the world. He is the One who will be the judge of all mankind at the end of time. He is one person in human history about whom we all must make a decision. We either accept and follow Him as His disciple or we reject Him. There is no other alternative. Indifference is a decision to reject Him.

The response called for in the Bible is one of faith. Faith means that I accept and believe what the Bible has to say about Jesus. Faith means that I am willing to transfer the authority and control of my life from me to Jesus. It means that I recognize my life as no longer my own, but belonging to Him. Faith means making a series of choices about the direction and purpose of my life. The following passages from the Bible make those choices clear to us.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12 )

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

The only fitting response to Jesus and all that He has done for us is to come to Him in faith and humbly submit our lives to Him. In Him we find the strength to turn away from our old life and begin the journey toward spiritual maturity. Through faith we find the strength and courage to face life with new choices and priorities. Through faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to discover the real life for which God created us ... but it all begins at the Cross.

Post Script:

Perhaps as you read this article, you realize that you have never truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Saviour. Perhaps you have trusted your own goodness, your family heritage, your knowledge, your religious expression or something else. However, now you realize you need to make the choice to accept Him for yourself. How do you do that? It is really very simple.

Receiving Christ is a matter of expressing our choices, faith and commitment to Jesus in prayer. We call this The Sinners Prayer. It goes like this.

Dear Lord, I accept the fact that I am a sinner who needs your forgiveness. I am willing to turn from my life of sin and self and follow you. I believe you are the Son of God and that you gave your life on the Cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead and that you are Lord of All. I come to you now, and ask you to forgive my sin and cleanse my life. I invite you to come into my life and take control. I choose to live the rest of my life in obedience to you and to follow you in all things. Thank you for your great love for me.

If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, then speak it out to God. You do not have to use these exact words. God knows your heart. I encourage you to hand your life over to Jesus. It is the best decision you will ever make. You can be assured of this: He will hear your prayer, forgive your sin, and receive you as His child.

These following verses will give you some encouragement as you commence your new life in Christ.

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12 )

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 1:13)

Welcome to your new life in Christ.

[1] John 14:6, Acts 4:12

[2] The theme of Righteousness is more fully developed in the later chapter entitled, The Choice to Live Rightly.

[3] In his book Leading Lawyers Look at the Resurrection, Ross Clifford presents the opinions of prominent lawyers who have considered the case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from a legal evidence perspective. In their opinions the case is overwhelmingly in favor of the factual and actual resurrection of Jesus