Empty, worthless, hopeless
Man is a sinner. We feel empty, worthless, and hopeless. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Yet God says, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We try, but our good deeds do not outweigh our bad deeds because God said, “Whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles one point is guilty of breaking all of the law” (James 2:10). And God is holy. When we see God’s holiness, we see how ruined we are. God is just; therefore, he must punish the lawbreaker. God “will not let the guilty go unpunished” (Exodus 34:7b).
God is merciful. God desires to call a people to himself to love and take delight in. God is love (1 John 4:8b) and “the Lord has taken away your punishment… He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:15a, 17a).
How is this possible?
God has provided a way to be reconciled to himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is “the Son [who] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man and “he shared in [our] humanity” (Hebrews 2:14). When Jesus lived on this earth “he was also tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In other words, Jesus had a perfect record. Yet when Jesus Christ was a full-grown man, he was arrested by the government officials at that time, was tried in court, and was condemned to die even though no one could find anything wrong (because he did no wrong). They nailed him to a cross and he died, was buried, and after three days rose from the dead.
Now, when Christ died on the cross, the Scriptures say that “he was pierced for our transgressions…the Lord laid on him the sin of us all” because we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:5,6). At that moment of death, Christ took our sinful record and the punishment for it.
But that’s not all.
At that moment of death, Christ took our sinful record and the punishment for it, and he gave us his perfect, righteous record. This is the Great Exchange, the free gift, the gospel. Our penalty has been paid by Jesus Christ, and we receive his perfect record of righteousness.
But that’s not all.
Christ rose from the dead—now victorious over sin, death, and the devil—he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning over all creation. There Christ sent the Holy Spirit so that this gift can be received by faith.
Faith is not an intellectual assent to certain historical facts. For instance, some people believe in Jesus Christ the same way they believe in Napoleon or George Washington. Nor is faith mere temporal faith, where troubling circumstances caused prayer to God and trust that he was going to work things out, yet when things improved, prayer ceased.
Rather, saving faith is trusting Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. It means resting upon Christ alone and what he has done, rather than upon what I have done to get me into heaven. God tells us to “believe (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Come to Jesus
We put our trust in Jesus by responding to Jesus’ call and by repentance. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus’ favorite word is “Come.” Respond to his call and repent! To repent means to turn 180 degrees. It’s like driving down the interstate and doing a U-turn through the median. It means a willingness to turn from what you have been doing that is not pleasing to God, and follow him as he reveals his will to you in God’s Word, the Bible. “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).
Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
The rest of our lives demonstrate the love we have for Jesus and what he did on the cross for us. If we are trusting in Jesus, we should try to live a good life—not because it earns us anything—but because Jesus has paid our penalty, forgiven us, and given us his righteousness. We should we try to live a good life because we love him. Jesus says many times, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15,21,23,24; John 15:10ff). The reason for living a godly life is love for Jesus and what he has done. For when we were hanging by a thread over the fires of hell, Jesus rescued sinners like us. This is the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But That’s Not All
The Good News, the Gospel, is the free gift of eternal life and a new record, being made right with God. Along with that, you will also receive four more life-changing things:
You will receive a New Heart. That’s a new mindset, a new motivation to do what is right.
You will receive a New Master. You are no longer enslaved to sin but have freedom to obey. Your new Master will lead you to pray constantly, read your Bible, worship with others, and reach out to others.
You will receive a New Name. We are called sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:1) and we can pray to our Heavenly Father (Galatians 4:4ff). Our earthly fathers may not have been good to us, but our Heavenly Father is always good, loving, and true and has our best interests at heart (Matthew 7:11).
You will receive a New Family. Jesus promised not to leave us as orphans but in a family (Ephesians 2:19), that is, his Church (1Timothy 3:15). Here is where we grow and mature in our life with Jesus Christ. We worship God together, study his Word, pray for each other, and learn to share the Good News with others.