Having a relationship with God isn’t about knowing a list of facts, it’s not about repeating words and saying prayers, it’s not even about going to church or reading the Bible. A real, close relationship with God only comes through knowing about the radical love that God showed to us on the cross.
We believe that the core problem of people is sin, it’s this part of us that rejects God’s design for how the world should work. We believe that he made the earth perfectly, with none of the wars, shootings, or hate. There wasn’t lying, bullying, or violence. There was no pain, no rejection, no loss in this perfect world.
What changed? Sin. People decided that they knew better than God and, spoiler alert, they didn’t. Instead, they infected the human race with sin, and that’s the root cause of all the problems we have on earth.
Sin is a part of all of us, it’s any desire that we have to reject God’s way of life. So sin is what causes us to want to lie to make ourselves seem more interesting or to get out of trouble. Sin is what causes us to be jealous of other people and feel hate or to want to steal. It’s the part of us that looks at people as objects to use for our own gain or pleasure.
Jesus gave a few examples of how far-reaching sin is in one of his most famous messages.
Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Sin in it’s most extreme form leads to violence, terror, and death, but ultimately we all have sin living in us and causing us to think and act a certain way.
So sin isn’t our bad actions, it’s our heart attitude, and everyone is infected with it.
The big deal about sin is that God can’t have sin in his presence. He’s too good, too perfect, for sin to be around him. He’s the definition of perfect, and sin is everything he’s not. Sin being around God is like light being around darkness, they just don’t get along, and as long as there’s light, darkness can’t get close.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
So sin cuts us off from God’s presence, God is the provider of life, meaning, and purpose so sin divides us from those things. It’s the reason why there are so many addictions and why people chase after money, sex and fame to find worth because sin has separated them from the source of life and worth.
Are you in that place now? Where you’ve lost hope that your life has meaning? Have you been chasing after things to fill that void in your life? What you need isn’t more stuff, it’s the cross.
That’s because the cross is God’s solution to the human problem of sin.
What he did was send his son Jesus, who was God in the flesh, to be born as a human and live among people. He didn’t sin, he followed God’s way perfectly and taught people how to live in harmony with God. He was the picture of what real humanity should look like, full of love and compassion for people, and fully obedient to God and through it all experiencing the fullness of life.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
God didn’t send Jesus to earth just to teach though, he sent Jesus to be a “ransom for many” to be a payment for the sins of the world. We’re incapable of knowing true life without God because of sin. So God’s solution was to send Jesus to the cross, a shameful and brutal way to die and to place all of his wrath towards the sin of people onto Jesus, making Jesus take the full weight of punishment on himself.
Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wrath towards people because they chose rebellion over following God. This signaled the greatest shift in history, Jesus’ death opened up a breach in the wall separating us from God so that now we have the opportunity to rush through and experience the fullness of life that God has always intended for his people.
Matthew 20:28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross though, three days after his death the Spirit of God rose him from the dead. Scripture teaches that we, as followers of Jesus, get to share in Jesus’ resurrection. In this life it means that we are no longer slaves to sin, we are free to follow God, in the next life it means that we will be with God, the source and author of life, worth and meaning forever.
So how should we respond to the cross?
The cross shows us a few things about ourselves that can radically change our lives.
First, it shows us that we are far worse than we could ever imagine. That’s because, for your failure and sin to be paid for, God himself had to make a sacrifice of the life of Jesus. THat’s how significant our sin problem is. Sin is a massive deal, it’s not a small thing. Even the tiniest lie is cosmic rebellion, deserving of God’s punishment.
Second, it shows us that we are far more loved than we could ever imagine. The God of the universe who could have easily just given up on us decided to love us enough to send his son Jesus to die for us. His crazy love is shown on the cross.
Being a Christian is simple, do you believe that Jesus died for your sin and the sin problem of the world and that he rose from the dead showing that he has victory over death?
If so then you’re a Christian.
If you reject the free gift of the cross though, you are still under God’s judgment for your sin. You may say; how is that fair?
If you were dying of a deadly cancer and you were handed a bottle of medicine from the most advanced cancer doctor in the world and he told you that if you took that medicine you would make a full recovery. If you refuse to take the medicine and die whose fault is it?
We are all under God’s judgment because of sin, he’s a just God who can’t just let sin go unpunished any more than an earthly judge can let a criminal go unpunished, it wouldn’t be right. But God gave us the free gift of the cross, and it’s only our fault if we don’t accept it.