Beyond the Pulpit

“God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.
Pastor Ron Nelson
Guest Columnist
We are saved, made right, cleansed, freed from the power of sin and death as a free gift in Jesus Christ. And faith is the means by which we grab hold of that free gift – simply believing that it is true and trusting ourselves and everything we have and are to Jesus. Faith is the opening of our lives to Jesus every nook and cranny and especially those dark places that we would rather keep hidden. Because we are linked with Jesus through faith, we can be totally honest about ourselves and our situation, and God accepts us with open arms as his beloved children.
This is so startlingly wonderful and such an awesome free gift that we have a hard time even thinking it could be true. I had some interviews with 10th graders in preparation for their confirmation. One of the questions I asked them in various ways is:
“What is needed so that God will accept you to be with him forever?”
The rather common answer was, ‘I have to do the best I can to be kind to everyone, to read my Bible, to go to church, to be a good person.’ Then I had to tell them, yes indeed, you should do those things, but that’s not going to be what will bring you to eternal life together with God.
What more stark way could Jesus put it than he does in Luke 17:10?
“When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done'”. None of those good things you do is going to move that mountain of separation between you and your holy God. Only faith can move that mountain – faith in Jesus Christ and all that he has done for you.
A time when we tend to draw up a ledger – balance the books on a certain person, is at a funeral. It’s not a time when we want to bring out the bad and ornery and thoughtless and cruel things that person may have done. We try to look for some of the redeeming factors – some of the good and kind and loving and thoughtful things that person did. And if a person was very kind and thoughtful and loving, we tend to say that person is certainly with the Lord now. But again, we are faced with these strong words of Jesus, “we have done only what we ought to have done.”
So where is the hope? Only in Jesus. And let’s be clear about this. Believing in Jesus is not a matter of religion. It’s a matter of truth and reality. Jesus came and walked among us on this earth. He preached and taught and healed and helped people in many ways and finally was executed as if he were a criminal. It really happened. We know the places, we know the times. It’s not just religious ideas that somebody thought up – it’s reality. Just as real as the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and lives and is here among us now.
Without Jesus, we are indeed worthless slaves. But because of Jesus and by his free gift, accepted in faith, we have forgiveness and new life and the sure and certain hope of life together with our Lord for all eternity.