Today, I’m preparing, along with a bunch of other people, to perform a drama called “The Battle” at a New Year’s Eve event. If you’ve ever seen Heaven’s Gates Hells Flames, this is similar, but more intense. It includes a few special effects, Christian metal and rock music, along with video and lighting.
It’s fun to do, but a real serious message too. Just sitting here thinking about my own faith, a few things come to mind.
The Christian faith is a real serious, sobering message when it comes right down to it. In fact, the “Good News” is “Good” because the rest of the news is so bad. Namely, that the consequence of sin brings eternal death, and God is going to judge the world, each of us, for our sin. On that backdrop, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and by receiving Jesus as our Lord, we are pardoned from our sin and escape judgment.
The message is founded on the idea that God decides what is right and wrong, we do not. Not that it necessarily matters since none of us have lived perfectly according to the Bible, and all of us need forgiveness that is only found through the sacrifice of Jesus.
(According to the Scripture as I understand it, Christ’s sacrifice is the method God uses for the forgiveness of everyone who has ever lived, even those who lived before Christ. So saying forgiveness is only found through the sacrifice of Jesus, does not necessarily mean those who have not heard about Christ cannot be “saved.” But the method God uses is the sacrifice of Christ, whether someone has heard about Him or not. I wrote a great deal more on this here.)
Obviously, not everyone agrees that the message of Christ is true. Not everyone wants to take time right now for God or Jesus or religion of any type. Too busy living our lives, or just not convinced in the first place. Too many other things get in the way, like arguments over hypocrites, evolution, organized religion, this particular doctrine or that one, etc…
Hollywood would have no problem believing the earth is our mother and all plant life is interconnected, (or that space ships hide behind the moon) but they tend to rebel at the idea of a God who judges us according to righteousness, and a Savior who died so we could be forgiven.
Yet to me, doesn’t life itself teach us that there is a right and wrong? Oh, I know we argue this theoretically, but I don’t know anyone who lives this way. I know plenty of people who believe there really is no set right and wrong, but cut them off in traffic and they get mad. Charge them more than you should, and you’ve cheated them. It’s hard to live and act without believing some things are right and other things are wrong.
And life, to me, teaches the depravity of the human condition. Even the world understands it, after all, the Bible doesn’t say, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We say that. And we say it because it’s true, and it’s been proven time after time in the laboratory of life. Human beings, all of us, are prone to evil.
To me, when the Scripture talks about man’s sinfulness, and our need for forgiveness and transformation, it harmonizes with life’s lessons. Even other religions talk of trying to reach a transformed state in one way or another, so to me again, Christianity is not the only religion that recognizes where man is at, isn’t exactly nirvana. In fact, the secular world recognizes it too, continually encouraging people to get past many of our failures such as racism, destruction of the environment and more. Mankind has been on a quest to improve itself for a long time -for good reason.
We needed improving. Many of the things we were doing were “wrong.” That’s why we have the Bill of Rights. That’s why we abolished slavery. That’s why we had the civil rights movement. That’s why we’ve cleaned up our environment over the years. That’s why we’ve done a lot of the things we’ve done throughout history. Because we recognized we weren’t perfect. We recognized, we needed to be better.
The Bible says the same, only it says Jesus is the way to do it. He is the way to be forgiven, and the way to be transformed. However, you can’t come to Jesus without humility either. Pride, whether it be pride in your religion, or pride in yourself, or pride in your organization, will always eventually fail. To receive Jesus, it’s a humble thing. It’s recognizing our sinfulness, and our need for Jesus in order to a right standing with God. That’s hard, and many people are willing for Jesus to help them on their terms, but refuse to humble themselves and accept Jesus on His.
That’s also why you can’t force anyone to receive Him. They have to do that for themselves, so coercion is out of the question. It is. I know some have tried it, cue the Dark Ages, but just read the New Testament, and it’s clear you can’t force anyone to receive Jesus. Those who have tried to do so, were using Christianity for their own evil, power hungry ends. All you can really do is preach the message, encourage, plead, and of course, pray.
And with Jesus, transformation doesn’t come from following a particular set of rules as every other religion sets out. In fact, every set of rules runs up against the same problem of an imperfect human being trying to force himself to be perfect. Destined to fail.
With Jesus, transformation comes from knowing Him, and growing up into His likeness… basically what churches these days refer to a “relationship with Christ.” It’s a process, of learning from and following Jesus daily. Salvation is instant, but becoming a new and better person is a continual thing.
So when we do the drama on New Year’s Eve, we can’t just snap our fingers and make someone a Christian. What we can do, and what we’ll try to do with God’s help, is present the message of salvation in Jesus. Every time we do, there are people who are moved to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, and to me, that’s the coolest thing in the world to watch. To know someone is making their peace with God, taking hold of the incredible adventure of having that relationship with Christ, because God used you in some small way…
And as someone who has a relationship with the Son of God, gets to work alongside others who share the same hope, and as someone who performs funerals for those who have peace with God and those who did not… I’ve seen the difference. I’ll take Jesus.