In the middle of this series of blogs on Disciplines of a Spirit-led Life, it is important to refresh a basic idea of the Good News. You may ignore or not practice any of the Disciplines and still get to Heaven. Dangerous suggestion? You may legitimately ask, What if someone reads this statement and ignores the Disciplines? Do you mean someone can go to Heaven without developing a prayer life, fasting, Bible-reading nor study; without maintaining purity nor seasons of solitude nor participation with a Christ-honoring community.
Unequivocally, YES! Not a single one of the Disciplines I have discussed so far, nor any that will be presented in the next blogs, is necessary to earn the love and forgiveness of God! The plain and simple Good News is that nothing you can ever do will increase God’s love for you. Nothing you can ever do will decrease God’s love for you. Nothing you can ever do will earn His forgiveness for anything you have ever done wrong. What then is the point of the Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life? First, let’s address God’s forgiveness.
Allow me to illustrate. If you were to take everyone in Honolulu and line them up on the shore and tell them to swim the 2,400 miles) to San Francisco, how many do you think would make it? Some would drown as soon as they got in over their heads, just a few feet from the beach. Some could swim a good distance out into the ocean, past the nearby sailboats . . . but that is as far as they would get. There may be a few who had swum the English Channel who would reach 20-25 miles (32-40km) before drowning. A couple of exceptional swimmers might even set new records, swimming over 140 miles (226km), but soon, even they would expend their energy, lapse into exhaustion, and drown. No one can swim that far!
We were created to be to enjoy the company of The God Who Is There, but we have all sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 tells us. That means no matter how hard you have tried to live a good life, how moral or nice you have been, you have not reached the standard that God requires. No one has . . . ever! Not Moses, Gautama Buddha, Augustine, Mohammad, Mother Theresa, nor Billy Graham. Every one of them would drown if they were required to “swim to God.” And knowing this does not score any points or get us any closer to God. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13) No one has obeyed God perfectly from the day of their birth (except Jesus).
The end result is the same for all of us. What we deserve, what we have earned, is death (see December 6, 2015). “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) What we deserve, from the greatest saint to the most evil sinner, is to be permanently shut out from the Presence of The God Who Is There. But this is only the first half of Romans 6:23! It goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We cannot reach the destination of Heaven on our own any more than we could swim from Honolulu to San Francisco. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) Jesus came into the world, the eternal Son of God, and lived a perfectly righteous life, never once deviating from God’s will. Because God’s perfect nature requires a penalty for sin, the only payment for our failure to be what God created us to be is death. But because Jesus was perfect, He did not have to die . . . unless He chose to do so in our place. And that is precisely what He did. “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) A legal transaction took place when Jesus died on the cross, a sinless man, in place of all of us who deserved death. But Jesus was much more than merely a man. He was, and is, the eternal Son of God. This is what uniquely qualifies Him to pay the penalty for our sin . . . to pay the penalty for my sin!
So the full Gospel, or Good News, is that Jesus died for our sin; He was buried and in the ground for three days and three nights, and He arose from the grave, showing His power over sin and its penalties of death and hell. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)
Our response is all that is needed to complete the transaction of Jesus’ substitution for us on the cross. This is not a “work” you must do (see April 19, 2015). It is simply the action of faith (trust) in Him, and receiving Him into your life. “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) It is like this: If I offered you a free ticket on a jet that could take you from Honolulu to San Francisco, you may mentally accept that I am giving you that ticket. You could stare at it in my hand all day, but until you reached out to receive that ticket, you would be stuck with having to swim to San Francisco. All you have to do is to reach out and take the ticket from my hand, and you will be able to board the jet to take you to where you could never swim!
Simply trust that The God Who Is There is listening for you as you read this blog. Simply say from your heart something like this: “Jesus, I know I am a sinner who does not deserve to go to Heaven. I believe You died on the cross to take the penalty for my sin and rose again to promise me eternal life. I receive You as my Savior and repent of (turn from) my sin, and want You to take control of my life. Come into my life and become my Lord.” Jesus promised in Revelation 3:20, “Look, I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.”
If you have heard His voice calling to you (see October 2, 2016), ask him sincerely to come into your life, and send me a note or talk with a Christ-follower in your life about your decision.
Then back to our question in the second paragraph: What then is the point of the Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life? Come back next week, March 7, 2017, and we’ll talk about that.