Friday, February 17, 2012

Glimpses of the Holy Spirit's Work 2

I have a friend who has recently started attending New Covenant. She has more enthusiasm and energy than many people I know. She is also full of great questions about the Bible. Her enthusiastic desire to know and understand more about her faith is so refreshing because it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working inside of her. It is a glimpse of His power at work in her heart, so I rejoice!

She recently handed me a list of questions. This is my second post in working through answers to some of her questions about Christianity. These questions deal largely with the Gospel.

Why does sin have to be reconciled?

We see in Scripture that God takes sin very seriously. In Genesis 2:15-17 God tells Adam that if he disobeys and eats from the one tree which was forbidden, then he would die. Here we see, at the very beginning of Scripture, the principle which is expressed in Romans 6:23, “for the wages of sin is death”.

Sin has to be reconciled in order for people to be able to relate to God. No person can stand before God (who is holy) without being judged for their sins. Their sins are an offense against God. David speaks of this in Psalm 51, in human terms he had sinned against Bathsheba, her husband Uriah (who he had killed), and their family. But he says “against you, you only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). So sin is an offense against God.

But why can’t God just “let it go.” God cannot just brush sin under the rug because He is just and righteous. As a righteous and just judge He has to punish sin.

Why did God send a part of himself to suffer on earth?

This question is closely related to the question about why sin has to be reconciled. Once we understand that sin there are natural consequences for sin, we are in a place to understand why Jesus had to come to earth. Remember, God must judge sin. So either He has to judge each person and sentence them to death for their own sin, or there needs to be someone to take their place. Jesus was 100% God so his shoulders are big enough to shoulder the punishment for all of humanity. He was also 100% human so He was a fit substitute for other humans.

John 3:16 tells us that the reason that Jesus came to suffer on earth was because “God so loved the world.” So this whole endeavor was motivated by God’s love for humanity, and His desire to save people from the natural consequences of their sin.

How does Jesus’ crucifixion give us a “pass” on our sins? Yes, it is the ultimate sacrifice for which we are eternally grateful, but why does it save us?

When Jesus died on the cross He took the punishment for all the sin of the world. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” In other words, Jesus, the righteous one, died “in place of” or “instead of” the unrighteous, that would be us (all of mankind).

We see this in Jesus’ words on the cross. Matthew 27:46 says, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God the Father judged Jesus for the sins of the world. Instead of you or I having to pay for our own sins, Jesus paid the penalty for them on the cross. So Jesus' death on the cross gives us a "pass" on our sin because out penalty has already been paid by Jesus.

It is also important to understand that Jesus' death on the cross paid the penalty for sin. However, this does not mean that every person will be saved. The Bible clearly shows that a person must believe that Jesus died for their sins and that He is their only hope of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."

Some people don’t believe in hell…I don’t know if I do or not…should I?

It is difficult, if we take the Bible seriously, to get around the concept of eternal punishment in hell. Revelation 20:11-15 says,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The concept of hell is not a pleasant one, but it does come out of the pages of the Bible. From a logical perspective hell is one of God's two answers to the sin of mankind. The good news is that He also has another answer, the Lord Jesus.

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