We human beings are naturally and universally in a bad state. That dismal point might be self-evident from just looking around or getting onto social media. But perhaps our primary problem is hidden: we are all and each “miserable offenders” (Common Prayer language, there!) BEFORE GOD, having failed at acknowledging and thanking him. And all while we’re bearing His image! Yes, we’ve never properly got around to acknowledging the Creator as Lord over every segment of our lives, including our intellectual life. Thanking Him formally and informally. But also, we haven’t taken refuge in Him as do trusting children with a good Father. Instead, our every thought of our Creator is tinged with suspicion. Really. This is true of everybody.
Both the proof and the result of everybody being out of sorts with God is death in all its presentations. Alienation from Creator God is death, it has to be. Death that has already started showing up in our bodies and relationships, and that will end up in eternal agony. A bad state indeed.
Well, there is one human who hasn’t failed so with God, whom God fully approves. (OK… though He is 100% human, there’s more to be said!) Jesus, the Eternal Son who was with God the Father from the beginning, sent from God into the human race, and in the face of all the pressures and temptations like the rest of us have faced, came out spotless. Take heed how you hear that word: Not the kind of “spotless” we might associate with self-righteous or holier than thou; but from every conceivable angle, Jesus was the human in full, the perfect expression of what the Creator intended when he set about making man and woman.
We know that God fully approved of Jesus because, after he died, God brought him back up out of the grave, as certain eyewitnesses attested. But more than that, and what no eyewitness could have seen: God has done with Jesus what he intended to do with Man when he first made him. He has placed this Man at his right hand over the rest of the creation, over every rule and power in heaven and earth. So Jesus is Lord. Lord over angels and demons and nations, and all earthly powers that aren’t the state (including Google and that vague combination of moods and ideas we call ‘zeitgeist’). Lord over everything. So, that’s already good news, to learn that there’s someone over everything everywhere every time, Someone who is perfectly just and wise and resourceful, and backed by Almighty God.
But that’s only half of it. While noting that God raised Jesus from the dead because he fully endorses him as a human being, we shouldn’t skip over the fact that he had indeed been dead. Why would God allow that to happen to someone He thoroughly delighted in, who had thoroughly delighted in Him?
Answer: Jesus is the Christ, the King who acts in behalf and in the stead of his people. In his death Jesus took upon himself the punishment for humanity’s deceit and anger and shallowness and mismanagement… and the disregard for God that lay behind all of this. He willingly offered himself as atonement. And paid for all sins of every one of his people. For the sins we’ve repeated a thousand times and keep promising to stop, for all wrong that was done, and all duties left undone, for the millions of small unjust slights that are rendered ignorantly or unconsciously… or with frosty calculation.
Apart from Jesus, the Devil can always beat us over the head with the “Guilty” stick – we really do warrant death because we’re not the creation the Creator intended; we’re sinners. But by his violent death, Jesus took that condemning power away from the Devil and all in league with him by cancelling our guilt. Every sin fully paid for by the blood of Jesus. Every one. No more guilt. Ahhh – Forgiveness! Truly!
So, Jesus’ people are forgiven, and already, NOW, in Heaven’s records are in the right; at the final judgment they will be officially declared to be justified. Did you hear that? Deserving of eternal life. The kind of men and women God intended when He first said, “Let us make man in our image…” So warmly at home with the Holy Creator that they already call Him, Abba – – Dad. And, one day, joining Jesus, their Lord and Elder Brother, as inheritors of the earth and rulers over the creation.
But (review) not because of anything they did, or didn’t do, but because of the virtue and sacrifice of the Christ – Jesus. (We weren’t even alive when He took care of all this!) When God raised Jesus from the grave, He was also pronouncing an eternal YES over his people. When Jesus stepped out of his tomb, something new began. A whole new creation where sin, guilt, and death no longer have power. Where God lives. Where the defining truth is: Jesus has died for our sins and has been raised out of that world of death into one marked by new life… and brought his people along.
Which brings us to an important question: So, who are Jesus’ people, who are right with God and heirs of a glorious and eternal Life, who have acquired the divine YES?
THE BAPTISTS, of course. (Har har har – That’s a little preacher humor, there.) No, Jesus’ people are all and any of those wretches (“Amazing Grace”) who simply listen to what God has done for them, the ‘miserable offenders,’ and believe. They turn from disregarding God, even if that disregard superficially had a moral or religious look, and they turn to acknowledging what is true about God in Jesus Christ, and so what is true about them.
The Gospel isn’t just for spiritual people (whatever that means) or bookish people or westerners or any subcategory of humanity. The Gospel is for Everyone! Meaning, you can get in on that Gospel right now, as you’re reading. Do you believe what God has given us…you… in Jesus? Well then, you’re in! Justified! Go visit a gospel proclaiming church and ask the pastor there about next steps in this new life.
And if you don’t yet believe, but are interested in learning more about this Gospel, please do reach out and let me try to answer your questions or satisfy your arguments. Your reading this today is no accident – God loves you and is reaching out to you at this moment!