Friday, 21 November 2014

Liar, Lunatic or Lord - does it matter?

I have been with a couple of friends at a local High School this week and we have been speaking to the students about the subject of "Finding the real Jesus". We were looking at the evidence that there really was a man called Jesus of Nazareth, that this wasn't some fictional, mythical figure. Then we were showing that, although He was really a man, He was not merely a man - He was God. The subject I was given to speak about was this - does it matter anyway?

Many are bound to think that it makes no difference what I think about Jesus. If there is a God then what matters is how I like my life, surely my behaviour must be more important than my beliefs. Well, it may seem like a finer point of theology, detached from daily living, removed from reality, but I want us to see that if Jesus is God then this is vital not just for life now, but for our eternal destiny.

The Bible confirms that how we live our life is very important as far as God is concerned. He does hold us accountable for our behaviour, and the thing is this, according to the Bible, and your conscience will agree, we have all done wrong. If God exists then it follows that He is the standard of righteousness. Righteousness demands that evil be appropriately punished, and God can never act contrary to His nature. Also, because God is absolutely righteous, intrinsically holy, infinitely sin-hating, that means that rebellion against Him is a crime of infinite proportions, carrying an infinite penalty, and as finite creatures we can never pay that penalty. That explains why the Bible teaches eternal conscious punishment. So we are in a real fix. Should we never break God's law again that does nothing to pay for the crimes of the past. Keeping God's law from now to the day we die is only doing what He demands for the whole of our life. What can be done? The answer is nothing. Our situation is utterly hopeless...unless there is one who is willing and able to pay the penalty for us. That's why it is so important that Jesus is none less than God. Only an infinite person can pay an infinite price, and that is why Christ went to the cross. He gave Himself into the hand of God to take the punishment and make the payment our crimes deserve and God's justice demands. He paid the price in full and, as proof of that, God raised Him from the dead.

Also, because He is God, He not only had the ability to pay for sin, but He has the authority to pardon sin. If you lost your temper with your friend and said things you shouldn't have said, and did something you shouldn't have done, and you came to me feeling really sorry about it, what would you think if I said to you, "I forgive you." I think you would think, "And who do you think you are?" You recognise that you need forgiveness from the one you have offended. This is the thing that really vexed the religious leaders about the Lord. They heard Him tell people their sins were forgiven, and they said, "Who can forgive sins but God only?" They were theologically spot on: according to the Bible, God takes every sin personally. It is an offence against Him and we need His forgiveness. What they missed though is that Jesus is able to grant forgiveness because He is God, and He is still able to grant that forgiveness today.

This explains why the Bible insists that salvation can only be found in Christ. He alone could pay price and can grant the pardon. If you can find someone else who has paid the price for sin then by all means trust that person for salvation, but no one else has or could.

So this hopefully explains why the identity of Jesus Christ is so important, and why He said, "If you do not believe that I am He [i.e. God], you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). Once we see that God is perfect and we aren't, it follows that the only hope for us is in one who is none less than God.