What do you expect and what do you get from your religion or spiritual beliefs? From some you get a strong sense of culture and identity, like with Judaism. With others a connection to people of the past and a hope for a little supernatural help or luck. It could be moral guidance, structure, national pride, a good feeling inside or the like. These are all nice things and important to us, but they obscure the most important goal of all: a life on the other side of death that is fantastic.
We cannot just assume that such a thing exists or that it is coming our way. It is too important to just assume. Promises of such a life from credible sources, an internal sense of not just being a temporary creature, and the testimony of near death experiences combine to assure us that there is more beyond death; but it could be suffering just as well joy. Being a good person seems like a reasonable strategy, but where is the line of good enough? We all know ourselves. We may be nice, but there is a lot of things in our thoughts, words and deeds that we know are wrong. You really have to be in a state of severe denial to not worry about having a problem at death, unless you understand what Jesus did, why He did it, and what is promised as a result.
Our Creator and Judge did not leave our species uninformed. There is a problem–a big problem. We are not all moving from this life, through death, into another life. Nor are we slipping into non-existence. Can we prove this? Again, near death experiences lend some direct testimony that supports this assertion. The details are this: the whole human race, regardless of their personal morality or religion, will be cast off by God into a state of eternal suffering without some form of remediation to save us. This is because we are stained by sin from conception.
What is sin? God has provided laws over the millennium that encourage or forbid certain behavior. The purpose of these laws is not initially to guide your behavior. They are to show you how far you are from God. They reveal that even your natural tendencies are to break these laws. They convict us and destroy our tendency to dream that we are self-righteous. Before God, we are not even close.
Did God create us, just to eternally punish us? Nope. We have an inherited condition–like a genetic disease. It has resulted from a set of common ancestors willingly disobeying God under the premise that God is not good and a liar. They thought humans could be their own masters, their own gods. They were wrong. The effects of this genetic contamination are readily observed in the sordid history of mankind and in our behavior from birth.
What is the remediation for our problem? There is only one: Jesus. This is what Jesus said:
Enter by the narrow gate. For gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14
That is a little metaphorical, but I definitely don’t like the sound of that. I call it my “least favorite passage in the Bible.” If I could dismiss it, I would. But if this is the truth, it is better to know it. Jesus also said:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
This holds out hope and gives an explanation of those who remain lost. God loves humans. He wants to save them. To be saved is straightforward. Jesus has to save us. The “hard” part is what Jesus had to do to and still has to do to save us.
These are the details. We had to have just one sinless human keep the law of God throughout their lives. Just one for the whole lot of us. That would seem easy except we are all born genetically sinful. So none of the “great” religious leaders of history or “loving” anonymous people of the past could do it. Jesus is different because he is born as the result of God causing a woman, Mary, to have a virgin birth. Jesus is God taking on human flesh. He alone was a human and sinless. We have no other candidate.
Jesus then had to pay for sins. He didn’t have any personally, but he took on the sins of humanity–all of them. This is why he had the horrific death on the cross and why, in the midst of dying, he was “forsaken” (rejected) by God the Father. The process worked, Jesus rose from the dead and was observed alive after three days.
The final part is connecting individuals to this death and resurrection. This is not so easy either.
The final step is taking the story of Jesus and the promise of God connected to that story to people– people who have different ideas, different cultures and a stubbornly sinful nature that will naturally reject all of this. God has to be able to breach these roadblocks or else. The end result and judgment are mentioned above.
If God can get through to you, then you can be baptized. Though very simple looking, baptism is Jesus connecting you to His death and resurrection.
Does it help to be born in a Christian culture? Maybe a little. It is still hard. Christian culture can produce merely cultural Christians. They sort of accept the story but don’t have a connection to the death of Jesus, and it shows.
I hope and pray that you get it. If you do, maybe this blog can be used to at least deliver the information to another. God has to do the heavy lifting.