Can We Find Forgiveness and be Reconciled to God?
To find out we need to go back to the beginning.
1. Men are Born into the World Cut off from God
First of all Through Adam’s Sin
The Gospel really starts with the character of God and His purpose to create men and women with whom to have fellowship. God is holy, pure and absolutely just. He hates sin (and evil) and because of His nature He cannot ignore it.
Would Adam operate within the boundaries which God had set or go his own way? That was the issue in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve - dependence or independence. God told them . . .
Genesis 2:17 “. . . but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
So would they choose a life lived in dependence on God OR a life lived independently of God, cut off from His resources and life? Adam chose ‘independence’ and we continue to live with the consequences of that choice today.
We need to understand some of the terms used in Scripture before we consider these issues further. The term ‘death’ in Scripture does not mean ‘extinction’ but ‘separation.’
The spiritual dimension of human beings exists from before birth and continues after death. The real issue is whether that dimension, our soul and spirit, is connected to God or cut off from Him.
We are Physically Alive when our soul/ spirit - the core of our being is connected to our body. We are Physically Dead when our soul/ spirit is separated from our body. But our conscious existence continues.
We are Spiritually Alive when our soul/ spirit - the core of our being is connected to God Himself. We are Spiritually Dead when our soul/ spirit is cut off from God.
When Adam sinned he died spiritually (Many years later he also died physically). In consequence he was cut off from God and lost his access to God’s wisdom. Adam was left to seek answers to his need for significance, security and acceptance apart from God and God put him and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. For Adam acceptance was replaced by rejection and God’s resources by human reason (Satan continued to deceive and influence mankind). Genetically we are directly descended from Adam and we inherit his sin. Of course we sin in our own right as we shall see.
Romans 5:12 “ Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . .”
Secondly we are Cut off Through our Own Sin
Isaiah 59:1-2 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
Scripture makes it clear that, not only are we cut off from God because of Adam’s sin, but that we are individually and personally guilty of sin. The Bible teaches that apart from Christ every one of us is a sinner, no one is excluded.
Romans 3:23 “. . . for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .”
Sin, in essence, is acting independently of God. It is living life without acknowledging Him or His call upon our lives. Thus things, which we consider morally good, may be sinful if they are done apart from God.
Lastly we are Cut off from God Throughout Eternity
The immediate consequence of sin is death; separation from God because of Adam’s sin and because of our own. Indeed we were born into the world cut off from God.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But there are also long term consequences. Remember ‘death’ literally means separation. So death is the wages, the pay, of sinners who reject Christ. Sin results in separation from God, exclusion from Heaven and eternity in Hell. Eternal punishment is not a popular subject today. Some argue that there is no such thing. Yet, Jesus, in the four Gospels, speaks often of what will happen to those who do not believe in Him. His words are graphic and describe conscious, eternal torment for those separated from God.
Matthew 25:41, 46 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’ . . . ‘These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”
Luke 16:19-31 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendour every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 “. . . and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Revelation 20:15 “And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (The lake of fire is hell)
Revelation 20:13-15 “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
John MacArthur lists the following consequences of sin . . .
|Sin corrupts the mind
||Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 4:17-19.
|Sin corrupts the will
|| Jeremiah 44:16-17.
|Sin corrupts the affections
|| John 3:19, 1 John 2:15.
|Sin brings people under Satan’s control
|| John 8:44, Ephesians 2:2.
|Sin makes us the object of God’s wrath
|| Ephesians 2:3.
|Sin robs people of peace
|Sin brings misery
||Job 5:7, Romans 8:20.
|Sin grieves the Holy Spirit
|Sin hinders answers to prayer
|| 1 Peter 3:7.
|Sin limits our ability to serve God
|| 2 Timothy 2:20-21.
|Sin disqualifies some from Christian service
|| 1 Corinthians 9:27.
|Sin renders our worship unacceptable
|| Psalm 33:1, Isaiah 1:14.
|Sin causes God to withhold blessing
|Sin robs us of joy
|Sin brings God’s chastening
|Sin hinders our spiritual growth
|| 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
|Sin pollutes our fellowship with Him
||1 Corinthians 10:21.
|Sin causes our lives to dishonour Him
|| 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
2. There is Nothing Men Can Do about their Sin
We are cut off from God forever through Adam’s sin and our own sin. There is nothing mankind can do to bridge the gap between us and God.
In the Old Testament God gave His people The Law to be their schoolmaster until Christ should come. We all like systems where we can become accepted by our own efforts and works. Religions are man’s attempts to bridge that gap and become acceptable to God. But God says that He sees the best we can do, independently of Him, as filthy rags and worthless.
Isaiah 64:6 “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Paul makes that very clear when he says in Romans 3:20 that no one can be saved through keeping the Law.
“. . . because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Paul says again in Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is impossible for mankind to become acceptable to God through his own efforts for he say there that, salvation is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Life independent of God is sin. It is impossible for us to undo what we have done, to unsay the harsh words we have used or undo our sinful actions. One sin on the part of Adam caused him to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. We have sinned many times and often thought little of it. Since the fall mankind has devoted his efforts of becoming acceptable to God through many different independent ways.
We parade our own Self Righteousness - our own perceived personal goodness. But God says of this . . .
Luke 18:9-14 “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
We offer our Self righteousness - those things we have done to earn credit with God. But God says . . .
Matthew 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness .”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
1 Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals . . .”
Religions - Those ‘religious systems’ set up by mankind in an effort to become acceptable to God. But Jesus said there is only One Way!
John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”
Galatians 2:16 “. . . .nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we (Jews) have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
The truth is that there is only one basis of acceptance with God and that is being ‘In Christ.’ Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 . . .
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Then in Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
At this point the situation of mankind is desperate for there is nothing men can do to undo Adam’s sin or their own.
3. Christ has Already Done all that We Need
If God had not intervened that would be the end, eternal condemnation. But God did intervene and Christ has done everything we need to make it possible for our relationship with God to be restored.
1 Peter 2:24 “. . . and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
We have learned that everyone has sinned and that the just punishment for sin is death. Without God’s intervention, therefore, we would all face Hell. The problem is a legal one. Suppose that, in a court of law, you have been tried, found guilty and fined £1,000,000. The penalty must be paid but you do not have the means to do so. But if someone else was to pay the fine on your behalf you would go free. In that case someone else has assumed responsibility for your crime.
We were all in this position, spiritually. We were condemned and unable to help ourselves. But Jesus has paid the legal penalty on our behalf so that those of us who believe may go free. This is the good news of the Gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins in order that we might be pardoned, and three days later He rose from the grave in triumphant victory.
4. We Must Trust in What Christ has Done and in That Alone
The fact that Christ died instead of the sinner does not mean that every sinner automatically receives pardon. In a very real sense we have NOTHING to do because Christ has done it all on our behalf. We cannot add to what He has done but must simply TRUST in Him. Forgiveness, pardon for our sin, is free - but conditions are attached and we need to look at these conditions.
We Must Repent
Acts 3:19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord . . .”
Repentance is really a process which results in a different way of living. There are three aspects we need to consider.
Revelation - Greek, ‘apokalupsis.’ This word means, ‘uncovering’ or ‘unveiling.’ It has the concept of God lifting the veil from the minds of human beings in order to reveal His divine perspective (truth).
Repentance - Greek, ‘metanoia.’ This word literally means, ‘knowing after.’ It is a new knowledge, perception or understanding of what God has revealed. It is a ‘change of mind’ as we adjust our thinking to what God has revealed. That change of mind is repentance.
Turning - Greek, ‘epistrepho.’ This word means, to ‘turn and go in a new direction.’ As a result of God’s revelation to us of truth, we adjust our thinking to agree with God. A change in the way we think and behave follows on from that change of understanding. Notice that in Acts 3:19, repentance comes before turning, “. . . repent therefore, and turn again . . .”
To summarise, people need an unveiling (revelation) of God’s truth, to bring them into a new understanding, from His perspective, (repentance) so that they can change their behaviour and go God’s way (turning).
So repentance means much more than just being sorry for our sin. It ultimately involves a change in the direction of our lives which comes about when God lifts the veil and we understand situations from His perspective.
We Must Believe
Acts 16:31 “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
The word BELIEVE in the Bible means much more than just mental assent to some fact or doctrine. It involves action based on knowledge. You may believe that flights go from your local airport to a very lovely holiday destination. You may know the times the flights leave, the name of the airline, the type of aircraft, even the route they fly. But this knowledge, will not get you to that destination. You must buy a ticket and board the aircraft in order to get to get there.
In the same way Biblical belief (Salvation) involves action. We cannot earn salvation by our own good deeds, it is a free gift. The action required on our part is to accept the gift which has been offered. Only then do we gain its benefits.
New Life in Christ
Accepting Christ is not just getting something, turning over a new leaf and deciding to live a better life. When you come to be In Christ, to trust in what He has done for you making it possible for you to be reconciled to God, you are connected to God at your deepest level – your soul/ spirit. You are now spiritually alive – connected to Him. Further He transforms you at that deep level exchanging your old nature, Adam’s for that of the Lord Jesus Christ. We truly are a new creation as Paul says.
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Becoming a Christian is becoming something that we never were before. Paul puts it like this in Galatians 2:20 . . .
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
He writes again of this changed life in Colossians 3:1-3 . . .
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
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