With the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, something remarkable has happened that has radically impacted world history, and forever altered the destiny of humankind for the better! We all know that this world is filled with suffering, death, injustice, pain, sorrow, and hurt. These things are universal to the human experience. Yet we crave love, joy, life, happiness, peace, comfort, and deathlessness. If we crave these things, then why don’t we experience – universally and perpetually – the fulfillment of these cravings?
Something has happened that has plunged the human race into the predicament we find ourselves. The fact that we desire a better experience means that we have either fallen from a better experience, or were meant for a better experience, or both. If this were not true, we would not be conscious of the possibility of a better existence. The desire and longing we sense for a better experience represents a gap between where we are, and the ideal state as we may perceive it, or imagine it to be. So the point here is that our present experience in this world of sorrow is not ultimately what was intended for us. Something has happened that has led to our current predicament, and the Bible calls this something sin.
Sin separates from God. The Bible says that God is “love” (1 John 4:8). It also says that in God’s presence is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). We are told that Jesus is “the life” (John 14:6). We are also told that God loves “justice” (Isaiah 61:8). The Bible tells us that the Messiah, who is Jesus, shall be called the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). And we are told that God is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). Notice these things: love, joy, life, justice, peace, and hope. Are these not all things that we crave? Are they not all things that are often sought after in this world, and yet – are so very elusive – at least in a perpetual and universal sense? Why then is there a lack of universal and perpetual love, joy, justice, peace, and hope in the human experience? The answer to this questions is this: We exist in a state of separation from the source of these good things – God Himself. A light bulb separated from the socket is a light bulb separated from the source of power, and thus, ceases to function in a way that it was intended to function. Similarly, the human race is in a state of separation from its Creator, who is the source of love, joy, peace, justice, and hope. Sin has caused this separation, and until this separation is healed, we will never experience life as God intended it.
Why must we die when we crave and enjoy life? Why must death interrupt the sweet fellowship we have with those we love? All of us have sinned (Roman 3:23), and sin has separated us from God, the author of life. Sin must be judged by God, and this judgment includes physical death and eternal separation from God.
Humanity infected by sin is a humanity that is separated from God – separated from the source of love, joy, peace, justice, hope and life. Consequently, we don’t love as we should, nor rejoice as we should, nor have the peace of mind we were meant to have. We see injustice all around. Hope is fleeting, and our end is death. One does not need a degree in theology, philosophy, or anthropology to see that something is wrong with the human race, and the human experience. That “something” is sin, which separates us from God. The question is, how is it going to be fixed?
The answer, is Jesus Christ! The Bible reveals a God who loves His creation so much (you and I) that he became a human being (Jesus Christ) and was born into this sin-stained, tragic world. He grew up, died upon a cross, and was raised to life again. The Bible tells us that Jesus was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21) – thus, He did not deserve to die. Why then did He die? He died because in dying, He suffered the penalty that we deserved to suffer for our sin. He was a sin offering, and died to pay the penalty for all our sin, which is death (Romans 6:23, Romans 5:12). His death is redemptive – it brings life to us! He, being both divine and human (Jesus was 100% God and 100% human), reconciled the divine with the creature, God with humanity. He took upon Himself the sin of the entire world and died for it, thus making it possible for all of us to be freely forgiven of our sin, and reconciled back to God through believing in Jesus (John 1:29, Isaiah 53:6, John 3:16). The Bible’s story of redemption is about a God who entered into our broken world as a human being so as to redeem us – to reconcile us back to Himself. The person who is reconciled back to God through faith in Jesus Christ is reconciled back to the source of love, peace, joy, life, justice, and hope – God Himself. This includes the promise of eternal life (John 3:16, John 11:25-26, 1 John 5:9-13). Faith in Jesus, receiving what He has done on our behalf, is what deliver’s us from the judgment of God, and what makes us suitable to enjoy Him in heaven after we die.
It is important to note in all of this that the work of reconciliation back to God is something that Jesus has fully accomplished on our behalf. Our responsibility is to believe this good news – to receive the gift of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). We do not have to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9). Heaven, and being reconciled back to God is NOT a reward for good deeds or good behavior. It is a FREE GIFT given to the one who believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23, Romans 3:21-24). Yet, there is something in all of this that you may have perceived. This message of Jesus Christ is a claim. That is, it makes certain claims about God, humanity, history, the human condition, sin, and what is needed to be reconciled to God, and these claims must either be believed or rejected. If God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and impacted history so as to alter the destiny of the human race, then this is something that has happened independent of our opinion of it, meaning, it is something that actually happened in time and space.
Jesus is presented in Scripture as Lord (Romans 10:9), and this is a cosmic or universal Lordship (Philippians 2:10-11). This means that His existence and Lordship are not dependent on our perception of Him, or opinion of Him. We live in a day where a high value is placed on being tolerant of various claims about various things. However, sometimes this is taken to an illogical extreme. What do I mean by that? Simply this: Many different people may have different opinions about something, but those opinions don’t change the reality (or non-reality) of that something. If that something exists objectively, then its existence is unaffected by the subjective opinions others have of it. For example, a rock dropped from an airplane will fall – period. It does not matter if some doubt this, or some question this. It’s an objective fact that a rock dropped from an airplane will fall.
We live in a day where hope is fleeting. Despair is all around. People are living with little to no hope, and the crisis is an existential one. We find ourselves without a clear understanding of the meaning of life, and the purpose of life. “Why does it all matter? Why are we here? Why is there so much suffering, and why must we die?” As we wrestle with questions like these, one strategy we might be tempted to employ is to settle at the place where we acknowledge that everyone has their own opinion on a wide array of answers, truth claims, religions, philosophies, and world views, and we conclude that each worldview is equally valid as it pertains truth, reality, the meaning and significance of humanity, and purpose – and we leave it at that. Collectively, we have agreed that “your story is good for you, but may not be good for me”, and “my understanding of truth and morality may be right for me, but you have your own truth and moral code that is right for you.” But there is an inherent fatal and lethal flaw in this approach when applied to such matters as the identity of God, and purpose of humanity: It is relativistic – relative to how I perceive something vs. how the other person perceives something; and when considering an ultimate, transcendent, universal meaning to everything, relativism will not work. Relativism leaves us in the dark as it pertains to an overarching, objective, transcendent reality within which we can find real meaning. Without something larger than us to know and believe in – something that is objective and true for all of us, an overarching grand story that we can look to and find our significance in, we lose a sense of objective significance. If everything is relative – if my story is good for me but not for you, then there is nothing “larger than us” that explains our existence and purpose in any solid, objective way since everything is relative to my perception, or to the amount of knowledge I have amassed, and this is not enough to provide the real hope our hearts crave and need. This does not offer the solid, objective, sense of belonging and purpose that gives our lives meaning, and the ultimate result of this is a despairing sense of meaninglessness. If my world view and sense of belonging is only as sure as my perception of it, then it does not have a firm foundation upon which I can build my hope. It would imply that my sense of belonging is built on something that is no more stable than my subjective, potentially shifting opinion, and that is not a solid base that we can build a life hope upon. For it to truly be hope, the foundation we build our lives on must be “beyond” us, “outside of us”, so as to not be conditioned by us. That way, we can place confidence in it, since it really exists “outside” of us, independent of us (i.e. we have not subjectively created our own world to then find our significance in).
The highly relativistic approach we take in our society today (i.e. your worldview is good for you, but not for me) in trying to deal with these matters of existential hope and universal belonging deceives us and fails to provide real hope because we are placing the value on what is good for someone rather than on what is true. We are not reaching beyond ourselves to anchor our lives in a universal, unchanging reality, but are going no further than our own opinions, what we see, know, and think. In other words, we are settling to find hope in something that goes not further than our own perception, and how can that be real hope? What if our perception is wrong? What about my brother or sister that has a different perception? Perhaps we may argue that the universal reality within which we should find hope is love – things like our common humanity, tolerance, mutual respect, and “brotherhood.” Here, we have rightly identified the need for a universal overarching reality to ground our lives and existence in – in this case, it’s love pure and simple. One problem with this however is that true hope also requires a specific object of hope. That is, something concrete that we can rely on as true that answers certain existential questions: e.g. why are we here? How can we overcome death? Who is behind all of this? Trying to answer questions such as these may be part of the reason so many competing world views have emerged. Love as a grand story may aid in our relations to each other, but without concrete answers to these questions, it ultimately leaves us guessing, and true hope cannot be based on guesswork.
We humans crave significance and meaning, and there must be something larger than us that is true for all of us, within which we find true significance and meaning. True significance and meaning because it is objectively true for all of us, and thus, is solid, reliable, and worthy of our trust. In other words, something to believe in that is really true beyond my mere perception or opinion. This type of overarching reality is what we crave, and it meets the longing of our hearts for something to believe in because it is “larger than us” – independent of our perceptions of it. In other words, it’s real and thus, trustworthy!
The message of Jesus Christ offers us hope unlike anything else. It tells of an eternal, loving, caring, good God that created all things. This God delights in us, and made us for a purpose. Though we fell into sin, rebelling against Him, He did not leave us in that condition, but became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, took upon Himself all of our sin, and died for it so that we could be reconciled back to God. Now, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be restored back to God, and enjoy Him and the purposes He has for us. One of the promises that God makes to the person who has faith in Jesus Christ is that one day – even though they die, they will be resurrected bodily to enjoy life forever with God and with redeemed humanity. Jesus has accomplished all of this for us. His resurrection from the dead is a testimony that all that was necessary to restore us to God and repair the damage caused by our sin has been done to completion. And this offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all humankind. It is true for everyone (Romans 10:13). Within this grand story we can participate and find our meaning and significance. The redemption that God has provided in Jesus Christ not only includes the assurance of a future resurrection from the dead (John 6:40), but also the establishment of a just and righteous kingdom on this earth in the future where Jesus Christ will reign as King (Isaiah 9:6-7), and following that a new creation (Revelation 21:5) where there is no sin, death, sickness, hatred, or separation (Revelation 21:3-5).
Something remarkable has happened through Jesus Christ that needs to be believed and celebrated. History has been impacted. The destiny of humankind altered. Perhaps some of us are unclear about our purpose, lacking a sense of significance, and do know what to believe in. Perhaps some of us are even in this condition because we may have previously dismissed the answer? Perhaps we grew up in a Christian setting, but drifted from it for whatever reason? Now we have realized that the promises of the world cannot deliver the satisfaction and meaning we thought they would, and now find ourselves questioning everything? God is eternal and infinite. He never changes, and neither does His truth. The cravings that we have for significance, meaning, worth, life, love, joy, peace, hope, and justice can only be truly fulfilled by Him. We may reject the claim that is the Christian message, but we will not find another that will meet the deep needs that we have, because only God can meet a need that is meant for God to fulfill. Some of us may be so familiar with the story of Jesus – even celebrating elements of it at Christmas time that we fail to appreciate that it is a story that has radically impacted history, and invites us to participate in it. In other words, we fail to appreciate that it is a claim that presents something as true that we either believe or reject – no middle ground! It presents itself as objectively true, and thus, demands a response of either belief or rejection.
The story of Jesus Christ is for everyone, and that is good news! All of us are invited to “come” and to believe. And in Jesus Christ we have a sure hope that will not disappoint, for He is Lord! Trust in Him. Come to Him, and find your rest…
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:1-5, NIV