Thank you for wanting to know more. A hungry soul seeks to be satisfied, a searching soul seeks answers, and an empty soul seeks fulfillment. The LORD is all of this, and more. He is able to nourish our souls, answer our questions, and fulfill us with His presence. There are some foundational truths we must first understand. Many times we come to GOD because we are hurting, fearful, or struggling. Our jobs could be in danger or we could be without work; our marriages could be strained, or our kids might be making wrong choices. We could have suffered the loss of a loved one, or have learned that a loved one has only months to live. We, ourselves, might have been diagnosed with cancer or another potentially terminal illness. There are many things that affect us, weaken us and cause us to think about GOD.
What I am about to say is not easy for me to say, especially if you are hurting. I will use my own struggles in my marriage to speak for me. Early in my marriage I was not a good husband, I was critical. I was critical of myself, and hence critical of my wife. After several years of this, divorce was becoming a way out for my wife. As a last attempt I asked her to go to counseling with me. She agreed. In counseling the pastor tried hard, but words could not change the root of why I was critical. However in the last moments the pastor did say something that rocked my life: he said I was not allowing GOD to love me for just me. I was trying to earn His approval through my actions. Now having already been a Christian for several years, I thought that he was way off and that our meeting was a waste of time. I pretty much figured that the next day my wife was going to file for a divorce. We drove home, it seemed like forever, we didn’t say much, and I was mad at the pastor and GOD. Basically I was arguing with God saying, “Don’t You care about me? About our marriage? Is this what You want?” Before I could finish, The LORD broke into my thoughts. It is just as clear to me now as it was then. He simple said, “He’s right; you are not letting Me love you as you are. You are always trying to prove your worthy of My love.”
When GOD speaks to the human soul, the soul crumbles, and in that moment I had all my motives and reasons for trying to be the “perfect Christian soldier” revealed to me. We want to be loved for something, that’s human; but it’s not the way GOD loves. There is no amount of good deeds we can do to earn His love, He simply just loves. The best example I can think of is the love of parents for their newborn child. Though the child has done nothing to earn it, the parents will spend their entire resources to protect the child if something were to threaten its life. Such is God’s love towards us, it cannot be earned; it just is. Conversely, there is no amount of sinning we can do to make Him love us less. People will say to me, “God can’t love me; I’ve sinned so much in my life.” Yet, the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners [in rebellion], Jesus gave his life for us.”
So yes, God absolutely still loves us. At the same time, our sin really does condemn us. It separates us from experiencing and trusting God’s love. To die separated from God’s love is to face the consequences of our sin alone. That means eternal separation from God. The Bible calls that eternal separation Hell.
Scripture teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish,” (2 Peter 3:9), but that all
should come to repentance. Therefore, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die in our place. Christ paid the consequences of our sin so that we would not have to. The Sinless for the sinner; the Holy for the unholy. That is God’s perfect plan of redemption. And by repenting and believing in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we find forgiveness. And in forgiveness, we find restoration. Our broken relationship with God is restored. The consequences of my guilt for breaking God’s moral law have been placed on Christ. His death satisfied the righteous justice of God’s Holiness.
To help you understand this, here is a story. There was a righteous judge, who fairly and justly applied the law, and who was one day called to render a verdict on his own son—a son who had gone wayward, associating himself with thieves and violent men. One day, in the course of robbing a store, that son murders a man. All the court felt bad for the judge and wondered what sentence he would render. The judge went up to his podium and after hearing the charges and knowing them to be true, he pronounced the death sentence upon his son. The court wept for the judge. Still, that is not the end of the story. The judge stepped away from his podium, took off his garment, and left his gavel. He stepped down to the court floor. In speaking to the amazed audience he said, “As judge I have honored my position and upheld the law, convicting my son fully for his crime; now as his father I will take his place, and my life will become atonement (the payment) for his sins. I will die so he may live….”As the father was a Ransom/Redeemer for his son, so Christ is our Ransom/ Redeemer. We cannot come to God, be in His presence, or have a relationship with Him without atonement for our sins. Our sins are as a divider, a wall between us and God. The Bible says “all have fallen short of the grace of God, we have all gone our own way doing that which is right in our own eyes”. The Bible further says, “there is no one righteous” (without sin), which is not hard to believe. Who is without sin, which of us is perfect and holy? We are, by our very nature, separated from God; and to be separated from God is to be eternally lost.
So what must we do to be saved, to know that Heaven is our place of eternity? As already noted, we must accept what Christ has done for us on the cross. To believe and accept His atonement, to repent of our sin, asking for forgiveness. The amazing thing is that GOD has already made the way for us, before we ever knew we needed a Savior, God sent Christ to be our Ransom/Redeemer. Christ came to earth as God/man and lived a life without sin. And though He was perfect and holy; he suffered the consequences of our sins, and being raised from the dead grants us the power of a resurrected life via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The whole story of the Bible is of a God who is utterly in love with His creation, and a creation that has continually rejected Him; and how through the cross He has made provision for us to be restored and renewed back unto Him. It is a love story that exceeds all love stories. The Righteous One dying for a world of sinners, so that we might live in His life, being atoned (covered over by forgiveness) and redeemed (being purchased from the slave market, a literal definition) by believing and accepting what He has done for us.
We have talked about sin, but what is it, its root? I will give you a clue. What is the middle letter in these words: pride, sin, and I…? It is our self wills, the “me complex” that puts us in direct disobedience to God, as well as one another. Before I explain more let me ask you another question, would you argue with your boss? Probably not, because it could get you fired. Why then do you argue with God by denying His rightful place over your life? He is your Creator, your Heavenly Father, and He has rightful authority over you. That resistance to His rightful claim is the very heart of sin, and from that comes all that dishonors man, and separates us from Him.
To have a high view of ourselves is to have a low view of God, and to have a high view of God is to have a rightful view of ourselves. God is not at all like us, He is Holy, a state of being that we cannot even conceive of. The only thing I can liken His Holiness to is to the very center of a fire. While our girls were young we took them camping, and always at night I would make a campfire and tell stories. I always noticed how the very center of the fire was the hottest and the purest. Especially when it was reduced to coals. The fire between the coals was so hot and pure that I always called it “white hot.” It took nothing to add wood to such pure heat and get a blazing campfire again. Now would you touch this fire with your hand, or attempt to grab a coal? Of course not! But we think nothing of approaching God in our current sinful state-., “When I get to Heaven I am gonna tell God…” I have heard people say this time and time again. We are so blind, all our good deeds and thoughts are as wood and hay without Christ’s covering, God’s Holiness is like the “white hot,” of the flame. It consumes all that is not totally holy and righteous. The wood and hay of our actions, done by our own efforts to gain favor with God, and to appease our need to prove to others and ourselves that we are good people, will not stand the test of righteousness. No matter how hard we try, we cannot separate ourselves from the ‘me nature’: we all have it; it stains us all.
Now back to my story: once home, I went and closed myself in my study room. Alone with GOD, I prayed “GOD, I am a wreck, I feel so worthless, destroying the only thing that mattered to me… If You want to love this wreck, I need Your love, please forgive me for my many sins, and teach me to accept Your love for me, and then to give it away.” What happened after that I can’t explain, but my heart changed, it filled with joy, peace, a knowing that I was loved for me, just as I am with all my imperfections. I had not known this kind of peace; the striving was gone—the heaviness that I had grown so accustomed to, the guilt, it all left. And for once I felt free to live, to laugh, to accept my short comings, to work through my insecurities, and to give that grace to others, first and foremost to Lisa. I stepped out of that room a changed man, into a room with a damaged wife, who had stopped believing that I would ever be different. It took three years to destroy my marriage, and seven years till I saw the joy in her eyes that I saw when we took our vows; two years for every year I hurt her, and then one more. It’s funny (not ha,ha), in the Bible numbers mean something, and seven is the number for completion. So now I have been married to Lisa 30 years, and I love her dearly. We have had some very challenging times, as I am sure you have , but God has been faithful to see us through them. The man that kneeled and cried out for a love he didn’t possess, found that LOVE to be TRUE and FAITHFUL,
Now why did I share this with you? To make this point, Lisa could have still divorced me, walked out on our marriage. There was no guarantee that she was going to stay. Does this then mean that God failed? This brings us back to my first statement. When we come to God, do we come to Him to “fix” our problems, or to forgive us of our sin? And if He doesn’t fix our problems, or if those problems get worse even though we have prayed, do we stop believing? If our faith depends on whether or not God does what we want Him to do, then we have not truly come to God. We have only turned to Him in a very dark moment. When all other attempts have failed, we have reached for God as a last straw. Can God “fix” our problem? Can He use hardships to bring us to Him? Sure He can and does, and He did with me., By “fixing” me, our marriage improved. But let me repeat my point: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to the Cross for our sins, that which separates us from Him.
The Lord didn’t die for my marriage. He didn’t die because I lost a job. He didn’t die so that my kids would do the right thing, or for any other problem I might have as a result of sin. He died for my sin, and for your sin, to restore us back unto the Father. He died to bring us “home” to the Father, to grant us fellowship with Him and Eternal Life. We must come to terms with that, in humility and gratefulness we must do spiritual business with God. Once we are restored unto Him, we become His child, and the concerns of the child, become the concerns of the Parent. So pray for your marriage, your kids, your job—talk to your Dad. He gave His only son for you. Will He not also come to your aid? Find a good church that teaches the Bible, and that has counseling to get you pointed in the right direction. Read the Bible, a great source of comfort and wisdom (the NIV is a good readable translation). I will end in a prayer, and pray as if you were praying these words…
Father thank you for opening my eyes, causing me to understand more clearly Your love and my desperate state. I ask that Your words would penetrate my heart, and that through Your life in me others will see your Grace and Power to heal and to save. Forgive me of my sins. I accept You Lord Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and Your death on the cross as atonement for my sins. I bend my knee to You, and ask that You would now fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Comfort and Strength. Thank you. Teach me to understand Your Bible, to love spending time reading it, to spend time in prayer just talking to You and to attend a church that teaches me the Bible and to worship You in song and in prayer. Let me now live my life to honor You, for You and You alone are worthy. Thank you and Amen.