We have good news. God promises to love and forgive us, giving us life that won't end, freedom from evil, and close friendship with him as long as we trust and obey him in love.
Do you believe this? Do you see what it means for you?
The Bible says we were born to love, obey, and enjoy God forever, but we can't.
Because we were born separated from him in two ways.
First, we don't know him, and we can't love someone we don't know.
Second, we are born with evil desires that separate us from the life, knowledge, and love of God. Our evil desires are the cause for death, sickness, injustice, war—all of life's sorrows.
How do our evil desires separate us from God?
The core of evil is selfishness which harms relationships. As a man grows closer to his wife, he more easily recognizes how his words, actions, and thoughts may offend her. So it is in our relationship with God. The closer we grow to God, the more we understand how our evil breaks closeness with him.
What was God's response to our separation from him?
God chose to become a man to restore close friendship with us. That man was Jesus.
Why was it important for God to become human?
First, to relate to us personally. Second, to experience our joy, pain, and struggle. Third, to bear the punishment for our evil by dying in our place. And fourth, to come back to life to wash our evil away, bringing us into close friendship with him and giving us life that won't end.
Jesus chose to die for us partially to prove that God punishes evil. We don't want a God who lets evil go unpunished. Jesus' death is a guarantee that God won't do this, because he chose to punish himself for our evil, even though he never did anything wrong.
The greater purpose he had was to set us free from our evil desires and transform our hearts so we could live in pure friendship with him. This is what the Bible refers to as being “born again.” It means to be totally changed, living free from slavery to our evil desires, in close relationship with God.
That means the good news doesn't stop at Jesus taking our punishment.
The Bible says that after Jesus died, he was raised from the dead and is still alive. He offers us an exchanged life: his perfect life for our broken one. When we accept this incredible offer, his Spirit begins to live inside us and slowly replace our evil desires with a growing desire for his goodness.
The process of us being cleaned and perfected is called sanctification. We aren't perfect until after this life is done. However, the process does give practical results right away.
Those results are called the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. If we are Christians, we will be growing in these attributes. If we are not, it's time to surrender to God and grow closer to him through reading the Bible, turning away from evil, praying, and worshipping him.
We can't make the fruit of the Spirit grow. Only the Holy Spirit can as we express our love for Christ.
The Bible says we need to take up our cross and follow Jesus. That phrase is a symbol representing the death of our selfishness. Just as Jesus carried his own cross (a torture tool!), and died hanging on it, we have to do the same symbolically through the death of our selfishness.
Why is this important? Because our selfish desires are at war with God's desires. Jesus requires complete surrender and trust. He asks that we trade our selfish desires for a desire for God. This is to show our love, through humble service to God and his people.
When we surrender and choose God as our sole satisfaction, he gives us the strength and desire to obey him. It is like letting him be the air we breathe. Breathe in Jesus. Breathe out Jesus. Repeat. Every day. Until the day we die. It is what gives us the courage to trust that when he commands us to treat our enemies with love, he will help us do it.
Our relationship with Jesus is the closest relationship we can experience because his Spirit is inside of us. This relationship will change your life as you trust and obey God in love. Then, when you make mistakes, he will help you to honor God.
You may be wondering if this sort of life would keep you from enjoying a normal life. We are happy to report that loving and obeying God has enabled us to enjoy God’s peace and joy in life.
Even though we're never completely free from evil desires in this life, and we still make mistakes, our love for Jesus starves our evil desires so they lose their strength. God does this so we are free to enjoy him, the world, and the relationships he's given us in purity.
The promise that most of us find hard to believe is that God changes our desires. He does. It's real. Otherwise, the good news wouldn't be good news.
Why don't more Christians live good lives?
Every Christian could live free from evil, but there are moments when we refuse to. Sometimes we choose evil over Jesus, even after we become Christians.
Some are kept from experiencing freedom from evil because they don't believe it's possible or that God offers it. Others refuse to live free from evil because it's costly. Because it takes total, continued surrender to God.
What does this mean?
After we surrender to God, we are commanded to continue surrendering. This needs to happen constantly because we all tend to revert to selfishness. The Bible calls this tendency the sin nature. We have it from the day we are born until the day we die.
As we believe and trust God, turn from evil, pray, worship, read the Bible, and engage in community with other Christians, the Spirit of Christ inside us begins to change our desires and give us progressive freedom from the sin nature.
Growth takes time. Don't lose hope in the process. And don't use the slowness of growth as an excuse to not grow at all.
Honoring God brings lasting joy and peace like nothing in this world. We don't turn from evil simply because evil is bad; we turn from evil to be satisfied by God.
God calls us to join him in working for his glory. After we surrender to him, he inspires us to share this beautiful friendship with others which is called evangelism and teach them how to experience it which is called discipleship.
What he gives us is so good that when we experience it, we can't stop ourselves from sharing about him. Once we taste and see that the Lord is good, we will naturally want to tell people so that they can feel the freedom and joy we've been given.
Again, here is the good news (the best news!): God promises to love and forgive us, giving us life that won't end, freedom from evil, and close friendship with him as long as we trust and obey him in love. If we are faithful to the end of our lives, God promises to give us a new body totally free from the curse of evil desires, death, and brokenness, to live with him forever.
The bad news is that everyone who rejects God's offer will suffer the endless punishment and separation from God that we all earned through our evil.
The good news of God and the bad news of what happens when we reject him make the Gospel the most important truth in our lives.
We exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. We often think we have to choose between a life of pleasing ourselves and a life of pleasing God. The truth is that giving into evil desires does not please us for very long. Indulging in evil leads to depression, a broken sense of self-worth, and addiction to destructive, evil behaviors. Evil rules us, bleeds our joy, and leaves us hollow and alone. It makes us slaves.
When we choose to view ourselves as willing servants to God’s goodness instead of slaves to evil, the presence of God in our lives and the great gifts he’s promised us in the Gospel give us joy and freedom that nothing can take away.
All it takes is everything. All our disobedience for all his forgiveness, life, and loving kindness.
The easiest way to remember this is through The Salvation Poem:
Jesus, You died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord, and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for You
Read John chapter 17, which is a record of a prayer Jesus prayed for you and me directly before dying. Try writing down any details you find interesting about what Jesus said, then read and discuss your questions with another Christian. What do you think about Jesus praying for you, on a personal level?