When I first met Jesus I saw Him as my spiritual guide, or guru. It was over a year before He confronted me with the concept of salvation. I’m not sure if being told I was a sinner before then would have helped much in alerting me to my need of a Saviour. What I initially understood was that there is a God who sent His Son to Earth because He loves us and wanted to reach out to us. My view, until He opened my eyes to the reality of sin, was that the people of Earth were so lost, not only did they not recognise their Creator, they executed Him for no other reason than that He told them He was the one true God.
As I became more familiar with the teachings of Jesus through His Word, I began to understand the concept of sin and our need for salvation. In The Bible I was introduced to words such as atonement and redemption, justification and sanctification. Each one of these words is packed full of significance and implications for the follower of Jesus Christ. They are all talking about a relationship that has been broken and needs mending. This is a primal relationship that was damaged almost as soon as it was forged. The human race was cut off from their Creator. This momentous event is known as the Fall.
The Creator could justifiably have abandoned His creation when Adam and Eve defied Him and sent His universe into a spiral of sin, pain, suffering and death. The One who brought it into being from nothing, could simply have reduced His universe to naught and started over again. Or He could have left His Earth to descend into a world that looked like nothing more than Sodom and Gomorrah from horizon to horizon – a world where brute power and savagery reigned as innocence and love were destroyed by lust, hate, greed and violence. Instead, at great cost to Himself, He set out to redeem those who choose to adhere to His original plan and purpose and live according to His guidelines, sending them out into the world as His ambassadors with the message of His love and holiness.
God created a perfect universe, but He chose to allow the creatures He made to have dominion over His world – the people He created in His own image – to have individuality. He chose to create us with superior intelligence and free will. These unique gifts, which will make us fit to be His companions throughout eternity, were the very things that cost Him the life of His Son.To restore what was lost at the Fall, the Father sent His only Son to humanity with His message of salvation, knowing just what humanity would do in response. God did not orchestrate the crucifixion, but He foreknew it would happen and He worked through it, encompassing it into His great plan of salvation. He sent His Son into the path of evil and evil thought it would reduce God’s plan to rubble. But God victoriously raised His Son from death, as the First of His new, eternal creation. God would not only overcome evil with good, He would overcome death with eternal life. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church:
If our hope in Christ is only good for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in the world. But Christ rose from death and became the First of those who are dead to be raised. Just as death came by means of a man, in the same way the rising from death comes by means of a Man. Indeed, all people die because of their union with Adam, likewise all those in Christ will be raised to life because of their union with Him. But all will be raised in the proper order: Christ is first of all, then, at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him will be raised like Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. For Christ must rule until God defeats all His enemies and puts them under His feet. The last enemy to be defeated will be death. (1 Cor 15:19-26)
The message Jesus Christ came to bring the world was not only about restoring our relationship with our Creator, it was also about God’s plan to eternally destroy evil and death. To do this He must destroy this present, fatally flawed creation. The weeds that have grown up in God’s beautiful garden overwhelm and strangle the fragile flowers. Hate, lust and greed; self-righteousness, idolatry and envy, all these tendencies left unchecked will strangle compassion and mercy; love and forgiveness. But one of the greatest problems for humanity is wilful arrogance. People cut off from their Creator imagine themselves capable of guiding humanity into a better future. Deceived by their own gifts and intellectual prowess, they believe their God given ability to think and reason will enable them to live apart from their Creator. This is the very idea that led Satan to rebel.
We were created for the tremendous purpose of communing with our Creator. We cannot function to our full potential in any other capacity. If we break away from God we break away from our only eternal hope. We will ultimately be nothing more than the flowers of the field, beautiful for a short season, but destined to fade away to nothing (James 1:11). The tragedy of people rejecting their eternal destiny is beyond contemplation. My heart aches for the lost, while our post-modern culture moves rapidly away from any real understanding of our individual, personal need for salvation. Our Father has given us this season to repent and turn to Him. He has ensured His message reaches every corner of His magnificent planet and He came Himself to confirm the Truth of this message.
When Jesus was born He brought Good News for the lost, God has promised there will be an eternal Kingdom free from sin, pain, suffering and death, but we must be born again of His Spirit to take our part in His eternal Kingdom. As John records the words of Jesus:
Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, it is impossible for them to see the Kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit. Mortal humans can reproduce only mortal human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to eternal spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say you must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, which was called the Sanhedrin. He came to Jesus at night to discuss His teachings and he appears to be one of the few Jewish leaders who actually recognised their Messiah at that time. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the great plan God was working out for humanity through His incarnation. In John’s record of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord unveils the mystery of the ages to one of Israel’s leaders. God had become Man so that humanity might come back into relationship with God. Thus, individuals can be saved from perishing, when this present universe is destroyed by fire before the new heaven and the new Earth are created where God will dwell with His eternal people. The first heaven and the first Earth will pass away (Rev 21:1), but those people who have been born again will realise their eternal destiny in the new heaven and the new Earth.
Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to be part of this new creation, people must be born again of His Spirit. They must believe and put their trust in Him. After explaining that He is the only Son of God, who came down from heaven with a mission no other person throughout human history could accomplish, Jesus asserted:
Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather, that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes in Him is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that Light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil or not inspired by God. For every one who spends their time on wicked or unimportant matters hates the Light and is not drawn to the Light, thus avoiding their deeds revealing their own self-centredness. But whoever acts in truth comes to the Light, that their deeds may be made manifest and it will be obvious to all that they are inspired by God. (John 3:15-21)
Jesus was pointing out that the default position for humanity is to perish as a mortal creature. When the Father finally draws this universe to its predicted end, those who have not accepted God’s gift of eternal life will perish. We can spend our time and energy on our own pursuits, these may be literally evil, or they may simply be things we think are useful or make us feel good, but unless they are centred in Truth they lead nowhere. We can spend our time pursuing pleasure, money or fame, or in conscientiously studying and gaining degrees and qualifications, but ultimately these will all pass away. Only those actions that promote eternal matters, that is, those activities that are in line with God’s guidance and Truth, will be of any eternal significance.
If we ignore the words of our Creator and turn our backs on Jesus’ assertions that we must believe in Him, accept His death on our behalf and be born again, then we are already condemned to perish. We can only be saved from this tragic end by placing our trust in Him and accepting that His version of God’s plan and purpose for His universe and our eternal existence is God’s Truth. We must be saved through grace by the only Saviour the world will ever know. The Lord Jesus Christ was born into the human race to offer us the gift of everlasting life and a place in His Eternal Kingdom; thus saving us from perishing (The Bible also calls this eternal destruction) along with this present, doomed creation, when the Father brings an end to sin, pain, suffering and death.
Halleluiah, Jesus Christ was born to give us eternal life. Praise God!