There is a sentiment out there in the world that exalts Jesus as the ultimate example of human potential. Those who hold to this sentiment talk about Him as the great teacher and the ideal role model, but they express doubt about His divinity and attempt to downplay the redemption of sinners that He accomplished through His tortuous death on the cross. To sum up, these folks like the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount and talked about turning the other cheek, forgiving others, and loving one another, but they are uncomfortable with the Jesus who hung bloodied and battered on a Roman cross. That Jesus doesn’t fit in well with their clean, sanitized notions of religion, morality, and basic human goodness.
One such man once visited the church of pastor D. M. Stearns. After the service, the man approached the pastor and said, “I don’t care for your preaching, Dr. Stearns. I don’t care for the cross. Instead of preaching the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach about Jesus as the Teacher and Example.”
At that point, many preachers might have fumbled around for a reply and struggled to show the man just how illogical his opinion was. Dr. Stearns, however, wasn’t one of those preachers. He looked the visitor squarely in the eye and asked, “Would you be willing to follow Jesus if I preached that way?” “I would,” answered the man. “I would follow in His steps.” Then let us take the first step,” said Dr. Stearns. “It is said of Him that He did no sin (1 Peter 2:22). Can you take that step?” Confused, the man replied, “No, I do sin, and I acknowledge it.” “Well then,” said Dr. Stearns, “your first need of Christ is not as an example but as a Savior. You must have His Spirit to guide you before you can walk in His steps.”
Beware of any preacher who fails to address the problems of sin and human depravity. Man is not basically good. We are all sinners by nature and sinners by choice. There in my mother’s womb, from the initial moment of my conception, I was a sinner. Then when I was born I simply started acting naturally. Don’t laugh, the same is true of you. Consider the following verses:
1. Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
2. Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
3. Ecclesiastes 7:20: For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
So, yes, each of us needs a Savior, someone who can offer us complete and total forgiveness of our lifetime’s worth of sins. And that Savior is Jesus. As Isaiah 53:6 describes the situation:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; And the Lord (God the Father) has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Someone says, “Wonderful! If my iniquity has been laid upon Jesus and paid for by His death, then surely my sins are forgiven.” No, things aren’t quite that simple. The fact is, even though Christ’s death is sufficient to pay for everybody’s sins and provide forgiveness for all those sins, it is only efficient for those who willingly admit their sin, understand their utter helplessness at achieving forgiveness on their own through so called “good works,” and place their belief in Christ as Savior. In 1 John 2:2, the apostle John names two groups of people for whom Jesus is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for sins. The first group consists of Christians, the people who have placed their belief in Christ as Savior. The second group is the world at large, all the people who have not placed their belief in Christ as Savior. John writes:
And He Himself is the propitiation for our (Christians’) sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (all non-Christians).
And so, clearly the all-important issue is one’s belief in Christ or lack of it. Most of us know the famous John 3:16 verse:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
But here’s a good question to ask: What then is the true version of belief? Well, the Bible uses various terminologies to describe authentic belief in Christ. According to scripture, such belief involves:
1. coming to Jesus: John 5:39-40
2. receiving Him: John 1:12
3. opening the door to Him: Revelation 3:20
4. placing faith in Him: Romans 3:21-22
5. trusting in Him: Ephesians 1:11-14
6. calling upon Him: Romans 10:9-13
Please understand now that each of these terminologies is not a separate decision or different stage of one’s belief. The point is that when the sinner exhibits the right kind of belief (what we call “saving belief”), he or she will automatically be doing all of these other things (coming to Jesus, receiving Him, opening the door to Him, etc.).
And so right now let me ask you, the reader, a simple question: Have you placed such belief in Christ as your personal Savior? If you have, then you can rest assured that every sin you have ever committed, just committed, or will commit in the future is forgiven. But, on the other hand, if you haven’t placed such belief in Christ as Savior, then no amount of personal good works, decency, or morality will ever produce forgiveness of your sins. They can’t because everything you do, even what you’d call the “good stuff,” carries the taint of sin upon it. Isaiah 64:6 goes so far as to say that all our righteous acts are like “filthy rags.” This, you see, is why receiving forgiveness by way of your human efforts is patently impossible, and it’s just one more direction sign to point you to Jesus and His death on the cross.