Do you believe in God? What kind of God do you believe in? Many people today believe in whatever kind of God that they think will make them happy regardless of whether or not there is any evidence that this kind of God really exists. It is true that we are all free to believe as we wish, but those who choose wrongly will believe in an imaginary God that could cause them to insult and blaspheme the real God. God is a powerful Being who really exists and He does not change His nature according to human whims. Any attempt to remake God in our own image does not change the fact that He is exactly the way He says He is.
WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
God is the creator of the universe. We know that He exists because of the order and design we see in the world around us (Psalm 19:1). Science tells us through the Second Law of Thermodynamics that there would be only chaos in the universe if there were no original source of order capable of resisting the influence of entropy. This proves the existence of God generally and even gives us clues about a few of His attributes (Romans 1:20), but this does not tell us very much about His specific nature or His historic dealings with humankind.
The only way we can know what God is truly like is if He chooses to tell us Himself. Christians believe that God reveals His true character and His plan for the human race through the Bible. This book was written by dozens of authors over the course of 1,400 years. We believe that these authors were directly inspired by God and that the things they wrote are completely true in their original form. That is why their writings concur with and supplement each other without disagreement despite the fact that these people lived in a variety of different cultures, times, and lands.
So What is God Like? The Bible tells us that He is powerful. He created everything (John 1:3). He knows all things (Isaiah 40:14). He is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12). Fortunately for us He is a loving God. He created all human beings in His own image (Genesis 1:26) and He loves each one of us very much. He is especially concerned about the welfare of the weak and humble. The Bible describes God in the following words:
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68: 5-6) (All quotes belong to the NKJV © 1982 unless otherwise stated)
God loves us but He is also Holy. Not only is He unable to sin, but He does not tolerate sin in others. If we have ever sinned we are cut off from a personal relationship with Him. The first two thirds of the Bible, which is named the Old Testament, contains many illustrations of God’s Holiness displayed in all it’s power and terror. These are historical accounts of how God actually punished people who tried to approach Him in an innappropriate manner. In one case two priests who offered a sacrifice in the wrong way were immediately killed by fire from God (Leviticus 10:2). Hundreds of years later a man who was not a member of the chosen tribe of Levi reached out with his hand to touch the Holy Ark of the Covenant. God immediately struck him dead as well (I Chronicles 13:9-10). God did not do this because He likes to hurt people. He did this because they did not give Him the respect that He deserves. God demands that we obey and honor Him at all times. Every time that we take His name in vain or treat Him like He does not exist we are blaspheming against His holiness. This is what we are doing when we hurt another person whom God has created. Every time we murder, fornicate, steal, lie, or are overcome with greed, we are in essence shaking our fist at God. This makes God very angry. Anyone who has ever done any of these things is cut off from God.
WHY DO PEOPLE TREAT EACH OTHER BADLY?
It does not take a genius to discover that there is something very wrong with our world. Human beings today are power hungry creatures who are capable of destroying the ones who are dearest to them. We are wicked. We do not always appear this way, though. We can be sociable, friendly, charming, and sometimes even kind. After all, we were created by God in His own image. We often perform favors for others. But this cloak of goodness is quickly revealed as hypocrisy in light of our insatiable desire to have our own way. Anyone of us is capable of hurting the ones he loves most in order to get what he wants. In fact, all of us have taken advantage of our friends and family members on numerous occassions. We do not do this just because of a misunderstanding or an accident. We do this on purpose because we are selfish. We often blame other people in order to excuse what we ourselves are doing, but the truth is that many times we would have done the exact same things anyway. We care more about ourselves than we have every truly cared about other people.
The Bible teaches us that this selfishness is caused by our sin nature. We are born with it. God did not created human beings this way, but our entire species was changed after our ancestors rebelled against Him. He created our first grandparents, Adam and Eve, without sin in order that they would have fellowship with Him in the Garden of Eden. But they broke the only commandment He gave them allowing sin to enter the world (Genesis 3:1-24). Since those days we have been able to tell right from wrong, but we have never been completely able to resist evil. The Bible says:
“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No not one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)
IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN DO TO FIX MYSELF?
Human beings are essentially caught in a trap. We are able to identify sin, but we are not able to defeat it in our individual lives. Therefore we try to make ourselves better by avoiding the larger sins, and confining ourselves to smaller ones. Some of us hope that by doing this we will make ourselves acceptable to God and that as a result He will invite our souls into His heaven when we die.
Unfortunately, this approach can never work. People who believe this do not realize just how bad their sins really are. There is a spiritual gulf fixed between us and God that we are entirely incapable of crossing. Even our “little” sins must be monstrous to a perfect God. The tiniest one of them is far more damning than we could ever imagine. The Bible says, for instance, that if a man looks upon a woman with lust God views him as an adulterer (Matthew 5:28). Also, the simple emotion of unjust hate in our hearts condemns us to hell the same as if we had actually murdered someone (Matthew 5:21-22). Using God’s name as an exclamation, even once, is taken by God to be a personal insult to His honor that cannot go unpunished (Exodus 20:7). All human beings suffer from the same disease. Some of the more arrogant ones among us think that since they are better than most of the others they are therefore entitled to go to heaven, but this is not the case. The Bible says that “ all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, everytime we condemn someone else for a wicked deed, we are in effect condemning ourselves (Romans 2:1). Even our righteous works are viewed as “filthly rags” in the sight of God. (Isaiah 64:6). This is because everytime we do something good we are admitting that we know the difference between right and wrong. Therefore our “good” deeds leave us without an excuse for our bad ones. The good things we do would only save our souls if we were not already sinners. Instead of making us righteous, they make us hypocrites.
BUT THERE IS HOPE
So what can be done? God Himself provides a way out. He does not delight in punishing the wicked (Ezekial 33:11). He does not want anyone to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9). From our human perspective it doesn’t seem fair that God would allow the entire human race to perish, especially since all of us alive today were born with a sin nature that we did not ask for. Apparrently God sees it the same way:
“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)
God, because He loves us, has provided a way for us to become righteous through someone Else’s truly good deeds. Because we have been enslaved by the consequences of another person’s choice, God has decided that it is holy and right to allow us to escape through another Man’s “righteous act.” This is not an offer that God gives to fallen angels who were individually created without sin (Hebrews 2:16). Only humanity qualifies for this grace.
WHAT GOD DID
In order to save us God sent His son Jesus down to Earth to live among humans and die for our sins. Jesus is the son of God, existing from eternity past (Colossians 1:15-17, Micah 5:2), fully God and fully man. There is only one God (Dueteronomy 6:4), but He exists in three parts: God the Father (John 10:30), God the Son (Isaiah 9:6), and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
This man Jesus, who is the second Person of the Trinity, was born of a virgin in the land of Israel about two thousand years ago. He was born without sin, because He is God (Phillipians 2:6, John 1:1), having no human father (Matthew 1:18-25). He grew into an adult and was subjected to many temptations to sin, just like all humans, but unlike other humans he resisted every opportunity to do wrong and never committed any iniquity (Hebrews 4:15). He lived among humans in the flesh, teaching them many things and performing many incredible miracles to prove that He is indeed the son of God with the authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:21-24). Eventually He was condemned and executed on a cross by the political authorities under the urging of jealous religious leaders. He was buried, but on the third day after His execution God raised Him from the dead. A few weeks later He ascended into heaven but not until He had first been seen alive by over 500 people at one time (I Corinthians 15:1-6).
The reason God allowed Jesus to be crucified was so that He could take the penalty for our sins on Himself. Jesus was the only one qualified to do this because He was perfect and because He was God. His death is the ultimate expression of God’s love, in that He loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. The Bible says: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21). This is the only way that human beings can be saved (John 14:6). No other religion has power to save a single soul, because they are either based on lies or empty philosophy. The only religious act powerful enough to save any one from a moment of damnation is Christ’s sacrificial death. This act is the legal means by which God forgives the sin of the guilty person:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
HOW YOU NEED TO RESPOND
The gift of eternal life is yours for the taking, but you have to take it. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is a wonderful and powerful thing, but it does not automatically erase the sins of every one on Earth regardless of whether or not they want it. God wants to restore His relationship with us, but this relationship requires love to flow both ways. God loved us first, but we are responsible for loving Him in return. God is not a vague idea or a philosophy that can be “loved” in some abstract way. He has to be loved personally. This is why in order to be saved you must believe in the God of the Bible, and have faith specifically in the power of Christ’s sacrifice to save you from sins. Loving a god from a different religion will not work because it is not the same god. These other gods were invented by men and did nothing to save your soul from hell.
Therefore, simply put, the requirement for salvation is belief, or “faith.” That is why the Bible says:
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart that one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9)
True belief will result in a change of heart and a change of action. Therefore repentance is also a necessary part of salvation. You cannot become a Christian and continue to live in the same sins that you practiced before. Your life has to change. You have to not only say that you are sorry for your sins, but you have to prove it by your deeds (James 2:17). True heartfelt repentance will help make it obvious that you are saved:
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (II Corinthians 7:10-11).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
To recap, true salvation happens by accepting God’s gift in your heart, often through a prayer. It requires belief and repentance. If you want to believe, but are worried that your faith is not strong enough, you can pray to God for help. He will give you the faith if you truly desire it (Mark 9:24).
If you do this, if you accept Christ’s sacrifice, you will become a new creature. The Bible promises that:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17).
Once you become saved it is of vital importance that you give public testimony to the fact that you are now a child of God. Therefore, if you have truly submitted your will to God’s you will take seriously His commandment to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit ( Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38). This act does not save us , but it is nonetheless a direct command from God. Those who flat out refuse to be baptised show that they have no regard for God’s authority and are therefore not saved (Mark 16:16). But you do not need to live in fear of dying inbetween the time of your belief and your baptism, because salvation happens immediately at the point of belief (Acts 10:44-47).
The physical act of baptism is an extremely vital public recognition of the fact that we have “put off” the “sins of the flesh” by dieing to self and being raised with Christ through faith (Colossians 2:12). The death to self and new life in Christ is symbolized through our being dipped beneath the surface of a body of water and coming back up again (the word “baptize” is a Greek word which means to dip, or immerse). If you were baptized before you believed in the gospel you should be baptized again. Baptism without belief is not baptism, because every reference to baptism in the Bible requires and involves a change of heart.
Baptism is a one-time event. However, there is another ritual which Christians are commanded to observe frequently on a regular basis. This is the Lord’s supper which is to be distributed to true believers at local church meetings (I Corinthians 11:25-25). This act too does not save you, but it is a serious matter nonetheless. The person who eats the bread, which symbolizes Christ’s body, and drinks the wine, which symbolizes His blood, must do so with a pure heart, having examined himself ahead of time (I Corinthians 11:28-29). Failure to do this may result in serious spiritual or even physical consequences.
Once you become saved God’s Holy Spirit will come and live inside you, empowering you to overcome personal sins in a way that you could not before. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). You will not immediately become perfect—your old sin nature, though defeated, will remain with you until your body dies—but you will have new power to overcome temptation (Romans 8:10).
Nevertheless, even though we still sin, the Bible refers to those of us who have been redeemed as “saints” (Ephesians 1:1), (I Corinthians 1:2). This means that we are “set apart” or “holy.” This is not a presumptious thing to call ourselves; the Bible is extremely clear that God Himself gives His own righteousness to those who truly believe (Romans 4:24).
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Colossians 1:12-13)
Since we are saints we are expected to live as such. God demands all of our time, money, and energy for Himself. God bought us for a price, therefore we relinquish ownership of ourselves when we become true Christians (I Corinthians 6:19-20). This means that every thing we do should be honoring to Him, whether it be done for charity, evangelism or for relaxation. Sometimes He will allow us to pursue innocent pleasures or hobbies for our own edification, but many times He will ask us to sacrifice our most cherished comforts for direct service. No matter what we do we are expected to excel in “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:23-24). If we say we believe in the gospel but are not visibly growing in these virtues, then we are probably liars who have never truly accepted God’s gift of salvation.
WHAT IF YOU SAY NO?
But many people do not want to surrender their lives to God. They want to live for themselves, indulging in selfish pleasures. They do not acknowledge that God has a right to tell them what to do, so they reject Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The Bible has strong words for these people:
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4)
There is literally no escape for those who refuse to surrender to God and accept His wonderful offer of grace. Remember, all human beings are sinners, and those whose sins are not covered by the blood of Christ will literally perish in hell forever. The Bible says:
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelations 21:8)
It takes a lot of boldness to stand up to God and tell Him “no” to His face. That is why a lot of people who reject God’s offer try to do so subtly, purposefully decieving themselves into thinking that they’re not actually rejecting God. They do this by not accepting the full truth of the Bible in their hearts, but instead creating a new god in their own mind who does not require them to change any more than they already want to. Thus, instead of serving God, they expect Him to serve them! This is still utter arrogance, and it too will be punished with hell fire on those who do not repent of it.
Finally, one of the main ways that people reject God’s offer is by trying to work their way into heaven. They are confident enough in their own deeds to believe that they are better than other sinners and are capable of earning their reward on their own. But this too is arrogance because it implies that Christ’s incredible sacrifice of love really was not necessary. The Bible very clearly states that we cannot save ourselves by doing good deeds:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6).
THE FINAL REWARD FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE.
Therefore, the only ones who go to heaven are those who truly believe and are redeemed by God. God indicates throughout the first part of the Bible that those who have true faith in Him will spend eternity with Him forever (Daniel 12:2, Psalm 49:15). In the New Testament the truth of eternal life is even more explicit. It it spelled out directly many, many times. In fact, it is an underlying assumption of Faith in God. Jesus told His disciples:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
God has a great plan for us. He wants us to spend the rest of our time on Earth serving Him despite hardships, and then, after we’ve accomplished His will for our lives, spend eternity with Him as adopted sons in glory.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17)
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumptet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Corinthians 15:51-53).
Jesus is literally coming back for us. He is not just coming back for believers only, but He is also returning to judge unbelievers. Those who continue to reject Him have nothing to look forward to but the fruits of their rebellion. But the rest of us will be ushered in to His presence for eternity. We too, will be judged, but in a different way. We will not be perpetually punished for our sins because they have already been borne for us by Christ Himself. Instead we will reap rewards for our service to Christ. But many among us will also receive dissappointment. Our Lord and Saviour will personally rebuke us for selfish behaviour on Earth and lost opportunities (I Corinthians 3:13-15, Romans 14:10, II Corinthians 5:10). Therefore we must take care to always serve God with our whole hearts, not knowing which day will be our last. The Bible warns us that the time is short. We never know when we may die or the Lord may return. Therefore the Bible ends in the following way:
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20-21).
Amen! Even so, Come Lord Jesus!
Dear reader, these things are what I believe.