BY: Richard (Dick) Innes
Karl Barth, famous though controversial, contemporary Swiss theologian, was a great thinker, a prolific writer, and a professor at several European universities.
On one occasion he was confronted by a reporter who wanted a brief summary of his twelve thick volumes on church dogmatics. Barth could have given an impressive intellectual reply, but didn’t. Quoting from the popular child’s hymn, he simply said, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
And there is no greater proof of this love than when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave his life for us.
It was Jesus who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”1 His own love, however, went much further than this. He laid down his life for his enemies as well as his friends.
Imagine the torturous agony Christ must have endured when nailed to the cross. This was the price he paid to die for our sins. Added to his physical suffering was his sense of utter rejection by being forsaken not only by his few remaining friends, but also by God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out in utter despair from the cross.2
God’s love for us is never based
on what we do – good or bad.
But so great was his love even for those who caused his excruciating pain—those who nailed him to the cross, thrust a spear into his side, mocked him, spat in his face—that in the midst of this inhuman torture he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”3
Referring to this prayer, Thomas Carlyle said, “The sublimed words that ever fell from human lips.”
Human love is often conditional. If we are what others want us to be and do what they want us to do we are loved. If not, we are often rejected. Fortunately, God’s love is never conditional. It is never based on who we are or what we do—good or bad. He loves us simply because we are his creation.
If God loves us unconditionally, why is he so vehemently opposed to our sin? Because sin is so completely destructive of human personality. It totally destroys what God loves—us. Nevertheless, God still loves the sinner. That’s why he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. And now, through Christ’s death God can save us from our self-destructive sin.
Sometimes we view God as a hard taskmaster running around with a “big stick” waiting to rap us on the knuckles if we break his commandments. In fact, one person I knew felt that if he committed certain sins, God would actually kill him.
This false view of God is usually formed in childhood. If, for example, we had a very punitive earthy father or mother, we tend to feel that God, the Heavenly Father, is exactly the same. But God isn’t like that at all. In fact, we can totally ignore or reject him, and he will still keep loving us.
Sometimes we falsely see sin only as specific acts that God happens to oppose. But sin is much more than this. We tend to see only the external acts, but God sees the heart, too. He is just as concerned with sins of the spirit—pride, jealously, lust, greed, envy, hatred, false motives, emotional dishonesty, resentment and other super-charged negative emotions (including the ones we have repressed and consequently denied)—as he is with such things as murder, rape, and stealing. In fact, many of our external sins are the symptoms of our inner, hidden sins which are equally or even more destructive than the ones we can see.
In his excellent book, The Art of Understanding Yourself, Dr. Cecil Osborne writes, “It is extremely naive to think of sin simply as an isolated act—a lie, a theft, immorality, dishonesty, etcetera—for sin is all that is less than perfection. It is rejecting God—‘falling short’ of the perfection which God envisioned for us. Sin is being impaired, not simply performing a wicked act. It is having impaired relationships and attitudes. It is being less than whole. It is having mixed motives. Sin is the clever rationalization by which we seek to escape from facing ourselves. It can consist in responding to a set of rigid moralistic ‘oughts’ rather than obeying the spirit of God which dwells within us,” and then feeling very self-righteous about our pious attitude and behavior.
Sin is our damaged inner condition and results in our wrong or sinful acts. Our sinful nature contaminates everything we do. It not only shows itself in external acts, but also twists our motives and damages our emotions. It is behind every broken home, every empty life, every sorrow and grief. The disease of sin weakens nations, produces sick societies, and causes physical, mental and spiritual suffering. It causes men and nations to fight, kill and destroy. And as the Bible says, its end result is death.4
God is against whatever
is destructive to us.
We need to understand that God is not opposed to nor outraged by our breaking his commandment for his sake, but primarily for our sake. As Osborne also says, “Adultery (or any other sin) is not wrong because it is forbidden in the Ten Commandments; it is forbidden in the Ten Commandments because it is destructive of human personality. God is against whatever is destructive to us. His love for us is so great that he cannot see us destroying ourselves without suffering himself. It is the suffering of God symbolized by the cross, which is involved in sin. We suffer in our sins. Christ suffered because of them. His suffering becomes redemption for us [when we confess our sinfulnesss to God]… with true contrition.”
Because Christ himself was sinless, only he could die to pay the penalty for and thereby save us from our sins. We simply cannot save ourselves. No matter how good (or bad) we are, we are all afflicted with the terminal disease of sin for which Jesus Christ is the only cure.
I read about a drowning boy who was struggling frantically to save himself. On the bank his distraught mother pleaded with a man to save her son, but the man made no move. When the boy weakened and gave up the struggle to save himself, the man then jumped into the stream and rescued him.
“Why didn’t you save my boy sooner?” the mother asked.
“I couldn’t as long as he struggled,” the man replied. “He would have dragged us both to death. When he gave up the struggle to save himself, it was easy to rescue him.”
We, too, need to give up the struggle to save ourselves from our sin. Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can do that. As we admit and confess to God that we are sinners, believe in our heart that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins, and invite Jesus to come into our heart and life as our personal Savior asking God to forgive us for all our sins, God gives us his free pardon and the gift of eternal life. This he promised he would do.
Why not pray to ask Jesus Christ to do this for you today? The following prayer will help you do this:
“Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner and am sorry for all the wrongs that I have done. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me. I invite you, Jesus, to come into my heart and life as Lord and Savior. I commit and trust my life to you. Please give me the desire to be what you want me to be and to do what you want me to do. Thank you for dying for my sins, for your free pardon, for your gift of eternal life, and for hearing and answering my prayer. Amen.”
YOUR RESPONSE: “YES, I prayed and invited Jesus Christ to come into my life to be my Savior. I want to learn more about the Christian life.” To do so, click on the “YES to God” link at the bottom of the page, fill in the form and we will send you the web address for your FREE copy of the e-article, How to Grow, to help you in your new Christian life and the web address for the “Living, Loving and Learning: Steps for Spiritual Growth” web articles—also without charge.
NOTE: For additional help click on this Know God link.
Richard Innes, is a writer for “ACTS International” where this article first appeared. INSPIRED was granted permission, as such to republish.