The Gospel of Jesus Christ
I need to deviate from my Mental Health theme for a moment and talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that's the ultimate source of all true mental health, and I would be amiss if I didn't address it and dispel some myths.
Romans 3:12 - All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one.
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.
John 3:3 - In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the
unless he is born again. " kingdomof God
1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the ressurection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
John 14:6 0 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Romans 10:9-11 - That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is LORD," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Eph 2:8-9 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.
Titus 3:5-6 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
- Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
It breaks my heart to hear people say "I'm a good person," or "I hope I'm good enough to get into Heaven." If your good behavior is your ticket to Heaven, just remember that God requires absolute, total, and life-long perfect obedience. Never a single lie, white or otherwise. Never a single piece of gum stolen. Never a single evil thought. Nothing, ever. It says that over and over in the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews sacrificed animals to pay the penalty for their sins (the perfect picture of the future Messiah), and the animals were required to be "without defect" (Leviticus 1:3 and many, many others) These are God's way of telling us what He requires. You can't pay your own penalty for your sin because you're not perfect - you're not a "lamb without defect." I've never met anyone who describes themselves as perfect. We can't be. Nobody is. If it were up to our own efforts, we'd all be without hope.
But God knew that, and He wants us to live with Him in eternity, so He gave us a way out without violating his just and righteous character.
Christianity is not a religion; It's a relationship with Christ - a wonderful, glorious relationship with Jesus that transforms a life full of useless pain and misery and striving to "do good" to one of purpose and hope.
The Gospel, which translated means "The Good News," is that we don't have to be perfect if we put our faith in Jesus Christ. He was perfect for us - the Sacrificial Lamb provided by God, without defect - to pay the price in our place, with His own precious blood, so we wouldn't have to. If you put your faith and trust in Him instead of your own works, then Jesus' Holy Spirit lives in you, and when God sees you, He sees Jesus instead of you. When you go before Him in the judgment, He will declare you innocent because Jesus already paid your penalty in full, and has completely covered (eliminated) your sins with His blood. He sees in the "born again" you that perfection that He requires. He no longer sees the mistakes (or even intentional things) you've done or are still doing. He sees His beloved Son. That's the magic of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our "works" are borne out of our love-affair with Jesus and a deep longing to bless Him, to learn from Him, to follow Him, and to connect with Him. They are not our way to Heaven.
Another myth is that "believing" in Jesus is what's required. Please don't be offended by this, but Satan believes in Jesus. James 2:19 says, "the demons also believe, and shudder." Satan knows more than anyone that Jesus is the Son of God, the resurrected Messiah. He's met Him face-to-face in the physical and spiritual world. He knows that he knows that he knows who Jesus is. There must be a difference between our belief and his.
When the Bible talks about believing in Jesus, the Greek word literally means to "totally trust as if dependent upon; to turn your ship in that direction." In the same context, you might "believe in" a loving parent, a great coach, a best friend whom you know will "be there" for you. It doesn't mean you believe that they exist - of course they exist. It means to put your eggs in that basket. You become vulnerable to them. They have the potential to hurt you, but you know they won't. You know they'll be there if you need them. You "Believe" (capital B) in them. Of course it has to start with the belief He exists, but it has to also mean that deep desire to love, to serve, to live with, and to surrender to. (Note I said, 'desire.' It's a process and takes our entire life.)
I heard a story once that illustrates that point. A man had ridden a bicycle balanced on a rope over the Grand Canyon many times and people had watched him do it. They loved the spectacle of it. He was standing on the side, ready to go again, and people were all excited. He looked at the crowd and said, "Do you believe I can do this?" They all cried "Yes! Go!" and clapped. He said, "Are you sure?" as if to taunt them and spin them up. Again they cried "Yes, do it!" and applauded again. And then he said, "So who will get on my shoulders?"
Will you get on Jesus' shoulders and let Him carry you through life? That's the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you will get on His shoulders and Believe in Him, then you will spend life on earth as well as eternity in the company of the Creator of the universe. That's the Good News of Jesus Christ. That's as good as it gets, and it's a fabulous ride.
If you're ready to do this, look to Him and pray this prayer from your heart, and know that you mean it from the depths of your soul.
"Dear Jesus, I know I've sinned against you, and I'm sorry. Please forgive me for being disobedient and rebellious, for doing things my way and thinking I could earn my way into Heaven. I thankfully receive Your sacrifice on the cross as the complete and absolute atonement for my sinful past. Please come into my life and take it over. I give it to you. I trust you, and I want to be yours."If you prayed that prayer and truly meant it from your heart, then welcome to the Kingdom of God, Christian. You've just made a decision that will secure your place in eternity and will transform your life on Earth. Please tell a fellow Christian of your decision, and try to get into a loving, Bible-believing and Jesus-loving church. And please leave me a comment so I can pray for you.
If you can't pray that prayer yet but would like to believe, then pray the "skeptics" prayer.
"Ok, Jesus, I'm not sure I believe in You at all, and it almost feels silly to be praying, but if you're there, please let me know. I'm open to the possibility, but I'm just not ready to jump in. If you're there, give me the faith to believe in You."If you prayed that prayer, then I know that God will be faithful and will let you know He's there. When that happens, then come back here and pray the first prayer and join the Kingdom of God. I rejoice in your openness.
God bless you all, and peace.
February 2009 update for Catholics:
Read what the Pope says about 'salvation by faith alone' here.