Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Ultimate Hard Thing, Part 1

This is the first installment of the message I gave during the SDG Youth Camp at Camp Alano, Toril, Davao City on May 23. It's rather long, so I'm publishing it here by parts.

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Good evening.

Cadavers

In medical school, we study cadavers. They're dead people. We named ours Bertha. Because she was huge, Bertha gave us a hard time in dissection. We had to memorize everything about her: her muscles, her bones, her nerves, and her blood vessels. Because class was sometimes boring, we'd treat her like she was alive. When we had to remove her intestines, we'd ask her, “Masakit ba?” But she never answered us back—and that was a good thing because it would have been scary.

Some of us are like Bertha, believe it or not. We're dead spiritually. That means no matter how hard we try, we cannot breathe or hear or move our arms. We cannot obey God's commands.

But that doesn't seem to make sense. Aren't we called to do hard things for the glory of God? Aren't we called to study for our exams, share the gospel to our friends, obey our parents and teachers, help the poor, care for the sick, help out in the youth ministry, change the world, and, yes, even wash the dishes for the glory of God's name?

To do these things, the dead must first come to life. And to make that happen, Jesus Christ did the hardest, most painful thing imaginable—He died to give us life.

Doing hard things, especially for the glory of God, is noble and praiseworthy. But lest we take pride in “being spiritual”, I want to make this point: apart from Jesus Christ, these things we do for God, no matter how spiritual, are in vain. They are useless. They are garbage.

The Ultimate Hard Thing

What Jesus did forms the solid foundation on which our capacity to do hard things for God is grounded.

Let's read Romans 5: 6 - 8:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Our Sins

First, we notice that the passage describes human nature. It says a lot about us. In verse 6, we're described as "weak" and "ungodly." Verse 7 indicates that we are unrighteous. Verse 8 calls us "sinners." In effect, the Bible says we're no good. We're bad people. We're evil. Painful as that may be, that's the truth. We were born into this world as sinners. As we go through life, we find that sinning comes naturally. Isn't it easier to tell a lie rather than speak the truth? Isn't it more convenient to cheat in quizzes rather than study for an entire night? We are sinners by nature and by choice. There are no exceptions.

A sinner is someone who has missed God's perfect moral standard. Who among us here has obeyed all the Ten Commandments perfectly, from the day we were born and every day since? The answer: nobody. Romans 3:23 is clear, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The Bible also calls us spiritually dead. That means our efforts to please God with our own works are useless.

The God of the Bible

So who is this God we're talking about?

For some of us, perhaps He's an old man, dressed in white robes with a really deep voice. But that's not how God is described in the Bible, and we should stop having these wrong notions. God is spirit and is too great to be understood fully.

God made the world. He made us and everything we see around us. All things hold together—including the chemical bonds of molecules—because of His power. He is omnipresent (He's everywhere); He is ominiscient (He knows everything); He is omnipotent (He's all-powerful). But the crowning glory of God's attributes is His holiness. He's perfect. There is not a speck of sin in Him. In fact, He hates sin. He is a just God; He punishes those who violate His commands.

When we read Scripture, we find that sin is never taken lightly. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death." The price that sinners pay is eternal damnation in Hell and separation from God. And because we're all sinners, it's bad news for all of us. Ladies and gentlemen, we're all going to Hell.

Jesus Christ

That leaves us hopeless. What would be the point of living when we're all sure to go to Hell?

Now this is why the central message of Christianity is called the good news. Our passage tells us that God is not just a God of justice; He, too, is a God of love. Verse 8 says, "...but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Why did Jesus have to die to show God's love? Couldn't God just have forgiven us immediately?

You see, Jesus had to satisfy God's justice. Because Jesus was blameless and lived a perfect life, He qualified as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He took the punishment that should have been ours. Jesus died in our place. And it was a shameful, painful death. We see that Christ's death is the supreme demonstration of the God's love.

Our passage shows that it is HARD for another man to die in place of a good man, but it is HARDER to die for an enemy. Let's read verse 7: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What Christ did was unimaginable!

Do we then deserve this? Absolutely not.

This is why we believe that man is saved by solely by the grace of God alone. Grace is unmerited, undeserved favor. We deserve to burn in hell, yet God saved us from that punishment through Jesus Christ. We are saved from Hell and saved for God. We can then be assured of God's sweet presence wherever we may be, from now until eternity.

Grace and Faith

I don't know your spiritual condition, but if you do not know God in a personal, saving way, now is the time to come to Him in repentance of your sins. Repentance consists of confessing your sins before God and asking for His forgiveness. It is also a plea to take a full, 180-degree turn from sin to God.

I have to tell you this again because, as kids who grew up in church, we think we're already saved just because our parents already are. But coming to Christ in repentance and faith is a personal decision. And your decision can spell the difference between life and death.

I urge you, friends, repent and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Look unto Him, He who did the ultimate hard thing to show His love for us.

New Life

At this point I want to bring back the main point of this message: that if Jesus Christ had not done the hardest thing imaginable, the hard things we do for God are in vain.

You see, Jesus Christ did not just give us an example to follow; He gave us the POWER to follow His example.

When He died on that cross, He purchased for us eternal life. Because of His death, we have been brought from spiritual death to life. Before Christ's death, we were like cadavers. But Jesus gave us new lives, so now we have new eyes to see His beauty, new ears to hear His word, and new tongues to taste His goodness.

Continue reading part 2 of the message.

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