Why I believe – part 4. Why tomorrow is GOOD Friday

this time, it’s personal.

It was as the old hymn and the scriptures say – for us…. for our benefit, in our place, Jesus went there to the cross to save us. It means me and you.

We needed saving so badly, there was no other way. Nobody else could save us, and we couldn’t save ourselves.

If you were in a house fire, you’d need saving. When I was in the police you had to qualify as a life guard and they told us ‘You can’t save someone who’s trying to save themselves. If you were over your head in debt, you’d need saving. If you were drowning out at sea, you’d need saving. That’s the kind of picture the Bible uses over and over to describe what was happening when Jesus died on the cross. He came to save us from drowning in the bottomless depths of our distance from God. He rescued us from the burning house of our selfishness and self righteousness, he ransomed us from the enormous debt of our sins which we’ve piled up, one day at a time, for the whole of our lives- by paying the price for them that we could never afford. Not paying a ransom with money (though he was sold for a slave’s price). He stepped in. Paid the ransom price with his life.

You don’t know why the cross happened? Why tomorrow is ‘Good’ Friday? One verse of the Bible sums it up – 1 Peter 3:18 Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

That’s why. All the agony. To bring us to God. What was in the way? Our sins. Our hate, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, lust, anger, greed, idolatry, meanness and pride. Forming this great wall between us and God.

We couldn’t see the other side of that stinking pile of sin. We didn’t even know whether there was another side. We might have put a little religious ladder up to try to peer over it to see God, but the wall’s much too high. Was there anyone really there?

Then God stepped in. He crossed the line. From eternity, into time. And was killed on the rubbish pile to form a bridge over from him to us, and back again.

Jesus – God with skin on. He lives, he loves, he teaches, he does miracles.He bleeds, he suffers, crucified on a rubbish dump, to clear our rubbish away, and make a way back to God. He let the wall and weight of sin fall on him – ‘the just for the unjust,’ that was it.

I am unjust. I want wrong to be punished when it’s done to me, but I want my wrongs to be excused. He hung on the cross carrying all our wrong things – wrong attitudes, thoughts, habits, words. All our guilt. He paid OUR debts. He took OUR punishment. He carried our load. He served our sentence…

He became just like me at my worst. So I could become like him, the Best.

He said, ‘Father forgive them’ – so I don’t have to fear he won’t forgive ME. So we could be completely forgiven by God – without for one moment denying his justice. Because sin was judged and punished. It was all fair, done ONCE on the cross.  He died Once and for all, never to be repeated. To bring you to God. So, will you come?

What’s so special about Jesus?

Well I’ve not given any human analogies to compare with it, because none can. The best of human forgiveness is imperfectly given and received. A love in battle which sacrifices for its friends is wonderful- but this one is God dying not for friends but for his sworn enemies. A traitor race. You’ll not find a love like that in any other religion. It’s unique. Can you look him in the eye as he stretches out a nail-pierced hand and say to the Son of God, “What’s so special about you?”

Or will you come to him and say, “My Lord and my God.”

It takes my breath away. Once you see it – everything changes. Could God love me? Does he?

YES!! Calvaryproves it!

What me?

Yes, you!

What about the lies, the pride, the selfishness in my heart?

‘Father God – forgive him…’

‘Father God – forgive her!’

The apostle Paul never got tired of revelling in this life-changing fact; ‘The Son of God loved me – and gave his life for me!” He said, ‘now, I live by faith in Him.’

He could not stop wondering at the glory of it. I can’t blame him. What a value that puts on me – to be loved that much. And I can know I am loved – I can know I am forgiven forever of my sins past, present and future – because the cross, the cruel but glorious cross – has settled it all. And now he lives, and I live for him.

What’s the next step?

It’s simple – but difficult.

Simple because a child can do it – difficult because it takes the humility of a child to admit you need to do it. Jesus is alive forever and still speaks and he says, ‘Repent, turn from your sins – and believe the good news.’

Do you believe it already?  For some people, it’s ‘not yet.’ That’s honest No problem, let’s keep talking. Why not find a church near you to do the Alpha Course to find out more.’ You owe it to yourself to investigate this!

But some of you – you know you’ve been getting ready for this. Life has brought you to this point. To this blog. To this moment. It’s decision time – time to turn to from sin and turn to God and believe the good news.

Wait a minute – first of all, for the good news to be good you have to see how bad the bad news is – that without Jesus, we are totally and hopelessly lost. You can’t save yourself from sin, or its consequences (death and judgement).

Do you admit that? Do you see that your good deeds don’t compare in the light of God’s holiness – that you need a Saviour. You enter the kingdom through a narrow door, next to a cross. He has taken your place there.

Remember, this is for keeps. It’s serious. You have to admit your need to receive the pardon.

Will you admit you needed that cross? Nobody has ever entered the kingdom any other way. No exceptions. You can start really well if you start praying on your knees. Wherever you are now.

You come asking forgiveness. You come and say, “I will follow Jesus Christ as my Lord – leader – what he says goes –  and I will believe and trust him as my Saviour, my forgiver. He laid down his life for me. Now I’ll live to serve him.’

oh, and please let me know, it’d be a great encouragement, and everyone needs encouragement.

9 thoughts on “Why I believe – part 4. Why tomorrow is GOOD Friday

  1. but, but, but …

    I *still* don’t get why Jesus had to die.

    If I accept who he was, and I accept the nature of God as you describe it, why did he have to die?

    Who decided that killing him was the price of our sin? To whom was that ‘price’ paid?

    Why did God need Jesus to die? And if he didn’t need him to die (which if he is truly omnipotent he wouldn’t) why did he choose for him to die?

  2. Thanks – I’ll have a read of that later. Now, let’s see if I can get this quote thing right:

    He could not stop wondering at the glory of it. I can’t blame him. What a value that puts on me – to be loved that much. [that Jesus died for him]

    It seems to me a fairly common place thing; to die for someone. If I was in some unfortunate situation where giving my life was all that I could do to save that of my daughter, I wouldn’t think twice, I’d give my life for her. And if you’re right I’d give more than that – I’d be entering an eternity of suffering sooner than I would have otherwise. If I’m right, I’d simply cease to exist as a physical entity.

    People give their lives for others that they are not closely related to as well though. Soldiers do it, the emergency services do it. I could take you to Northern France and, armed with the list he gave my mother, I could show the neat, uniform graves of most of the smiling young boys my grandfather went to school with.

    Jesus giving his life for others isn’t really that unusual. All that differentiates it from other people doing the same is firstly, that he knew it would be a temporary thing – he knew he’d rise again. I don’t believe anyone else has ever died with that knowledge. With a firm belief, sure. But not with absolute, first hand knowledge. The second thing that makes it different from most other cases is that it was not necessary. Jesus/God decided he had to die, which made his death necessary. It’s a circular cause/effect loop that Jesus/God, in his infinite power, could just have broken. It’s as though he learned nothing from the ‘test’ of Abraham when he told him to murder Isaac. (I’ve never understood that – if God is omniscient, wy did he need to test Abraham – he knew he’d pass the ‘test’, so why go through with it? Why would you want to be known as the sort of being who would demand his followers murder their children?)

  3. I’ve tried to make sense of the link, Anthony, but I’m not sure it addresses my questions.

    You say that asking to whom the ransom was paid is stretching the metaphor too much, but I wasn’t aware it as a metaphor.

    Christian teaching, as I understand it, is that Jesus died for our sins – sins that had already been committed and sins that would be committed in the future.

    What I am asking is what mechanism decreed that such a sacrifice was necessary? If God is the ultimate arbiter – the absolute power – then why was it necessary? I’m not so much interested in how one person dying can help with another person’s sin – I haven’t got that far yet. I just want to know why anyone had to die at all.

    The article you linked to raises more questions than it answers – the third paragraph says “His death was accepted as a substitution for our death” but that just begs the question as to who or what was the party accepting it.

    It also talks of “the horrendous and ungodly concept of human sacrifice” which leads me to suspect that the writer hasn’t really read the bible, as there are several examples of human sacrifice being approved of in the bible – from God telling Abraham to kill Isaac, to and

    Could you, as someone who has read the bible, try and explain why anyone – let alone God/Jesus had to die? Who or what required it?

  4. There are various people who might generally have sacrificed for others, a very noble things but it doesn’t affect me.
    If however someone had put themselves in the line of fire for me, a special bond is formed. I know this from experience in the police, some of the guys I worked with redefined friendship for me – an implicit trust that they would lay down their live in necessary and vice versa but when you actually went through some gnarly stuff together an incredible bond beyond theoretical was formed. Not something you can test tube and if you haven’t had that it’s not something you could fully understand.
    Now if someone came along after someone stood in the way of a crossbow bolt for me (not an example, or a metaphor, it happened) and said, ‘well that’s just an ordinary thing,’ I’d say ‘It might seem like it to you – but I am very grateful! This is what i mean by it being personal.
    I’m reminded of Adrian Plass who I once heard speak and give his testimony. When he was younger he went along to the youth group every week and tried to trip up the curate with ‘Well what about this?” questions after every ‘God slot.’ He admitted it wasn’t because he was genuinely interested really or would change his life even if something did make sense, he had his own opinions and he just wanted to appear clever in front of some of the girls.
    One night though as they were leaving the club, he asked the Curate at the gate one more, ‘Well how did Noah get all those animals on the ark’ type questions and was amazed and shocked when the curate rounded on him and said (no shouted)
    ‘Listen – it doesn’t matter! I love him! Don’t you see I love Him?’
    And Plass said it was then that he realised that this was about a relationship, not a set of hypotheses. This guy was actually grateful for what his best friend had done for him.
    Now we could spend time picking over the words… yes I don’t think the cross is a metaphor, maybe I should have used the word analogy, as I don’ think the Ransom was paid to the devil or to God (that argument is a big old chestnut that goes back to people like Anselm etc so I don’t see profit in rehashing it when brighter people than me have written tomes on it).
    We could debate on whether God approves of human sacrifice and I would point you to some of what Tim Keller has written and spoken on re Abraham and Isaac, or Barth, or Kierkegaard’s ‘Leap of Faith,’ and Jephthah being allowed to kill his daughter because of a stupid vow he’d taken not meaning God said, ‘Good idea mate.’
    But really
    (as this blog post started)
    this time it’s personal

    Why do I love MY wife? There are plenty of good women in the world, who do lovely things.
    Well it’s personal.
    And you don’t know what she has done for me and does for me so i don’t expect you to understand how utterly wonderful she is.

    So Gary/Bert/Paul/Jeremy/Frank/Neil/Felicity/ Linda whoever
    I don’t know you (You may think you know me through the blog or may have met me but not be willing to reveal who you are), but you don’t know me and it’s hard in this format for me to put into words this relationship – so please go on an Alpha Course, listen to the talk on ‘Why Did Jesus Die?’ and talk with some real people who’d discuss their relationship too.

    After all he has done for me, the price he paid for a worthless wretch –
    I just love Him.

  5. The reply Adrian Plass’s curate gave him, and the reply you are giving me seems to be a kind of last resort. “I know it seems illogical, and there are all sorts of issues with the bible, of which ‘how did all the animals fit on the ark’ is but a minor query, and that the actions of God are utterly unfathomable if you try and fit them to the his description as ‘loving’, and that it is impossible to be both all knowing and all powerful – but nonetheless I love ‘God’.

    It’s just such a nothing response. Shouted or otherwise. Many children have imaginary friends they ‘love’, and toys they love. Many people who aren’t Christian have a God or Gods they love just as much as you love yours. Someone loving something is not in any way an indication of it’s existence, and nor does it mean that the thing must be ‘good’. Given that you are able to call on your personal relationship with the all-knowing creator before replying, I’d kind of hoped for better than avoiding the key question (why did anyone have to die?)

    People can believe anything if the motivation is there. It’s no coincidence that a poor man is more likely to gamble than a rich man – but to look at it more positively I think it is belief that makes us achieve things; it’s by having the capacity to dream and believe in things that seem difficult or impossible that we can achieve them. It’s all about motivation.

    It is interesting to me though that both yourself and Mr Plass ended up being Christian by trying to meet and/or impress girls. I know from my own ‘Christian’ youth that that is a very powerful motivation indeed.

    I would love to do an Alpha course, but sadly they are held either in the day, when I am at work, or in the evening, when I am being a husband and father. I simply cannot commit several evenings an a weekend to anything other than my business and my family. I have previously emailed several Alpha providers asking if it is possible to do the course via email or in a web forum format, but none have even acknowledged my emails. It’s almost as though getting everyone in a group to increase the pressure, dimming the lights and playing some music is as important as God in the course. Perhaps you could ask the Gumbles for a reason they don’t want to do an on-line version?

  6. Ah, I presumed that as a regular attender of various evangelical conferences, as mentioned here, and as the leader of an church that does Alpha, you were bound to meet them every now and again. My mistake.

    As a leader of a church that does Alpha, do you think the course could work as well via email? Could you email me your notes for me to read as an experiment, perhaps? Happy to feedback to you / the Gumbels?

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