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Exit strategy

April 2009 | by David Cooke

Exit strategy

 

When God first made the world he pronounced it ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) but today it is a very different place. Over the centuries, human wrongdoing – what the Bible calls ‘sin’ – has ruined God’s good world.

 

What is more, our sin has separated us from the God who made us. And the Bible makes plain that sin deserves to be punished. Is there a way out? Is there an exit strategy? Can sinners be reconciled to God?

     The answers people give to the problems posed by human sin fall into two basic responses.

 

The non-religious response

 

Some deny that there is a problem at all. According to this view, there is no God to whom we must ultimately give account. And while there are undeniable problems of poverty, inhumanity, selfishness and antisocial behaviour, these can all be addressed by science, political strategies and education.

     However, this will not do. For example, better education alone may simply breed more sophisticated criminals (white-collar crime is on the increase!). It certainly does not address the fundamental problem, namely, that there is something wrong with our hearts.

     People can only hold this dismissive view if they suppress the truth to which their innermost conscience testifies – that sin is real and that we are indeed answerable to God.

 

The religious response

 

Next is the approach adopted by almost all the world’s religions, and by many non-religious people as well. It is to do good things with the aim of pleasing God – in the hope that the good will outweigh the bad.

     However, this approach is deeply flawed – it does not face up to the seriousness with which God regards sin. Good works will never put God in our debt, because even our best efforts are imperfect and therefore unacceptable to him: ‘All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6).

     Virtues do not cancel out vices; good deeds cannot annul bad ones. The Bible is clear that salvation from sin is ‘not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Ephesians 2:9). Why not? Because religious activities and good works cannot change our sinful natures.

     Our behaviour is not the core problem; it is only the symptom. What matters is the state of our heart. Merely turning over a new leaf will not put us right with God. Not for nothing does Jesus declare: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7).

 

The answer God has given

 

A just and holy God must punish sin. But God the Father sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the very purpose of paying sin’s penalty. Jesus came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28).

     As a perfect man, Jesus was the only person who did not deserve to die. Yet he suffered, ‘the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). He was a willing substitute, taking the place of his people, and dying the death that they deserved. And as he bore the penalty for human sin he was separated from his Father – crying out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46) – so that our separation from God might be removed.

 

What about your sin?

 

The cross underscores both the seriousness of our sin and the impossibility of dealing with it any other way. If sin were not serious, and if you could save yourself by your own efforts, why would God have required his Son to suffer such a shameful death that sinners might be forgiven?

     If, as the Bible teaches, the way to be reconciled to God is by trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ, you can be sure that this is the only way!

     No effort of ours, no resolve to do better in future, can ‘pay’ for our sins and delete them from God’s records. But through his willingness to take the sinner’s place, the Lord Jesus Christ is ‘able to save to the uttermost [completely and forever] those who come to God through him’ (Hebrews 7:25).

     Put your trust in Jesus, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

David Cooke

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