If you asked a man in Bali, ‘What is your greatest need?’ he would say: ‘End the terrorist threat of bloodshed’.
If you were to ask someone from Somalia, ‘What is your greatest need?’ he would say: ‘Food – our children are starving, our people are dying’. Or someone in Southern Africa, he would say: ‘Find a cure for the AIDS epidemic that is decimating our people’.
If you were to ask someone in a hospital bed with some terminal illness, obviously he is going to say: ‘I want my health back’.
The greatest need
And you can understand all those answers. But there is a need that supersedes all man’s problems – whether in Africa, Indonesia or Britain.
Our greatest need is to be acceptable to God. Whether we believe it or not, God is the common factor in every person’s life, whatever our nationality or circumstances. All men and women are made by God and for God, and all must eventually answer to God.
But there is a problem – God is holy and righteous. God will not tolerate sin, and you and I are sinners.
As we are, even at our best, we cannot meet God’s demands. All man’s righteousness is like a filthy rag in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6).
Imagine a man cleaning his car – not the outside, but the engine. He has this dirty, filthy rag, and is mopping oil off the sump and the camshaft. The rag is getting filthier and filthier.
Then he comes into the living room and he puts the rag on the coffee table! You know what his wife will say, don’t you? ‘Get that filthy rag out of my house!’
That is how God feels when you bring your righteousness to him. Remember, this is not just how God sees your sin, but how he sees the goodness you boast of and delight in.
The terrible fact is stated in Romans 3:10: ‘there is none righteous, no not one’, not in all this world.
Now that being the case, man’s greatest need is to find a way to meet God’s standard and become acceptable to him.
The Bible has the answer; the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals ‘righteousness from God’ – a righteousness that is ‘by faith from first to last [for] “The just shall live by faith”‘ (Romans 1:17).
God’s ‘good news’ shows us the very righteousness we so desperately need. It is revealed. The gospel is not man’s idea of what religion ought to be, the result of centuries of man’s search of God.
Rather, it is an announcement from heaven. ‘Here is the answer’, says God, ‘to your lack of righteousness, to your sin and depravity and waywardness’. God is shouting from heaven: ‘Here is the answer. Here is the righteousness you need – and it is absolutely free’.
This is why the gospel is good news. The gospel does not tell us what we must achieve, but what Jesus Christ has achieved for us. It tells us that we can receive perfect righteousness now, as a free gift from God.
If you were to tell people that the only way to guarantee heaven was to go on a long and expensive world tour, many could not afford it; it would be beyond their ability. But the gospel offers righteousness for free.
Remember the gospel is designed by God. Its purpose is to satisfy his demands and bring about our salvation. But – and here is the key point – our salvation could not be achieved if God’s demands were not satisfied.
Get to Jesus
So, what does God demand? A righteousness as good as his own. There is only one standard with God. He demands from you and me a righteousness like his.
But, surely, that is impossible! No – the gospel makes it possible, and that is its glory. God provides the very righteousness that he demands from you. So how do we get this righteousness? We get it from Jesus.
Everywhere in the Bible you eventually come back to Jesus – and the sooner you get to him the better!
Jesus Christ is God. Never apologise for that; never backtrack on the exclusiveness and the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the Son of God, is co-equal with the Father in glory, majesty, holiness and righteousness. And he came into this world to satisfy the demands of God on our behalf.
As a man, Jesus rendered perfect obedience to the law of God. Praise God, Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
He was the spotless, sinless, holy Lamb of God. And because he had no sin, God was able to lay our sin on Jesus as our substitute. When he died on the cross, he took our guilt and punishment upon himself.
Dealing with sin
There are only two places where God deals with sin. One is hell, and the other is Calvary. Will you have your sin dealt with at the cross of Calvary, where there is forgiveness? Or in hell, where there is none?
The Lord justly demanded that your sin should be paid for. But Jesus bore our punishment, and paid it all. ‘He gave his life a ransom for many.’ There is nothing further the law can demand.
Jesus satisfied it all on the cross of Calvary, and because of this, God cancels our debt of sin. But not only that – he then imputes (or ‘credits’) to us the very righteousness of Christ.
As Paul writes: ‘God made him to be sin for us, him who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But how does God impute Christ’s righteousness to us? He does it when we believe on Jesus Christ. The righteousness that comes from God is ‘by faith from first to last’. Let me make this very clear.
Faith does not save us. It is the righteousness of Christ which saves us. But that righteousness comes to us by faith. Faith is the vehicle by which we receive it.
I wonder how many people are in hell who spent twenty years in church? You say: ‘God I have done this and that; I was good to my neighbour; and I looked after her when she was ill’. Praise God for that, but it will not save you.
To offer our works to God is like bringing our pile of filthy rags to God and saying, ‘God, aren’t these wonderful?’
Faith is the exact opposite of that. Faith relies solely on the righteousness of Christ – on Christ’s work, not our own. Faith sees nothing except Jesus.
But what a sight that is! Jesus bearing my sin and guilt. Jesus facing the wrath of God instead of me. Jesus rising from the dead to prove that his offering for sin had been accepted by the Father!
Faith delights in Jesus, loves Jesus, and trusts in Jesus. Do you?