Today, all around the world, Christians are remembering the cruel death of Jesus of Nazareth on a Roman cross almost 2,000 years ago. It’s known as Good Friday.
What’s “good” about it? The Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is an integral part of what is called the “Gospel” of Christ. Without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, we cannot be saved from our sins.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
If you are not a Christian, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Why should the death of man 2,000 years ago in a small country far away have anything to do with your life? Think about this, please.
Our Greatest Need
Every person on earth has the same basic needs: food, water, safety, clothing, lodging, and a purpose for living. Enter any culture and you’ll find men and women, boys and girls trying to find enough of each basic need to survive. But none of these is their greatest need.
The greatest need of every human being is to have a personal relationship with God. God created human beings for the purpose of having a close, loving relationship with Him. Adam and Eve, the first human beings, had that kind of relationship with God at the beginning of their lives, but it ended suddenly when they disobeyed God (Genesis 2 & 3). Their sin placed a barrier between God and humanity. Human beings would die in their sins and be separated from God forever, unless God did something to reverse the effect of sin. God had a plan to do just that and revealed it through His Word.
God makes it clear that all of us are in the same position –
“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one’ … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10-12, 23
God’s solution to humanity’s need is change: a real change of heart and mind. God calls it by various names in the Bible: salvation, redemption, forgiveness, the gift of eternal life. It begins with true repentance –
“Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:1-3
“… testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 20:20-21
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
The good news is that God wants to forgive and save a large number of those made in His image and likeness. All we have to do is follow God’s directions and we will be saved.
Hundreds of years ago when a man asked Paul how he could be saved, Paul answered – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) The word believe had a stronger meaning then than it does today. It meant to “completely trust in and rely upon” something or someone. The life-and-death question brought forth an urgent reply: salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ!
Paul wrote the Ephesian Christians – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Salvation comes by way of God’s grace. That’s His unmerited favor – meaning we can’t earn or deserve it. God gives it to us as an amazingly generous gift. God wants us to admit that we are sinners in need of His forgiveness and then place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Why faith in Christ? What did Jesus do that was such a big deal to God? Jesus died in our place. He took our sins, our shame and guilt, in His body on the Cross. Paul wrote that God demonstrates Christ’s great love for us by the fact that Jesus left His eternal home in Heaven to come to earth in the form of a human being for the purpose of paying the penalty for our sins – “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
The righteousness of Jesus becomes our righteousness (right standing before God) –
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
Notice that our faith (trust) is in the shed BLOOD of Jesus Christ. That’s what makes the Cross so important, so vital to salvation. Paul wrote – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
Sinners are the bad people, the vermin of life, right? Wrong! Paul included himself as one for whom Christ died. Paul was one of the most law-abiding Jews in Israel before Jesus faced Paul with his guilt and need. Here’s how Paul viewed Christ’s sacrificial death for him –
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Jesus not only died for us, He also rose for us. Jesus died on the Cross and was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. Three days after dying, Jesus rose from the grave and showed Himself to more than 500 witnesses; proof of God’s power to give life after death. Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth about this truth –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a central truth to God’s promise of our eternal salvation.
Someone has said that people are saved by grace through faith plus nothing. What they are saying is that no one can add anything to the finished work of Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection from the grave. Remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Salvation does not and cannot come from people’s works. God will give it as a gift only. We don’t get any of the credit. It is God’s grace, love and longsuffering. Paul wrote to his friend Titus – “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5)
The truth of the matter is that you and I are sinners. We are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation. God is the only one who can forgive and save. He tells us that He will give us eternal life when we place our faith and trust in His Son Jesus Christ. Will you do that right now? Ask God to forgive you. Receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Trust Jesus to save you. Just talk with God. He’s listening. He will hear and give you His gift of eternal life – “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)
Tell God about your guilt. Tell Him about your trials and struggles. He understands and cares for you. He’s waiting to forgive you, right now.
This is an example of what you might say to God –
“God, I need your forgiveness. Now I understand why. Like all human beings, I’ve sinned against you. God, thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die in my place. Thank you for making it possible for me to be forgiven. Lord Jesus, right now I place my faith and trust in you. I believe that you died on the Cross, shed your blood, and rose from the grave so I could have forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. I trust you now and forever. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Congratulations! If you just asked God to forgive you and placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you have become a member of the greatest group of people in the world, the Body of Christ! Here are some truths to help you as you learn how to be a follower of Jesus Christ –
1) Your salvation is secure! God will never leave you or forsake you. God gives you His Holy Spirit as a promise that He will come for you at some future time to take you to Heaven to be with Him forever.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
2) God’s Word, the Bible, is your guide to spiritual truth and wisdom now and for the rest of your life on earth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
3) Spend time with other people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It’s as Christians get together and share their love for God and for each other and what God is teaching them through the Bible that all of us grow in spiritual knowledge.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:3-18
Find a church that believes strongly in God’s Word rightly divided (2 Timothy 3:15). You’ll know them by their commitment to truth and grace and their love for each other.
4) Pray alone and with other Christians. Prayer is a demonstration of our commitment to God and our dependence on Him as the One who gives us all good things. Types of prayer include praise, thanksgiving and petition. We praise God for who He is. We thank God for what He has done for us and others. We petitionGod for what He can do in our lives and the lives of others to fulfill His will and bring glory to His name.
God wants us to bring our prayers to Him before things get too rough to handle.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
How often should a Christian pray? It’s not so much how often we physically bow our heads and pray to God as it is to be in a constant attitude of dependence on Him and enjoy Him.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
5) Serve God with your mind, heart, time, talents, gifts and possessions. That includes telling others about what God has done for you.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
6) Don’t let anyone change your thinking about how God’s salvation is a free gift. Hold tightly to the truth that salvation is by grace through faith. Changing your thinking will move you from freedom to bondage.
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Our fervent prayer is that God will build you up in your life as a Christian. Here is one of the Apostle Paul’s prayers for all Christians that you can claim as God’s will for your life.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:15-21
We invite you to watch these videos about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rejoice! Jesus is Risen!!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”