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yourself with God and be at peace"
By Joel Rishel
Have you ever wondered what God is like? Do you question what is the purpose for your life, or the meaning of life? Have you ever felt guilty for something you did? Do you desire to get to heaven? Would you like to have the peace that the above verse mentions?
There are answers to these questions for those who are truly seeking. Such answers lie in the revealed Word of God, the Book in which God has revealed Himself and His purposes to us. The Bible alone contains authoritative information which can answer all these questions, especially the issue of eternal life, "holding fast the word of life" (Phil 2:16). For this reason we must look to the Bible and listen to what it has to say.
Correct Knowledge of God
Before we can address the above questions and our purpose in life, or even attempt to solve the question of our sin, it is absolutely necessary to have a correct knowledge of God.
A good place to start this study is Psalm 22. The first two verses repeat some of the questions already raised, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?"
What these questions are acknowledging is that we KNOW things are not what they should be. Something is wrong with our relationship to God; but we may not know exactly what it is. So we ought to prick up our ears and listen to this Psalm.
The first thing to know about God is that He is holy, "But You are holy, Who inhabit the praises of Israel" (Ps 22:3). The word holy means "set apart." It means that God is different from us, greater than us.
Whatever you may have imagined in YOUR mind, God is far more than that because He is holy (set apart, distinct, greater), and therefore deserving of all glory. It also means God is free from all sin. In fact, He is so holy that He cannot even look upon sin.
God's holiness causes the Psalmist to reflect upon his low condition before God and leads into the second fact we need to know about God: God is the Creator, "But You are He who took Me out of the womb" (Ps 22:9).
We learn in the Bible that God not only created us but that He created the whole universe, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col 1:16-17).
So God not only created the universe but He also sustains everything in it. This is more proof of His holiness (He is "set apart" from all creation because He is the Creator of all things).
God being the Creator is also the foundational reason that He is worthy of glory, "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created" (Rev 4:11).
The third thing we learn about God from Psalm 22 is that God is personal. The Psalmist writes, "Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help . But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! Deliver Me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog. Save Me from the lion's mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me" (Ps 22:11-21)
Isn't it astounding that the very same God who made you and me, the trees, the insects, and all the galaxies is also intimately concerned to be close to us? We were made to have a personal relationship with God.
Finally, Psalm 22 closes with a fourth important fact about God: He is sovereign, "You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD'S, and He rules over the nations" (Ps 22:22-31).
Who is in charge of all the ends of the world? I can think of only three possibilities. It is either God, or it is Satan, or it is you. Most people think they are in control of their own lives. Some people teach that Satan runs things on earth. But the Bible teaches clearly God is in control.
You did not create all things did you? You did not ask to be born did you? God has made all things and whatever God decides WILL be done because He rules the nations.
God's sovereignty is emphasized in 1Chronicles 29:11, "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all."
Now if God is "head over ALL" then He also has authority over your life and mine. It is not until we understand these things about God that we can come to know our purpose and true condition before Him.
Knowledge of One's Self
The above section showed that God is our Creator. The Bible also tells us that we were created in His image, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27).
It is because we bear the image of God that we can be certain of our main purpose in life. God says in Isaiah 43:7, "Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." Our fundamental purpose in life is to bring glory to the God who created us.
But later on in Isaiah we begin to see that something went wrong, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isa 59:2). Since God is holy our iniquities and sins separate us from Him and prevent us from fulfilling our purpose in life.
The Bible is emphatic on the fact of our sinfulness, "Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" (Eccl 7:29). Romans gets to the heart of the matter, "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God . There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom 3:11,18).
Properly understood, all the sins that we commit are a result of not having the fear of God, of rebelling against Him. So there is a problem deeper than just all of the sins we have committed: we have lost a right relationship with the Holy God.
So there is no one on earth who is fulfilling their true purpose in life; we all sin against God. And because God is holy and just, there is a terrible curse on us all, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek 18:4). This curse is unavoidable. God has said, "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23).
Now if God has established a punishment, He cannot bend His own rule. No matter how nice you might think God is, if you have sinned, the curse of death is hanging over your head.
The Bible is very clear that there is no one who escapes this curse, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom 5:12). Our problem is so desperate that the Bible even says we are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1).
Now a dead person cannot raise himself up and a spiritually dead person cannot do what 1John 3:23 tells us to do, "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment."
We are dead in our sins so that by ourselves we cannot believe as God commands us to, "no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1Cor 12:3).
This is our condition before a Sovereign God: we are commanded to believe on His Son Jesus Christ, but we CANNOT by ourselves, nor by our own works; thus we are doomed to eternal death and punishment in hell.
The Person and Work of Jesus Christ
The mere mention of belief in God's Son, Jesus Christ, suggests there is hope for our condition. This hope is only to be found in Jesus, who is God, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin about 2000 years ago. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 gives a good overview of His life:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:22-24).
One of the most important things we must get straight about Jesus is that He is sinless; He has to be because He is God, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:14-15).
Because Jesus was both the very Son of God and He descended from heaven to become man, coupled with the fact of His sinless and perfect obedience to God, He can stand in the gap between us and God, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).
Jesus Christ is the ONLY hope for a lost and dying humanity. Acts 4:12 says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Why is Jesus so important? Our sins separate us from God; but the perfect life of Jesus guarantees His righteousness and therefore acceptance before God. Our sins must be paid for by death. God's Word is true, "For the wages of sin is death" and you will suffer that punishment in hell.
The only escape from damnation is for Jesus to present Himself as a perfect and acceptable sacrifice unto God IN YOUR PLACE. He died so that anyone who believes on Him will live. This is the only way God's Word can still remain true; the wages of the believer's sins is paid for in the death of Christ on the cross.
For this substitution to take place two things are necessary within a person. The first is FAITH (belief, trust): "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Gal 2:16).
You can only be justified (have your sins paid for and receive the righteousness of Christ) if you have FAITH in Jesus. Faith in Christ means trusting Him to do for you what you cannot do yourself.
The second element necessary for the transferal of Christ's righteousness and the pardon for your sins is REPENTANCE, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
Repentance involves pleading for forgiveness of sin and desiring to walk in obedience to the commands of God. While repentance is fundamental as a condition of salvation, your faith reminds you that it is based on the merit of Christ.
The Promise of the Gospel
What has been explained above is often called the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Good News of salvation. But in order for the Gospel message to be complete, there must be a response. The Gospel calls sinners to repent and believe, and thus receive eternal life.
The first thing you must do in response to hearing the Gospel is to recognize your spiritual need. This includes a conviction of the guilt of your many sins and your severed relationship with God, due to your enmity against God.
After this recognition of your need, Jesus' promise becomes good news to a sin-bound heart, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30).
Christ must be revealed to the heart as the ONLY one who can meet your desperate need, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me" (Gal 1:15-16).
Those who spread the Good News can explain the facts; but God Himself must reveal Jesus to your heart as the only solution to your problem. And if God does so, it will give rise to FAITH in Jesus Christ, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:4-8).
You must pray earnestly to God that He will enable you to REPENT, "if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim 2:25-26).
When your sins are forgiven, you are adopted into the family of God:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom 8:14-17).
This adoption is why it is important for a new Christian to personally identify with the family of God in baptism and in joining a local church, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:24-25)
The very moment you repent and place your faith in Christ, committing to Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you can be certain that you have received salvation. This is not my promise but the promise of God, "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" (Rom 10:9).
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about salvation is that it is given to everyone who believes. Hear the promise of the Gospel:
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:35-40).
A book like Bruce Shelley's Theology for Ordinary People would be ideal to begin studying in more depth the subjects discussed above. For additional recommendations, see General Theology Books: Books-A-Million Recommendations.
Author: Joel Rishel is a graduate of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is laboring to start a Reformed Baptist church in Pittsburgh, PA.
He also works for Soli Deo Ministries, along with Don Kistler. Soli Deo Gloria is a three-fold ministry: publishing, a yearly Bible conference, and a preaching and teaching schedule. It publishes over a 100 Puritan titles and other hard to find Reformed books. Soli Deo Gloria ~ PO Box 451 ~ Morgan, PA 15064 ~ (412) 221-1901 ~ FAX (412) 221-1902.
All Scripture references from: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
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The above article was published in Darkness to Light
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