[We believe in]…one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God,
Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary…
~ The Nicene Creed, excerpt.
We Christians believe that there is one God. This God never had a beginning and he will have no end. This God made the whole world and therefore owns the world. God made us to live with him and each other in love.
But each one of us, by saying ‘No’ to God and living for ourselves, has rejected God’s loving plan and has thus placed ourselves outside of relationship with God. This is what the Bible calls ‘sin’. Today, all people stand under God’s righteous judgement, which is death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Have you ever been sold a bad car? Have you ever been ripped off? Sin is expensive! It costs each one of us our lives. For God is good, and he will never tolerate sin. And he calls us to account for our actions.
And even though God would be fully within his rights to let us sinners die just like we deserve, nevertheless God so loved us that he did not wish to leave us to ourselves.
At Christmas time, Christians remember the true story of how God sent Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, into our world to show us what God is really like by his own living example and by his teaching.
But most of all, we remember how this Jesus—though he was God’s perfect Son who was undeserving of death—went to the cross, and died the horrible death we each deserve, so that we would not have to die for our sins, but rather that we might be healed and restored to right relationship with God to live with him forever and ever.
As proof that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was enough to bring us back to himself, God raised Jesus physically back from the dead. Jesus Christ lives today. And God has set a time when Jesus will return judge all people in line with God’s perfect Law. God doesn’t judge us by our standard; God judges us by his standard.
Here’s how the Bible puts it:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever trusts in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The Bible further explains how everyone who trusts in God’s Son, Jesus, will live forever. But everyone who rejects Jesus’ sacrifice for them and tries to get in God’s good books by their own way–such as trusting in one’s own goodness or personal spirituality for example—they will most surely die and perish in a place the Bible calls hell: completely cut off from God and every good thing forever and ever. Even self-styled atheists and agnostics, who claim not to believe in God, will face God’s judgement for rejecting Jesus.
Let me give you an example of how this works. Say a stranger walks up to your house and says, “Hey, let me in! I’m a good person; everybody likes me! You should let me in to eat your food, use your toilet, sleep on your couch…” And so on. Will such a person ever be permitted into your house? If you’re honest with yourself, probably not. Why? Because the person does not have a relationship with you. Who here would seriously let just any stranger into your home, to play with your children and to take your stuff?
Because trusting in God and entering into Heaven is not based upon how good we think we are. It is based upon whether or not we have entered into a saving, personal relationship with God. And the Bible says that we can only have such a relationship with God through Jesus. We each individually have to admit that we are sinners, trust that Jesus died the death we deserve, and then rose again to physical life three days later. This is what the Bible calls ‘faith’. Then, we must turn away from our sinful lifestyles and back to God. This is what the Bible calls ‘repentance’. There can be no faith without repentance, and there can be no repentance without faith. And most of all, there can be no forgiveness without both faith and repentance.
God wants to forgive us. God wants to save us, God wants to be in a personal, saving relationship with each one of us. And he has made all this possible through Jesus. This is what Christians call ‘the Gospel’, which means, ‘the Good News’. But as long as we choose to harden our hearts and keep on saying ‘No’ to him, God will respect our free will and let us go our own way. But the end of that life is not joy and peace. The end of that life is death and hell. The Bible says, “There is a way that feels right to us. But in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
So I hope you will think about what I have shared with you today. As a Christian. I believe what I just said is not imaginary but is real and every person in this room will have to give an account for their lives to God one day. And I hope that on that Great Day, each one of you will be found trusting in Jesus, having a righteousness not of your own, but from him who died for you and rose again.
God bless you.