Understanding Our Need for a Saviour
The Bible tells us that God’s perfect law brings us into freedom! when we look intently into God’s law and do what it says we will be blessed in all that we do. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).
But simply observing the law does not make us righteous or bring us closer to God, because all of us will fail at some point. Rather it is in observing the law and in understanding what it says that we begin to understand what sin is.
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”.(Romans 3:20)
Until the time of Moses there was no law. The Apostle Paul says that the law was added so that sin would increase. The more we understand about sin, the more we become aware of it at work in our lives.
Along with that awareness of sin, so does the awareness of our need for a saviour
- Understanding our need for a saviour is good news!
- God’s perfect law brings us into freedom because it points us to Christ!
Though sin may continue to abound in our flesh, God’s grace abounds even more, continuing to forgive and remove our sin whenever we come to Him in repentance. By receiving Christ, allowing Him to remove our sin and receiving His righteousness in return, we gain eternal life. “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20 & 21).
If we refuse to acknowledge our sin, the Bible says we lie. But when we acknowledge our sin to God, we are forgiven and purified.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.(1 John 1:8 & 9)
- The law makes us conscious of our sin.
- The law establishes our need for a saviour.
- Acknowledging our need for a saviour is good news.
- When we acknowledge our sin before God and receive Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf – we gain eternal life.
Do Not Grieve but Celebrate With Joy
In the book of Nehemiah, the Jews who had survived the exile to Babylon returned to Jerusalem to rebuild its broken down walls. When the walls had been completed and the people were settled in their towns, they gathered ‘as one man’ to hear the Law of the Lord. Ezra was a priest, teacher and scribe, well versed in the law. And as he began to read, the people began to weep.
Before the reading of the law, the people did not fully understand what the law contained. But the instructions of the Levites meant that for the first time the people understood. “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (Nehemiah 8:8).
But Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were present, said to them “do not grieve!” “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law. Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:9 & 10).
When that awareness of our sin comes and we fully understand how far short of God’s righteous laws we fall, our immediate response is to grieve.
God does not want our hearts to grieve! Because of Christ’s love for us our new found knowledge of the law should cause us to rejoice!
“Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them”.(Nehemiah 8:12)
- God does not want us to dwell in regret, or to grieve over the past.
- He wants us to experience release from the past through Christ and to know a joy filled future!
- Our strength to move on into our future is found in the joy of the Lord!
Repentance As An Act of Worship
Following their new understanding after the reading of the law, the Israelites spent an equal amount of time in the confession of their sins and in worshipping the Lord. “They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshipping the Lord their God” (Nehemiah 9:3).
They blessed and exalted God’s Name. They proclaimed Him as the creator of all and spoke of His goodness and the great things He had done.
They spoke of their fathers, who turning away in their arrogance, would not obey God’s commands. They spoke of God’s graciousness and His willingness to forgive. They spoke of His choice to continue to love them and lead them despite their sin. “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them. They became stiff necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. but you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore You did not desert them” (Nehemiah 9:17).
They spoke of how God kept His promise to make their sons as numerous as the sky and how He brought them into the land He had promised. Even though God did all this they soon forgot Him, yet God remained faithful! “But they were disobedient and rebelled against You; they put Your law behind their backs. They killed Your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to You; they committed awful blasphemies. So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to You. From heaven You heard them, and in Your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies” (Nehemiah 9:26 & 27).
Time and again, because of the Israelite’s sin, they were handed over to their enemies, but when they cried out to God He continued to deliver them. “The sacrifices of God are (or my sacrifice, O God, is) a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.(Romans 12:1)
- When we come to God in repentance it becomes an act of worship.
- We are agreeing with God that His law is holy and that His law is good.
- We are acknowledging a God who is not only holy, but also slow to anger; merciful; gracious; loving and kind.
- When we come in repentance we offer our bodies and all of ourselves.
- God receives our repentance as an act of worship that is pleasing in His sight.
God Gives Free Will to Make a Choice
Like a train on a railway track arriving at a junction, once convicted of our sin we need to make a choice. And just as at a railway junction, each track that we choose or each choice that we make will lead us to a different destination. We can choose to ignore the conviction of sin, refuse to acknowledge our need of a loving Saviour, and continue on a pathway that remains unchanged. But when the track we have been following remains unchanged, so does the destination. When we refuse the author of life, we refuse life itself, and any choice that we make refusing life, leads instead to death. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant (Christ’s blood) that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26 – 29).
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
God’s desire is that we choose to enter into a new life with Him and that we experience this new life to the full!
When we acknowledge our sin before God and in our hearts turn away from what we know is wrong, because of Christ’s blood, we can both ask for and fully receive His forgiveness. We can then enter into a whole new relationship with Him.
- Christ’s message of grace is reason to be joyful!
- Because of God’s grace our future is good!
- Because of God’s grace we escape His righteous judgment.
- Because of God’s grace we enjoy relationship with him.
Drawing Near to God
The Bible says that because of man’s sinful nature, by his own will power it is impossible for him to fulfil the law. And when we fail at just one point, God says it is the same as failing it all. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker” (James 2:10 & 11).
When Christ died for our sins on the Cross, God removed every part of wrong doing that is found in the law. “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13 & 14).
When we are saved we are not partly saved but wholly saved!!
“Therefore He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” .(Hebrews 7:25)
What we were unable to do for ourselves, Christ did on our behalf. He lived a sinless life so that every righteous requirement that the law requires would be fully met in us through Him. Therefore we no longer stand condemned but are free to live again. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus The law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His Own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1 – 4).
- When Christ fulfilled the law He introduced a better hope!
- It is through our hope in Christ that we draw near to God!
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God”.(Hebrews 7: 18 & 19)
This does not mean that we will never make mistakes or wilfully sin again, but when we fail, He is able to forgive us and to help us start again. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1&2).
Walking in the Spirit
When we receive Christ, His Holy Spirit is deposited within us and our spirits are completely born again. But our mind, will and emotions are in the process of being renewed in order to be more like Him. The Holy Spirit within us becomes our helper. He connects with us, strengthens us and enables us to walk with Him.
As this new nature of God develops within us, our minds begin to focus on the things that bring us life and peace
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Sprit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”.(Romans 8:5 & 6)
God wants us to consider our old sinful nature as dead and no longer a part of who we are. He wants us to switch our focus from all the things we have been doing wrong, to what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf. When we do this we begin to walk free and to live our lives in a brand new way. This new way of living the bible calls walking in the Spirit. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law So that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6).
- When we walk in the Spirit we are no longer under the power of the law.
- When we walk in the Spirit we no longer walk in the power of our own strength.
- When we walk in the Spirit we no longer walk in the sin of our flesh.
- When we walk in the Spirit we are led by the Spirit of God!
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”.(Galatians 5:16 – 18)
When we walk in the Spirit we draw near to God through our relationship with Christ
The Holy Spirit speaks to us and convicts us when we sin. As God continues to draw us into relationship with Him the desires of our sinful nature begin to fall away.
- When God captures our hearts – holiness of living follows!
- God purifies our hearts – not just our behaviour.
The Pleasure of Enjoying Intimacy with God
When we walk in the Spirit our focus switches from our outward behaviour, to the enjoyment of an intimate relationship with God.
God wants to build a relationship with us that is based on His acceptance and love. He has already paid a huge sacrifice in sending His Own Son in order to remove our sin. His focus is on the relationship He desires with us and He wants our focus to be on enjoying the same.
The Song of Songs written by King Solomon describes the intimacy enjoyed between husband and wife. It is a picture of the excitement and joy of two people deeply in love and is an allegory of the deep intimacy that Christ desires with us and that our hearts long for with Him.
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you! Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers”.(Song of Songs 1:1 – 4)
Just like any other relationship, our relationship with God is built by spending time with Him. We come to know Him more deeply as we praise and worship, pray, read His Word and spend time hearing from Him. As in any other relationship, there also needs to be a two way conversation. The intimacy of our relationship with God is as deep as the level of sharing that we are prepared to have with Him. At times we may feel a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to come away and sit quietly with Him. We may hear Him gently ‘speak’ to our spirits through an impression, feeling, desire, or thought. At times we may feel a tangible sense of His presence.
When we know the presence of God’s Spirit, there is a strong sense of His peace in our hearts