By Mathews George
ONE of the great privileges of being a preacher is the fact that you deal with people. My office is like an emergency room. Last week, a woman came to my office along with her 8-year-old son. She said she was doubtful and guilty to approach God because she has been taught since childhood that God does not listen to sinners.
She had this ‘big sin’ hanging in her life; she was taught all along that “one man should marry one woman” and she has been divorced more than once. Her life nailed to her past and she feels she has no way get out of the mess that she is in.
Sadly, she is not alone. There are many out there dealing with the questions like ‘Is God too good for me?’ or ‘Am I too bad for God?’ Even mature Christians grapple with such issues and similar questions.
Sin is real and it has a destroying power over humanity. What is the one thing that separates God from humanity? Is it laziness or lack of prayer? Or is it our preoccupation with ourselves? No, it is sin. Ever since Satan understood this important aspect of sin, his one goal has been to alienate people from God.
Like gravitational pull, sin keeps us struggling with our fallen nature. Sin ruins our freedom to enjoy fellowship with God and with one another. It takes us on a trip filled with shame and guilt.
Satan has taken his doctorate on this. His corporate motto is ‘keep sin alive’. He keeps its knowledge so real and makes people feel, guilty, shameful and repulsive about themselves.
While God wants people to be convicted of their sins and repent, Satan wants people to be convinced of their sins and permanently damage their relationship with God. In fact, he has majored in convincing people that they cannot approach God.
So what do people do? They follow rituals and practice acts of penance to please God. They go on pilgrimages to ‘holy’ places, torture their own bodies and do acts of charity in the hope that somehow they could approach God.
Believe me, satan has also appointed leaders in churches to argue this point and to convince people that God does not listen to the fallen and we have to work our way towards him. Paul calls it the law of the flesh that is working in us. What do you think that does do to people? It makes them fearful of God, ashamed of their own life, low in self-esteem and makes them look for recognition and love elsewhere.
Sin is like a tight rope on which God and satan walk. While God’s intention is to redeem the sinner, Satan’s intention is to destroy him/her.
One of the greatest lines in the Bible is found in the story of the lost son. When his life is in the gutter, he makes a statement that send shivers down Satan’s spine. The prodigal son said: “I will arise and go to my father’s home.” While Satan had all along been thinking that he was going to make the ‘wretched’ young man wallow in his shame and guilt before ultimately destroying him, suddenly out of God’s infinite mercies the lost son decides it’s time for him to get up and go home to the outrageous love of his Father.
In the Old Testament days, the spoken word of God rarely came to people, and even when it came it was heard and not seen. It was dispensed to the common people through His messengers. Fortunately, we happen to be what I call RSI-born. Yes, you and I are people born on the Right Side of Incarnation.
God, in His infinite wisdom, decided it was time to reveal Himself to His people. This is what had been achieved through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The final prayer of Jesus for all believers (that includes you and me) is recorded in John 17: 26 thus: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” But wait a minute! What does God want to make know of? His résumé, or in other words, His character!
Jesus lived the résumé of His Father so we His people could get a grasp of who God is. He demonstrated that God is not a vengeful punisher of sin but a gentle and compassionate redeemer, slow to anger and abounding in love (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 145:8).
Ruby falls is an underground waterfall in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When you go there, an elevator takes you down 300 ft below ground into a cave. Then, you walk through narrow caves and rock formations which lead you to a large room. Once you reach there, the lights are turned off. At this time, you hear the sound of water falling. After a few seconds, the lights are turned on – you see this magnificent waterfall, with lights and sound, in all its splendor! You see, hear and touch it.
In 1 John 1:1, the author tells us about “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.” Simply put, it means in the beginning we only heard about God, but now we can hear Him, see Him and touch Him. Isn’t that amazing?
That is what God has done. Hitherto, we only heard His voice through the messengers. However, now the curtain is opened, the veil is drawn, the lights are switched on, the life-giving water can not only be heard, but seen, touched and drunk from.
Why did Jesus do this? Paul’s words help us see why: It is to make us realize ‘how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God’ (Ephesians 3:18).
Jesus goal was to make known the furious love for God towards us. Isn’t it sad that even after 2000 years we continue to doubt this love!
Even sinless angels cannot see His glory but His son can look straight into the Father’s face. So here is the one line that can save your life “God places us in Christ, so that we now can approach God on his turf, without fear, without shame and guilt – because we are in Christ.”
God justifies us by placing us in Christ, and accepting us as being as righteous as Christ Himself. So we have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
Read his earlier column: The dividing wall of hostility within the church
Rev. Mathews George is a pastor at Tucker Street Church in Greater Memphis Area in the US. He has mentored many people around the United States and India. He believes that only in understanding and accepting Jesus into lives true healing takes place. He can be reached at his email ID: mathewsown [at] gmail [dot] com