So, in the first lesson we talked a good deal about the gospel and its four interrelated aspects. That is, we first said something about God. Second, we said something about ourselves. Third, we said something about the work of Christ, including His death, resurrection and reign. Fourth, we said something about the fact that God’s story is offered to us with a warning and a promise.
But, in this lesson I want to talk about how your story connects with God’s story and His offer to you in the gospel. Everyone has a story. I have a story, you have a story. A story that includes our background, where we grew up, our relationship with our mom, dad and family, and how those experiences shaped us. Our socioeconomic status or hopes for the future all play a profound role in shaping us. The way that we were treated by people – sometimes not so good – and also the way we’ve treated others. The Bible would say that we are the recipients of sin. Sin has been committed against us, that is, wrongs have been done to us. We also have committed sin against other people. We have wronged others. Nobody is 100% innocent in this life. But, when we survey our lives, it could be that many thoughts begin to hinder us from trusting Christ. Let’s look briefly at some common hurdles.
The Narratives in Our Heads
A lot of people I talk to, tell me that they don’t feel good enough to accept Christ and turn their lives over to Him. They feel unworthy because of something they’ve done in the past.They say they’re not good enough to be a Christian. Perhaps they grew up in a home that was very challenging and very difficult. Perhaps they never seemed to measure up to expectations and over time they learned to feel unwanted or second class. Now, when presented with God’s love, they just don’t feel worthy. They don’t believe that God can or will welcome them back.
But, it is very important at this juncture to realize that faith is the means by which God welcomes us home and it is faith in Christ, not faith in our acceptability with God. The truth is, while we are loved by God, we are not, in our ourselves, acceptable to Him. We have corrupted ourselves, but He will pardon, cleanse and renew on the basis of the shed blood of Christ and not on the basis of our inherent worth or goodness. Our acceptability to God is rooted in Christ and His work on the cross. This tells us definitively, once for all, that Jesus does love us, that He has paid the total penalty for our sin, and that He desires that we come home.
Some of us grew up in a family that went to church, if not regularly, at least frequently. As a result, we may be tempted to think, “I am not going to become a Christian because I’ve seen too many Christians at church act hypocritically.” I have a very good friend who constantly tells me that he’s thinking about becoming a Christian but, in his experience, too many Christians act hypocritically.
Well, it is true: there is hypocrisy in the church, just like there’s hypocrisy everywhere else. Yet, it does make it doubly bad for the same people to claim to be forgiven by Christ but then act in unforgiving ways toward others. They say we should tell the truth, but they don’t tell the truth very often. So, it’s true that there are hypocrites in the church, but you cannot allow them to disqualify you from laying hold of the prize of Christ himself. Christianity can be related to, but does not rest on, the actions of certain Christians. It is rooted in the person of Christ, His cross, and faith in Him alone.
In short, Jesus rose from the dead and that’s reasonably verifiable historically and scripturally. Jesus loves you regardless of the way some people who claim His name act. Jesus died for sins and rose from the dead. We can’t let other people disqualify us from laying hold of Him. That’s the way the Christian church is; it is filled with people in process, i.e., sinners who still sin, saints who are en route, as it were. There are instances where a person’s sin speaks so loudly that it’s hard for others to believe the Good News. Nonetheless, Jesus Himself, the resurrected reigning Messiah, summons you and me to return Him through faith.
So, there may be a variety of narratives running through your mind right now: “I’m not good enough” or “I really don’t need Jesus” or “I see too much hypocrisy in the church” or whatever. But don’t let any of them disqualify you from at least investigating more about the claims of Christ – God’s story – and its application to your life. Remember the heart of God’s story: “I love you enough to give my Son for you on the cross.” God did this so that the separation between you and Him might be removed, and you might be brought back into a fellowship with Him. So whatever your story is, whatever your background is, it could just be that God wants to write a new narrative in your life through Christ. You would do well – as would we all – to trust Him and yield your entire life to Him.