Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3.19)
Not too long ago I saw a bumper sticker that announced, “Jesus is the Answer.” The driver (who was speeding in fact) was obviously making a statement about his faith. But it must not have connected with everyone. It wasn’t a week after spotting that bumper sticker that a friend, not a believer in Jesus, cynically told me, “You Christians say that Jesus is the Answer, but to be honest with you, I am not asking the question!”
Ok. I admit that reducing the life of Jesus and the great philosophical questions of all human beings to a bumper sticker (on the car of a law breaking Christian!) is not the best way to introduce a conversation about such serious matters. But I would say, in a rather uncomfortable alliance with the fellow who put that statement on his vehicle, that Jesus is the answer. But I also concede to my unbelieving friend that we who make such assertions, must be clearer than the bumper sticker.
[pullquote]“You Christians say that Jesus is the Answer, but to be honest with you, I am not asking the question!”[/pullquote]And I want to use that experience to write to you, who may be looking at these words with your own deep, unanswered questions. I want to say to you that, yes, I do believe that Jesus is the answer. And I do believe that you believe and we all believe that we have questions:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- Is there a God?
- If He is there, why is there evil?
- Is there life after death?
- Is there any rhyme or reason to it all?
The Bible, according to its own testimony, the very God-breathed Word of the Lord, authenticated by the miraculous life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, assumes these questions (for God has put eternity into our hearts, it says) and gives answers to them. In fact, the Bible tells us that the answers have to do with three important truths.
The first truth is about Creation.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1.1) is the most profound truth and is, in every way, the first truth. St. Paul the Apostle expounds that first truth and tells us this:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
[pullquote]God has put eternity into our hearts,[/pullquote]The “him” in that passage is Jesus Christ. He, in His pre flesh, pre incarnation eternal existence, created all things and all things exist by Him. You can ignore it, disbelieve it, argue with it or deny it, but you cannot deny that is what is said. So that is one thing about creation. There is a God and as Francis Schaeffer put it, “He is there.” More on that in a moment.
We are told that we, human beings, are created in the image of God. Whatever your view of the environment is, you will have to agree with the Bible that mankind sits at the top of the system. We are the crowning creation of God, in fact, the last creatures to be made by God. And we were made for God. The early church father spoke what is now an oft-quoted piece of wisdom when he said that we were all made with a God shaped hole inside of us. And we are never fulfilled until that hole is filled with God Himself.
Once I began to ask the great questions of life as an orphaned boy. And I went looking for something, some answer. I found that the answers to the questions were as close as the Bible that my old Aunt used to teach me as I sat in her lap. God created me and I will find meaning and purpose for my life to the degree I am related to him. Since then one particular Scriptural passage has become important to me. It is this:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God made the world. God made you. You are a “masterpiece” created by God for God. Or as the old Presbyterian catechism puts it:
What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
But here is a second truth that will help you. The Bible teaches not only about Creation, but also about a fall.
[pullquote]We will all give account to God for our sin[/pullquote]In the Scripture quoted at the beginning of this writing, the Apostle Peter told fellow Jews that they should repent and turn again to God. You may recognize that word, “repent.” Maybe you associate it with an eccentric and out-of-place preacher screaming “repent” to passing business people on a busy urban street corner. But actually the word carries a great sophisticated worldview. For Peter in his message means that something has gone terribly wrong with Creation. We were created by God and for God and for our good and His pleasure, but sin entered the world and created a division: a division between God and, of course, a division between ourselves.
The Bible teaches us that this fall came about through the disobedience of the first human beings, Adam and Eve. But it also had to do with the presence of an evil being, a fallen angel, Satan. Together, through temptation and a failed choice to follow the lie of the devil and not the life-giving truth of God, we all were cast into a spiritual bondage. The Bible teaches us that we sin because we are sinners. It is in our genes, so to speak. Moreover this fall has even affected the whole created order. St. Paul taught in one letter (The Epistle to the Romans) that even creation itself is yearning for something. The animal kingdom, the plant world, our bodies, our minds, the earth and cosmos itself, has been infected by the Fall, the entrance of sin into a previously perfect world. This is why Peter cried for his countrymen to “repent.”
We were created by God for God, for our good and His pleasure. But we are now separated from God. Moreover this separation is eternal. The Bible teaches that this life is not all there is. We will all give account to God for our sin. Furthermore we will have to figure out how to build up enough righteousness to meet His demands for holiness.
This is where it begins to get tricky, as humans. For religion steps in at this point. Religions of all kinds have sacrifices and ways to earn holiness “credits” you might say, which can satisfy this God. And maybe you have your religion. You can ignore it by declaring yourself as atheist or agnostic, but the issues are still there. The questions are still there. Perhaps the questions themselves, which are universal, are evidences from within that we are longing for something we lost, or something we want to find.
So Peter calls for repentance. And Peter calls for faith, not just any faith, but a faith in Jesus Christ. And that one word, Jesus, leads us to the third and final great truth that deals with the great questions of mankind. It is the word redemption.
Peter calls for the people to repent, to turn away from other religions that seek to make a sacrifice for sin or to meet demands for righteousness, and turn to Jesus.
[pullquote]that one word, Jesus, leads us to the third and final great truth that deals with the great questions of mankind[/pullquote]Jesus Christ, according to His own testimony and the testimony of the prophets who foretold His coming and the plain ordinary people, rich and poor, black and white, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, lived a perfect life. And in that life He healed miraculously. No tent-revival healer has ever done what Jesus did. Jesus raised the dead. Openly. In front of believers and non-believers alike. He raised a man from the dead. And many believe when He did this for his friend Lazarus, He was showing us all what would happen to Him, after His crucifixion, and, indeed, what can happen to any of us who trust in Him
It was at this point that we should quote exactly what Jesus said at that very point:
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.
Jesus lived the life you can never live and in doing so met God’s demands for holiness, for righteousness. And Jesus died a death on the cross, as the Lamb of God without sins, to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would believe in Him. He rose again from the dead to secure our resurrection. Over 500 people saw Him at once. And then He ascended into heaven, again in the presence of verifiable witnesses. The apostles, who saw Jesus with their own eyes, who walked with Him, and who listened to Him, and were witnesses to all of these things, tell us that He ascended into heaven, into another realm, and there prays for us. That is an amazing fact and an amazing fact that may just be impacting your life right now as you read this.
Now. Here is what we have: We have a God who creates. We have a mankind that falls into sin. And we have a God who covenants that He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: live a perfect life and die a criminal’s death to pay for our sin. So, St. Paul, wrote to the believers at Ephesus:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
At the heart of all of this redeeming work is that one word, “grace.” What God requires, God provides, in His Son Jesus Christ. And He offers a new life, with soul-satisfying answers, to all who will trust in Him. When we have faith in this Jesus, we are redeemed from sin and its consequences, including judgment and death. Jesus taught that when we trust in Him as the resurrected and living Lord of all we pass from judgment to life. Death, then, becomes a mere portal through which we pass to enter into the presence of Jesus Christ. And the truth is that in Jesus the world is now on its way to a complete redemption. This redemption is coming person by person who repents and trusts and follows the Lord Jesus Christ. And the redemption spreads as we take the life and teachings of Jesus into our world. Jesus taught that His kingdom, His gracious rule and reign, is like leaven in dough. As the dough is rolled out and kneaded, the leaven spreads. In the same way, as we believe and take Christ to others, the Kingdom of love, the Kingdom that redeems, is spreading, leaven-like, into this world.
[pullquote]Jesus lived the life you can never live and in doing so met God’s demands for holiness[/pullquote]John Milton wrote the epic Paradise Lost about these things. But he also wrote another poem: Paradise Regained. And that is where we are going. This creation that is groaning is going to be redeemed. The prophetic expectation that the lion will lie with the lamb, that the very “red tooth and claw” of nature is going to be redeemed and brought back to an original order is now being fulfilled. The final piece of this plan will come when Jesus, who went into heaven with the clouds, will return in like manner. And every eye will see him. Despite what some have taught about this, the Bible is clear: this will be the loudest, most visible display in the history of the cosmos. The Creator in the Flesh, Jesus, will come again. And He will come to judge the world in unbelief. And He will come to destroy the Evil One once and for all. The justice we long for, the broken lives and worn out bodies that came as a result of the Fall, will now be fully restored to better than ever.
In a word, a new heaven and a new earth will commence at the return of Jesus Christ.
So Peter said repent and believe.
In this way Jesus is the answer. He is the answer to the great questions of life. He is the answer to the heartaches, and broken dreams and unfulfilled longings of mankind. He is the answer to the universal questions that come from the souls of all of us.
There are many invitations to faith that include the word, “whoever.” But one of my favorites is this word spoken by my Lord:
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him
[pullquote]I would like to tell you that through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ you too will find what your soul longs for[/pullquote]It tells me that when I trust in Jesus as the God-Man who came to live for me and die for me, who rose again to secure my resurrection from the dead and to give me eternal life, and to bring about the new heavens and the new earth, something life changing happens: truth and understanding and purpose and meaning, like “living water” begins to flow from within.
Jesus promises that when you believe, you are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, God with us in Spirit. And He begins to teach us, to help us to understand His Word, the Bible. In short, we begin to get the answers we long for.
As one wanderer to another, as one lost lamb who was found by the gracious Shepherd, I would like to point you to life in Jesus Christ. I would like to tell you that through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ you too will find what your soul longs for.
I recap what I have said here, and what the Bible teach us:
- CREATION: You were created by Him and for Him, for your good and His glory.
- FALL: You are a sinner, as I am, fallen, and unable to pick ourselves up again through any works of our own; unable to pay for our sins or earn the righteousness that we need before a Holy God.
- REDEMPTION: By the grace of God, according to the covenant of God, through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, we have redemption. And faith in Jesus triggers a new way of life for us and enfolds us into the Great Plan of the Ages that is bringing about a new heaven and a new earth.
If you have not yet trusted in Him, do so today. If you have never been baptized, then seek out a church, a local fellowship of believers. Seek out a community of believers who are bonded together by the love and grace of Christ, seeking to follow Him through worship, fellowship with other sinners saved by grace, Bible preaching and teaching, prayer and seeking to share Christ with others. Find the minister of Christ in that place, and tell him of your new faith. If you have never been baptized, seek that outward sign of what God has done for you inwardly. Commit your life to Jesus publicly with this church and find a place of service. Study God’s Word, pray to Jesus Christ, receive the Lord’s Supper, listen prayerfully and faithfully to the preaching of the Word, and go out and make Christ known to others.
The Answer you seek is literally a prayer away.
I offer a prayer that you could make your own:
O God my Father, I confess You as my creator. And I confess that I am a sinner. I have disobeyed You in so many ways. And I ask for Your forgiveness. I ask that according to Your Word you receive me as I trust in Your Son, the living and reigning Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. I ask that through faith in Him, You give me a new life as Your child. Lead me as my Shepherd. I long to follow You. Fill me with Your Spirit that I may do so. As You bring about redemption in my life, use me as Your instrument of renewal in the lives of others. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
And Jesus taught:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
All Scriptural quotes are from “The English Standard Version” of the Holy Bible (Good News Publishers), copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
Copyright 2008 Michael Anthony Milton, all rights reserved. Permissin is hereby granted to reproduce this in any form and any amount as long as proper citation is given.