Part 1: Foundations
We start up at the beginning. How does a person get saved? What do you mean by getting saved? Aren't we all in general doing fine?
The sad fact is that we are not. Most of us know we are not perfect, but certainly, don't we all agree that to err is human? All of us commit various wrongs in life. The key issue is that we learn from our mistakes and resolve to be better people next time. After all, don't the motives count? If we do wrong, we could just make up for it by doing more good works to balance out our evil works.
The truth of the matter is that we are not answerable to ourselves. Wrongdoing is wrong and deserves to be punished, while good works deserve to be rewarded. That is a truth. But why do we think our good works are truly good, and why do we think that our bad deeds are not very bad?
The Bible says that we are much more wicked than we ourselves think. It is not that God does not reward good works. On the contrary, God does give eternal life to those who are truly good (Rom. 2:6-7; Lev. 18:5) But what good works are agreeable to God? Why should God think that our good works are good enough? On the contrary, our righteous acts are as disgusting to God as menstrual rags (Is. 64:6). Whatever is not done according to the perfect standard of God is not acceptable to him (Jas. 2: 10) and this standard can be expressed in many ways, one of them being the 10 commandments (Ex. 20: 3-17)
Many times we think of God as being a nice old man in the sky, just wanting to help us. But reality is not for us to decide. The standard of God is fixed apart from the decisions of Man. Rather, the standard by which works are judged as good or bad are fixed by the God who transcends this entire creation. This same God created us and He sets the standard for His creation. We who are created by God have no right to dispute His authority, because we are created by Him.
Once we see ourselves using the proper objective standard, then we must admit that we are not as good as we make ourselves. In fact, we find that all of our good works are not good according to God's standards. For example, the standard for doing any good work is that it ought to be done not that we feel we have to make up for our bad works or for our good reputation, but for God's glory (Rom. 14: 23). On the one hand, even one of our bad deeds cancel out any good that we have done (Jas. 2:10). On the other hand, not one of our good deeds are truly good according to God's standard.
This is the problem all men naturally face. You can pour contempt on it, deny that such a God exists, or deny that God will ever set such a high standard. Regardless, you are like an ostrich putting its head into the sand. For your (and mine) affirmations and denials mean absolutely nothing. You can deny gravity all you want, but gravity will still work when you jump off a cliff. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that everyone is held to the perfect standard of justice, and everyone fails.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the center of Christianity. It is the message of the one way whereby any solution is possible. The reason why Christianity is the only truth is that no other way can solve the problem of our condemnation. It is not that Christianity excludes people from heaven. Rather, it is the only way whereby Man can go to heaven. Bring all your other religions and philosophies. If anyone can solve the problem of condemnation, they are surely welcome to be held to and embraced. Can anyone of them solve the problem of condemnation? Present your case. What solution do you as a follower of this religion or this philosophy present for this condemnation? How are you able to help Man to be right before God? Are you able to come up with a solution, any solution, at all?
Christianity presupposed the reality of the condemnation of Man. As it is summarized for us, "there is no one righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10b). The issue to be addressed is the reality of condemnation that is already present on all mankind.
The Gospel message is this: Jesus was born into this world 2000 years ago by the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph. He was born into a Jewish family in the town of Bethlehem in modern-day Israel. When he grew up, he was nailed to a cross by his enemies the leaders of the Jews and the Romans, who wanted to make the Jews happy and not revolt. This death on the cross was however the way by which we can be saved from the present condemnation.
How is that possible, you may ask. Jesus' death was actually part of the plan of God to save us sinners under condemnation. In God's plan, Jesus dies on the cross as a substitute. We were supposed to die because of our bad deeds. But instead, Jesus' death as a substitute means that for all who believe the Gospel message, their punishments were given to Christ instead and Christ's death satisfies justice. The eternal punishment that we should have faced is now no more for all who believed in the Gospel. Instead of facing punishment, Jesus has merited true righteousness and gives it to all who believe the Gospel.
The history of the death of Christ and the divine exchange it delivers is the substance of the Gospel message. It is this message that has to be believed in. For those who believe in it, they have received the deliverance from the state of condemnation all men and women are born in. This is how Jesus has came up with the solution, the only solution that works, for the state of condemnation everyone is in because of their bad deeds.
[to be continued]