john-3-16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Wow, that sounds really cool. But what’s the catch?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Where is the rest of this? It can’t possibly be complete.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

OK, listen…I think you’re trying to tell me something here, but I just can’t figure this out without rules.

And so it goes. Whether you heard these simple words for the first time when you were a child, or someone shared them with you when became an adult, somehow, they seem too simple…too basic…too good to be true.

God gave us minds for thinking and reasoning. He gave us these abilities so we can make choices. He doesn’t want robotic foot soldiers who think the approach to everything is through sameness. Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made.

When we embrace the fact that the only way to the Father is through the Son, we often forget that the Son is the only perfect person who ever lived. In an attempt to rationalize the “one way”, we endeavor to apply that “one way” to ourselves. Our lives, which are all fearfully and wonderfully knit together in our mothers’ wombs, are all unique.

The One Way is Christ. Christ, who knows each of us individually. He knows each of our strengths and each of our weaknesses. He does not, however, believe that we are all the same.

You might be thinking “if there is only one way, why are there so many different Christian denominations?” I’ve thought this same thing, and there is a simple, yet not-so-simple answer. The simple answer is “man”. Yes, it’s our fault. What makes it not-so-simple is that we are all different. We interpret things differently. Somehow, we have created hundreds of different approaches to the One.

He knew we would do this. He knew that the law, which is what points us to Him, would instead become our focus. Generation upon generation of Christians have ignored Christ, instead striving to uphold the Ten Commandments. In our attempt to behave and follow these rules, we forget that we are all hopelessly flawed, and our only hope is Christ.

I grew up surrounded by religion. Religion. Lists of rules. Pray and your sin goes away. Show the world Jesus by how closely you toe the line, and make sure you shame them and point out their sins so they’ll come over to our side.

Although God’s love, grace, and mercy has surrounded me all my life, I observed the Gospel for the first time when I was 44 years old. I wanted desperately to deny God’s existence. My years of trying to be good just weren’t paying off. I was still embroiled in a personal battle over my darkest secret that had me at a point of desperation. I was about to declare that I was an atheist, so God placed a former atheist in my path. He showed me what transformation was meant to be.

In less than three years, I have learned more about our Savior than I had in the prior forty-four. You might think I mean that I’ve leapt into the Bible and can quote the right verse at the right time. No. That’s not what I mean. I mean this…God sent Jesus into the world…you, me, and everyone around us…to save us. We were already condemned. Through a simple act of listening to the Holy Spirit, believing what Christ did was sufficient to forgive my sins, and confessing those sins, I’ve been freed. Freed from a lifetime of thinking that I had to atone for my wrongs. The atonement took place on a cross and in an empty tomb, half a world away, two thousand years ago.

So, my “bare-bones” take on this whole salvation thing…in this life, I always have been, am still, and will always be a sinful human being. I’ll fall short, and when I do, I’ll realize that the penalty I should receive has already been taken care of by Jesus. I am His child, and I have to approach Him in that way. “Daddy, I’ve been bad and I’m sorry…Daddy, I need your help…Daddy, my friend needs to know you’re their Daddy too.”

Be simple, like a child, and you’ll see His majesty.

Note – this was originally published on a blog I wrote for this summer, which has since been closed. 

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