Amazing Grace | A Presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Updated: May 4



The Question


If any of our readers ever had the opportunity to engage with individuals who do not share our Christian worldview, they would be able to confirm that one of the most popular questions asked by our non-Christian friends, is "Why do we need God?". This question is one we can answer in parrot-fashion by reciting common Christian doctrine, but we found that this does not drive the point home, and the answer seems unsatisfactory. To attempt an answer to this question in a more satisfactory manner, we present the question of ultimate significance: "What is the meaning of life?" or "What is the ultimate significance of life?". The answer presented by our skeptic friends is usually something along the lines of "To make a positive impact and leave the world a better place when compared to the way we found it."


To this we ask, for something to be better than something, you need a standard with which you judge the world in order to determine that it is, in fact, better now than it was before.


Consider an adventurer making his way, traveling from Pretoria (South Africa, Gauteng) to Lüderitz (Namibia). The trip begins in Pretoria and ends in Lüderitz. The traveler will need to travel in the direction of Lüderitz in order to say that he is, in fact, closer to his destination. In this case, Lüderitz would be the reference point which the traveler uses to determine whether he is closer or farther away from his destination. In the same sense, for us the say that a certain life made the world a better or worse place, we would need a reference point to determine whether it is, in fact, better or worse. To this, our friends will easily be able to say that the reference point is not hard the find: Most would agree it is a world of equality, no poverty and less suffering for all etc. and we agree to some extent, but view those factors as road signs to the destination rather than the destination itself (more on that later).


Suppose that someone came along (like he or she did and were rightfully condemned in our view) with a different view of a better world (a different reference point). In their view, a better world is one ruled by a certain group of people belonging to the Arian race who speaks German. They enforce this by killing any disabled among them and those with different views. With every killing, they are making the world a better place (bringing it closer to their view of the best world). On what basis do our non-Christian friends condemn this group of people? If one example isn't enough, we can also point to the Mao dynasty of China as well as the Soviet Union under Stalin, both were regimes with different views of a better world, and it involved them killing people in their millions. On what basis could our friends condemn those worldviews as wrong, and theirs as right?


See what is happening here? Suddenly our non-Christian friend's idea of the best world (their reference point) is not so objective anymore. Suddenly we feel the need to compare reference points, and for that, we need a "super-reference point", or rather, a reference point used to compare reference points. Where can we find this? For if we don't find such a super-reference point, there is nothing we can do to condemn other views as wrong and ours as right (right as in conforms more closely to the super-reference point than the wrong one). It would mean that as Richard Dawkins put it "There would be no right or wrong, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." It would mean that no one can say that the Nazi's where objectively wrong in their view of the best word. If you are fine with saying that they were not objectively wrong, but only wrong according to your view, then you must be content when a government comes into power who sees it good to force you into a concentration camp. For if you would condemn them for doing that, on what basis is your view any better than theirs? Why is your view more right than theirs?


The Plot Twist (Despair)


Why bother with finding the objective best possible worldview, if the human race is doomed to extinction? If death is the end of our stories, why bother with trying to live a "good" life? Why bother helping the poor, working hard, raising a family and making lasting friends? If all of us are doomed to die, and that's the end of it, what ultimate difference does it make? It is important to distinguish between the ideas of relative significance and ultimate significance. It may be relatively significant with regard to your life on Earth if you help the poor, but when you and the people you helped both die, it would not have mattered. Notice that whether you helped the poor or not, in both cases the end is death. So what was the ultimate significance of your act of generosity in helping the poor? Nothing.


The soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting the Nazi regime during the second world war may have stopped the Nazis from doing any more harm, but sometime in the future, the universe will die an inevitable fire death. What ultimate difference did the soldiers' sacrifice make? Nothing. Surely this pit of indifference and meaninglessness cannot be all there is? If you don't believe in God, and more specifically the Christian worldview, it is, and there is nothing more to this world than (as the Greek philosophers concluded) to eat and drink because tomorrow we may be dead.



The (Half) Good News


God does exist, the Christian worldview is true and the only worldview that can give our lives any form of ultimate significance. With it, we also get a super-reference point with which to judge every individual's idea of the best world: God's perfect nature. The more something we do conforms to God's nature, the better it is, and the farther it is from God's nature, the worse. The question then that naturally arises is: How do we come to know God's nature? We are created in His image, and His law is written on our hearts. He also revealed Himself to us in Jesus and provided us with His Word (which is eternal) which we can study, and use as a mirror to see whether our lives reflect God's nature, or not. The entire law can be summarised in one word: Love. Love your neighbor as you love yourself, and love God above all else. In the context the "love your neighbor" command was given, it means everyone, even your enemies.


Loving your enemies is not something any person would have thought of when making up an idea of the best world, but search your heart, and you would find that to love everyone (even your enemies) as you love yourself, is the right thing to do and a necessary condition for a better world. Notice also that loving someone doesn't necessarily mean you like them. We don't always like ourselves when we are selfish, or arrogant, but we continue to love ourselves. The existence of God also opens another door: A place where we can find ultimate significance in addition to the relative significance of our lives here. Perhaps our giving to the poor or heroic acts of selflessness lead to nothing after all…


Back to Despair


In the previous section it became clear that the super-reference point we discussed and pointed to as God's nature, applies universally to us all and is the objective reference point we all use (albeit unknowingly) to determine whether an action is good or bad, or determining whether an individual action leads to a better world, or a worse one. It doesn't take a very aware person to see that all of us has failed to meet or live up this super-reference point. None of us is able to fully live a perfectly good life: even the best of us suffer from selfishness, arrogance, anger etc. If the reader thinks that he has lived a perfectly good life up to now, he is either lying to himself or suffers from pride which also causes him to fall short of the reference point of perfect goodness.


Now, this presents us with a problem, for if we fall short of this reference point, how can we ever think to enter the Kingdom of God, where there is only goodness and where the perfect world exists? No corrupt creatures like ourselves will occupy a place where God is, as He is Holy. Worse than that, every action that we classify as a bad action, in the Christian worldview is defined as "sin", which literally is an act of rebellion against God. Every sin, or bad action is an attempt to dethrone God and become our own gods. Since God is the perfect being, he is also perfectly just, and hence every bad action or sin we commit has to be brought to light and punished (Notice how we are already expanding on the idea of ultimate significance). This is a wonderful thought and comfort for those who have been wronged, and never found justice in this life.


However, when you think a little bit further, all of us have sinned and actually, ultimately deserve to be punished. And so the comfort is also accompanied with utter despair, for even we deserve the same justice we so hope others will receive who have wronged us. It gets worse, for even the actions that we consider to be good, may seem so to others, but when we dig deep within ourselves we also find that most of the time our good actions are accompanied with the idea of receiving gain somewhere else: An increase in admiration from our peers, to feel better about ourselves, to show off our wealth, to assert our dominance etc. Even our good actions have been corrupted.


So we find ourselves at a massive brick wall. We know what a perfectly good world looks like, but it is impossible for us to attain it. We say impossible because we really mean impossible. The person who still think it possible to live a perfectly good life in perfect harmony with God's nature, not standing guilty of any sin, hasn't tried hard enough to do so yet. The only way to discover something is to try it, only then will have realized the magnitude of the problem.


C.S Lewis stated that you don't discover the might of the German Army by rolling over, but by standing up to it and fighting it. In the same way, we will never know the stranglehold sin has on us if we never try to fight it. It is something that comes naturally to us: We don't teach children to lie, steal and be selfish, we rather (try) to teach them not to do those things. Human nature was inherently corrupted by the free choice of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and there is nothing we can do about it. The Kingdom of God is locked, and we have no way of entering it.



The Good News (The Gospel)

Earlier we spoke about ultimate justice as one of the things each of us will receive in the next world. God, being perfect in his nature must also be perfectly just. It implies that every sin or bad action we committed must be brought to light and punished accordingly. Therefore not only will we be separated from God, locked out of the Kingdom of Heaven (in hell, as corrupted beings cannot enter a place of no corruption), we will also be rightfully punished by God in his perfect justice for our actions. Now if we were to end here, we would have to agree with the Greek philosophers to eat and drink now, for tomorrow we might be dead! But it doesn't end there, for God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross at Calvary Hill that whosoever believes in Him, and accepts His sacrifice for their sins, would not be separated and punished by God, but inherit the everlasting life and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.


When the final judgment takes place, every action brought to light will be dealt with accordingly. God will not just forgive sins as non-Christians and even some other Christians tend to think. Every action will be punished still, for anything less then God is doing something which goes against his nature. Therefore the question isn't whether your sins will be punished or not, rather it is who will take the punishment for your sins? Is it Jesus, or you? If it is Jesus, then God will view you as clean and born-again as we say. The old man that is corrupt has gone away, and the new man has been born. Good news indeed!


By now something must strike you as strange. The gospel is not something that is dependent on human will or effort. There is nothing we can do to cause Jesus to pay for our sins. The initiative is fully on His side! Consider that when approaching something inanimate (such as a rock), the initiative lies fully on your side to pick it up, it cannot cause you to pick it up. To make friends, two people usually approach each other and hence we can say the initiative is split between the two. In the case of our current relationship with God, humanity as a whole is dead in our sins (like the rock described earlier), but perhaps even worse, we are evasive towards God, waging a war of rebellion against him if you will. We love sin! We love not following the rules, being selfish, chasing power etc. Therefore the initiative lies wholly on God's side to provide us with salvation.


The good news that comes with our salvation that depends wholly on God, is that if He chooses the bear the payment for your sins, you will never be able to lose your salvation or cause Him to reverse His decision to save you from your sinful state. So to summarise before we move on:


  1. Humans are totally depraved in our current state, unable to live a perfect life which we all so desire, guilty before God and ready to be justly punished for our sins on the day of judgment.

  2. God, in his grace and mercy, decided to pay for the sins of everyone who chooses to accept the sacrifice presented by Jesus on Calvary Hill.


Earlier we referred to the Law of God as a sort of mirror used to determine whether our reflection corresponds to God's nature or not. In 2012 Theocracy, a rock band released a single titled "Mirror of Souls". In the single, the protagonist looks into the Holy Eyes of God to see his own reflection which rocks him to his very core: He sees a face with eyes as black as night, mangled by a disease with the flesh rotting away. Only after running away and being caught by Jesus, did Jesus lead Him back to God, back to the mirror. After looking in the mirror a second time, the protagonist saw that his reflection is no longer the horrific previous image of sin and decay, but replaced with that of Jesus: Signifying that He is born again, becoming more Christ-like in his actions, but also that his sins are now paid for by Christ.


Why do we need God?


At the beginning of our discussion, we stated that the answer to the above question can easily be answered by reciting Christian doctrine in parrot-fashion, but held off from doing that to have the above discussion. Now is the proper time to answer the question with doctrine: Without God, we would remain dead in our sins, unable to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and doomed to suffer for eternity in a self-caused hell.


We caught some glimpse of these self-caused hells in the 20th century. Millions murdered by deranged dictators who only had a few years to exercise their power. Imagine what millions of such dictators can accomplish when given an eternity, with God putting no limit on their actions as he continuously does today due to his general grace. God limits the evil we can commit today, imagine what we can accomplish in terms of evil if God eventually turns His back?



The inside of a cathedral


What about this world?


A very thoughtful reader will notice that we rarely talk about this world, but focus a lot on the judgment day and thereafter. What about this world then? There are two things we can say about this world. Each of us is expected to live for around eighty years on Earth, more if we are blessed. We are going to live an eternity in our destination hereafter as decreed by God. Therefore when we compare the amount of time to be spent here, with the time we will spend hereafter, it draws close to being comparatively insignificant, tending to nothing. It is like focusing on a grain of sand when standing in front of a mountain. Sure the grain of sand may be interesting to some, but in terms of what is supposed to catch your attention, it is definitely the mountain. Secondly, only with a proper understanding of the next world, will we be able to make the most of the current. Only if you know your destination, will the trip be worth it: otherwise it will be a mess of trying to figure out what to do and where to go. Focus on the next world, and you will find this one thrown in. Focus on this world, and you will get neither.


There is an abundance of stories of people in this world who are deemed to be successful in worldly terms, but they preach about the emptiness of it all. Numerous people have proclaimed to reach the top of the mountain, the pinnacle of success in this world, only to find there is nothing there but emptiness and despair. Don't be fooled, we find in ourselves desires that cannot be fulfilled in this world. You can fool yourself that happiness can be found here, but you would eventually find you were wrong.


General misconceptions

There are two misconceptions we wish to address here regarding the gospel. People generally say something along the lines of "I will live a righteous life, and if there is a god or gods, then they will have mercy on me, and if they don't, then I wouldn't want to worship them anyway". To us, this is an incredibly lazy statement. It is riddled with uncertainty when much certainty can be found regarding this subject. When raising this statement, it is a general attempt to indemnify yourself from hard thinking and researching into the claims of the gospel, as well as any work God may request from us if He were real.


This statement also makes the underlying assumption that either humans are inherently good, or that this god is not perfectly just. If you make the first assumption, that men are inherently good, we maintain what we wrote before: Then you haven't tried hard enough to be good to realize that you aren't. If you make the second assumption, then this god you're talking about it is not God, as he is not perfect in his attributes. Either way, no intellectually honest individual can live by this philosophy. Either you believe in God and get to know His will and plan for your salvation, or you don't and try to find some meaning in a meaningless universe. There is no middle ground to salvation.


The second misconception is that since Jesus already died/paid for the sins of his children/followers, it implies that we no longer need to care about our transgressions. Under the section where we discussed the gospel, we provided two points to summarise which we will state again, and then add a third:


  1. Humans are totally depraved in our current state, unable to live a perfect life which we all so desire, guilty before God and ready to be justly punished for our sins on the day of judgment.

  2. God, in his grace and mercy, decided to pay for the sins of everyone who chooses to accept the sacrifice presented by Jesus on Calvary Hill.

  3. Knowing this, we now live a life of thankfulness toward God, trying to keep his commandments and repenting from our sins whenever we fail to live up to standard presented by the perfect life of Jesus.


These three pillars are central to the Christian message, and if we fail to understand or believe any of them, you either end up with complete despair, a lack of understanding God's grace, or a sinner unwilling to repent. The three points mentioned above are the three sections of the Heidelberg Catechism, and the reader would do himself well to give it a read.

It is not strange to ask if Christ already paid for our sins, why are we still here? Why haven't the judgment day already happened? To this we ask if our reader is an unbeliever who has not yet accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, do you really want the judgment day to already have come, or to happen right now, considering that you will have to pay for your own transgressions?


To the Christian we ask, has every child of God come to faith yet? Some of our readers may be mothers and fathers: If you were on holiday in the desert, will you leave your child in the desert and head for home, or wait for him to get into the car? Why doesn't God just collect His children Himself and get it over with? Because in His wisdom he decreed that we be his tools in this world to spread the Gospel to those who have not yet heard. It also teaches us a valuable lesson in being his tools: obedience to His will and command, something we otherwise would not have known.


Who is God, how do I know Him?


In the previous sections, the reader will notice that sometimes we refer to Jesus as distinct from God and other times as the same as God. This is because God has revealed Himself to us as one God, consisting of three persons who each is also God. It may seem confusing, for the simple fact that it is. God revealed Himself as a trinity: The Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.


Remember when we wrote about our relationship with God, we said that the initiative to restore the relationship with us is wholly on the side of God. It is God, the Holy Spirit who works in the heart of every Christian to bring the dead man back to life. The Holy Spirit removes the heart of rock (disobedience) and provides us with a heart of flesh (obedience to God). There is nothing we can do to get to know God, or to receive our salvation from Him. If you are reading this, feeling that you really want to know God, the Holy Spirit may already be working within you. If you are reading this feeling we are talking complete rubbish, it may be yet to come, or not at all. Remember that when coming to know God, you would have to accept whatever He may reveal to you and you may not like it (eg. The total depravity of man), it may literally bring you to tears (eg. the moment you truly realise what God has already done for you), it may even be confusing (eg. the doctrine of the Trinity, Old Testament laws) but it is all wonderfully true.


Conclusion

This piece was not intended to try and convince the reader of the truth of Christianity, as it was explicitly stated that it is written on the presupposition that God exists and that Christianity is true. Its mere intention is to give the reader an overview or refreshment of a reformed Christian view. To summarise, we leave the reader with the following:


Either you realize the depravity of man (including yourself) and pray to God to reach out to you, or you don't. You can debate with us for years into the future, but in the end, either the Holy Spirit will soften your heart and you will see the hard truth, or He won't. In either case, it will be in accordance with your will and attitude towards God. Throughout Scripture and history, God reveals Himself to the humble and hides from the proud. If you look around you and see no sign of God, perhaps you should not feel a sense of smug confidence in his absence, but rather, a terrible fear. Pride in this sense is any remaining belief or faith in yourself to create your own meaning, define your own definition of good and evil (the best world) and your ability to make it happen and make an ultimate difference.

As C.S Lewis wrote near the end of his book 'Mere Christianity':


If there is a God, you cannot put Him off with futile speculations or memories from what you read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (if you can remember it all) when the anesthetic fog which we call 'nature' or 'the real world' fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate and unavoidable?

In peace.

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