In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made it for his glory and gave it to people as a perfect gift. There were no flaws, no bad things, and nothing ever went wrong. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them the task of tending the garden. He intended them to stay there and gave them one rule to protect them, not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God promised that if they disobeyed, they would die.
But this perfection didn’t last long. Before long, Satan tempted our ancestors, and they failed. But God was gracious and didn’t kill them immediately. Instead, he cursed them, Satan, and the earth. Since then, we have all sinned as our ancestors did. Sin is anytime we fall short of God’s perfect standard, disobey his commands, or do what we know we should not do.
Sin is the cause of every bad thing in this world (creation was perfect before sin). Sometimes, bad things happen because of our sin; sometimes, they happen because of someone else’s sin; sometimes, they happen just because earth is suffering the consequences of sin (things like disease and natural disasters).
It is easy to dismiss this because we all sin and we don’t see God’s immediate judgment. But our sin separates us from God; since he is perfect, he cannot accept us in our fallen state. But he does not kill us the moment we sin, even though we deserve it.
We all have this problem and we try different methods to deal with it. Some ignore it, but that doesn’t fix anything. Others believe that trying to do more good than bad will solve the problem, but it doesn’t. We cannot argue our way out of a speeding ticket because of all the times we didn’t speed. Another option is to earn our way into God’s favor, but that falls short as well. God tells us that our best deeds are like filthy rags in his sight. It seems like we have no hope.
But once again, God is gracious. Even though he didn’t have to, God laid aside his glory and came to the earth in the person of Jesus. He was born in poverty, grew up, lived the perfect life we could not, and died in our place. He took our place on the cross and died. But he didn’t stay dead; he rose again on the third day, defeating Satan, sin, and death.
After reading about Jesus’ life, the astonishing things he did, his death, and resurrection, it can be tempting to walk away thinking that he was an amazing teacher and not much else. But he fits into the larger story of what God is doing in history.
We must deal with the same question that Pilate faced at Jesus’ trial, what do we do with Jesus? C.S. Lewis put it best when he summed up the choice we have with this statement:
“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool; you can spit at him and kill him for a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The options are these: Jesus was crazy, and he may as well have said he was a staple remover; he was a liar, knew he was not God, and formed the most elaborately constructed lie ever; or Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus obviously was not a lunatic, nor was he a liar, so the only option we have left is that he is Lord.
Some people say he was merely a good teacher, but this is not a possibility either. If he was just a good teacher, then he could not make the claims he made, have them be false, and still be a good person. We cannot put him in the category of “only a good teacher.”
A final possibility is that Jesus’ later followers made up his claims to deity. However, the apostles wrote the New Testament within a couple of generations of the events they recorded, which is not nearly enough time to distort a true story into a legend. This would be like someone today claiming that John F. Kennedy performed many miracles, claimed to be God, and rose from the dead. People would dismiss anyone who made claims like that as a fraud. But people living at the time of the New Testament were not able to refute Christianity’s claims.
Jesus is unique in history in that he was fully God and man. He needed to be human to identify with us and live the life we are incapable of living. He needed to be God to pay for our sins.
The only way we can truly deal with our sin problem is to place our faith in Christ and trust Jesus to fix it for us. We must recognize that we are incapable of fixing our sin on our own. We must believe the facts of the gospel, acknowledge our sins, turn away from them, and then live a life following his teachings.
Trusting Jesus is more than just intellectual assent. This is like how we interact with a chair. We can know everything about a chair, describe it, and say that we believe it will hold us up. But we do not have faith that the chair will support us until we act and sit in it. Saving faith is a gift, but it requires us to trust and act.