From priests to atheists, we all have a yearning for purpose and meaning, whether we assign that meaning to a god, or heaven, or world peace. It’s as if we’re born with a hole in our soul, which nothing in life seems to fill. We reach for the transcendent, but reap emptiness. Then we end up settling for less by filling up the hole with lesser things, hoping they’ll provide meaning. But they don’t.
The only thing that will fill that hole is a connecting relationship with our Creator. But who is this Creator, and what is He like?
God is…Holy, Just, and Loving
Fortunately, we don’t have to guess about who God is — scripture tells us directly.
The first thing scripture says is that God is holy. That means He is separated from evil and is devoted to displaying His own glory and honor. He is by nature completely righteous, morally perfect. Not surprisingly, He desires that we also be holy.
The second thing scripture says is that God is loving. In our day, “love” has several meanings, typically pretty shallow. But the biblical definition of God’s love is much deeper and far more redemptive. God’s love always seeks our highest good regardless of how we have regarded Him. And our highest good is to be in a life-giving relationship with Him.
The third thing scripture says is that God is just. He is always fair and impartial and is the standard and judge of the world. He made us, so He sets the standard. The standard is to be holy, as He is holy. And in His justice, there is reward for obedience, but punishment for disobedience.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:23
Sin Separates Us from God
But we have not responded properly to a holy, loving, and just God. Although through His love He created us to have a rich, loving relationship with Him, we all decided to go our own way, run our own lives, indulge our own pleasures. We rebelled against Him, ran from His holiness, and became unholy ourselves. The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” But because God is just, there is a terrible penalty for sin. As the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”
Wages…sin…death. What do these terms mean?
Wages are what’s due us. We receive wages from employment; likewise we receive wages from our sin.
Sin is anything we do that is not through faith in God, from improper thoughts to genocide, and everything in between ― regardless of whether the sin is “small” or “big,” it is still sin. Sin is the opposite of holy, or absolute moral perfection. We all sin. As the Bible says: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is a choice, and we deliberately chose it ― to essentially become our own gods by ignoring God’s commands and doing what we want.
Death in this context refers to separation from God ― the ultimate punishment, the spiritual death penalty. God is holy in every way, and sin is repulsive to Him. Sin separates us from Him. In other words, sin kills us spiritually by separating us from our source of life. It’s a terrible thing to live out your whole life separated from Him. But it’s worse to experience a final separation when we physically die in this sinful condition. “Man is destined to die once,” the Bible says, “and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The place of separation is Hell, and there is no way out once you are there.
Think of it this way. Our sin has opened up a great chasm between us and God. We are stranded on one side, the side of sinfulness and death. God is on the other side, the side of holiness and life. We are dead in our sins, separated from God and from the abundant life He desires for us.
We Need a Bridge
To get to God, we need to get across that chasm. We need a bridge.
Our natural instinct is to build our own bridge by piling up a lot of “good deeds” rocks ― enough to fill up the chasm so we can walk across. We try to gain God’s favor by living a moral life, or giving to the poor, or protecting the environment. But there’s a problem with ‘good deeds.’ The chasm between God and us is not merely deep, but infinitely deep. We’d have to literally have an infinite number of good-deeds rocks to fill the chasm and bridge the gap. No one has that many. And it’s actually worse than that. Since God is perfect, the rocks we put into the chasm would have to be better than just good deeds. They’d have to be perfect deeds. We don’t have those, either.
Since the standard is infinite and perfect, we clearly cannot build the bridge ourselves. Only an infinite and perfect God can build the bridge.
The good news is that, in His mercy and love, He has done just that.
Jesus is the Bridge
The bridge that God has provided is Jesus Christ, God’s only son. He can bridge the gap because He is both infinite and perfect. Through Jesus, we can have access to God.
But there’s a big problem for us: the Bible clearly states that “the wages of sin is death.” Because of our sin, we are under the spiritual death penalty, and that penalty has to be paid. If we try to pay it ourselves, we must do so by dying — resulting in eternal separation from God, the worst kind of hell. Our only hope of escape from this dreadful condition is for someone else to pay the penalty we cannot pay. Someone needs to rescue us, “save” us.
That is exactly what Jesus did. The Bible says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). He died in our place, literally taking our sins on His back as he carried the cross. The cross was not the gilded crucifix of cathedrals or a white decoration atop a steeple, but an instrument of cruel execution. It was a heavy, rough-cut piece of wood with a crosspiece. A criminal was strapped down on it and spikes driven into his wrists and feet. The cross was then raised and chunked into a hole in the ground. The criminal, exposed and naked to the elements and bleeding profusely, had to repeatedly stiffen upwards just to breathe, until finally he would die an excruciating death through asphyxiation, internal bleeding, or heart failure.
Jesus did this for us. We should have been on that cross, since we — not Jesus — were the ones who sinned. But He took our place. Think about what that means. Even though we were condemned and dead to God in our sins ― separated from His holiness by our unholiness ― God still loved us and gave up His greatest treasure, His Son, Jesus, to build that bridge.
This is an incredible reprieve. We can escape the death penalty! And here is the reward: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23). Eternal life means a relationship with God that will never be severed, kept just for you in eternity.
Notice the word “gift” in the passage “…but the gift of God is eternal life…” We do not earn eternal life, it is a free gift. Again, there are no “good” deeds we can do to build our own bridge across the chasm of separation. “He saved us,” says the Bible, “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). This idea of a gift is a consistent theme in scripture: “For it is by grace [God’s favor apart from anything you do] you have been saved, through faith ― and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ― not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9a).
Jesus is the Only Bridge
Eternal life a gift, and that gift is exclusive. Jesus is not just a bridge, but the only possible bridge. Why? If God accepts a sacrifice on behalf of a sinner, that sacrifice has to be perfect, without sin. Jesus alone is perfect, and alone can serve as a perfect sacrifice. The only path to salvation is across the only bridge God has provided. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” said Jesus, “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
That means salvation only comes through faith in Christ. Salvation does not come through any other god, priest, or prophet. Salvation is not inherited from your parents or conferred by any church. Salvation does not come from religious rituals, baptism, catechism, or joining a church. It does not come from any particular denomination or sect. It cannot be dispensed through philosophy, behavior modification, self-improvement, or attempts to live a moral life. Salvation comes only through faith in Christ ― Christ alone, plus nothing. “Salvation is found in no one else,” says the Bible, “for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Now, only one thing remains for salvation, and that is up to you.
What Must I Do to Receive Eternal Life?
Jesus has done everything necessary to rescue you from death, to bridge the gap. But you must accept His rescue by crossing the bridge. What does “accept” mean? It is as simple as ABC:
- Admit you have sinned against God.
- Believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sin.
- Confess that Jesus is Lord by asking Him to forgive you of your sin and take complete control of your life and run it.
Disarmingly simple, isn’t it? That’s because He has already done all the heavy lifting; all you need to do is accept His work on your behalf by placing your faith in Him.
Count the Cost
Before you make this life-changing decision, take a minute to count the cost. Jesus Himself warned “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). Remember, the cross is a symbol of dying to self, living for Him alone, not for you. Yet Jesus promised: “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39b).
Faith in Christ is not about joining a church or changing a religion. It’s not even fundamentally about going to heaven, though heaven is a precious fringe benefit. It’s about being willing to make Jesus the absolute authority over every area of your life. The changes may not be instantaneous, and may be a lifelong process, but following Jesus is all about commitment to submit to His rule and authority. The key is: are you willing to submit every part of your life to Jesus’ control? That is what He requires of you.
Prayer of salvation
If you are willing to surrender your life to His control, He is willing to give you eternal life. You can start by praying this prayer:
I realize that I have sinned against you and gone my own way.
I know that the penalty for my sin is death – eternal separation from your presence.
I believe that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty that I could not pay, by dying on a cross instead of me.
I ask you to forgive me for my sin. I ask you to create from scratch your new life within me.
I surrender everything I am and everything I have to your control. Come in and be the boss of my life.
Thank you for your free gift ― a relationship with you that extends to eternal life.
There’s nothing magic about the wording of this sample prayer. It just helps you voice to God what scripture requires of you to obtain His salvation.
If you just committed to following Christ, you now have new life! He no longer counts your sins against you. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Click here to see what comes next in your new life!
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