“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” ~ Jesus
God revealed how much he loves us through the Messiah—the King of kings and Lord of lords. He told us we are God’s children and that we are loved because we are his children. (If you don't know that, the following video might help you to see just how valued you are.)
The King of the universe calls us his friends. He became a man and died for you. And by his Spirit, he rose his body from the dead and now lives for us all. (And though God has forgiven each and every one of us, we will never begin to be free from our sins until we begin to trust him.1)
But the paradox of God’s love and forgiveness is this: You are not saved until you believe you have been saved. In other words, we have to enter into God’s salvation. We have to repent (change our minds) and believe. Each and every one of us has been forgiven, but we cannot enjoy intimacy with God and begin to be set free from our self-destructive ways until we believe that we are forgiven and are unconditionally loved.2
God is good. He is the greatest conceivable being. (For an in-depth look at what this means, see The Inescapable Love of God (2nd edition) by Thomas Talbott3, Destined for Joy by Alvin Kimel, and David Bentley Hart's book That All Shall Be Saved.)
We are unconditionally loved and accepted by God. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? (But that does not mean God approves of everything we do. See here.)
We belong to God. He made us, and he loves us. He will never give up on anyone of us. (Perhaps this raises some questions for you. If so you might find the following helpful. Is Hell Eternal? See also Grace Saves All by David Artman and chapter one of Gerry Beauchemin's book Hope Beyond Hell www.hopebeyondhell.net/audiobook/. About the author.)
"But won't God judge us?"
Yes, according to Jesus, Christians and non-Christians will be judged by exactly the same standard.
But the standard is not how many good things we do or how many bad things we don’t do; the standard is whether or not we believed and trusted him. The moment a person begins to trust him, is the moment they begin to set things right with God. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
So what does it mean to trust him?
Jesus taught that God loves all people equally. Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, it makes no difference as to how much God loves you. He loves you with an unconditional, eternal, and perfect love (see here).
Trusting Jesus means first taking him at his word that that is true.
Jesus also taught that if we set our hearts on doing his Father’s will, God will take care of us. So trusting Jesus also means trying to do what he commands (see 1 John 5:3).*
This is not unreasonable.
We are not pleased when others do not trust us. (When a little girl ignores her mother and runs on the road, it angers and hurts her mother because she loves her daughter.) In a similar way God is not pleased when we do not trust him. He cannot help us as much as he would like to while we refuse to trust him.
Jesus said the following about those who do, and do not put his words into practice:
“...everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”4
Here is a re-enactment of the Messiah’s most famous sermon.
So according to Jesus trusting and obeying him is the only way to really know what he's talking about; it's the only way to really understand him.
If we are to trust him we must:
If you’re doing that you’re trusting him. (And he will help you. See Acts 5:32.) If you’re trying to understand him any other way, you are building your house on sand. (See "Salvation from Sin" in The Hope of the Gospel by George MacDonald. See here for LibriVox recording.) *
“Men would understand: they do not care to obey,—understand where it is impossible they should understand save by obeying. “ ~ George MacDonald
Here’s a question for my Christian brothers and sisters.
If Jesus lived in your house, what do you think he would do?
Would he wash up?
If you have a lawn, would he mow the lawn?
Of course he would.
If you're a follower of Jesus, would you do those things with him?
Yes you would. You'd follow him around doing everything you could with him.
Following Jesus is easy when you think about it. We only have to think, "What would Jesus be doing if he was here in bodily form?" Then once you have the answer, join him in spirit by doing what you know he would do. (If you don't know anything about Jesus, you can find out all about him in the New Testament.)
The more someone loves, the more someone puts others before themselves, the greater they are. If you wish to be someone great, follow Jesus' example. He was the greatest person to ever walk this earth. (And contrary to popular opinion, his disciples were also great. See here. They owned their failures; and because they did, they were great leaders. For a modern day example of extreme ownership see chapter one in the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.)
Taken from Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald (David Jack's translation)
The following poem was written by a Scott in the 1800's (at the height of the British Empires power), it's about true greatness.
Prayer by George MacDonald
1. Only Jesus can set us free from the prison called Self.
“All wickedness tends to destroy individuality, and declining natures assimilate as they sink.” ~ George MacDonald
2. Jesus came to save us from our sins. He is our saviour. That is the good news. (See the YouTube video Is the Gospel an Invitation or a Proclamation? - Phil Henry).
"But what if I don't believe? I can't make myself believe!"
That is true. But you can choose to trust and obey Jesus. If you do, you will come to believe.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Psalm 34:8b
The sooner we start to trust and obey Jesus, the sooner we will begin to be set free from the demon called Self. Trusting and obeying Jesus can be very hard, but it is clean. No one has to go against their conscience to do what God asks of them (see Conscience). Jesus will completely destroy the Devil's work. He will save each and every one of us from our sins. Yes, Hell is awful, but it is only the penultimate destiny for the self-centred (see Is Hell Eternal?) God will make all things new (which includes all people).
4. The longer we put Jesus words into practice, the better we will handle the hardships of life.
*What we do reveals our faith (or lack of it). That's why there are so many verses in the Bible which tell us we will be judged according to what we do. God hates our sins because he loves us.
“It is the one terrible heresy of the church, that it has always been presenting something else than obedience as faith in Christ. The work of Christ is not the Working Christ, any more than the clothing of Christ is the body of Christ. If the woman who touched the hem of his garment had trusted in the garment and not in him who wore it, would she have been healed? And the reason that so many who believe about Christ rather than in him, get the comfort they do, is that, touching thus the mere hem of his garment, they cannot help believing a little in the live man inside the garment” (George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons ).
We are saved by faith in God. But faith in God is always revealed by obedience to God. (How then can anyone be sure that they will be saved? You can be sure that you will eventually be saved from sin, and that one day you will enjoy perfect intimacy with God in Heaven. See Grace Saves All. But you can also be sure that while you refuse to repent of your sin, you will suffer; and you will continue to suffer until you repent of it.)
Acknowledging sin, thanking God for becoming a man and dying for us, and then swearing allegiance to the rightful King, are our first acts of obedience. (Placing obedience at the heart of their theology certainly has not hurt the Church in Iran. See here.)
A lot of Christians seem to think that in order to be right with God, you must believe certain things about why Jesus died and rose from the dead. Simply believing that he died and rose from the dead, and trusting and obeying Jesus is not enough according to them. According to these “Christians” you have to accept their theory of atonement also.
But according to Jesus, the only thing you have to do to be right with God is trust and obey the Messiah whom he has sent. (We are slaves to sin, and it is from this we need saving. If you believe that Jesus came to this earth to save us from God's wrath, by taking his wrath upon himself, you would do well to read Atonement, Justice, and Peace: The Message of the Cross and the Mission of the Church by Darrin W. Snyder Belousek. This is the most in-depth book on the topic of atonement I know of. Well written and well researched.)
The most important events in the New Testament are Jesus death and resurrection; but the character of God and our need to trust and obey him are spoken about far more often.