One of the deepest human needs is the desire for acceptance and for our life to have meaning.
The way we see (or imagine) ourselves is often determined by the approval or rejection of those around us. We can try to win favour by saying or doing things which we think they will find acceptable or profitable. We may even be motivated by the desire to be in with the “crowd” or with those who pull the levers of power.
If we follow that way of thinking and behaving towards other people then, sooner or later, it will begin to be the default way of life we adopt. Finding it hard to escape its clutches, we will end up trying to earn God’s favour in the same way, perhaps even out of a sense of guilt.
As we continue our studies on what it means to be a community living by God’s design, we turn our attention to building blocks of Christian belief and character which hold the fellowship together.
The most wonderful thing of all about the cross is that it reveals the love of God to us. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
I'll tell you what God did do. He sent Jesus to die on the cross so you could be saved. To forgive your sins. That doesn't sound like condemnation; that sounds like hope. (J E B Spredemann, A Secret Encounter)
Love, not anger, brought Jesus to the cross. Golgotha came as a result of God's great desire to forgive, not his reluctance. Jesus knew that by his vicarious suffering he could actually absorb all the evil of humanity and so heal it, forgive it, redeem it. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline)
Pause for thought
- What is the natural condition of human beings without God?
- In what ways might we try to earn God's approval?
- How do the above quotes help us to understand why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary?
We all need help. On a day to day practical level we won’t be able to do everything on our own: we need support from those who are used to dealing with the things we can’t face. There’s much more at stake when it comes to our spiritual life: we can’t fix other people’s lives however much we try, because we can’t put our own lives in order. The only solution is to seek God’s help.
How bad does it get?
- Please read Romans 3 verses 9 to 20. In verses 10 to 18 Paul refers to several Old Testament passages to illustrate the fact that everyone is "under sin" (verse 9). What portrait of humanity is painted here?
- How would you describe “sin” to a non Christian?
- What are the immediate and long term consequences of sin?
- Why does Paul tell us how bad we are before he discusses the good news of Jesus Christ? How might explaining such bad news help us in our task of Mission?
As he writes to the believers in Rome, Paul references the biblical foundation for authentic relationships. These building blocks involve our connection with others, as well as dealing with our status and relationship with God. That relationship is built on Christ’s work – it is only the cross that can make us right with God.
Justified and Redeemed: how good can it get?
- Please read Romans 3 verses 21 to 31. What does it mean to have faith in Christ?
- The word justified (verse 24) is borrowed from the law court. A justified person has no charges that can stand up against him. He is righteous in the eyes of the law. Why is our “justification” so remarkable given our spiritual and moral condition?
- The word redemption (verse 24) is borrowed from the slave market. It means to buy someone out of slavery. In what ways were we once slaves? In what ways might we be slaves today?
- Jesus paid a price to set us free. How does that make you feel and how does it affect your desire to obey and to serve him?
- The expression sacrifice of atonement (verse 25) is taken from the Old Testament system of sacrifices. In this system the death of a sacrificial animal turned away God's wrath from the sinner. How does this picture help us to understand and appreciate what Jesus did for us on the cross?
- How should the fact that God has accepted and forgiven us through Christ affect our relationships with one another and with God? (see Matthew 6 verses 9 to 15; Matthew 18 verses 21 to 35; Colossians 3 verses 13 to 14).
To think about
How would you explain the necessity of Jesus dying in our place to a sceptic or a non believer?