Rick Marschall, Special to ASSIST News Service writes:
Believers throughout the millennia have endured torture to learn and savour the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news. Many believers have sacrificed their all in order to know and serve the Saviour. Many believers have risked, and lost, their lives in order to share Christ.
These facts are still true today. In lands where it is most difficult and dangerous, there are martyrs we hear about. We read of secret house churches in China, meeting in secret and in danger, yet boldly reading the Bible one page at a time each meeting.
We know of imprisoned believers in North Korea and Cuba and Iran. We read where, in the face of persecution and death, hundreds and thousands from other faith traditions convert to Christianity, in places like Egypt and Syria.
Yet in the ‘Christian’ West, so-called, millions are indifferent to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Worse, our culture grows hostile to the faith.
In an ironic way, many people who are sceptics and rejectionists – agnostics and atheists – cannot be faulted as nonbelievers if the culture has conspired to shield them from the gospel, from Christ’s gentle invitation. How can they believe unless they hear?
I do not have to tell those who have accepted that invitation some time in their lives, who know the life-changing and soul-cleansing new life offered by Jesus, that the day they made that decision is the most important day of their lives. We have the knowledge that ‘our lives,’ after that encounter with the risen Saviour, means eternity, not just the days we shuffle around here.
That consequential ‘second day’
And the second most important day in someone’s life, although it is of course the other side of the same metaphorical and significant coin, would be the day a person rejects Christ.
But… just as consequential!
One might say that people can’t be accountable for things they have not heard; and we have agreed that this unlikely scenario is possible in our secular society. It might be the case that people have heard sermons, but sermons that encourage people to, say, be nice to others… and not about the crisis of sin and rebellion, and the fatality of separation from the Saviour. Very possible.
But at some time, I believe the Holy Spirit will arrange events so that every person at least one time hears the simple message of the messiah, and the challenge of the cross. And will have the opportunity to open ears, mind, and heart. Ignorance is not bliss; nor is it an excuse.
It might be a word of a friend. It might be a stray gospel song or random TV preacher. It might be messages like this. Maybe you are reading this by ‘accident’; maybe a friend has forwarded it to you. But by any of these happenstances, you can no longer, ever, say that you never really heard the gospel explained to you. The personal invitation from the lover of your soul –
The road to reconciliation
There is one God, creator of the universe; who always was and always will be. He created vast domains of the heavens, yet counts the hairs on your head.
In love he created the human race and our bountiful earth. In love he granted humankind free will; and we all have gone astray. We rebel, we sin, we think our puny selves sufficient; and that grieves God.
Through his inspiration, in writings and through prophets, he has offered rules of conduct; he delivered miracles, chastisements and blessings; and yet his children sin. We all have gone our own way, and God, not having created robots, grieved.
As only an awesome God would do, he emptied himself and became human, walking among us and posterity, sharing truth, showing his power by miracles, and showering us with his love through teaching and by example. He was incarnate so we might be assured that he knows our suffering and sorrows. He offers the mere acknowledgement of him to be our path to reconciliation.
That is what God yearns for in us.
Because he is so holy, and we are sinners, we cannot otherwise be reconciled. How can we approach the presence of one so holy, except, once offered, through justification, by faith, in Jesus? When – true to form for humankind – the Christ was once again rejected and was betrayed, tortured, and put to death, prophecy was fulfilled. But at that turning point of history, Christ overcame death and the grave, and rose from the dead.
Christ’s shed blood paid for our sins
Miracle of his many miracles, he lived again, ministered and preached, all this in ways that his contemporary sceptics reported and no other founder of another religion can claim. Confirming his divinity, this man born of a virgin then ascended bodily to heaven, where he lives today, interceding for the believers. The blood he shed at Calvary is what paid for our sins that separated us from God.
Christians are ‘covered in the blood,’ so that when God sees us, he no longer sees rebellious children, but the precious blood sacrifice of his Son. We form the blood-bought church. Too special for you to treat with indifference.
And in the place of Jesus on earth, the third incarnation of God was sent to live in every believer’s heart. The Holy Spirit empowers, inspires, and encourages Christians today. Healings; deliverance from sin and addictions; restoration of relationships; new beginnings – these are what the Holy Spirit accomplishes. I have been the recipient of the born-again experience. So have millions. So can you be.
So… there. If this is the first time you have read the gospel message, or maybe the first time you have heard it so simply reduced, you cannot claim, when your life on earth is judged, that ‘you never knew.’
You can say the Bible is a book of fairy tales… you can say that man created God and not that God created man… you can say that Jesus never lived or that the resurrection was a plot… you can say that billions of believers are deceived and have been, for 2000 years… you can wrestle with the fact that uncountable Christ-followers have known the truth so completely that they have endured torture and death, refusing to deny his existence…
You can spend sleepless nights trying to comprehend how this or that person’s life has been amazingly transformed… you will scoff, perhaps, at displays of love and sacrifice that seem crazy to you… you might still think that you know better than this ‘God’ and the preponderance of history and the evidence in writings and cathedrals and chapels and art and music and in changed lives. Transformed natures. New births. Joy unspeakable…
Arriving at the most important day of your life!
But you cannot claim that you have never heard the message of the gospel, the good news. The details will follow later – when you accept Christ, you become hungry and thirsty for them, no worries.
But to believe Jesus was the Son of God, and that God raised him from the dead: believe it in your heart, and confess it with your mouth (in a prayer; to a friend) and you have satisfactorily accepted God’s simple invitation.
God honours sincere seeking, and never lets the yearning prayer of a hungry soul go unanswered. In the midst of a sinful and secular society, a culture of cold churches, people can still move on this or any day from ‘the second most important day of their lives (as dangerous as rejecting Christ is)’ to feeling like they have arrived at that most important day.
Rick Marschall has authored 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics and writer for Disney Comics. Link: http://www.mondayministry.com / RickMarschall@gmail.com. See TheBuzz regarding a special book of Rick’s.
Editor’s note: This April Opinion is excerpted from Rick Marschall’s ASSIST article which has this appropriate YouTube of Nancy Harmon and Family Worship Center singing Blood Bought Church. Enjoy!