As you walk through the main entrance of any church , look up and you will see a statue of a man suffering on a cross, look around and you will see him again and again. We hope one day you will meet him in all manner of ways, times and places.
If I might take a few minutes of your time, I would like to introduce you to the core character in Christianity.
The man you can see is our lord Jesus Christ the founder and perfecter of our faith, who endured that agony for you (Hebrews 12-2). To the reader of this guide, please note he did that very specifically for YOU.
You may wonder how a man, who lived a long time ago, had you in mind, long before you were born. You see that man; Jesus of Nazareth is both man and God…
In Psalm 139 it says “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed”. That psalm says just how inescapable the God who made you is. To truly separate you from God would be like trying to take the milk out of your tea, after it has been poured in. He said “He is in God, You are in Him and He is in you” (John 14:20).
The implications of him being a God and dying a horrible death for specifically you are quite clear. He let that happen to him, he chose that death. He wasn’t guilty of any crime that he had committed, he was paying for yours. Peter who was one of his disciples said that he never sinned, he never told a lie (1 Peter 2:22). So that’s an innocent man up there, who chose to die for you.
So why did he decide to do that, and why did he need to do that for you?
The why? Because of love for you, a love that means he wants to be alongside, in you, around you, every step of the way. Not just in this life but for eternity.
Every sin large or small, every time we mess up, every time we hurt each other, are angry, or deceitful, every time we are unkind, uncaring, or just not caring enough. That man is paying the price for all those moments so that you can join him one day in his kingdom. Can you see how broken he has allowed himself to be? How he has allowed himself to become the object of ridicule by those that don’t understand him, or know who he is? That is entirely consistent with who he was in his 33 years on earth.
In his mortal life he kept company with the marginalised, had those most reviled by society as his closest confidants. He healed the lame from the poorest parts of his society, showed love to the people who society starved or threw stones at. He spoke to those that nobody would speak to. Indeed he often held those same people up as examples, templates etc.
Unforgivable would mean that you are beyond the reach of his love, and nobody is, because you are his creation, and you are in him and he is in you, right now.
He is naked because, the people who did that to him stripped him of everything, drew lots and sold his clothes, then on the way to being put on that cross they pushed a crown made of wicked thorns on his head.
They ridiculed him, and they laughed at him as he died slowly on the cross.
The crown was due to the fact they had come to the conclusion that this man thought he is the messiah, and the world couldn’t imagine that someone who is the messiah, both God and Man would let that happen. But he did, and he does. He had committed no crime, and went, willingly. The crime he was paying for, the punishment he was making atonement for is yours and mine.
He does the same today. He loves you and me, despite any shortcoming you or society may think you or me, ever had or will have. Nobody is beyond his love and he accomplished that by being made as low as you see him on that cross.
The him and you
If you ask him into your life, he will make you the best “you”, you can ever be, he will also change you, and build you, so that you can become that person, he will live every step, every moment of that journey. He will forgive every stumble and spur you on again.
Your world will change, maybe only how you think about it, maybe in reality. His constant love will transform you from the inside out; you can’t stay angry or bitter, or afraid, or scared, or jealous when being given such love, and support and a foundation for your life.
He does ask that you ask him, that you choose him, you have free will. Ask him into your life so that he can transform it by transforming you. He asks that you believe his words and try to follow them, and he asks that you believe in things you cannot see, but can feel and interact with in your heart and through prayer and see in your life.
In return your life will be transformed by love. Your life will be truly changed in every possible way for the better. We don’t do the prosperity gospel in this house, so don’t think your bank balance will explode, but your wealth will be in the joy and contentment, the end of searching for the next big thing, or following the herd. Why, because you have found the biggest, best thing of all. The things he will give are not destroyed by moths or rust, or indeed anything this world has to offer.
There’s loads of other stuff that he did that you may feel drawn to do, help the oppressed (Matthew 6:1-34), share your bread (Matthew 25:37-40), show love to everyone (Matthew 22:34-40), clothe the naked (Luke 6:29-30), feed the hungry (Matthew 25:37-40), never lie, let your yes be yes (Matthew 5:37), don’t be greedy (Luke 12:15), don’t judge others(Matthew 7), etc.
But honestly all those things happen a lot easier with his help, and he helps you lots. Indeed you try willingly because you can see when you share his love, and help those he created he creates a new you, in you outside of you, all around you. He creates in you a joy at seeing these things, a new lens on the world, his lens.
This building is populated in the main by people that try and share that lens, they share his love, and wobble along fallibly trying to be like him, and follow him and they are part of the “body” of Christ. They are Christians, and they are as unique, as precious, as broken and wonderful as you. The fellowship of that body of Christ is a wonderful, enabling, supporting, aspect of being with him.
Where is he?
This God is with you, alive and helping you right now, every second, every moment. Not a God to punish, and judge, but to assist and care and help you come to him. Not a God shocked into anger by your sin, and unwilling to help. Not a God cowed by whatever your burden is, or whatever the world has burdened you with.
Not a God who wrote the instruction manual and wandered off.
Albeit, he is shown up on high on a dais in our churches, he with us and all his creation high or low, alongside lifting you up. Not up there, down here, a servant king right he in the mess and muck of life. Wherever it gets the most horrible, sinful, oppressed, messy, nasty, brutal, poor in whatever way you can be poor, angry, etc. That’s where this God is found.
There’s no place in your soul, he can’t lift up through love. His forgiveness becomes yours. You are forgiven, in turn, in time you will forgive.
This is a God who wanted to lift your burden from you 2000 years ago and he wants you to give it to him so that he can carry it. He wanted that SO badly he died to do just that.
An even more amazing thing is that although he is shown clearly dying up there on the cross, he isn’t dead. That is why I keep speaking in the present tense about a man clearly dying an agonising death?
He did die, on that cross, and they brought him down, and covered him with sheets and put him in a tomb and rolled a massive rock over that tomb. Three days after he had died, they looked in that tomb and the man that was dead had gone.
He then showed himself and spoke with his disciples, and when many people had seen him, spoken to him, even examined the wounds inflicted on his body, he rose to join his father in heaven.
The Father had sacrificed his Son on the cross, so that you can be with him today and forever. Jesus is that Son. Death has been defeated, love has conquered evil, your debt is paid and your life however lowly or broken, however wrong it has been or will be is loved by the man you see right up there.
Death will become an illusion, a stage, a transformation, a chance. All the errors you or others have done in your life can be forgiven; you can start afresh, born again into a new you.
However, as I have said, the essential step in all of the above is asking.
How you ask him to help, is through prayer, he is waiting right now for you to make that prayer, and the second you do he will rush to help. Doesn’t matter where you are, or where you have been. He will rejoice, and bring you close, with a love that has no memory.
Billy Graham had the prayer for the moment that you decide to do this.
If you’re feeling ready sit yourself down in one of those pews, and maybe look up at the man suffering for you, waiting for you right now. Then say words something like this…
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and Saviour. In Your Name.
I pray that whoever reads this guide to who that man up their does just that.
Join me in the body of Christ. It’s wonderful.
Billy Graham “Sinners Prayer” Various Youtube recordings of him.
Biblical Quotations and References From
Holy Bible with Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version [Anglicised edition) (Cambridge University Press 2007, (Reprinted 2015)