During this recent outbreak of Coronavirus, our minds may have been drawn to the weightier matters of life and death.
At St Paul’s we’re closely following the guidance of the Department of Health and the Church of England so that our community time can be as safe as possible, and advising our congregation every Sunday as the situation develops. Nonetheless, we have probably all feared as we watched news stories unfold in recent weeks, and felt a degree of helplessness as an unseen virus spreads around the world.
The Bible says that we are made from dust, and to dust we shall return. In health crises we are reminded that this ‘return to dust’ may happen sooner than we planned, though we may take every precaution against it.
Yet the Bible also speaks an astounding message of hope over our Coronavirus world. Our hope as Christians is that we will rise from the dead, just as our Lord Jesus did over 2000 years ago:
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
— Acts 2:32
In another place it says that “Death has lost its sting.” (1 Corinthians 15:55). It still hurts, but it’s been disarmed.
If we want to understand this we must ask ourselves why Jesus died in the first place.
The Bible says:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
— Romans 3:23
God is our creator:
“For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
— Colossians 1:16
Yet, we are all born with something wrong within us: something more widespread than Covid-19. We might not think of ourselves as bad people, but we know that we have done and continue to do things that we think are wrong – and which we hate when other people do them. Even our thoughts are not pure as we think they should or could be. Jesus said:
“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’”
— Mark 7:21-23
The Bible calls this badness within us 'sin' and the things we do, or the good things we fail to do, 'sins'.
God is opposed to sin because he is perfect. He cannot stand injustice and promises that every wrong will be set right. As we see and experience terrible suffering in this world caused by evil, we can be thankful that God will judge.
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’”
— Acts 17:31
However, this is also alarming, as we have all sinned and have done wrong in God's sight.
Wonderfully, there is hope. The verse quoted above from the book in the Bible called 'Romans' continues:
"...and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
— Romans 3:24-26
Amazingly, God sent His only Son Jesus (God in human flesh) to live the perfect life we never could, and to take the punishment, on a Roman cross, for all of our sins:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
— John 3:16
When we put our trust in Jesus, God credits Jesus' perfect life to us and we can know all of our sins were punished in Jesus:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:21
Even more amazingly, we can now live new lives as God's children, in relationship with Him through Jesus:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
— 1 John 3:1
We no longer have to be controlled by sin and we can look forward to continuing our relationship with God face to face after we die and go to be with him.
What about if you think you've lived apart from God for too long and it is too late to accept his free gift of eternal life in Jesus?
Let's look at what happened when Jesus was crucified (died for our sins on a cross):
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him [Jesus] there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.
“There was a written notice above him, which read: This is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
— Luke 23:33, 36, 38-43
Look at what Jesus told the second criminal when he had simply asked him to “remember me." Jesus assured this man that he would bring him to paradise that very day. Nothing else was required from this criminal who had lived a bad life up to this point – no good works, no religious precautions, nothing. The gift of eternal life was freely given to him in Jesus.
“‘The time has come...The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”
— Mark 1:15
To "repent" means to turn away from sin and to turn to God in faith in Jesus. Jesus calls each of us to decide whether or not we will do this today.
If you would like to do this you might want to pray this prayer:
Dear God, I am sorry for living my life apart from you and doing things that have made you angry with me. I recognise that I am dust, and I admit that I deserve your punishment. Thank you that Jesus died in my place. I put my trust in him today and ask for you to give me your Holy Spirit and a new life in relationship with you, now and forever. Amen
If you prayed this prayer it would be great to tell a Christian you know or email Pete, our pastor. Why not come to either our 9.30 AM or 11.00 AM service on a Sunday so you can worship Jesus along with other Christians?