First of all the gospel begins with God. You see the whole problem really comes back to the nature of God. God is a just God, a holy God. He cannot violate His attributes, He cannot do something that contradicts Himself. He is a righteous God. Now that is a good thing it would be terrifying to know that this universe was created by an evil god an omnipotent god that was evil it would be absolutely terrifying so it's good that God is just. But then it presents also another problem: if God is just what does He do with us?
Let me illustrate the problem for you. A few years ago I was in in Europe and i was going to speak at the University and I knew that the crowd was really going to be against me and they all had this idea that this social dinosaur was going to come over with some Puritan type message and tell them that they were all sinners. So when I walked out on the stage I was really praying – Lord please help me. – I feel like He gave me some wisdom. I looked at this crowd of university students and I said: “I am going to share with you the most terrifying truth in the Scriptures.” I kept telling them and warning them “I'm about to share with you the most terrifying truth that anyone could ever know about God.” So when they were all poised on the edge of their seat I looked at them and I said “Here it is the most terrifying truth of Scripture is that God is good.” Now at that moment they all kind of started laughing snickering like “What's the problem?” Some of them even voiced it: “So what's the problem with a good God? I mean why is that bad news why is it terrifying that God is good?” My answer was this it's terrifying to know that God is good because we are not. So what does a good God do with people like us sinners? We've sinned against God, we've sinned against one another, we have sinned against nature, we’ve sinned against everything. All of creation calls for our condemnation. If God is truly just then what does He do with us?
If a just God simply pardons the wicked He is no longer just. If a holy God calls the wicked to Himself to have fellowship with Him he's not a holy God. So the great question of all the scriptures this: How does adjust God pardon wicked men and still be just? How does a holy God call wicked men into fellowship with Him and still be holy? The answer is found in the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Jesus Christ we see this tremendous unique revelation of the fullness of God's attributes. God is just, He must condemn our sin. God is love and so He becomes a man in His son, lives a perfect life as a man, and then goes to that tree and on that tree the sins of His people are cast upon Him, and all the Justice of God, all the wrath of God that we deserve is thrown down upon the head of Christ. The exact measure that was required in order to fully satisfy the Justice of God.
After suffering Christ said it is finished that meant he did what was required to satisfy God's justice against God's people. He paid the price in full. This is so very important understand: It wasn't that what that our sins were atoned for simply because the Romans beat Jesus up and nailed him on across. Our sins were atoned for because on that tree He bore our sin and it pleased the Lord, it pleased Yahweh to crush him. The wrath of God that should have fallen upon me and you fell upon His only begotten Son and He suffered it in full. He paid the price, He died, for the wages of sin is death and on the third day He rose again from the dead and now He's seated at the right hand of God and there is no other name, no other name in any other world, there is no other name given to men whereby we might be saved except for the name of Jesus Christ. He's the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is one God and one mediator between God and men: the man Christ Jesus, and in order to be saved the Bible calls all men to repent of their sins and to believe the gospel.
What does it mean to repent? Many have defined the term as “to change one's mind.” That's what the word means in Greek and and that truth is there, but that means so much more than what you and I can conceive in our culture today. You think “Well to change one's mind, that's pretty superficial.” Well it might be, but then it's not if you understand what the mind is. The mind, and the Bible refers to the the mind as the heart, it is very it is the control center of a human being. It's the control center of our will, our emotions, our intellect, our decision-making process, and so what he's saying is: If you have changed your mind everything else will change along with it.
Let me give you a perfect description of repentance: the Apostle Paul, he had a change of mind, Now when he left to go on the road to Damascus he left with orders to capture Christians. Now this is what he believed, this is what Paul thought: Paul thought that Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest blasphemer who ever had walked the planet, that's what he thought. He also thought that the Christians were a terrible sect that ought to be destroyed, that's what he thought. And then on the road to Damascus he had an encounter with the resurrected Christ and what happened is his thinking changed. His entire reality was proved to be wrong. Everything he thought about reality especially with regard to God was wrong. He recognized he was wrong and began to think completely different. He now thought that Jesus was the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah. He now thought that the Christians were the very people of God the very Israel of God and because his thoughts changed. Everything else changed after being baptized. He began to minister and to preach the gospel and to be persecuted for the very faith that he was once persecuting. You see to repent is to realize that all your thinking your entire view about reality was wrong and then to see and to submit to God's truth about who He is about who you are and about who Jesus is and what He's done for you.
Now the question is have you repented? Has your mind changed has that change of mind led to a change of the intellect, to a change of the will, a change of your emotions. The sins you once loved do you now hate? The holiness you once ignore do you now desire? The Christ that you had no part with, that you lived apart from do you now esteem him do you consider the kingdom of heaven to be a pearl of great price? Those are certain evidences that a work of repentance has been done in your heart. Not only must we we repent, but we must believe in Jesus Christ. To recognize that there is absolutely nothing in us that can save us, as the hymn writer said: “Nothing in my hands I bring but only to the cross of Christ I cling.” It is a recognition that you have only one hope and one hundred percent of that hope is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, that you know that you cannot save yourself to the point that if someone were to even suggest that you would enter into heaven by some works of righteousness it would cause you to be nauseous and you would cry out “No, no, blasphemy! No I am saved for only one reason: Two thousand years ago the Son of God bled and died for me salvation comes to us through repentance and through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Now if you truly believe in Christ you have eternal life but how do you know you have truly believed? Even if you've had some sort of conversion experience and you felt some sort of peace of God and and so many other emotions how do you really know it's real? One of the ways that you know it's real is that it will continue. Its not that necessarily the emotional high will continue but what will continue is you will continue to grow in grace, you will continue to deepen in your repentance, you will continue to deepen in your faith little by little, you will be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. You say “Well brother Paul does a real Christian sin?” Yes sadly enough yes can a real Christian fall into sin, yes, but here's the difference: a real Christian cannot live in a continuous state of carnality, a continuous state of immaturity, because the Bible says He who began a good work in you will finish it. The Bible talks about in Hebrews 12, that one of the greatest signs of true conversion is that God will watch over you with loving parental care and He will even discipline you, chastise you when you turn off the path, not because His attitude toward us changes, but because He loves you and He desires your holiness.
You see, once you become a Christian you become a part of God's providence, and He who began a good work will finish it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is just, that man is radically depraved and worthy of all condemnation, that in order to forgive men, God's justice had to be first satisfied and that was done on the cross where Christ stood in the place of His people, bore their sin and was crushed under the full weight of God's wrath against them. Dying, He paid the price in full. He has risen from the dead and now all men everywhere may be saved through faith, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and the evidence of that repentance unto salvation and that faith unto salvation will be the continuing work of God.