When Your World is Not Like it Should Be
I’d like you to think for a moment about the world we live in. I think you would agree with me that something about this world seems not quite right. In fact, many things about it don’t seem right at all. Amid glimpses of hope, honor, love, and charity, we also witness evil, injustice, hatred, and sadness. When we take a step back and behold our world, and even our own personal daily lives, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the world doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be.
Our observation that the world isn’t like it’s “supposed to be” assumes that there is some higher standard to which we are comparing the current state of the world. We juxtapose our higher ideal with what we see and conclude, “This just doesn’t measure up.”
Some have reacted to the terrible things that they see in the world by denying that evil exists. But what is perhaps easy to say is quite difficult to live, or as C. S. Lewis put it: “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.”1 There is a name for the person who denies good and evil: a sociopath.2 Clearly the proper response to evil is not denial.
Others choose to respond to evil by removing God from the equation. But doing so seems to just cause more questions. Lewis posed the dilemma like this:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?3
And removing God does not make evil less evil, nor pain less painful. In fact, removing God also removes ultimate hope. Removing God means there is no one to hear our cries in times of sorrow. Instead, there is only the empty, uncaring void of the universe. Without God, our world seems permanently and irredeemably evil. Without God, there is no ultimate relief from pain; there is only pain. Removing God from the picture, in fact, results in no gain and much loss.
Our own personal world
Similarly to how the world seems “not like it’s supposed to be,” our own individual lives too often also seem inadequate. Everyone, whether they are religious or not, has determined their own personal morality, a set of ethical standards they feel are moral. Think about your own self-defined moral standard. Have you lived up to the moral standard that you set up for yourself? Or put another way, have you ever done (or not done) some of the things that you would call someone else immoral for doing? Most honest people would answer “yes”. I know that I would.
So, by even our own minimal standard, which we define for ourselves, we are not moral. Consider then this question: Would God’s standards be higher or lower than the standards I define for myself? Think about a young child whose bedtime curfew is 9:00pm. One day her babysitter, rather than enforcing the normal curfew, tells her she’s free to set their own. Do you think the child will set her bedtime earlier or later than usual? I think we can say she would likely set it much later, if she actually sleeps that night at all! Similarly, I think it’s safe to assume a standard of behavior we make up for ourselves would be lower than God’s. If we fail miserably at even our own minimal standard, how much more have we failed God’s standard and are in need of His help and forgiveness?
That’s what I call bad news: Not only are there big problems with the world, but there are big problems in our own personal lives!
Not to be too much of a downer, but religious people throughout the years haven’t been too helpful with these problems. Sure, sometimes the religious guys gave people good advice. But really, they just made problems worse. They all preached basically the same thing: If you’re good, really good all the time, then just maybe you’ll be good enough to get into heaven. Of course, no one knew where the cut-off point was. How good is “good enough”? And after all these religious leaders were totally powerless to do anything, besides perhaps wagging their finger at people, telling them to “be good”, and generally making everyone feel even more miserable. (Perhaps you’ve known some religious people like that.)
Then Jesus came along.
Who is Jesus?
He taught something unlike any other religious person, a message that has remained unique ever since. He pointed his finger, but not just at you and me: He then pointed to himself as the way to heaven. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” he said. (John 14:6) Not just a teacher of the way, but he himself as the way, the only way. Who did this guy think he was, anyways?
Jesus is in fact an utterly unique person who made some pretty bold claims. He claimed, for example, that he had the power to forgive other peoples’ sins. He also claimed that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. He even accepted worship from his followers. Among first century Jews, accepting worship was a capital offense because only God could be worshiped: Jesus was claiming to be God!
But Jesus didn’t just make the claim to be God: He backed it up. He proved this claim with a flawless life, amazing miracles, and stunning preaching. The crowds who gathered to see him cried out “Nothing like this has ever been seen!” and even the guards who were told to seize him exclaimed “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (Matthew 9:33, John 7:46)
Jesus’ final confirmation of his unique identity is the most awe-inspiring of all. He willingly died on the cross, accepting the punishment we rightly deserve, so that by believing in him and committing our lives to becoming more like him, we could receive God’s gift of eternal life. Not by our own effort – by which we’re guaranteed to fail – but instead given freely by God to anyone willing to accept it. Jesus didn’t have to do this for us. But because God loves us, and also rightly demands justice, he paid the penalty on our behalf.
Maybe you’ve seen people holding John 3:16 signs at football games, or remember hearing it somewhere else: “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.” This is what God offers you. The apostle Paul explained “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 5:8, 3:23, 6:23)
What’s all this talk about “sin”? We sin whenever we choose to rebel against God by breaking his prefect law (and his heart) and therefore at the same time walk away from fulfilling our true purpose in life. God’s justice demands punishment for sin. But rather than forcing us to pay the fine for our sins, God paid it himself on the cross. Then, in demonstration of his power over even death, Jesus was raised from the dead. And because he lives, we also have the chance to live. And not just live mildly or contentedly, but fully, realizing our full potential as we discover our true purpose.
The good news
This may all sound like a bunch of wishful thinking. “Sure, it sounds good.” you may be thinking. Maybe it even sounds a little too easy. But what if it is actually true? What if the New Testament stories aren’t merely stories? What if Jesus really was who he claimed to be, at once God and man, bridging the gap between God and ourselves created by our choices to turn away from God? This God-man, who did for us what we could never do for ourselves … what difference would that make to how we understand and experience our world? Author Max Lucado attempts to explain the magnitude of the significance this way:
What do we do with such a person? We applaud men for doing good things. We enshrine God for doing great things. But when a man does God things?
One thing is certain, we can’t ignore him.
Why would we want to? If these moments are factual, if the claim of Christ is actual, then he was, at once, man and God.
There he was, the single most significant person who ever lived. Forget MVP; he is the entire league. The head of the parade? Hardly. No one else shares the street. Who comes close? Humanity’s best and brightest fade like dime-store rubies next to him.
Dismiss him? We can’t.
Resist him? Equally difficult. Don’t we need a God-man Savior? … a God-man Jesus? Near enough to touch. Strong enough to trust. A next door Savior.
A Savior found by millions to be irresistible. Nothing compares to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8, RSV). The reward of Christianity is Christ.4
The bad news is that we’re incapable of saving ourselves. That would be like someone who is drowning in quicksand trying to pull themselves out of it. It won’t work, we can’t do it ourselves. We need a rope, and someone to pull us out. That’s what God did when He came and took the punishment that we deserve so that anyone who trusts in him can have eternal life. That’s the gospel: the “good news.” This is God’s grace: We are not saved by anything that we do ourselves. We are saved only by clinging tightly to the only one, God, who has both the power and the compassion to save us.
By God’s grace alone through faith, your life can be changed forever! God loves you, and so he has already done the work for you. He offers you the gift of life, but only if you’re willing to accept it: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Accepting God’s gift has nothing to do with being “religious” and everything to do with God renewing both you and the world itself.
Today, if you resolve to repent (turn away from) the things you know are wrong, and accept God’s gift of salvation by putting your faith (trust) in God, you will be saved. This day will mark the beginning of your renewed and transformed life, as you begin to live out the life you were always meant to, and begin the process of knowing God even deeper and more completely than you ever thought possible!
If you’d like to make this choice now, there is no magic formula that must be spoken. But here is a prayer that you could use as a template:
God, I know that I need you. Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am a sinner. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross in payment for my sins. I want to follow you all the days of my life, because I know you want what is best for me. I accept your free gift of life, and pledge today to put my trust in you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for forgiving my sins and welcoming me back into a new relationship with you.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If it does, pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.
If you have prayed this prayer today, please let us know!
1. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1952, 1980), 6.
2. Gregory Koukl, “Relativism Self-Destructs,” n.p. Cited 12 April 2009. Online: http://www.str.org/site/News2?id=5539&page=NewsArticle
3. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 38.
4. Max Lucado, Next Door Savior (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2003), 5.