About God and You... the Good News
Here are a few basic things for encountering the God of the universe:
1. Recognize that God loves you.
God loves everybody. Not just religious types. Not just the perfect peaches who seem to have their lives all together. He loves all humankind with an extravagant love ... utterly apart from what we've done. God's love is "unconditional" ... that means even the worst, most horrible stuff you've ever done, did not stop God from loving you. And the best, most noble thing you've ever done didn't cause God to love you more. God loves you totally aside from your actions (whether those actions were good or bad).
2. Know that Jesus came to forgive and transform you
God loved us too much to let us self-destruct. Deep down, people feel guilt, shame or fear when it comes to God stuff. Why? Because no matter how good a life we try to live, we still fall miserably short of being a perfect person. Deep down, we all know that God is perfect, and the Bible tells us that every one of us has done bad things (we have all sinned). This means we have all fallen short of God’s desire for us to be pure and holy. The Bible says, “No one is good—not even one” (Romans 3:10). Sin – even “little” sins – cause us to feel separated from God. It's a pretty heavy deal to feel separated from God. And you can never be good enough on your own.
But the crazy thing is... Jesus came to change all that! Jesus traded place with that "sinful" you -- traded you His perfect, supernatural life -- when you weren't even looking for it! Sin caused us to feel rejected, isolated, abandoned or out of reach from God. That is why it's important to just admit it. "Hey, I've done some terrible stuff. I need some help!" That helps us to stop looking to our own selves to fix our own problems. We say, "Hey! I need your help God!" Jesus Christ stepped in and took care of the problem for us! Left alone in our sins, all of mankind was destined to fall apart at the seams. That's what Hell is all about.
Hell is not God's revenge on evil people like those angry religious types tell you. Instead, Hell is the ultimate bed we made for ourselves by our own naughty choices. Hell is not good news. The really great news is that Jesus came to destroy sinfulness and Hell. He came to give us a free ticket to heaven. And even better, He came to infuse our lives right here and now with His friendship and presence ... the very friendship of God Himself.
The Bible tells us, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). This is the Good News, that God loves us so much (even in the middle of our sin) that He sent His only Son to die in our place. Jesus took all of our evil - all of our self-destruction onto Himself when he died on the cross. You didn't deserve that - for God Himself to step into your place. But God did it to express His overwhelming love and forgiveness toward you. Jesus did it to absorb all of your sinfulness into Himself and wipe it away. Then Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead - proving that He is God and that He really did accomplish the job!
Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. The God-man bridge. God stepped into humanity in order to take away humanity's problems. God had to become a man to fully empathize with all of us ... to meet His favorite creation -- humanity -- right where we were at in our spiritual confusion ... on our own turf. He knows you better than you know yourself. When He died on the cross, He destroyed everything that could possibly separate you from Him. Even your inward urges to do evil. He does not want anyone to experience the damaging effects of sin. Jesus loved you enough to remove all the consequences of your sin and give you His free gift of eternal life! Jesus bridged the separation between God and man on the cross. You were never really separated from Him, but you "thought" you were ... the Bible says we were once "alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." (Col. 1:21). Jesus came to clear up our fearful minds to show that God has always been FOR mankind, despite our evil behavior.
4. Let your direction change.
When we begin to trust that Jesus took away our sinfulness, we can't help but see a change in our lives! He enables us to live like we really are new, perfect and happy. He died so our lives could be full of His life. We no longer live like sinners anymore - we draw pleasure from God rather than sinful things that once damaged and abused us. This gives us the ability to turn toward God in every area of our lives. God's Spirit literally "lives" inside of everyone who trusts in Him. His Spirit now begins to flow through us because Jesus died to make us "united" to God. Now God enables us to change our ways. As our minds change about the goodness of God, a change in our lifestyles follow ... We find fulfillment in living a godly life. Instead of running away from God, we enjoy our relationship with Him. His Spirit helps and guides us. We turn away from darkness and to turn toward the light and goodness of Christ. Turning toward God is not about turning to a bunch of rules and regulations. It means turning toward the beauty, splendor and creativity of a living God who wants to have a relationship with you and enable you to live a clean life. God will empower you to stop doing naughty things - He makes everything about you new! Enables you to turn away from your old lifestyle and focus on the goodness of God! He gives you the power to do it.
5. Enjoy Jesus Christ in your life.
Trusting that Jesus died for your sins, means that you accept the fact that He is God. Now you can enjoy the reality that He is God over your own personal life. You begin to willingly follow Him and enjoy HIm everyday. Becoming a "believer" is not merely believing some principles or going to church on Sunday. It is having the awareness that Christ Himself has taken residence in your life and heart. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door (of your life) and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in . . . .” (Revelation 3:20). He hears your prayer. He responds to anyone who really wants to see Him and know Him in their life and heart. Do you hear Him knocking at your door right now? He's already right here.
The great news is that you couldn't climb up to God ... so God came to you!! Wanna dive into a conversation with Jesus right now? Don't know where to begin? Here's a simple prayer that may help you get started. I would encourage you to say it aloud right now ... knowing that God hears you and loves you:
"Dear Lord Jesus, I receive your love for me! I know I have sinned, and that made me feel distant from you. I believe you died for my sins and that you rose from the grave. I thank you for forgiving me, and I receive you into my life. I ask you to lead me in this new life with you. I trust you to continually fill my heart and guide me in a deeper relationship with you. Begin even now to show me any wrong ways of thinking or acting that have caused me to feel distant from you, and flood me right now with your precious Holy Spirit! I know that you are Lord and thank you for saving me. Amen."
Now that you know the Good News that Jesus Christ has taken residence in your heart - go and tell somebody! How can you keep such wonderful news to yourself? God's decision to save and forgive you means that you will spend eternity in heaven. Party time! Don't let any feelings of guilt or unworthiness make you feel distant from Him again. The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Whew! What a relief.
This is this good news - that Jesus died for you - and that He rose again to give you new life - this is the very thing that saves you! It is the happiest and most supernatural message to ever reach the earth. This may all seem new to you ... but here are some practical baby steps to start exploring this new life with God. Be sure to spend time with Him by reading your Bible (try out the New Testament first ... lots of people enjoy the books of John and Romans for starters). Also, you'll be amazed at how connected you feel to God once you start praying. You can talk to Him about anything, knowing that He listens - you may want to start right now. Tell Him everything, or just sit quietly knowing He's with you. There are no rules when it comes to prayer - it's between you and God. It's very helpful to also find a Christian church, where others also know about Jesus and you can journey together with them. Some churches may seem stuffy or weird. But there are tons of good ones out there. Trust that God can show you the one that fits you just right. Remember that this is only a beginning to an entirely new life God is giving you. There is joy as you live out this new life of friendship and obedience to God -- and to experience Him closely every day. Most importantly, Jesus died so He can give you His Holy Spirit. He lives in you to be your teacher, always revealing Jesus to you. Send us an E-Mail and let us know if you are just starting your journey with Christ, and we will connect you with resources to get you started on this exciting new path.
Be happy! God forgives you! He's given you the best gift of all - an incredible relationship with God Himself! Woo! Hoo!!!