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Faith, Not Works (week 4, Back to Basics series)

The video for this session can be watched at the bottom of this page.
The supporting article for this week can be found here.

Today we tackle the #1 misconception about Christians and Christianity.

I do not think for one moment it will happen like this, but nevertheless – suppose you die and are transported to the pearly gates of heaven. There Jesus meets you and asks you this question: “Why should I let you into my heaven?”

It is absolutely not the only issue at stake in the Christian faith, but it is pointed enough to focus our attention for today’s important topic.

As you consider that question – Why should I let you into my heaven? – we’re going to hear three excerpts from John’s gospel.

[John 3:1-7, John 4:7-14, John 6:26-35]

That #1 misconception about the Christian faith is that it is about measuring up to some standard of character, or behaviour.

When challenged by the gospel, sometimes even in discussion about baptising their child, I’ve had people defend themselves with the famous words “I reckon I’m as good as the next guy, and better than plenty.”

No doubt you’ve heard people describe Christians as “goody two-shoes” (what does that even mean?) or “holier than thou” – I think respectively meaning it is about being good, and as a result thinking you’re better than everyone else.

I chose those short excerpts from John’s gospel because they highlight in simple terms how we can see/have/inherit/obtain the Kingdom of God or eternal life or heaven, or become a child of God, part of God’s family, or – in short – how we become a Christian.

And how was that? In John 3 it was “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”, that is, “of the Spirit.”

In John 4 it was “water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

In John 6 it was “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” And then “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

To cut the whole conversation to its core, it’s not about our behaviour, but about what Jesus gives us. What he gives us is himself. The highest point of that giving is that he gave his life for us on the cross, so our sin would be removed and we might have this eternal life in him.

It may be that you have been a church-goer since the day you were born, as I have been. It counts for nothing, except you have no excuse for getting this wrong. It may be you are in church today for the first time ever. It simply isn’t about you and your history.

It may be that you naturally have the best character, the sweetest disposition, you may give your life to help others because that is your heart’s desire. It may be that you have broken every law ever written, have a naturally rotten disposition towards others and the world, and you would rather kill me than hear another word.

It matters not, because it simply isn’t about you. It is about Jesus. Two weeks ago we talked about Jesus dying on the cross. The meaning the Bible gives us is that
in dying, Jesus took the sin of the world – including yours and mine – and removed them forever. We are told it is done. At the moment before he died we’re told Jesus declared “It is finished.” Yes, it is. Your sins are finished; their power is broken. The evil behind them has lost its strength.

But how, you ask, does this help me? Whether I’m stuck in the goodie-two-shoes fashion parade or I’m rotten at the core, how does Jesus actually help me? The whole cross thing can seem like a theoretical solution, and we absolutely need a practical one. How do I get the help?

The answer is as simple as it is critical. In John 4 we read, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” In John 6 we read “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Come to him, ask him, believe in him – these are all simply responses to his invitation, which is going to be our particular focus next Sunday.

For today I just want to go this far, because it is absolutely critical that you drop this baggage if you’re carrying it in any form.

The only “good enough” question is whether Jesus was good enough. It is absolutely not about whether you are good enough (whether you think you are or not).

Christians aren’t Christians because they’re good enough. They’re Christians because they believe Jesus has dealt with their sin and guilt, Jesus has set them free and given them life. That is a Christian.

And the good news is that this gift of deliverance and life is offered equally to those who have done wrong (which is everyone), whether you appear good or whether you appear like the devil incarnate. Jesus offers himself to you, and he is the path to life.

Video of week 4 of Back to Basics – Faith, Not Works? runs 22:05.

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