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"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."


We live in a day of substitutes.  Many of the things we take for granted are changing all around us.  Some for better, some for worse. For example, garments that used to be made of silk are now mostly nylon. Margarine has largely replaced butter in many people's kitchens. My new briefcase is made of canvas instead of leather.  Many books can now be downloaded from the Internet or purchased on CD.  Most airline tickets are now printed from a home computer.  And, if you lead a busy lifestyle but still want a pet, a robotic dog or cat can be had for under $100 with the guarantee that it will never soil your carpets!

While some substitutes are an obvious improvement over the original, some clearly are not.  Then there are those things that can never be improved upon without losing the essence of what makes them desirable in the first place. Can a battery-powered dog made of plastic and circuitry really take the place of "man's best friend?"  If you've ever experienced the affection of a real dog or cat you know the answer is, "of course not!"  And so it is with God's free gift of salvation and eternal life.  A restored relationship with God appropriates His gracious gifts, and for these there can be no substitute. The earliest Christians, and those who followed in their footsteps, knew for certain they had salvation and eternal life (1John 5:11-13). They also knew there was no substitute.  Many endured innumerable hardships, torture, and even physical death rather than abandon their relationship with God.  Even today many believers around the world suffer these same things rather than abandon the sure promise of salvation and eternal life God has placed within their hearts.

Yet from the beginning of time the majority of men and women have eagerly settled for much less. Why? Because in our present human condition we simply cannot comprehend what a right relationship with God could even be like—and the world offers all too many easily-obtained substitutes!  But all is not lost. The reality of a genuine relationship with God is still available to those who diligently seek Him.  Perhaps you've already tried any number of empty substitutes this world has to offer. Perhaps God, Himself, has placed in your heart a hungering for the real thing.  You can have a relationship with the true and living God if you so desire.  But He will only allow you to do so on His terms. You must be willing to accept His assessment of your present human condition as well as His remedy. Both His assessment and His remedy are laid out in His Word to us, the Bible.

1. God's Assessment

Without a proper assessment of a given problem, any proposed solution is doomed to failure. This is the downfall of the world's many substitutes for knowing God.  While sounding very appealing, each fails to properly assess or comprehend the absolute standard of God's holiness, the dreadful reality of the human condition, and the method by which God has chosen to bridge this enormous gap.  For this reason it is imperative to accept God's assessment of our situation and His solution for restoring a personal relationship between us and Himself.

First, the Bible in many places tells us God is altogether perfect and holy.

Psalm 18:30 declares, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him."
Again in Psalm 145:17 we read, " The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made."

1Peter 1:15 says, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Isaiah 6:1-3 informs us, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, [angels] each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

The Bible also tells us we are sinners.

In Romans 3:10-12 our human condition is explained this way: As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Romans 3:23 goes on to state, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

But our problem runs even deeper than this. Mankind sins because we are, by nature, sinners. All mankind has inherited a sinful nature from their first "parents," Adam and Eve.

Romans 5:12-14 further explains this concept, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—[for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.]  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come."

Psalm 51:5 says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

So now we have two counts against us: We are all sinners since we inherited a sinful nature at birth from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and we are all sinners because we commit willful acts of sin!

People don't always like to hear the truth about themselves, but a false or inadequate assessment of our condition before God will never bring us into a proper relationship with Him. The one biblical word that defines all sin is the Greek word hamartia, which literally means "to miss the mark."  This word is used in the early Greek translation of the Old Testament of an arrow having been shot from a bow and "missing the mark."  This same Greek word is translated "sin" 176 times in the New Testament. We are guilty of sin any time we miss the mark of God's standard for our lives!

And what is God's standard?  Nothing less than sinless perfection!

Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Unless a person is perfect, he has missed God's mark; therefore, he is a sinner in the eyes of God who is perfect and holy in every way.  God's absolute holiness cannot, and will not, ignore the problem of sin or the excuse the sinner.  Though God loves mankind, and the rest of His creation, His absolute standard of holiness demands that He punish all sin. To ignore wrongdoing and not require justice would in itself be sin. And so, in spite of God's loving nature no sin may go unpunished.  We read of this in Exodus 34:5-7, "Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

The Bible informs us of the punishment for sin.  In Romans 6:23 we read, "The wages of sin is death..."

Since we all experience physical death, the Bible is here informing us of another kind of death. Not the separation of our spirit from our bodies, but rather, the spiritual separation of mankind from God.  This spiritual separation was also passed on to us from our first parents along with our sinful natures. If a person were to die in this state of spiritual separation he would remain so for eternity.  The Bible records the whole story of mankind's separation from God in Genesis Chapter 3

2. God's Solution

God loves mankind, but His holy nature demands that all sin be punished.  Mankind cannot solve this dilemma, but God can.  Since we can never measure up to God's standard on our own, God reached down to us in this way...

John 3:16-18 states, "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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

In Romans 5:8 we read, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

That's right! Though sinless himself, Jesus Christ willingly took your sins upon Himself and paid the ultimate price of death in your place.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Christ's death in Isaiah 53:4-6, "Surely he took up our infirmities and  carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.

Jesus said it Himself in Matthew 26:28, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

In 1Corinthians 15:3 the apostle Paul said,  "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures..."  And again in 2Corinthians 5:20-21 the apostle Paul writes, " We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 9:28 also says, "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."

And how do we appropriate God's solution?  All we can do is accept it as a free and gracious gift of God!  We do not merit God's gift, nor can we ever earn it. Yet God's invitation it is freely given to anyone who will accept it!

Ephesians 2:8-9 says,  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

2Timothy also says, "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace."

To accept God's invitation you must agree with God's assessment of your condition. You must also be willing to turn away from your sin and accept Jesus Christ as God's only solution to the problem of your broken relationship with Him. God's invitation is clear. You must come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. All that remains is your response.

Romans 6:23 reads, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. "

3. God's Invitation

1John 1:9 promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

John 1:12-13 speaks directly of a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ, "Yet to all who received him [Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

Jesus stands at the door of your heart and knocks, seeking entrance into your life. Revelation 3:20 states, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me."

From the pages of the Bible you have just received Gods invitation to a restored relationship with Him.  Is it speaking to your heart?  If so, don't neglect this gracious invitation because you may not get another chance to respond!  No one knows what tomorrow may bring.  No one knows if there will even be a tomorrow!

If you would like to accept God's invitation and receive Jesus Christ into your heart and life, just let Him know by praying a simple prayer like this from the sincerity of your own heart...

Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I believe your son, Jesus Christ, died in my
 place for my sins.  Right now, I turn from my sin and open the door of my heart and
 life to Jesus.  I accept your invitation to receive forgiveness through His death
 on my behalf.  I acknowledge Him now as my Lord and Savior.   -Amen.

Once you truly accept God's invitation, Jesus Christ takes up residence in your heart and life! Not only this, but God forgives you of all your sin. Your relationship to Him is restored, and you have all the rights and privileges of a son or daughter of God!

John 1:12 promises, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..."


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Genesis Chapter 3

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"  2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"  10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"  12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the  livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

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