I love music. I love writing. But by far the biggest passion in my life is my relationship with Jesus. After studying the Bible, the most amazing and miraculous book in existence (which is another topic), I am absolutely convinced that God has sent a clear message through the Bible: He wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us. It was costly for Him to make that possible. A great divide came between humankind and God long before the more recent civilizations began writing history books. Whether a person believes "long ago" means six thousand years or six million is non-essential to the point. At some point in the beginning after God created us, a great divorce occurred between the two parties, and the relationship has been fractured ever since.
Jesus was sent by the Father (i.e. God) to restore and heal that fracture. So when I say a person can have a relationship with Jesus, I mean it quite literally.
And by "relationship," I mean the personal one-on-one interaction that we can have with Him through prayer. Yes, as odd as it might sound, I believe Jesus is alive and well today, and anyone can interact with Him through the spiritual medium of prayer, if that person seeks Him.
But the thing about Jesus is that He is not an inclusivist. He was very bold about this when He told the religious leaders of His day that He was the only way to God.
Not only that, but He claimed that he was not a mere a prophet or some moral teacher or just a real nice guy. He claimed to be God Himself in human form. He claimed to be the only authority on everything: from what happens in the afterlife to why our world came into existence in the first place. He claimed that His "religion" was the only authentic one that would actually heal the fracture between God and humankind. He, God the Creator of the universe, chose to come to earth and deal with the sin that has separated every human being from having a close relationship with Him.
No other religion offers a solution to our great divorce from God -- at least, not in this way. All religions other than Christianity teach a works-oriented path to God: meaning, the only way people can get to God is by their own efforts, whether through meditation, religious disciplines, or by "being a good person."
Jesus was the only founder of a religion to claim that no person on earth -- no matter how good -- could earn their way to God, and -- another 100% unique claim -- the only solution was for God Himself to be born into the human race, to become "one of us" and to pay our spiritual debt Himself. He is a gentleman though and will not force this pardon upon us. We must freely receive it as a gift and believe with all of our hearts that Jesus really is the Creator of the universe who came to the earth, died for us, and rose again with total victory over all sin.
No matter how disciplined a person is or how much they meditate or how many holy pilgrimages they undertake or how many good deeds they do, none of it is powerful enough to heal the rift between God and the human soul. This is because all human deeds have already been tainted by the divorce that occurred between God and humans. If a person cheats on their significant other, no amount of flowers or love notes afterward can change the fact that the "covenant" was broken when the person cheated. This is why no man-made religion can heal the divorce.
In fact, Jesus is the only religious leader in history who even acknowledges that a divorce occurred -- that God defined His relationship with humanity as that of a bridegroom and his bride. No other religion portrays such a tender picture of God's relationship with people; and Jesus claimed that the imagery was God's idea, not a human thought.
And He is the only one who offers a solution to this broken marriage covenant: His death for our freedom and forgiveness. He willingly went to His execution for that purpose. According to Jesus, He is the only one who has the authority and power to wash away all of the "sins" in our lives.
The word "sin" is actually just an archery term. It's not even a religious term, at least not originally. It simply means you missed your target. In a nutshell, this is what Jesus taught about sin:
1. He defined sin as anything we do that breaks God's divine Law. He summarized the Law as follows: "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself."
2. We've all broken this law. Jesus taught that no human has ever kept the Law perfectly. The purpose of the Law, according to Jesus, was to establish the terms and conditions of God's covenant with humankind, much like how a marriage comes with vows that specifically state what each party intends to do to be committed to the other. This is why the Bible is overrun with wedding language. As already mentioned, and as wild as it might sound, God loves the human soul like a bridegroom loves his bride.
3. Jesus claimed that He was sent to solve this seemingly unsolvable problem of divorce between God and us. No one on earth is righteous enough to keep the Law perfectly from the time they are born until the time they die. Apart for Jesus' solution, only perfect obedience to the Law can give someone the ability to re-enter that broken covenant. That is impossible for all of us. Jesus stated that in His teachings.
4. Jesus, the only person who has kept the Law perfectly His entire life, willingly gave up His life as a substitution for us, thus receiving the "penalty" for our sin. This penalty was the separation (divorce) from God. The Bible actually says that the spirit of Jesus went to Hell after he died. He went there in our place, in other words. However, because He was God, when he arrived in Hell, he overcame the powers there. Hell could not contain Him. Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, walked on the earth for another 40 days and was seen by over 500 people, and -- according to the Gospels and the book of Acts, He ascended into Heaven where He is waiting to someday return to earth when the Father decides it is time. He is still alive today. He can interact with you in your spirit. He knows when you pray to Him.
5. Because of Jesus' divine perfection, He is the only one capable of forgiving our debt to God. He basically took the punishment on Himself. He took the sentence that we earned by breaking God's perfect Law. If God is the judge and we are on trial for breaking His divine Law, Jesus is the judge's son who willingly volunteers to serve our sentence for us so that we can go free. This summarizes all of Jesus' teachings about His identity and purpose on earth.
One thing though. I touched on this a little already, but it's important: He never forces this on anyone. He doesn't want us to be robots. He wants us to freely choose to receive the gift of being forgiven. If you go to Jesus in prayer, believe that He is alive and able to perceive your prayer in a spiritual way, tell Him you believe all of the claims about Himself, and then ask to receive that gift of forgiveness that He offers, then it's a done deal. He promises to respond to every heart that prays that kind of prayer. There are no magic words. You don't recite some incantation. You just reach out to Jesus in your heart, believing all of these things, and in your own words ask for His gift of forgiveness.
This of course requires humility. You have to admit to God that you've messed up, that you haven't and will never be able to do enough good deeds to make up for breaking His divine law. You have to admit to Him that you need Him. You can't do it on your own. You can't get into Heaven by your own efforts. It takes sincere humility to believe and admit these things to someone. But it's essential. God resists the proud. But once you humble yourself and seek Jesus in that way, He will respond.
But that's just the beginning. I reached out to Jesus over 25 years ago and, since then, He has proven to me over and over again how aware He is of me personally and how He is active in the day-to-day events of my life.
I never feel alone or lonely. It's impossible because I can sense Jesus with me at all times. Somehow, in some spiritual dimension that I don't understand, Jesus is able to be present. He is alive and well, and the moment you begin reaching out to Him, He is in the room with you.
One of the ways He reminds me He's there is through miracles.
Jesus once healed my lungs miraculously. I had been having trouble breathing. Something was wrong with my lungs. I was going to go to the doctor on a Monday in January, 2003. The day before all of that, I went to church. During the service I suddenly felt Jesus' presence near me, and I sensed He was standing in front of me. The next moment, I felt two hands push against my chest so hard that I stumbled backwards and almost fell. No physical hands were near me when it happened. The shove came out of nowhere. The moment it happened, my breathing opened up and my lungs were healed instantly.
I will never forget it as long as I live.
These miracles aren't the reason a person should seek Jesus. They're just the fun by-product of having a relationship with Him. Jesus was very clear though: we each have to make a choice if we are going to open our hearts to Him and "follow Him," as He put it, or if we are going to reject Him and reject His claims about Himself. We each have to make a decision either way. He was very bold about it.
But Jesus also came to earth so that we could have access to Heaven -- not just when we die, but also here on earth.
With all this talk about Heaven, does that mean Jesus believed there was a Hell? He did. He was very clear about that. Hell is, essentially, permanent separation from God who is the source of all goodness. That's why Hell is a bad place. God's presence is withdrawn completely from it. While we're on earth, His presence lingers and we still have a chance to make a decision to receive Jesus's gift of forgiveness. But we can only choose while we're alive. Once we die, the opportunity to make a decision has passed.
At least, that's what Jesus taught. I'm summarizing it.
I hope you will consider the following words of Jesus, then reach out to Him in faith:
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." -- Revelation 3:20