You know the saying: “If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.”
Well, this week we’re talking about an amazing offer that sounds too good to be true. But this is no human marketing pitch, it is Almighty and Holy God who is making the offer — and it really is true.
It’s Ian Greig here again and I’m excited to be talking about How God Offers Us the Gift of Being Made Right with Him.
There’s got to be a catch, right? Well, you have to believe what God says. And trust Him, because He is God Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s called faith — and if that IS a catch, there it is, in plain sight.
But while we decide, let’s get into the story of what God offers us.
Here are some verses from Psalm 46 which set the scene for us.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted… in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us… our fortress.
Verses excerpted from Psalm 46
“An ever-present help in trouble” — we all know that the path of life is not a smooth road. It presents obstacles: personal difficulties but also corporate or even national setbacks. And that’s a lot about leadership. There’s our personal leadership of ourselves, but there’s also responsibility we may have in exercising a wider leadership — and just setting a good example. Good leadership, seen through God’s eyes, is caring, like Him; and wise, meaning directed by Him. Iit includes listening, which means being able to learn from God and others; and it stays the course, holding on to the plan and vision and trusting God in it.
• See also this week’s linked Bible study Nov. 20: Being right with God is His gift to us in Jesus giving verse-by-verse commentary on the three main Bible readings with reflection summaries, application and questions — ideal for home group discussions.
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Back in the days of the patriarchs, Abraham was a leader who showed these qualities. And some generations later, these were the qualities that surrounded the covenant with Moses. Following that encounter on the slopes of Mount Sinai, Moses and faithful leaders that were his successors took people through a prolonged time of testing in the wilderness. And there were the prophets raised up by God in each generation to remind people of God’s word. Then the people came under the leadership of kings, and we think first of devoted and God-submitted kings like David, and in his early years, Solomon.
But as the nation became more prosperous, more settled and less endangered by those other nations around, it also became less God-fearing —- and division set in.
This was a time of deteriorating spiritual leadership which translated as poor political leadership. The lack of attention to God and honour of His covenant is singled out by prophets who warned of exile, like Isaiah, then Jeremiah and Ezekiel, urging for lessons to be learned following the exile.
And that’s where we are in this episode, hearing how God spoke again into those confusing and difficult times for the exiles, and holding out the promise of a righteous and kingly Shepherd who would lead the people like God Himself —as we hear in Jeremiah 23:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD.
“I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock….and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid… nor will any be missing.”
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up…a righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right… This is the name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Saviour.
Jeremiah 23:1-6 excerpted
This is one of the less well-known prophetic words about the coming of the Messiah. If we give any attention to the church calendar, it is in the coming season of Advent that we remind ourselves of the many prophetic words that heralded the coming of Jesus.
In this episode of How God Offers Us the Gift of Being Made Right with Him, it may seem strange to include a story from the END of Jesus’ earthly life.
The reason is, it explains why He came!
Let’s hear the story in Luke’s words from Luke 23:
When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him… with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.
There was a written notice above Him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The people stood watching, and the rulers…sneered at Him…The soldiers also came up and mocked Him, saying “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him, saying: We are punished justly. We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
Luke 23:33-43 excerpted
So let’s think about this.
This dying offender cannot do anything to follow Jesus. In giving his life to Jesus, he only has a few tormented and breathless hours to give. Hanging helpless on a cross, he has no opportunity to demonstrate repentance, to do any good works, produce any good fruit, or show the slightest deservedness for entering the kingdom of God. Quite the opposite. He has been convicted. He has proved himself to be an altogether bad, unworthy and condemned person.
He simply asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. And Jesus gives him assurance, that in passing from this life, He will welcome him into a new one.
The point of the story is that Jesus is making the gift of being made right with Almighty God to a man whose only merit is being the most undeserving recipient.
He was in no position to earn it, to justify it, or to demonstrate it. All he could do is ask — and receive.
For us, the range of responses is much wider. And that’s a problem.That allows us to procrastinate and delay. There’s too much in us that makes us want to justify in human terms, what is a holy acceptance. We think we ought to show ourselves to be good first.
We don’t, or won’t, understand that it is coming to Jesus, believing who He is and what He has done, and receiving the Holy Spirit, that transforms us from that bad person, into an acceptable one. Wholly acceptable, and you can spell that either way.
There is reinforcement of this lesson, this gift of being made right with God, which Paul emphasises in his letter to the church at Colossae. Let’s hear this in Paul’s words in Colossians 1.
We continually ask God through the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, to fill you with the knowledge of His will, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, and being strengthened with the power of His glorious might — to have great endurance and patience, with joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. In Him all things were created: things in heaven, on earth, visible and invisible, powers, rulers and authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the Cross.
Colossians 1:9-20 excerpted
There’s an important emphasis here which we need to hear. It helps us to understand the way the Kingdom of God works, which is totally opposite to what we are used to in the human order.
The question is, how do we qualify? And we read: “The Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance…” Notice that we didn’t qualify ourselves. But God the Father has chosen to call us qualified. Why is that?
Let me read this excerpt again. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things in earth or heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the Cross.”
So if I just paraphrase that for clarity, we can say, “For God was pleased to reconcile us to Himself, through Jesus making peace for us through His blood shed on the Cross.”
And what that means, is what we read a little bit earlier explaining how this transition occurs.
“Jesus has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom.”
What happens if someone says that they will bring us? It means, someone of greater authority saying: “Come with me!” — and when Jesus says that, nobody can argue.
This is the simplicity of what God does for us. For us, it’s just a willingness to turn in faith to the Lord and ask Him. This is all that the thief on the cross did.
But we are inclined to discount that as being too easy — too simple, too easy, too inexpensive to be trusted, too good to be true.
There’s something in us which says that this is not real, unless we have earned it in some way.
And so, in that mental process, we are embroidering something straightforward into something we insist needs to be more complicated. And we mustn’t do that, because that is denying the generosity of God in freely awarding this gift to us.
This episode is about How God Offers Us the Gift of Being Made Right with Him — and we have seen that it is a generous gift. No catch, no hidden conditions. It’s called grace, which most people know, from words spoken before a meal, is about being grateful for what has been given. It is — deeply grateful for what is totally undeserved. You can treat it as one of those acronyms, GRACE standing for God’s Remedy at Christ’s Expense. That spells it out pretty well.
It’s a gift and like any gift, we have to receive it. It doesn’t come through church. It doesn’t come through our efforts to live well. It doesn’t accrue through religious ideas of penance or self-denial.
We turn to Jesus (the villain on the cross couldn’t even do that) and ask if we can be counted as His, as He holds out the gift of forgiveness and renewal to us. This is How God Offers Us the Gift of Being Made Right with Him.