Regardless of what code of conduct (morality) you accept, one point that cannot be denied is that throughout history we have illustration after illustration of man mistreating his fellow man. That conduct might be as extreme as torture and murder, or as simple as lying, cheating, and stealing. In contrast, the two greatest commands given by God are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. These commands are included in both the Old and New testaments.
If we believe there is life after death and there is some kind of eternal reward, then our greatest need is to receive forgiveness for our immoral conduct. Of course, if there is no God and no heaven, this discussion is moot. However, there is great risk to accept that thesis in case we would be wrong.
The one consistent theme throughout the Bible is the theme of forgiveness. From the first book of the Bible (Genesis) to the last (Revelation), the constant theme in the 66 books written by at least 40 authors, over several hundred years, is forgiveness. In fact, if we were to give the Bible a title, it might be “Forgiveness — Why, How, and When We Receive It.”
First and foremost, we do not receive forgiveness because we obey more often than we disobey. God does not forgive based on our being more good than bad. Contrary to most religions and most people, God judges on the basis of law, and not on a basis of bonus points. We live in a world system that is based on law. Without laws and rules there would be chaos. What if you were arrested for running a red light and your defense was, “I have stopped a thousand times at red lights, so shouldn't I get credit for doing right those times against this one infraction?” You know what the answer would be.
One of the main points of the Bible is to convince us that we are law-breakers and cannot save ourselves from the penalty for disobedience by simply making the right decision most of the time. Disobedience under any system of law or morality leads to a penalty. The Bible teaches us that we are all disobedient sinners who cannot by our own efforts save ourselves from the penalty of disobedience. How then can we receive forgiveness without suffering the penalty for our sins of disobedience? The answer to that question is the story of the Bible.
The answer is simple. God gives us forgiveness through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. We owed a debt we could not pay without being separated from God for all eternity. Jesus paid the debt he did not owe, since he never sinned. That sounds unbelievable, but, that is the story of the Bible. God's love for his creation may be difficult to grasp, but that is the depth of God's love. Such love should motivate us to live our lives as God directs in appreciation and gratitude for our forgiveness that comes through the gift of his Son's death on the cross. The Bible calls this “grace,” which means it is a gift which cannot be earned or merited.
From the time of creation, this was God's plan for our salvation. The Old Testament is a story of God preparing the world for the coming of his Son to earth, through the descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. Two thousand years ago God's plan would have been thwarted if there had not been a faithful nation who still believed and served him and through which he would send his Son to earth. God needs a faithful church today, willing to carry the message of God's love to a lost world.
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