Here is some great news for thieves, con merchants, murderers, adulterers, greedy people, pornography addicts, negligent parents, liars, bad tempered people, cowards, bullies, prostitutes, self-harmers, selfish people, drug addicts, pimps and lazy people. In fact, anyone who thinks God wouldn't give them the time of day. What people in Jesus' day called 'sinners'.
As a Christian, I believe that God is our judge for sure, but also that we can be forgiven by God, no matter how bad we have been. Jesus was known as the friend of sinners because so often he got on well with ordinary, irreligious people, with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, social outcasts and so on. At the same time, he had real problems with many of the religious people of his day. Why was this?
The best way I know of explaining this is to say this:
Your good deeds will not get you to heaven
Your bad deeds needn’t keep you out of heaven
Now, these two true statements are terrible news for the religious person who devotes him or herself to being good in order to please God. But great news for a wicked, evil person who wants to get right with God.
Why is the first statement true? Well, the Bible has some pretty awful things to say about our goodness. Our righteousness – our own human goodness – is like filthy rags – literally a woman’s menstrual cloth. See Isaiah 64:6. Trying to be good enough for God is like trying to swim the Atlantic, fly by flapping our hands or trying to bribe a judge by polishing his shoes when you’re on trial for murder. We can’t do it!
And yet, the second statement means that bad people, people like you and me, can be forgiven, free from guilt. And it doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been. The gospel is great news for thieves, con merchants, murderers... sinners.
So how do we get this forgiveness? I will tell you on my next post. But don’t forget: