“Big” was too small a word to describe what loomed in the mists before him. Even “massive” felt like an understatement. It was “massively massive”. Years ago, in Chicago, the Sears Tower had launched his jaw into free fall, but compared to this the Sears Tower perched like a toothpick in a forest of ancient redwoods. In front of Fred squatted a truly mountainous mountain, its girth stretching out of sight, its peak thrusting far above layers of clouds. On the summit, barely visible, shone a ring of light.
That luminous ring was what had drawn Fred here; why he stood staring upwards. Others had told him that, on top of the mountain, nestled a city of light; a city that delighted both the eyes with its exquisite colors and the heart with its residents – happy people who lived together in peace and love. Earthly blights, such as sickness, pollution and pain were unknown there. Fred felt his heart lift at the thought of it. To live with them would be such an upgrade from his current existence and his life was half-spent anyway. Soon enough it would be over.
He began to climb. As he did, Fred became aware that others around him were climbing as well. They spread over the mountain in every direction. Many were at his level, while a few had already ascended so high that they’d shrunk to mere specks. As far as he could see though, none had even gotten close to the cloud level. The climbing was mostly very slow and he discovered, with a shock, that it was not uncommon for people to actually lose height, skittering back down the huge wall, fingers painfully scraping as they scrambled to find a grip; any grip. He had climbed a little further when a motion off to the side grabbed his attention. On the ground level he saw a ragged group of people who weren’t climbing at all. They stood clustered around what appeared to be an opening in the wall. Every so often one of them would step through the opening and disappear. No one entering seemed to come back out. “How odd,” he thought. “Those fools had better get busy climbing or they’ll never make it.”
Can you identify with this scenario? Maybe some of you have guessed already that this story is a depiction of our struggle to find salvation. It’s a common human concern. We need salvation from ourselves – from our own self-centeredness, meanness and pride. And our society needs salvation too, riddled as it is with prejudice, inequalities and conflict. Things just aren’t right. Our world offers many opinions about how to secure this salvation through its numerous religions and philosophies. I’d like to share with you what the Bible teaches so that you can consider its claims.
1. The Bible teaches that we humans are magnificent creations of God
According to Scripture, human beings stand at the zenith of God’s creation. We alone are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and likeness (James 3:9). Exactly what this means we’re not told but it’s a stellar honor and seems to involve attributes like possessing a spirit, moral sensitivity, spiritual purity, leadership capabilities and a huge creative capacity. Adam and Eve were part of God’s “very good” creation and had a close personal relationship with God Himself.
2. The Bible teaches that we’ve fallen into spiritual corruption
It says that we’re no longer basically good. Romans 3:23 states: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10 adds: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” This is deep defilement, corrupting everything about us and our world. Sin taints our minds, emotions and wills. It distorts all of our relationships, including the most crucial one – the connection we have with God. This leads to the next biblical teaching:
3. The Bible teaches that our sin puts us in an awkward place with God
Our sin alienates us from God. We resist him; rejecting his ways (Rom. 8:7). God, in turn, limits his blessing on those who fight him (Ps. 34:15,16). Although he reaches to sinners in love, God refuses to support sin in any way. And we’re all sinners. So we have this standoff. That’s sad, but the next biblical truth is even sadder.
4. The Bible teaches that our sin puts us in a dangerous place with God
Although God loves us, this doesn’t change the fact that God is also our Ruler and Judge. Each of us will one day stand before him to answer for how we’ve lived our lives (2 Tim. 4:1). God refuses to simply overlook our sin. Every sin brings its own penalty. The overall penalty, which every sinner faces, is a severe one – eternal separation from God in a nasty place called Hell (Rev. 20:15). Even more scary is the fact that there’s nothing you and I can do, on our own, to remove sin’s penalty. Many religions teach that if we perform enough good deeds we can cancel out our sins. The Bible says that this isn’t possible (Gal. 3:11). A million good deeds won’t cancel out one sin. This is what makes the Bible’s next teaching so precious.
5. The Bible teaches that Jesus came to pay the price for our sins
God couldn’t overlook our sins, but he loved us and hated to condemn us to hell. So he sent his Son, Jesus, to do something about it (Rom. 5:8). Jesus came to die on the cross in our place, to pay the price for our sins (1 Peter 3:18). He faced God’s wrath on our behalf (Rom. 5:9). After Jesus died, God raised him from the dead (Luke 24:1-8). He was seen by the disciples (Luke 24:36-49). Then he ascended to be with his Father (Acts 1:9). And so the price for our sins was fully paid. Yet there’s one more crucial part of the salvation picture that it’s critical for you and I to know.
6. The Bible teaches that in order to be saved we must choose to put our faith in Jesus and in what he did for us on the cross
In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, salvation is a free gift. No one earns it. Those climbing the wall, in the earlier story, will never reach the city of light. They won’t even get close. The only ones who enter the city are the ones who stop trying to climb the mountain and simply enter through the open door at the bottom. It’s what might be called “the door of grace”. The word “grace” means that what’s given is undeserved; it’s totally a gift. It’s a gift that God offers each of us if we will humble ourselves to receive it. This is what the Bible teaches. Many years ago I chose to believe it. I acknowledged that I was a sinner and asked Christ to save me from my past. And, after all this time, I still believe that He did. Furthermore, following Jesus has changed my life for the better. This gift can be yours as well today if you’ll stop trying to climb the mountain and walk through the door of grace. The choice is up to you. I hope you’ll reach to Jesus.