Sin separates man from God. This is the first problem that needs to be dealt with, before man can come back into fellowship with God.

God is a holy God. He is a loving Father and He is a God full of goodness and love. But however loving He may be, He cannot overlook our rebellion and our sin, because He is holy as well. Now, it is this balance between the holiness and the love of God that many people do not seem to have understood. Many people’s idea is this: that if they just go to God and say, ‘Well, God I am sorry for what I have done,’ He will forgive them. But on what basis can He forgive them? If you were to commit a crime against the laws of the land and you were taken to court by the police, and if the one sitting as a judge was your own earthly father, who loves you intensely, could he say, ‘Well I love you my son, I declare you to be free?’ He may love you intensely, but as long as he is sitting there as a judge it would be unjust for him to let you go.

Now if a human being can be so just and fair and righteous, can you imagine how much more just and righteous God is? But what can that father do for you? He can punish you with the full penalty of the law. Let us say it is a 100,000 rupees fine that he imposes upon you as a judge. And then, he can step down from his judge’s chair, take off his robes and come to you as your father, and write out a check from his own hard-earned money for those 100,000 rupees and give it to you to pay the fine. Then there would be no injustice, because he has punished you with the full penalty of the law, and then paid that punishment himself. This is the only way in which God can forgive our sin. It is not by our feeling sorry for our sins alone; it is by God having provided a way in His justice for the price of our sins being paid.

This is the whole message of the Bible. That is what Jesus Christ did. God came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and paid that price. He punished us with a full penalty of the law; the punishment for sin is death. You and I need to get that death whether our sins are many or few. A man who commits one murder is hanged and a man who commits a thousand murders is also hanged. The number of sins doesn’t make a difference. If we are guilty, we deserve death whether our sins are one or many. But God, in His love, made this way by which our sins can be forgiven: Jesus Christ came to earth and took our punishment when He died upon the cross. God had to become a man, just like us. He had to live through the temptations and struggles that we face as human beings. He died as a sacrifice in our stead, taking the punishment of our sins upon Himself.

Now, remember this: the punishment for sin is not physical suffering, or sickness, or poverty, or coming back into the world on a lower social scale, or any such thing. The punishment for sin is eternal death. It means being separated from God forever. Also our sin is like a debt that we owe to God. Jesus Christ, when He died, paid that debt for us. Our good works, the Bible says, are like filthy rags in God’s sight. We think of certain works as good works and certain works as bad works. But that is because we compare ourselves with other people who are more evil than us. To take an illustration from a classroom, a student who got 25% in mathematics may consider himself a very bright student compared to the other student who got 5%. That may be true, but he has failed, just like the other student has failed as well. And they both have to sit in the same class next year, even though one got 20 marks more than the other. So when we say we are good or somebody is good, it is a relative term; compared to somebody else he is good, he got 20%, whereas the other person got 10%. But compared to Almighty God’s standard, of 100%, everybody has come short. That is why the Bible says, even the so-called good things that you have done are not valuable in God’s eyes. They are like filthy rags in God’s eyes; they cannot make you acceptable before Him .It is because we have such a low understanding of God’s standards that we think the few good works that we do are going to make us acceptable to Him.

God’s standard of holiness is infinite and none of us can ever reach it. We are all in a hopeless condition, every one of us. If even our good works, and the best works we can ever do, cannot measure up to God’s standard, then what hope is there for us? We are hopelessly lost. That is why God made this way through sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. And through Christ’s death, every sin of every human being has been totally atoned for – that means, paid for. Your debt has been paid. But like the illustration I used in the beginning, of the father who comes down from the judge’s seat and writes out a check and gives it to his son to pay the fine, that son is still not free until he takes the check from his father. It is not enough that the father has written the check. The son has to take it. And that is what God is waiting for man to do.

God has already paid the price for man’s sin when Christ died 2,000 years ago on a cross. But that forgiveness can never be yours until you accept it. You have to take it, you have to say, ‘thank you Lord, for dying for me.’ And you see the foolishness of a man when he does not receive that which is offered freely. What would you think of that son in the courtroom, when his father writes out this check of 100,000 rupees, and he doesn’t take it? That is the foolishness of man everywhere. If that son says, ‘No, I will pay the fine myself,’ well, he is going to spend years in the jail and still not be able to pay the fine. That is the condition of man. Man is unable to pay for his sins. The only way we can have our sins forgiven is coming in simplicity, acknowledging our need, and saying, ‘Lord, I am unable to meet my need of forgiveness. I want to receive it from you. I am never able to pay for my sins. Thank you, that Jesus died for me and that when He shed his blood on the cross and gave His body as a sacrifice; it took care of the punishment of all my sins.’ Then the demands of God’s justice have been met.

How do we know whether this sacrifice of Jesus Christ was accepted or not by the holy God? This is very important to know. The proof is that after three days, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. See, these two things make the message of The Bible and the Christian Gospel unique. It is different from any other message. We can say that every religion in the world teaches us that we must be good, we must be kind, etc. It is all true. But there is the foundation in the Christian Gospel which is unique, and what is that? Two things, basically: The Christian gospel does not start with, ‘Be good, be kind, and don’t tell lies, etc.,’ that comes much later. It starts with, ‘You cannot be good, you cannot be upright, and everything you do is unacceptable to God. First of all, you need the guilt of your past life to be removed. You got to clear your old account before we start on our new account. The old debt has to be cleared.’ How is that cleared? Christ died for the sins of the world. That is the way that old record is cleared, the debt is taken out of the way.

Secondly, the proof is that Christ rose again from the dead. There is only one person in the history of the human race that came out from the grave and conquered man’s greatest enemy: death. There is one thing man has never been able to conquer. Man has conquered space; man has conquered many sicknesses, but he has never been able to conquer death and he will never be able to conquer death. Jesus Christ is the only one who has conquered death. That is the proof to the entire human race that His sacrifice is accepted. Now all we have got to do is to believe, and receive. The Bible says that if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, you will be saved. Your sins will be forgiven – it is like receiving that check that the father gives and saying, ‘Thank you dad for paying my fine. I can go out of this courtroom absolutely free.’

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is going to come back to this world to judge every human being that ever lived here. Before that time comes, we have to make sure that our life is right with God, that our sins are forgiven. This is the invitation that comes to you today. What do you have to do? Acknowledge that you are a sinner. Believe that Christ died for your sins and rose again. Receive Him into your life. Ask him to forgive you. Confess Him as your Lord. That means, say it with your mouth: ‘Jesus Christ is now my Lord.’ It is that simple. May God help you to take that decision today.

This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen.  You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.