31 years ago today I met with a man named Leonard Riley, and he shared the most life changing story with me that anyone has ever shared. I'd like to share it with you today.
Out of God’s love we were created – and we were created to do life together (in relationship) with God. We see this in the creation of the first man and the first woman, Adam & Eve. God created them and put them in a great place, and he put them there to enjoy each other and their relationship with him. To protect them he gave them boundaries and said, "Do not cross these boundaries because, if you do, it comes with great consequences."
Adam and Eve bought into a lie and deliberately disobeyed God. That disobedience caused a separation between them and God. What we know to be true from the story of Adam and Eve we also know to be true with us. Our disobedience causes a separation in our relationship with God.
Knowing that things are not right between us, like little children, we begin to try and fix things. We begin to try to bridge the gap between us and God. Adam and Eve tried it: they tried to hide what they'd done from God, but it didn't work. How do you hide from God?
They even tried to shift the blame…"the woman you gave me made me"..."that serpent you created snaked me into doing it." Again, it didn't work.
We do the same thing only we take a different approach – instead of hiding and placing the blame game, we try to cover up our mistakes by being "better"! But in the end we know what scripture says is true – everything we do falls short of bridging the gap.
God said the result of your disobedience is death – both physically and spiritually. But this is where God’s amazing grace kicks in. God could have said "Sorry, you did the crime, you pay the time" – but instead he said, "Look, I love you – you matter to me. I’ll allow another to die in your place - so the bridge can begin to be built."
First God covered Adam and Eve with the skins of animals: animals were allowed to die in their place so they could be forgiven and continue to live in relationship with God. But unfortunately it didn't end there – mankind continued to sin – and a system was put in place that allowed for innocent animals to be slaughtered and their blood poured out to cover the sins and pay for the disobedience. This went on for a long time. Then one day a man – a prophet - by the name of Isaiah made a prediction:
"But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him. But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds. We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. But the LORD has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done. He was beaten down and punished, but he didn't say a word. He was like a lamb being led to be killed. He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut; he never opened his mouth." (Isaiah 53:4-7)
The people don’t know what to make of it – it sounds like instead of an animal a human would be sacrificed…
Years later Jesus is born and everything indicates there's something different about him – that he is God’s son. When he's about 30 years old he goes to this river where another prophet is preaching – this prophet is John the Baptist. When John sees Jesus he says "behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
He's saying this is the one Isaiah spoke about – he is God’s provision for our sins.
Approximately 3 years later Jesus is crucified on a cross – an innocent man dies – so that the guilty may be set free. On a hill just outside of Jerusalem an old wooden cross becomes the bridge that would span the gap once and for all between us and God.
Jesus would die for us – in our place! Why? Because God loves us!
God’s amazing grace is what compels me and others to tell this story over and over again. But it’s not enough just to tell the story! It’s not enough for you to hear and know the story.
The question is: where do you see yourself in this illustration? In other words, which side of the bridge are you on?
Some of you have been saying "I’ll cross that bridge later or when I come to it." Well, you've come to it – later has arrived. Listen to what Jesus says:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)
31 years ago today a man drew this out for me and ask me where I was. And I had to admit that I was on the left side needing to cross over. He invited me to place my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one who died for me to make me right with God once again.
So how about you – everyone is on one side or the other. If you don't know where you stand, let me invite you receive and experience God's amazing grace. Just tell God that you know you have disobeyed him and you are sorry. Then tell him, the best you know how, you place your faith and trust in His son Jesus Christ; that you believe he died for you, was buried and then rose again to prove to he was who he claimed to be, and that he could do what he claimed he could do.
Then just tell him "Thanks." Thank him for forgiving you and adopting you into his family!
This is the promise God makes to you and me:
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:13-15)
If you made the decision to cross over leave me a comment. I would love to pray for you and celebrate with you!