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Many people (especially college students) spend years trying to “find themselves.” The best way to find out who we are is to see what the Bible has to say about us, and then live by Biblical principles. In this chapter I shall very briefly summarize a few basics. The rest of this book deals with other aspects of our relationship with God.
MAN IS A CREATED BEING
Man is a created being; God is the Creator (Genesis 1:27). This basic fact has many consequences.
WE ARE NOT EQUAL TO GOD —We should never think of ourselves as equal to God. This was the reason for satan’s fall; satan said, “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). (Also see Ezekiel 28:13-19.) Satan tempted Adam and Eve by saying that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would be like God (Genesis 3:5).
WE BELONG TO GOD —Everything that lives on earth belongs to God (Palm 33:11). “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
WE TRUST IN GOD AND NOT OURSELVES —“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Our understanding is always incomplete, and often false. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5).
WE SHOULD NOT TALK BACK TO GOD —“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker…” (Isaiah 45:9 NIV). “…Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands” (Isaiah 45:11 NIV). God said to Job, “Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8).
We should also not try to edit or rewrite God’s Scripture. Some modern theologians have attempted this. They have said that modern man cannot accept miracles or other supernatural events. Therefore, in order to make the Bible acceptable to modern man, they would “demythologize” the Bible by removing from it all references to miracles and the supernatural. In effect, they are saying to the Holy Spirit of God, “You made a serious mistake when you inspired the words of the Bible. Fortunately we are here to correct the mistake you made.” This is a form of presumption that men should not indulge in.
GOD’S STRENGTH —When our strength is inadequate, God provides his strength to enable us to do what we need to do. (See Chapter 11.)
JESUS CHRIST HAS REDEEMED US
Originally God created man in God’s own image. But when Adam and Eve made the wrong choice in the Garden of Eden, evil came into the world. As the result, all men are afflicted with the rebellious condition of Adam and Eve. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2; Colossians 1:21).
So God, in an extraordinary act of love, sent Jesus Christ to earth to die for us and redeem us from our sins. (See Chapter 6.) Only Jesus, the sinless Son of God, could have accomplished this. The result is that those who believe in Jesus Christ are saved. We are justified—made right—not by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Jesus. Our sins are forgiven and our relationship with God is restored. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…” (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV). (Also see Romans 5:15-19.)
Those who believe in Jesus are saved by grace. It is an undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). As a result, our sins are forgiven, the power of sin over our lives is broken, and we receive eternal life with God. We also receive an abundant life on earth, and we can overcome any difficulties. (See Chapter 11.)
There is much more that could be said about our salvation, but I think this is enough for now. Let me close this section with a poem by my wife, which communicates in a different way what I have been trying to say.
GOD WANTS A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH US
One of the extraordinary aspects of Christianity is that God seeks us. In most religions, men are seen as seeking their god. But the one true God seeks us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV). He sent his only Son to give us salvation. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4: 10 NIV). “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion…” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV). This sense of God longing for us, yearning for us, is all through Scripture. (See, for example Luke 15:7, 10, 20; Matthew 9:13, 23:37.)
OUR ETERNAL LIFE
Although our physical body dies, our spirit exists into eternity. Those who believe in and follow Jesus will live in heaven with God. Those who do not believe will suffer in hell, separated from God forever.
Heaven and hell are very real places. Scripture does not tell us a great deal about either, but some things seem reasonably clear.
Hell is a place of eternal torment. It is a place of “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). It is better to lose an arm, a leg or an eye than to “go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43). Jesus speaks of it as “a furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42). He gives us a vivid picture of a man being continually tormented by fire in hell (Luke 16:23-31). I think the pain will be unimaginably great. It never ends. There is no relief from it.
Heaven is a place of amazing glory, magnificence, praise and worship. (See Revelation, chapter 4.) Some speak of eternal rest, or picture us as sitting on clouds playing the harp. My sense is that we will probably be very active. God is constantly working. The angels are in heaven, and the picture we get of them from Scripture is that they are quite busy. We are told that some of us will rule on earth with Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4, 6). I rather expect that those people will be quite busy preparing for this task. So I picture life in heaven as one of activity, but an activity that is perfectly in tune with the will of God.
I see the life of believers here on earth as preparation for this life in heaven. The more we mature in Christ, the closer a relationship we develop with God, the more equipped we will be when we enter heaven. Jesus tells us, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). The greatest treasure we can lay up is a character that is in accord with God’s will.
There seem to be different levels of reward in heaven, depending on how a believer conducted himself on earth. Those who built a lasting work will receive a reward; those whose work did not last will suffer loss but will still be saved (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Jesus speaks of those who will receive a great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12). (Also see verse 19.) He says that “in My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2), which seems to imply that different people will be treated differently. “The Lord will give to everyone according to what his life and work show forth. Surely it is a challenge to all of us to live every day as servants of the Lord, and to be as ready as possible when he returns.”19