Why is it so important that your sins are forgiven?
Or better still, why did Jesus die for you?
Think about these two questions for a moment before reading further.
Did Jesus primarily die for you on the cross so that you can have financial breakthroughs, find a husband /wife, have children, buy a house, or be blessed with a luxurious car?
It suddenly occurred to me whilst reading my bible this morning that we very rarely hear messages about salvation in churches these days. And by salvation I’m talking about messages centered on the following verse;
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
John 3 vs 16
The context in which the word ‘perish’ is used in this verse isn’t so much about the present but the future – after we leave this place called earth and move on to the next realm. Yes, through Jesus we are already a part of God’s kingdom and can indeed experience and enjoy that reality here on earth. But let’s go back to basics – Jesus died for you and I in order for us to be reconciled unto God, and as such be able to have a personal and intimate relationship with him; and most important of all, so that death could once and for-all be conquered – for you and I to live forever with our father in heaven.
We rarely hear sermons about Jesus’s return these days. And yet, Jesus’s return is one of the most important realities of the gospel. He will one day return in order to take those still on earth to heaven; and on that day we will all receive our heavenly bodies.
If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian you’re probably thinking it sounds ridiculous and absurd; or that I’m some kind of end-of-the-world doomsday fanatic. Actually, cancel that – there are probably quite a few Christians thinking the same thing.
This isn’t a doomsday article about the end of the world, but one of a call to us all to go back to basics; to return to the foundation of why Jesus died for us. It wasn’t just in order for us to have breakthroughs here on earth, but more so for us not to perish but have a blessed, peaceful and happy eternal life.
Mankind (you and I) has a propensity to only desire and appreciate the things our eyes can see. As such we tend to lose sight of what is most important. This is why it is so easy for the devil to take away our joy and peace on a regular basis. We desperately desire the things that are less important to God. Jesus died for you and I so that we can be reconciled with our father in heaven; not so that we can have financial breakthroughs and play happy families. I’m not saying financial breakthroughs and happy families aren’t wonderful things or important to God. Of-course they are! But we must be careful not to allow earthly desires to take center stage.
‘When the Pharisees, a money obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind that appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.”
Luke 16 vs 14-31: MSG
In other words the material gain, power, status and self-serving influence we all crave and admire in those that have them are monstrous to God. In much of today’s church what’s most important is to be seen to be holy and successful. Have we forgotten that God sees everything? Or has our innate desire to be seen to be great rendered that reality an irrelevance??
The first thing Jesus said to anyone he healed was, “Your sins are forgiven”.
Your sins are forgiven so that you can be rest assured that you are in right standing with God, and so that you can be rest assured that your place in heaven is secure.
A few years back, before the first instalment of the latest Star Wars trilogy, I got into a bit of a panic about two weeks before it was released in the cinemas.
Because I suddenly thought to myself, ‘what if Jesus returns before The Force Awakens is released?’
As a Star Wars fanatic, I dreaded the thought of not being able to watch it. The very thought terrified me to the extent that I actually prayed this prayer – “Lord, please forgive me for saying this prayer, as I’m sure heaven is infinitely better than anything I can possibly imagine; but I know you can see right through me so there’s no point in my pretending. It’s just that…well…and please don’t be offended…I just…I really want to see The Force Awakens. Whatever time or day Jesus is coming back please let it be after The Force Awakens and not before”.
Whilst this may be funny, the truth is it sums up our attitude towards heaven. We’ve somehow managed to make earth our final and most important destination. Heaven and Jesus’s return is usually something we grudgingly remind ourselves about after we’ve lost a loved one.
I believe our lack of eagerness (for heaven) stems from the fact that when we imagine a place in which we are forever praising and worshipping God it doesn’t fill our hearts with much excitement. I’d even go so far as to say it sounds a little boring. Having said that, there are times when one gets the tiniest of glimpses of what it must be like to worship God in heaven. Whilst listening to Hillsong’s ‘What A Beautiful Name It Is’ on my way to the office this morning I was not only moved to the point of tears but at one point lifted my hands to heaven in worship and adoration of Jesus’s love, kingship and glory. For those few minutes I was too engrossed in the love and majesty of Jesus to care whether other people were looking at me or not.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”
1 Corinthians 2 vs 9: King James 2000 Bible
Again, this verse speaks not only of God’s plans for you on earth, but even more so about the wondrous joys, love, peace, and excitement of heaven.
My older brother, Kayode Akande, passed on exactly a year ago. I recall feeling sad, depressed, panicky and confused for several days. In-fact, in the middle of one particularly harrowing night, I woke up crying and continued to do so for a good thirty minutes. I was on a work trip in Ibadan, Nigeria at the time, and as such was staying in a hotel. I went for a walk around the hotel grounds for about an hour feeling lost and utterly despondent before going back to my hotel room to try and go back to sleep. Once asleep I had the most amazing dream. I saw my late brother and our late father smiling down at me from heaven. They not only looked radiant (they were literally glowing!) but I can honestly say that I had never before seen them looking so happy and at peace. When I woke up I knew instantly what God was telling me – that they’re both alive in heaven and happier than they have ever been. In that moment I realised that heaven really is a place like no other. I got on my knees and thanked God for His love, grace, and mercy. From that morning, I ceased from my sadness and rejoiced for their new lives.
“Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven”
Psalm 32 vs 1
Jesus died in order for all your sins to be forgiven.
Just before his final breath, He said, ‘It is finished’. In other words, there’s nothing more for you to do. Everything that needed to be done to guarantee your right standing with God and His unconditional love for you has already been done by Jesus.
There is no greater blessing than the forgiveness of all your sins.
There is no greater gift than that of Jesus giving you His righteousness (which can never ever be taken away).
There is no better security than that of your assured place in heaven.
And judging by my dream of my late brother and father smiling down at me, there is no happier place than heaven.
You are on earth for a reason; and that is to live the purposeful and loving life that God has specifically designed (for you). Live every day in the sure knowledge that Jesus is alive, loves you, and will return one day.
Heaven is what truly matters.