You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Revelation 4:11)
The foundation of the Christian message is that God is the one true and living ruler of all things. He is the lord and king of everything that exists. Unlike many human rulers, God is not corrupt or self-serving. He is a thoroughly good and loving ruler, who continues to provide for his world generously, and to rule it with justice.
God is the ruler of everything because he created everything. God is the source and maker of all that exists, including the good and beautiful world that we live in. This is his world. He made it, and he is in charge of it.
He also made us.
God created humanity, and gave us a unique place in his good world. He commissioned us to rule over the world, to care for it, and to be responsible for it—all the while honoring and obeying him as our ruler, and thanking him for his generosity.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way… (Isaiah 53:6a)
Everything that is wrong in our lives and in the world stems from the fateful choice humanity has made. From the very beginning, we didn’t want God to be our ruler. We rejected him as God by deciding to live our own way, in defiance of him.
We all do this in our lives.
Most of the time, we simply ignore God or keep him at a distance, and get on with living our own lives. We don’t thank him as we should for being our generous creator and provider. We don’t honor and obey him as our ruler. We follow our own desires and priorities, and live by the values we decide are best (whether religious, secular, or a mix of both).
The common Bible word for this rebellious stance towards God is “sin,” and we all do it—whether we follow a particular religion or not.
We find ourselves in a world full of little “gods,” each of us doing things our own way, each of us selfishly trying to bend the world and other people to our own will.
It’s hardly surprising it doesn’t work. Our self-rule fails and we suffer the consequences, including the damage we do to ourselves, to the people around us, and to the world we live in.
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Like any good ruler, God cares enough to take our rebellion seriously. He holds us accountable for our actions because it matters to him that we dishonor him, that we treat other people so poorly, and that we ruin his world.
In other words, God won’t let the rebellion go on forever. It would be unjust of him to do so.
We experience God’s judgment against our rebellion in the reality of death. Suffering and death are not natural. The corruption, decay and death in our world are part of God’s punishment for humanity’s rejection of him.
But there is a further judgment that we will face. We will all one day stand before God and give account to him for our lives, for the damage we have done, and for our personal rejection of him as our ruler.
The sentence God will pass on that day will be to give us what we have asked for—which is separation from him. He will cut us off from himself permanently. And since God is the source of life and all good things, being cut off from him means a destruction that never ends.
This is a terrible thing, to fall under the sentence of God’s judgment. It’s a prospect we all face, because we’re all guilty of rebelling against God.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity* of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
God loves the world he created, and he loves us. He didn’t leave us to suffer the consequences of our rebellion. He sent his own divine Son into the world to save us: the man Jesus Christ.
Unlike us, Jesus didn’t rebel against God. He always lived under God’s rule, giving honor and thanks to him, and obeying him in everything. He didn’t deserve God’s judgment in any way. He didn’t deserve to die.
Yet Jesus did die. Although he had the power of God to heal the sick and even raise the dead, Jesus allowed himself to be executed on a Roman cross. Why?
The extraordinary news is that Jesus died as a substitute for rebels like us. He took upon himself the judgment and punishment that we deserved, by dying on the cross in our place. Death is the punishment for rebellion, and he died our death.
All this is completely undeserved by us. We rejected God, but because of his great love, God sent his Son to die for us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3)
God accepted Jesus’ death as payment in full for our sins, and raised him from the dead. Jesus defeated death, and rose up to be what humanity was always meant to be: the ruler of God’s world.
As God’s ruler, Jesus has also been appointed as God’s judge of the world. When Jesus returns and the judgment day comes, Jesus will be the one calling us to account for our rebellion against God.
But Jesus is not only God’s appointed king and judge; he is also the savior from judgment. Because of his death in our place, he now offers to forgive all our sins. They’ve already been paid for. We can now make a fresh start with God, no longer as rebels but as loyal friends, giving all thanks and honor to him.
In this new life that Jesus offers, God himself comes to live within us by his Spirit. We can experience the joy of a new relationship with God.
And when Jesus does return in all his glory, we can be totally confident that we will be acceptable to him—not because we deserve to be, but because he took our punishment by dying in our place.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:36)
The first way to live is to continue in our rebellion against God—ignoring him and running our own lives our own way. Sadly, this is the choice that many people continue to make.
The end result of living this way is the inevitable and rightful judgment of God. We not only have to put up with the damaging consequences of rejecting God here and now, but we face the dreadful prospect of an eternity of separation from him.
But there is another way. If we turn to God and ask for forgiveness, trusting in Jesus as the resurrected ruler and savior, then everything changes.
For a start, God wipes the slate clean. He accepts Jesus’ death as payment for our sinful rebellion, and freely and completely forgives us. He pours his own Spirit into our hearts and gives us a new life that stretches past death and into eternity. We are no longer rebels, but part of God’s own family. We now live with God’s Son Jesus as our ruler.
There are only two ways to live.
If your answer to the question “Which way would you like to live?” is “Our way,” then you probably don’t believe some or all of the Christian message as outlined in this leaflet. Perhaps you don’t believe that we are really rebels against God, or that Jesus rose from the dead.
If so, please think carefully and do some further investigation before moving on. The stakes are too high to reject this message without being sure. Perhaps you could read about Jesus for yourself in one of the four biographies of his life contained in the New Testament—the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Perhaps you could do this with a Christian friend. (If you don’t have a Bible go to biblica.com/bible, where you’ll find the modern English translation that’s quoted in this leaflet.)
However, if you know very well that you are a rebel against God, and would like to turn back and start living God’s way, then how do you do that?
There are three simple steps: talk, submit, trust.
The first thing to do is simply to talk to God. Admit to him that you have rebelled against him and deserve punishment, and ask him for forgiveness on the basis of Jesus’ death in your place. Ask God to help you change from being a rebel to being someone who lives with Jesus as their ruler. You could pray something like this:
I know that I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don’t deserve your gift of eternal life. I am guilty of rebelling against you and ignoring you. I’m sorry, and I need your forgiveness.
Thank you for sending your Son to die for me so that I may be forgiven. Thank you that he rose from the dead to give me new life.
Please forgive me and change me, so that I may live with Jesus as my ruler. Amen.
The second step follows naturally on from the first. Having prayed the sort of prayer above, you will want to start putting it into practice—that is, actually living with Jesus as your ruler.
There will be all kinds of areas in your life that need to change. There will be old rebellious habits to get rid of (like greed, anger, selfishness, and so on), and some new God-honoring ones to take on (like generosity, kindness, love, and patience).
This second step will go on for the rest of your life, but God will be with you all the way. He’ll keep speaking to you through your reading of his word, the Bible; he’ll keep listening to you and helping you as you pray to him; he’ll empower you by his Spirit, who lives within you, to change and to live his way; and he’ll provide other Christians to encourage you along the way as you meet with them regularly.
The second step, then, is to submit to Jesus and start living with him as your ruler.
The third step is also ongoing. You need to keep putting your trust in the right place.
It’s only because of Jesus (and his death and resurrection) that you can be forgiven and put right with God. You’ll need to keep coming back to this again and again, because as you start to live God’s new way, you will still fail and do the wrong thing. We all do. We all need to keep looking to the death of Jesus on the cross as the only grounds for our forgiveness.
We must never stop relying on him—and him alone—as the means by which we are forgiven and given eternal life.
If you take these steps, you can be assured that God has indeed forgiven you and given you a whole new life.
But if you have not yet responded to God in this way, you can be equally assured that you remain under his judgment.
There is a fork in the road. There are only two ways to live. It’s the choice we all face.