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Gospel 101

As we approach the season of the year during which we remember death and celebrate resurrection, we are extraordinarily sensitive to those two themes: death and resurrection. Except for the foolish, most of us are feeling more than a little vulnerable to the first of these themes thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the few seasons of the year when those who don't believe might turn up in church, Easter will likely be celebrated by most of us this year from the safety of our own homes. Churches will probably remain closed, doors locked, lights off because we are afraid. We are afraid for ourselves and we are afraid for others more vulnerable than ourselves who could be contaminated by our missteps.

But this season, however we are able to celebrate it, needs to be celebrated. Paul lays out the simple truths of the Gospel in Romans 3:23-26.

"…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus".

Since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God has held back the worst of the consequences of the sins we are all guilty of. Physical death was always inevitable but eternal death could also always be avoided through the obedience that comes from faith. Paul will go on in Romans to demonstrate how even Old Testament figures, such as Abraham, were justified, declared righteous, through faith even though they lived long before Jesus came to Calvary. Untold numbers of sacrifices have been made since then. But God sent Jesus to do, once and for all, what nothing and no one else could do—stand in our place and become the last, the final sacrifice for sin. He satisfied the justice that was demanded so that we wouldn't have to. He paid so that we wouldn't need to. He came back from the dead as proof that we too will rise again to live with Him—forever forgiven.

It makes the psalmist words in Psalm 103 that much more precious as we consider Jesus, our Saviour.

"Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's…the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust."

If you are a believer, celebrate Jesus. If you are not, the path to the cross remains open. Jesus doesn't practice "social distancing". He waits with open arms to forgive, to restore, to embrace you as one of His own.

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