I survived a near head-on car crash when I was 20.
I dropped Shirley off at a church friend's house and was pulling out of the driveway. As I looked to my left, there was a fair-sized bush at the mouth of the driveway. I didn't see anything coming, looked to my right, and pulled out, turning left onto the county road. What was blocked by the bush for the moment I looked left was a full-sized Buick, traveling at about 60 mph. He hit me in the left headlight and crumpled in the nose of my 1969 Pontiac. I survived with only a small cut on my cheek and a mild concussion. The other driver did not have on his seat belt, and damaged his knees.
I thank God my life was spared that day. It was certainly good news that the two large cars absorbed much of the impact, and neither driver was killed or seriously injured. I consider it the grace of God that my momentary lapse of checking thoroughly for an oncoming car did not get one or both of us killed.
But I thank God for an even more miraculous and amazing saving of my life. The danger was not a car crash. It was sin and death. Scripture tells us something about humanity in general and ourselves in particular that we don't like to think is true. We are all sinners and need the grace of God.
"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." (Romans 3:23-24 NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 NIV)
Here is the Good News of Jesus Christ: Lost in sin and death, we need a Rescuer. We need a Redeemer. We need a Savior. And God sent His Son, Jesus, to save us. His death on the Cross was more than an act of love on our behalf. It was an act of atonement. An atonement makes things right by way of a sacrifice. Jesus laid down His life to pay for our sins. He took our death (the wages of our sin) on Himself and died in our place. Then God raised Him from the dead to put death to death, so we can inherit eternal life.
Jesus did for us on the Cross what we could not do for ourselves. He willingly gave His life as a sacrifice to pay the price we could never pay by our good works. This, indeed, is Good News!
But there's more. The moment we trust Jesus for forgiveness of our sins and eternal life, He begins to work inside us by His Holy Spirit to make us everything God wants us to be. The Holy Spirit does other things we cannot do for ourselves.
He begins to grow in us the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He transforms and reshapes our character to be more and more like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit begins to root sin out of us and move us toward holiness of heart and life. Filled with the Spirit of Jesus, we want to please the God who loves us so deeply that He redeems us. And so, as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, sin is rooted out of us and holiness is grown into us. We desire the things of God and seek to live a life that honors Him.
The Biblical term for this life-long transforming that God undertakes in our lives is sanctification. To be sanctified is to be made holy. To be holy in the likeness of Jesus is to love God and love others more and more deeply. The result is that we spend our lives honoring God and serving others. Life is not about me. It is about Him. And living for Him means loving and serving others.
Religion calls us to try hard from within ourselves to be good people and keep religious rules. God has a better way. By grace through faith in Jesus He saves us. By the power of His own Spirit He transforms us. Our part is to walk with Jesus by faith, dying to self as we live for Him by honoring His Lordship.
I'm thankful my life was spared in that car crash. I'm more thankful my life was redeemed when I trusted Jesus and began to walk with Him as my Lord. And that's Good News!