Followers of Christ are often referred to as “believers”. But what exactly are we believers in? That Jesus was a real person? Sure. That he was good? Yes, of course. That he walked the earth teaching wonderful truths? That, too. But a lot of people believe those things. This is no big step of faith. There are a lot of great teachers and faithful saints in history, but we don’t claim that believing in them provides our salvation.
So what do “believers” believe that sets us apart? We believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human. We believe that he was born of a Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe that he never sinned, yet he suffered and died to pay for our sins. We believe that he rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father. We believe that one day he will return to judge each of us. And most importantly, we believe that the only way we will be judged to be righteous is by acknowledging that his death alone can pay the price for our sins.
To believe anything else about who Jesus is doesn’t make sense when lined up against who he said he was. Time and time again Jesus’ own words made it clear that he wasn’t just a moral teacher or a prophet. His whole message proclaimed salvation through him alone. And he looked right at the doubters and told them: “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him… (John 8:58 & 59 NIV)
When Jesus said this, the Jewish leaders knew exactly what he was claiming which is why they wanted to stone him. They knew that this was precisely how God referred to himself when he spoke to Moses. — God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘ I am has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:14 NIV) — They knew that Jesus was saying that he was God in flesh. Is this a claim that would be made by a great moral teacher? No way.
One of Jesus’ close friends recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, and she made that very proclamation to Jesus. — Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” (John 11:25-27 NLT) — If Jesus were just a great moral teacher or even a prophet, would he not have corrected Martha? Would any “man of God” not immediately recognize this as blasphemous and quickly remind their friend to worship God alone? Of course they would – but Jesus did not because her proclamation was true.
A great writer, an Atheist turned Christian, C. S. Lewis once wrote,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Every one of us sins. The entire Bible is a story of man falling short on our own and each one of us has our own personal story of missing the mark. Sometimes just barely, and sometimes by a long shot. But God had a redemption plan from the moment we needed one. And his plan unfolded when he came to the very world he created. (John 1:10). His plan unfolded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus by whose blood alone can anyone be found righteous.
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, (Romans 3:20, 22-25 NLT)
If you are depending on something else to make you righteous before God – I hope you are totally sure that it has the power to do so. The cost for going with the wrong plan is far too great.