The Bible reveals two dimensions of God: who he is and what he does, the distinction between being and doing. Character explains action.
The Bible says that God has three character attributes:
• God is HOLY
• God is JUST
• God is LOVE
The word holy in the original Greek means separated. Unlike us, God is separated from sin and error.
He operates by intricate principles and meticulous order – we call them laws – which govern the relationship of things that share common time and space, to prevent chaos, whether atoms in molecular orbit or people in a city.
The word HOLY, when referring to God, means perfect, always in accord with his physical and spiritual laws.
The word JUST, when referring to God, means fair reward for compliance and/or fair punishment for violation. Good spiritual laws would be meaningless without a commitment to uphold them.
The word LOVE, when referring to God, means a deep and tender feeling of affection and attachment for each of us and an enduring concern for our individual well-being.
The Bible says that God wants a reciprocal love relationship with each of us, individually.
Reciprocal love requires that the object of love have freedom to choose whether or not to return love. Therefore, God gives us free will.
He gives us an internal moral law (conscience) and external guidance (Bible), but we fail him miserably. At end of this life, we must face his judgment for our choices.
God is HOLY, so he cannot ignore sin.
God is JUST, so he must punish sinners; punishment for a lifetime of accumulated sin is hell, as discussed in Heaven/hell.
God is LOVE ... BUT, if he is really love, how can he sentence someone to hell?
This is a dilemma!
To resolve the dilemma, God offers a substitution option, commonly called the plan of salvation. Here's how it works:
Because God is a trinity, explained in God's trinity, a part of God became man, and that part (Jesus) became God’s ONLY acceptable substitute for our deserved punishment.
If the offer is accepted, our life (sinful) is exchanged for his life (sinless) at time of judgment, and thus we are declared free from the penalty of sin. We become pardoned sinners.
By offering this option, God is holy, just and love, all at the same time. Dilemma solved. No conflict.
This substitution principle (a sacrifice on someone’s part) is similar to what we experience in our human justice system:
You violate the law, and the judge orders a fine (a huge fine, more than you have ability to pay). A friend steps in and pays the fine for you. Justice has been served, and it cost you nothing, because of your friend.
We see that principle in the Old Testament. People sinned, but God accepted an animal on the altar as a sacrifice for sin. God said, then, that if a person is truly sorry for personal sins, he would accept the life of the animal in exchange for sin of the person.
As explained in Bible credibility, there is a big difference between the old way (Old Testament) and the new way (New Testament). Then, sacrifices had to be made over and over again, for every sin or batch of sins.
Now, Jesus’ death on the cross is the once-for-all sacrifice ... for all sins, for all people, for all times ... BUT the sacrifice must be individually acknowledged and accepted.
The exchange offer sounds too good to be true. Too easy, many people say.
So why doesn’t God just give this substitution to everyone, automatically? Because that would be meaningless. There would be no real justice involved and no real love involved. We would not be ecstatic about it, and our lives would not be changed by it.
Therefore, the Bible says, to get this exchange – often called salvation – there are two conditions:
1 We must ask forgiveness for our sins and sincerely desire to stop repeating them.
2 We must claim Jesus as our exchange – or, in a common way of saying it, accept Jesus as personal Savior.
This is individual action, not something conferred by family or church. It is free, for everyone. It can never be bought or earned by good works.
A person can accept Jesus as personal savior at any time, any place, alone or with others, purposefully coming into the conscious presence of God.
A person does not need to clean up his or her life first. God will immediately grant forgiveness and begin transforming and empowering that person’s life for the better.
The people who say this is too easy probably have not done it, proving that it is not easy, because of pride. God demands humility and confession.
Jesus was crucified on a cross by Roman soldiers because of pressure from religious leaders who were furious that he claimed to be God and was attracting large crowds of followers.
His body was placed in a guarded tomb, but after three days, he was miraculously alive again, outside the tomb, meeting at various times and places with hundreds of disciples.
Forty days later he left earth by rising and disappearing into the clouds in the presence of witnesses, after instructing them to tell the entire world what they had seen and heard.
Jesus’ time on earth was progression from a miraculous beginning to a miraculous ending. The beginning showed his humanity, the ending showed his deity.
We call him Jesus Christ. Jesus is his name, human; Christ is his title, deity.
He used miracles to authenticate his deity; otherwise, people would not believe him.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ is now in heaven, from where he came, and that he will return to earth at an unknown time to gather the living and dead for final judgment.
Some say, So Jesus died, but only for three days. That’s not a huge sacrifice.
The point is not how long he remained dead or what happened when he was in hell for three days. The point is that he died as the only once-for-all sacrifice acceptable to God, forever ending all other sacrificial systems.
Furthermore, as humans, we are incapable of understanding what pain and humiliation Jesus had to endure, even for three days, to bear all the sins of the world.
Because God can do anything, he could accomplish these free-will and substitution objectives without a death, resurrection or ascension, but that would not be an act of love. That would be cold procedure, and most people would not understand it, identify with it, respond to it or often think about it.
The way he used his trinity, and the way he reconciled his conflicts of character, is a beautiful way of demonstrating love and fulfilling the Old Testament laws. People of all cultures, ages, education and time can understand it. Not heavy theology. Just response to an act of love.
People in diverse cultures everywhere, even before contact with Judeo-Christian thinking, have always known that some kind of sacrifice – usually a blood sacrifice – is the necessary way to get rid of the heavy burden of sin. This knowledge is built right into us, part of God's design plan.
A common Christian expression is the admonition to ask Christ into your life or invite Jesus into your heart or similar terms which emphasize that salvation (full pardon for penalty of all sin) requires a personal decision.
Just believing in God or Jesus is not enough.
The Bible says belief must be coupled with a specific action step:
Consciously invite him into your life ... confess your sins ... ask for forgiveness and salvation ... desire to turn from your sins ... and let him take control in daily living.
This is what it means to become a Christian.
This action step need be taken only once. Jesus called this new birth (John 3:1-18). Just as we have a time of physical birth, we have a time of spiritual birth, and we grow from there.
Sin will become increasingly distasteful, but we are still human, and we will still sin from time to time.
To maintain a close and happy relationship with God, we should confess known sins as they occur and increasingly turn over more control of our lives to him, explained in Daily living.