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Jesus and Salvation

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Jesus-the God-Man

God—big, awesome, powerful God—desperately wanted us humans to be able to understand His love for us and just how big, awesome, and powerful He is. He knew that the best way to help us to understand Him would be to send His Son, Jesus, to the world in human form. Understanding who Jesus is helps us to have a better idea of who God is and the role that He wants to play in our lives.

Listen: Flock of Geese

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A Flock of Geese

There was once a man who didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

“That story is nonsense!” he said. “Why would God lower himself to come to earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!” So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.

Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn’t see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn’t go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It’s warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn’t seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away.

He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn’t catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got to the other side of them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

“Why don’t they follow me?!” he exclaimed. “Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?”

He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn’t follow a human. “If only I were a goose, then I could save them,” he said out loud.

Then he had an idea. He went into the barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he went around to behind the flock of wild geese again. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn—and one by one the other geese followed to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as what he had said a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: “If only I were a goose, then I could save them!” Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. “Why would God lower himself to come to earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!” Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese—blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized.

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: “Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!”

(Author unknown, original story adapted by Keith Phillips; Reflections #106)

Jesus came to earth and took on the form of a human so that we could understand God’s love for us.

However, when Jesus was born of Mary, He didn’t stop being God. He and His Father, God, were united in a very close and personal fellowship in heaven, which Jesus had to give up temporarily while He was on earth. He was still God, but He was also man.

Jesus became the God-man. So, God to Jesus, Jesus down to man, man holds on to Jesus, and Jesus takes man to God.

Why We Need Jesus

Why do we even need a savior? To figure that out, let’s backtrack to the beginning. We all know how that went: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God says, “You can eat from every tree except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

The Devil slithers in and talks them into eating from the big “no-no” tree. And that’s how they discovered doing evil, and at the same time this action of disobedience to God separated them from God. Through their disobedience and allowing evil to enter into their beings, they removed themselves and their descendants, us, from the fellowship with God that mankind had in the very beginning. They had to leave the Garden of Eden and the intimacy with God that they had there.

God gave man freedom of choice and a chance to come back into fellowship with Him. But as time went on, mankind became more removed from God and His love through sin, disobedience, and rebellion to God’s laws. So God in His great love came to earth in the person of Jesus to bring us back into fellowship with Him.

That’s why we need Jesus. Because through believing in Him and receiving Him into our hearts as our Savior, we receive eternal life once this earthly life is over, and we are reunited with God forever! It completes us. That’s what “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36) is talking about.

So basically, Adam and Eve’s sin caused mankind to be separated from God. Only perfection would be able to get us back into fellowship with God. Of course, no one is perfect. So are we doomed to be lost forever? No. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He gave us the greatest gift of all—salvation—the gift of being forgiven for our sins and receiving eternal life—so that we can go to heaven and be eternally reunited with God when our earthly bodies die. No one else can give eternal life to humankind. Though there have been many amazing, incredible, and heroic men and women throughout history, and even many modern-day heroes too, only Jesus has the power to give us salvation. Only God can bring us back to God.

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved

Salvation is a gift. None of us deserve to receive salvation, but Jesus gave it to us as a gift. Have you ever been given a gift by someone just because they wanted to give you a gift? You didn’t necessarily deserve that gift—it was given to you freely. Well, not only did we not deserve to receive the gift of salvation, the truth is that we deserve the punishment of death for our sins:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

And the awesome thing about salvation is that there is nothing that any of us could do to get it except to simply receive it and accept it as a gift that we don’t deserve. None of us could ever be good enough to deserve it.

Ephesians 2:89 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Let’s put it this way: God is perfect, and heaven is perfect, right? To be able to live with God in heaven, you would need to be perfect too. Can you imagine anyone ever living like that?

Just think: Perfect. Every. Single. Day. All day. Every day. Never angry. Never lie. Never disobey. Never do anything wrong at all. Obviously, none of us could ever be like that, all day, every day.

Eternal Salvation

Some people believe that though they are saved, they can lose their salvation. But if we could lose it, it wouldn’t be eternal. We never deserved it anyway, and it was given to us as a gift when we asked Jesus to come into our heart.

Listen: My Attorney

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My Attorney

After I lived a “decent” life, my time on earth came to an end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what seemed to be a courthouse. The doors opened, and I was instructed to come in and have a seat at the defense table.

As I looked around, I saw the prosecutor. He was a villainous-looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen. I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my lawyer, a kind and gentle-looking man whose appearance seemed strangely familiar to me.

The corner door flew open, and the Judge appeared. He was an awesome figure, in full, flowing robes, as He moved across the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, “Let us begin.”

The prosecutor rose and said, “My name is Satan and I am here to show You why this man belongs in hell.” He proceeded to tell of lies I had told, things I had stolen, and times I had cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life. The more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank.

I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look at anyone, even my own lawyer, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about. As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at my representative, who sat there silently, not offering any form of defense at all.

I knew I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life. Couldn’t that at least compensate for part of the harm I’d done? Satan finished with a fury and said, “This man belongs in hell. He is guilty of all that I have charged, and there is not a person who can prove otherwise.”

When it was His turn, my lawyer first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this, over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As my lawyer got up and started walking, I was able for the first time to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar. This was Jesus representing me—my Lord and Savior!

He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, “Hi, Father.” Then He turned to address the court: “Satan was correct in saying that this man has sinned. I won’t deny any of these allegations. And yes, the payment for sin is hell, and this man deserves to be punished.”

Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, “However, I died on the cross as payment for this man’s sins, and so that this person might have eternal life. He has accepted Me as his Savior. He is Mine.”

My Lord continued by saying, “His name is written in the Book of Life, and no one can snatch him from Me. Satan still does not understand. This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.”

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, “There is nothing else that needs to be done. I’ve done it all.”

The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words echoed in the chamber: “This man is free. The penalty for him has already been paid in full. Case dismissed.”

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, “I won’t give up, I’ll win the next one.”

As Jesus gave me my instructions about where to go next, I asked, “Have You ever lost a case?”

Christ lovingly smiled and said, “Everyone who has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you—‘Punishment paid in full.’”

(Reflections #160)

Imagine for a moment that this guy who is being taken before the Judge is you. The Devil takes out a long list of all of your faults and sins. It’s easy sometimes to forget just how many faults and sins we have, isn’t it? In reality the CCTV is running all the time, 24/7. You’re in the defense stand and everyone is watching that footage.

You—stealing that chewing gum.
You—saying that thing behind your friend's back.
You—hiding that thing from your parents.
You—going to that very iffy website.
You—thinking that awfully mean thought.

Nothing is hidden!

Even those secret sins that nobody else knows about are out in the open and are being told in detail before the Judge. It’s obvious to everyone: You are guilty as charged—there’s no covering that up.

Now some people think, “Well, yes, Jesus forgave me for all my sins when I accepted Him into my heart, but what about the sins that I commit after that? Am I not guilty for those?” Well, think about it. If that were the case, you would be saved when you received the Lord, unsaved when you got mad at that guy who tripped you accidentally, then saved again when you told the Lord you were sorry and repented, then unsaved again next time you told a lie—in and out of possibly going to hell when you die—like a yo-yo.

But Jesus said in John 6:37, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” That’s it. Once we come to Jesus, He will never cast us out, even if we do still make mistakes and sin. He also said in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” He didn’t say, “He will have everlasting life as long as he never sins again.”

Jesus knew we were sinners, and when He died 2,000 years ago, He knew about all the sins we would commit in our entire lives. And He forgave them all. Every. Single. One. Remember, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), past, present, and future.

So how do you avoid having to “pay for your sins?” Your only hope is the fact that your punishment has already been paid in full and that you will be receiving mercy and not justice. This should make you think, “Sure makes me glad I’m not getting what I deserve!”

What Does it Mean to Be Born Again?

Have you ever wondered exactly what it means to be “born again?” Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." What was He talking about?

 Well, think about it: What does a baby understand of the world when he is in the womb? Very, very little. There are some sounds and lights that get to the fetus, but does he understand them? No. Not until the baby is born does he start understanding the outside world. Jesus was saying that it’s the same thing in the spirit. When you accept Jesus into your life, you’re being born into a spiritual world. Then you start growing. A baby takes in everything, is curious about everything, and gets input from everyone around him, and slowly but surely grows. He starts learning about simpler things—simple shapes, mother’s milk—and gradually gets into more challenging things, like crawling, talking, reading, and eating solids. It’s the same thing with new Christians. After being “born again,” there is a lot to learn. This is why Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

Of course, it’s hard for someone who knows little about the spirit to understand this idea. It doesn’t matter how “head smart” you are; this is something that you have to be “spirit smart” to understand.

Jesus' Life, Death, and Resurrection Foretold

Now that we’ve figured out why we need Jesus and why God sent Him to earth in human form, there’s actually much more to this story.

God-man didn’t just “show up” one day to let us know that things were finally going to start looking up for us. When royalty come to town, they let people know they’re coming, and people get ready. God let us know when, where, and how Jesus was coming. And if you’re thinking, “No big deal. He just sent a messenger ahead of him or something,” think again.

Around 700 years before Jesus was born, this prophecy was given:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

A virgin will be pregnant … how? Nobody knew. And yet 700 years before it happened, God instructed Isaiah to write it down so that everyone would know.

By the way, “Immanuel” means “God with us.”

The New Testament tells us that "Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be?' And the angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:26–35).

So, right from the get-go, Jesus’ life on earth was a miracle. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? But it gets way better.

After the “how,” the “where”: a full 800 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Micah foretold the exact village where the Messiah would be born:

Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.

It may not be the easiest thing to do, but try and picture this: 800 years before the fact, God said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. A hundred years later, He lets one of His prophets, Isaiah, know that Jesus would be born of a virgin.

The Lord chooses Mary, and she becomes pregnant miraculously. But Mary and Joseph live about a hundred miles from Bethlehem, in Nazareth, and without the kind of transport we have today, that was no doubt a pretty long journey.

God engineered things so Jesus’ birth happened just as it had been prophesied so many hundreds of years earlier. Caesar (all the way over in Rome) makes a decree that everyone needs to go back to the city of their ancestors to be taxed. Joseph’s ancestors were from Bethlehem, so off he goes with his pregnant wife, and they get to Bethlehem just in time for the baby to be born.

In that same prophecy about where the Messiah would be born, it also says that the Messiah “has been of old, from days of eternity.” Another way to say that is “the Messiah has always been around, but He’s going to be born in Bethlehem.”

While Jesus was on earth, He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Abraham lived about 2,000 years before Jesus was born to Mary. So Jesus was talking about His pre-earth existence with God before His life on earth in the form of a man.

So now we have the where and the how of the Messiah’s arrival. But God gave many, many more prophecies about different aspects of Jesus’ time on earth. Let’s look at a few more.

Another prophecy about the Messiah was given by King David over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. In his prophecy, David gives details of a cruel and painful death:

Psalm 22:14-18 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

Who was King David talking about? Well, he wasn’t talking about himself, as he died a peaceful, natural death. This is a very accurate prophecy about the cruel death of the Messiah. Let’s look at some of the details in the above prophecy:

I am poured out like water ... My heart is melted within Me. The New Testament tells us that shortly after Jesus died, while He was still hanging on the cross, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34).

Medical science has confirmed that, because of the way Jesus was put to death, things could have happened to His heart that caused a watery liquid to form around it, so that when the soldier pierced His side, it “poured forth like water.”

Oh, and by the way, that bit about the soldier piercing Him? Also a prophecy. (See Zechariah 12:10.)

All My bones are out of joint. That’s one of the things that happens during crucifixion; the limbs get out of joint.

For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. This one is easy to picture when you know that a bunch of the people who condemned Jesus to death were standing around mocking and making fun of Him while He was dying.

 They pierced My hands and My feet. Remember who gave this prophecy? King David, right? Well, at the time of King David, no one in Israel was killed in that way. People who were executed were usually stoned, as that was the law for criminals. But this prophecy specifically talks about hands and feet being pierced.

 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. Did this happen? Well, let’s look at these verses:

John 19:2324 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.

Another prophecy about the events surrounding Jesus’ death was given through Zechariah, almost 500 years before it happened:

Zechariah 11:12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.

The Gospels tell us that on the night that Jesus was arrested by His enemies, Judas went to the chief priests and said to them, “’What will you give me if I deliver Him to you?’ and they counted out for him 30 pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:14, 15).

It’s pretty amazing that 500 years before it happened, Zechariah wrote down the exact amount. But that’s not all. The next verse says:

Zechariah 11:13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.

Do you remember what happened to those 30 pieces of silver after Judas betrayed the Lord? Well, Judas goes back to the priests and throws the silver in the temple. The priests can’t put it into their treasury because it’s blood money—money that was involved in the spilling of blood—and so they’re wondering how to use it, and they decide to buy a field from a potter so that they can bury foreigners in it.

How accurate is that for a 500-years-before-the-fact quote: “Cast to the potter in the house of the Lord” is exactly what happened!

Back to Isaiah. Here is yet another prophecy about the Messiah: In 712 BC, Isaiah predicted that the Son of God would be given “a grave with the wicked, but with the rich in His death” (Isaiah 53:9).

Jesus was condemned as a criminal, a “wicked man,” and when He died, the Bible tells us “two robbers were crucified with Him” (Matthew 27:38). A rich man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and when Joseph had taken the body, he laid it in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57–60).—A “grave with the rich!”

And now back to King David: 1,000 years before Jesus was born, the Spirit of God prophesied through King David that the Savior would be resurrected from the dead:

Psalm 16:10 KJV For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

King David died and was buried in a grave, so his flesh saw corruption. But Jesus was raised from the grave three days after His death!

Now that we’ve looked at these prophecies, let’s take a step back and look at the implications. To make sure that everyone knew who Jesus was when He came, God put several hundred prophecies into the Old Testament about what the Messiah would do, including the prophecies that we have just read.

The real puzzler is this: if Jesus was “just a man,” how could he choose where he is born? Or what mortal man can—or would—cause the officials of a foreign government to order his death by an extremely painful execution? How could anyone make their bitter enemies pay a specific price to betray them, and mock them while they are dying? Can a normal person cause a band of soldiers to gamble for his clothing while he's dying, then make them pierce his side after he died? What kind of man could convince a rich man to bury his body in the rich man’s own personal tomb—all just because he wanted to prove that his existence was the fulfillment of prophecies that were given and recorded several hundred years earlier?

Remember, only by fulfilling all of these prophecies could Jesus really prove that He was who He claimed to be.

And besides these prophecies, there are over 300 more recorded prophecies related to Jesus that were also fulfilled, which include many details of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection! The bottom line is that there is only one person whose life was ever foretold with such specific detail, and this one person is the Son of God.

There have been many great religious leaders through history—Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Moses, and many more—but not one of these ever claimed to be God, or the Son of God. That is a very important fact to remember, because this is the greatest difference between Jesus and all the other great teachers throughout the ages.

Many teachers spoke of love and understanding, but Jesus was the only one who rightfully claimed that He was God and that He was love—God’s love for the world.

A Legacy of Love

It’s hard to fathom just how much love Jesus has for us. It just goes way, way past human love. He was willing to come to earth in human form, experience human feelings and emotions, be tempted by the Devil for 40 days, experience extreme hunger, experience disappointment and even betrayal, and on top of all that, He was willing to be beaten and to die an extremely painful death—even feeling that His Father was letting Him die alone—all because He loves us and wanted us to have salvation.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus told His Father, “Father, if there is any way out of this, if there is any other way to save humankind, please remove this cup of suffering from Me—please make a way of escape for Me—but if not, and if this is the only way to save them, then not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus didn’t have to suffer that horrible death. When He was taken before Pilate, all He had to do was deny that He was the Son of God and they might have beaten Him up a bit, but they wouldn’t have crucified Him. Or He could have snapped His fingers and thousands of angels would have appeared and carried Him to safety (Matthew 26:53). But He didn’t. He chose to die so that we could be saved.

The famous intellectual and former professor of Cambridge University, C. S. Lewis, said it this way: “There is a 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 one thing that we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be ‘a great moral teacher.’ He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who claims 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 mad man 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 up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a ‘great human teacher.’ He has not left that option open to us, He did not intend to.”

Napoleon Bonaparte also rightly recognized the absolute uniqueness of Jesus, and expressed it in these words: “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius?—Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love, and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

("Who Is Jesus?")

Everything about the way that Jesus lived His earthly life proves something. Though Jesus performed many miracles while He was on earth—raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, and all that—it was the pure motive behind all He did that really stands out. He was motivated by totally pure and unselfish love!

You probably know the verse “the love of Christ constrains me,” but have you ever thought of what the apostle Paul was really saying? Well, the love of Christ is pretty legit! Paul was saying, “When I think of what Jesus did for me—the way that He proved His love to me by dying for me—it practically forces me to want to do whatever He asks me to do and to live the life He wants me to live, just to show Him my gratitude.”

Doesn’t that make you want to ask yourself, “What is the love of Christ compelling me to do?” Do we truly show Him on any given day that we value what He went through for us? It’s all too easy to become familiar with it, but it’s so important not to forget all that Jesus did for us and all that He went through just to prove His love to us and to make it possible for each of us to go to heaven when we die.

We’ve often heard stories or watched movies where it shows a king’s loyal subjects being willing to give their lives to defend and protect their king from harm. Jesus is the King of all kings and yet He gave His life so that we can live a better one—an eternal one.

We’re forgiven because He was forsaken.
We’re accepted because He was condemned.
We’re alive and well because He died and rose again.

What amazing love, that’s all that’s left to say! AMAZING LOVE!

(Adapted from Chris Tomlin's song You're My King)