Like you, I frequent grocery stores. And like you, I scan the headlines of the magazines and newspapers while I wait my turn to slide the debit card and be on my way. Although there are times when the headlines of some “newspapers” are laugh-out-loud funny — Monkey Boy Actually Nostradamus!, most of the other headlines are heartbreaking – Famous Starlet Arrested Again! Beautiful Couple’s Marriage On The Rocks! Celebrated Director In Drug And Alcohol Rehab! And these are reports of the lives of people we’re tempted to envy. They’re the ones who are able to take long and luxurious vacations, who have achieved the American dream, who have access to all the “best” help. And yet, something is desperately wrong. Not money, fame nor beauty can shelter any of us from it. We’re not shocked by the troubles of the rich-and-famous because, at heart, we know they’re just like us. We know that we’re all in trouble and we all need help. How would the headlines of our lives read? Aside from the paparazzi, are we all that different?
We’re all very well aware of the fact that we’ve got problems. We sin. Others sin against us. We live in a sin-cursed world. We know that there are as many answers to our problems as there are problems themselves. But there is only one answer strong enough to transform us into loving, humble servants. Every other answer tends only to more sin, more unbelief, idolatry and lovelessness. The answer we need is found in the Bible and because every part of the Bible testifies about Jesus (Luke 24:44), the answer is found in Jesus himself.
The Bible isn’t a self-help book. It isn’t a book of heroes (aside from One!), nor is it a book of rules. The Bible is the story of God’s love for us and his determination to have a people for his own pleasure and our unending joy. The Bible is the only book that can correctly diagnose our sin problem, it reveals our deepest hearts, even down to our inmost thoughts and motives (Hebrews 4:12). No other system of help can do that.
The Bible is also the only book that can give us real hope, power and motivation for change. Because of God’s love demonstrated in the gospel and most powerfully at Calvary, we can have hope. As Paul put it so beautifully thousands of years ago, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Here Paul argues for our hope from the greater to the lesser.
“Look it,” he says, “if God is willing to give up his beloved Son for you, why would you doubt his love? If he’s willing to give you the greatest gift ever given, why would he withhold any blessing from you?”
You can have hope today simply because God loved you so dearly that he gave his Son for you and then powerfully raised him from death so that you could live with him eternally. There’s also power for you to change because of the resurrection. The Bible tells us that the enslaving power of sin in our lives was broken when Christ overcame the punishment for sin, that is, death, through his resurrection.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life…We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:4, 6).
The only hope we have to overcome our sin, our idolatry, unbelief and lovelessness, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but what a lively hope that is! He died once and will never die again so that right now he’s providentially protecting and providing everything we need to persevere through this difficult life and join him in eternal happiness.
And finally, there’s only one motive that will stand the test of time, that will enable us to keep serving, keep obeying, keep believing, even when the trials we face seem interminable. The motive: love. But how can we love? What will make us love? This and only this: God’s prior love for us. If we start our day thinking about our obligation to love, serve and believe, we’ll very shortly find ourselves falling into either pride (because we’re doing so well) or despair (because we’re not). But if we start (and stay) with this thought: Jesus Christ loves me and gave himself up for me ensuring my Father’s smile on me, no matter how the day wears on we’ll know the joys of obedience and the joys of repentance. We’ll understand the promise inherent in our Savior’s words, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
The Bible is the only book that has sufficient, deeply profound and yet amazingly simple answers to real problems. Yes, we have a problem: we’re sinners. But that’s not all. We’ve been given real help: we’ve been loved. And this love is powerful enough and long lasting enough to change everything about us and about our world. This love is genuinely and eternally life-transforming. It makes us new.
But this love isn’t some impersonal force, this love is embodied in human form, in our Savior, the One who has gone through every temptation we face, and so is “able to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows that we have real problems but he’s given us a real answer: himself. Because he was willing to leave the bliss of heaven, he became a real man with thoughts and feelings and desires just like ours. He embraced us when he embraced our mortal flesh. He was stripped of his glories so we could be clothed in his goodness. And he forfeited the pleasure of uninterrupted fellowship with his beloved Father so that we could share in that relationship forever. Yes, we have real problems but he’s given us his life. Yes, we’re real women who need real answers. But he’s a Faithful Husband who has supplied all we need. And so we look to him we find that our hearts are satisfied, our lives transformed and our deepest problems are solved in the shadow of the cross.