Once a week I have the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of 11-12 year olds about God and the Bible and what Christianity is really about. Recently, I challenged their views on how God sees each of them and I believe God blessed many with a fresh realization of the GOOD NEWS!
I started the class by asking them why Jesus came. Quickly, and somewhat expectedly, I got the answer, “To die for our sins.” I agreed, but wanted to expand on this truth. The verse that came to my mind was 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” and I wrote it on the board. I then explained its meaning and, although everyone seemed satisfied, I wanted to see if they really understood what it meant to them individually. So, just as we had agreed upon in previous sessions, I had them again recognize that we have all sinned and still often do sin. And, that in fact, we had all probably fallen into sin a number of times over recent days.
Sinner or Righteous
Then, I wrote two headings on the board, RIGHTEOUS and SINNERS. I asked if Jesus were to return today and separate the RIGHTEOUS from the SINNERS, would they know what group they belong to. It seemed without a blink that each put themselves in the group of SINNERS. Now, I am sure that among them there were some not yet born again and that answer would be true for them. However, the believers among them also classified themselves as SINNERS. It seemed, both groups needed to hear the GOOD NEWS again. The SINNERS for salvation and the RIGHTEOUS (who called themselves SINNERS) for realization of what they had received in Christ.
Undoubtedly, the focus that the Christians in the group had was on their behavior rather than on their pardon for sin and new identity in Christ. And, the non-believers probably had a blurred grasp of the GOOD NEWS. Using the above verse I again explained the good news, only in this instance I took the time to show them what the verse really meant to them PERSONALLY. I showed that Jesus who hadn’t sinned actually became SIN, that all of our personal sin and that of the world was put upon Him. And, that He did this, so that we could be called RIGHTEOUS and not SINNERS anymore. That’s GOOD NEWS!!!
Three Men Crucified
Then, to bring it home, I spoke of the three men who had been crucified (Jesus being one of them) and how the whole message of the GOOD NEWS for mankind is seen played out through what happened. In the middle was Jesus, having been charged as a criminal along with the other two criminals. Yet, we know that Jesus hadn’t ever sinned. One of the criminals scoffed at Jesus, not realizing who He was. The other one, realizing who Jesus was, turned to Him and said, “Remember me when YOU come into your kingdom.” We agreed that he had been a bad man, a SINNER, as he even said of himself. And yet, despite this, Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
What happened at the cross then was that three died. One, a criminal, a SINNER, and he died a SINNER. In the middle was Jesus who was RIGHTEOUS, but who was made to be SIN and He died as a SINNER. Then on Jesus’ other side was another criminal, also a SINNER, who recognized that through Jesus, God was offering pardon for sin and a new life. Through faith in Jesus he was made RIGHTEOUS.
Will Good People Go To Heaven
The general idea that most of the 11-12 year olds seem to have had is that although we all do wrong, “good people” will go to heaven. This is typical of how many people think. Yet, “good people” are also SINNERS and as such don’t qualify. What everyone does qualify for is God’s wrath. Not wanting to pour this out on us, God instead poured it out on Jesus, so that we could be freed. The response of these two criminals (with Jesus in the middle), in a way, represent everyone.
It seems that entrenched into many church members is the idea that as Christians we are SINNERS, but the message of Christianity is that through believing (realizing and receiving) who Jesus is, and what He did for us, we are made RIGHTEOUS.