Tag Archives: Gospel

Missionaries: God’s Navy Seals?

Last night, I attended a meeting for Wycliffe Bible Translators. It made quite an impression upon me. I have been strongly considering serving with Wycliffe for the past year or so, but unless I am sorely mistaken, that calling was confirmed last night. I met with Ed and Linda Speyers for coffee yesterday morning and talked with them about their experience with Wycliffe while serving in Suriname, South America. After my classes, there was an interest meeting for Wycliffe where Dennis Cochrane spoke about his experience translating for a primitive people group in Papua New Guinea. Dennis’ story is shocking and inspiring, so I will do my best to relate it here.

Dennis and his wife served in a remote village tribe in PNG for over 10 years. This tribe was so remote that the only language they had ever heard or spoke was their own. They literally lived in the stone age; they had no metal instruments. Even their axes were made of sharpened stones. They were an animistic people, meaning that they believed that spirits were associated with almost everything. They were particularly superstitious about these spherical shot-put sized rocks (probably debris from an ancient volcanic eruption) with iron-ore cores. Many (if not most) of the people had such a rock. They believed that spirits lived in these rocks, and in order to appease these spirits when misfortune arose they would sacrifice a pig and rub the pig’s blood over the spirit-rock. (They, of course, had never heard of the sacrifice God had made once-for-all through his Son, Jesus Christ.)

20120926-111400.jpg

After several years of building relationships and trust with the people, and through the miraculous providence of God, Dennis and his team finally had the privilege of translating portions of the Bible into the native language. Since the natives had no written language, this process also involved teaching the people to read their own language. This particular people was a very community-based people, meaning that they didn’t decide anything major without first convening the community and agreeing upon it. So, after months of careful deliberation and study of the newly discovered “carvings” from God (their term for “writings”), and despite the strict warnings of the spirit-people (their “priests”) that doing so would result in the wrath of the spirits, the majority of the community–over 2,000 people–simultaneously accepted Christ and ceremonially smashed their spirit-rocks.

Some time during or shortly after this mass conversion, Dennis was working with a native who had been serving as their translator. One day while they were translating a particularly profound passage of scripture, the man asked Dennis: “Did your father have God’s carvings?” Dennis replied, “Yes.” The man hesitated, sensitive to his culture’s accepted belief that embarrassing someone is one of the worst faux pas one can commit. Then, cautiously, he asked, “Did your father’s father have God’s carvings?” Again, Dennis replied that he did. The man, becoming increasingly nervous about pressing the matter further, hesitated for a few moments before asking again: “Did your father’s father’s father have God’s carvings?” “Yes.” Dennis replied, knowing what the man wanted to ask. The man didn’t dare press the question further, and Dennis didn’t offer an answer to the question he knew the man wanted to ask. Indeed, we, Dennis’ people, have had possession of God’s carvings for some 600 years. The question that was ringing loud and clear in both of their minds was this: If your people have had God’s Word for so long, why are my people just now finding out about this?

Today, there are about 2,000 languages that remain to have a translation work started. I wonder, how many people upon hearing the Good News will stare at us blankly and ask that question: “Why hasn’t someone told us this before? Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have perished without this saving knowledge, yet you’ve had it in your language for 600 years!?!?”

Now, as I have grown in my spiritual maturity I have come to realize that not every Christian is called to be a foreign missionary. So I will not argue that every Christian is called to translate the Bible into these remaining 2,000 languages. Nor will I argue that every Christian ought to be a foreign missionary. (Though I will admit that I find the disproportionately small number of foreign missionaries troubling.) But, I have also grown to understand that every Christian is called to be a missionary.

We often marvel at those who would leave behind their homes, family, friends, and even give their lives to fulfill God’s calling. But isn’t that exactly the level of obedience and sacrifice to which Jesus calls all of his disciples? Was Jesus only talking to career, foreign missionaries when he said: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me,” or “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” or “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it,” or “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life?” No, these are not commands for foreign missionaries only. As a matter of fact, instead of the words “foreign missionary” in these passages, what we most often find is the word “disciple.”

The disturbing trend that I often find in churches nowadays is to label foreign missionaries as some elite class of super Christians, the “special forces” of Christianity, when in fact Jesus has called every single Christian to be so radically devoted to him that they would gladly give up their home, career, family, friends, and even their own lives to serve him. After all, if only the Christian elite who receive some special call are required to live so sacrificially, then we can dismiss the uncomfortable implications of these passages as inapplicable since we’re just “normal Christians.” But these passages aren’t speaking to some mythical, legendary Christian elite, these passages reflect the Christian norm. (At least, what the norm is supposed to be.) There is no Christian equivalent to the distinction between normal soldiers and special forces.* Instead, the only such distinction I see is that those called to be teachers and pastors must have the spiritual ability to teach. (But even this is more of a difference in spiritual gifting, not one of differing levels of expected obedience.) Save this distinction, the remainder of the qualifications for even these positions are simply that these people exemplify normal, Christian living (one wife, not a drunkard, well reputed, etc.). Every soldier in God’s army is to be special forces material, which is to say that no Christian is truly anything special! We are all expected to exemplify the same level of sold-out, radical obedience whether God calls us to share the gospel with our neighbor or to a stone-age tribe in Papua New Guinea. To use a biblical illustration, is the foot expected to be any less obedient than the hands? Every Christian is a missionary. The only difference between a foreign missionary and a Christian living in their homeland is location. They’re both missionaries. They’ve both been gifted by God with a number of spiritual gifts unique to the particular setting in which they serve. Some missionaries are disguised as teachers, some as doctors. Others are disguised as lunch ladies and janitors. Some are disguised as mechanics, some as lawyers, and some as pilots. Some are not disguised at all but, instead, serve openly in vocational ministry, able to devote more of their time to their service of equipping other Christians. But regardless, all Christians are missionaries living in a foreign land with a sole purpose–reaching a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When we as Christians begin to adopt this biblical mentality of true discipleship, I imagine that it won’t take very long for the remaining 2,000 people groups to get a Bible. I imagine that neighbors and coworkers here in America will hear the gospel. I expect we will see our prayers answered for God to send laborers into the harvest. And, I expect that we will see the most bountiful harvest we’ve ever seen. Perhaps you are one of those called to translate the Bible into one of the remaining 2,000 languages. But, it’s likely that God has gifted you with other gifts and abilities. Here’s my challenge to you: Will you translate the Bible into the languages of the neighbor across the street, your coworkers, and your friends and family? Will you put the Good News into words they can understand? Or will your children and grandchildren one day stand ashamed when their children or grandchildren ask them that dreadful, unanswerable question? “Why am I just now hearing this news?”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:14, 15 NIV)

Lord, please send workers into your harvest, both here and abroad. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are, indeed, few. Amen.

*If there is such a biblical distinction, I would argue that unlike the Navy–where all ordinary soldiers are not expected to one day become Navy Seals–all “Christian soldiers” are intended to one day mature into “Christian special forces.” However, I still find such a distinction misleading since it implies that one can be a faithful soldier without living up to Jesus’ standards of discipleship. Furthermore, it seems to evoke an unbiblical admiration of those who are simply living in obedience to Christ’s commands and places more attention on the soldier than the commander. See Luke 17:7-10. Perhaps a better illustration is the one Paul gives–some Christians are hands, others are feet, but all obey the head, which is Christ.

So you’re a Christian? Prove it.

One of the first questions I used to ask people when I was hoping to transition the conversation into spiritual matters (and possibly share the gospel) was “So, are you a Christian?” Now, if you’re in India or another country which doesn’t consider itself predominately Christian, that might be an alright question to ask. It’s still probably not the best question, but you’ll probably have better success there than here in America. I’ve come to learn that “Are you a Christian?” is not a very good question to ask if you intend to share the gospel with someone. Why?
Allow me to demonstrate, statistically, why “Are you a Christian” is such a bad question. In a 2011 Gallup Poll, 78% of those asked “What is your religious identity?” identified themselves as Christian. That’s right, 78%. So, what’s the big deal? This poll later reveals that while 78% of Americans consider themselves Christian, only 55% of Americans feel that their religion is “very important” to their identity. That means that 45% of Americans feel that religion is either only “fairly important” or “not important” to their identity. Notice the overlap. There is a significant population of “Christians” who might say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, but it’s really not a big deal to me.” REALLY?!?!
But it gets worse. In a 2010 Gallup Pole, only 43% of Americans say they “weekly” or “almost weekly” attend religious services. Remember, not all of these 43% are Christian, either. So, 78% of Americans are “Christian” but less than 43% of Americans weekly attend church. In the the largest Protestant denomination in America, the SBC, a 2010 Lifeway poll showed that only 6,195,449 of the 16,136,044 members attend their church’s primary worship service. That’s less than 40%. Even when you consider that many churches have people on their membership roll that are dead or have moved away, that’s still astounding. 78% of Americans are Christian, but to many “It’s not that important.”
Now, before we pass this statistic, let’s think for a moment. How does one make it onto the membership roll of a Southern Baptist Church? Southern Baptists have fairly exclusive membership requirements. Usually, it happens one of three ways: 1) During the invitation, a non-member walks the aisle, prays a prayer, and shortly thereafter is baptized into membership, 2) A member transfers their membership from another Southern Baptist Church (where they have done #1 already), or 3) A member of a non-SBC church transfers their membership, usually after an interview with the pastor who is satisfied that this potential member is, indeed, saved and properly baptized. So, to put that in perspective, over 60% of SBC members, who walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, signed a card, and got baptized, feel that their faith is not important enough to attend church regularly. Hmmm…
So, if I were to ask you, “Are you a Christian?” Assuming that you’d say “yes,” what if I asked you to prove it? Then what would you say? “Well, fifteen years ago I walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, signed a card, and got baptized.” That’s what I used to say. If pressed further, I might have comforted myself with the fact that I was in that 43% who regularly attend church. But did you know that the Bible nowhere says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we once walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, got dunked, and now go to church?” That may surprise you, given that this is often the exact salvation assurance given to Christians. “Well, I remember walking that aisle…so I know I’m going to heaven!”

So then, how do you know that you’re a Christian, that you’re heaven-bound? Take a look at Jesus’ example:

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” (Matthew 11:2-5 NASB)

When John sent this question to Jesus, “Are you really the Messiah?” Jesus could have given a number of different answers, some of them even true and valid. He might have said, “John, I’ve been baptized, don’t you remember? You were there, after all!” or “John, don’t you remember the dove? Don’t you remember the voice from heaven saying I was God’s Son?” or “John, for goodness sake, look at my lineage! I was born in the right lineage–a direct descendent of David–in the right city, by a virgin…what more evidence do you need?” or “John, I’m a Jewish Rabbi! Would I really lie about something like that?”

But Jesus didn’t point to these things. In fact, it’s somewhat puzzling that Jesus doesn’t pick up the Old Testament and point to all the specific prophecies that only he fulfilled–being born in Bethlehem, being a Nazarene, being born of a virgin, being of the tribe of Judah, etc. Instead of pointing to the evidences of who the Messiah was, his evidence was in what the Messiah would accomplish. His evidence wasn’t internal–a list of qualifications that he lived up to, his evidence was external–a string of changed lives: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

You see, the Bible nowhere says that your prayer, baptism, or Church attendance are good evidences of your salvation–though all are good and necessary aspects of your Christianity. Being a true “Christian” is more than a prayer, signed card, baptism ceremony, church membership, or church attendance (though many of those claiming to be Christian don’t even have that much!). It’s about a changed life.

The book of I John is particularly helpful in this. Note what John says is good evidence of true Christianity:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…” (1 John 1:6 NASB)
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked…The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now…Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-6, 9, 15 NASB)

Now, our temptation is to make this into a list. “Keep the commandments, Check! Love your brother, Check!” But this is not John’s intention. Notice verse 6: “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” A true Christian lives (or strives to live) like Jesus. How did Jesus live? In a way that wherever he went, he changed lives. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to the lame, life to the dead, and good news to the hopeless. How do you know you’re a Christian? Because your life is lived in effort to open blind eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ. You live to open deaf ears to hear the Gospel. You live to give strength to those who feel like they can’t carry on any longer. You live to breathe life into the spiritually dead. And your life is so permeated by the Good News of Christ that it spills over onto anyone who gets too close. No one who lives this kind of life could ever say their faith is anything less than “very important.” The faith of a true Christian is everything. It is more important than life itself.

So, my friend, are you a Christian? If this post has left you unsure of your standing before God, pray that God would open your eyes to truth. A heart that has been changed by God will always result in a life lived for God. Good works can’t save you, but neither can the type of faith that doesn’t produce good works. Are you a Christian? If so, prove it.

*For more information about how to become a true Christian, click the “Gospel” link above.

A Must-Read: “How to Give Away Your Faith,” by Paul Little

“So you want to witness!  I did too, but I didn’t have a clue how to do it without stubbing my toe in the process.”  (17)

 Introduction

             In How to Give Away Your Faith, Paul Little shares his wisdom gained from many years of experience in personal evangelism.  Little often spoke to students about spiritual matters on college campuses around the country in seminars and more informal settings, gaining a wealth of knowledge concerning the cares, concerns, and obstacles unbelievers–especially students–have in relation to the gospel.  His experience in this area makes this book an invaluable resource for Christians in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Summary

            While many books have been written proposing methodology of witnessing and many books have been written about the proper theological content of the gospel, in How to Give Away Your Faith, Paul Little marries the two subjects in a work that is both practical and theological in nature.  Little begins his book with some practical advice to the would-be-witness: witnessing is comprised of two components, one verbal and one non-verbal.  Little notes that a Christian’s gospel presentation will only be taken as seriously by the unbeliever as it is by the believer—if a genuine Christian lifestyle is not in place, the verbal witness will likely be ineffective.  True, saving faith, Little observes, will always produce a godly lifestyle (32).

In the next chapter, Little describes various actions or attitudes which can either repulse or attract non-Christians, laying a practical foundation for becoming an “effective ambassador” for Christ.  He points out that oftentimes what Christians perceive to be a rejection of the gospel is nothing more than a rejection of the obnoxious methods used to convey the gospel, not the message itself, noting that the Christian witness must achieve a balanced enthusiasm for the gospel in order to be an effective ambassador (40).  In chapter three, Little lays out an eight step process for witnessing, drawn from his observations of Jesus’ witnessing method to the Samaritan woman at the well.  In chapter four, he continues his practical wisdom by acknowledging some of the many social obstacles Christians frequently encounter when witnessing and lays out some basic principles and guidelines for overcoming these obstacles.

In chapter five, Little shifts from his practical and methodological focus to a more theological one.  In this chapter, Little deals with the theological content of the gospel message and also offers several practical arrangements for presenting it.  His focus, however, is primarily on clearly defining what the gospel message is (and isn’t) and how to truthfully and accurately convey this message (93-95).  Chapter six is primarily apologetic in nature, offering concise responses to seven basic questions that Christians should be prepared to answer about their faith, including the infamous questions of “the problem of evil” and “what about those who’ve never heard?” (116-134)  Chapter seven addresses the relevancy of Christianity in modern culture.  Little notes that Christ fills the spiritual void in our lives, provides purpose, gives us hope over death, provides inner peace, is an ever-present friend, helps us control our fleshly appetites, and helps us integrate our knowledge in a way that puts all truth in its proper context and relation to God’s universe and plan (141-151).

In the final three chapters, Little deals with facets of the Christian walk which can affect one’s witness to unbelievers.  Chapter eight deals with worldliness and the topic of Christian liberties.  Chapter nine deals with the daily battles for faith and holiness.  Finally, in chapter ten Little exhorts the believer to focus on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer which, he concludes, are necessary in order for the Christian to be spiritually charged enough to be an effective witness (198).

Critical Evaluation

             Paul Little’s book, How to Give Away Your Faith, contains both instruction on the content of the gospel message in addition to practical methodological advice garnered from years of evangelistic encounters.  Thus, it will be helpful in this review to critique both separately.

One beneficial aspect of Little’s overview of the content of the gospel message is that he concisely summarizes the gospel in a way that avoids the two extremes often observable in other similar works.  First, he is conscious of the fact that no book on evangelism would be complete without careful consideration of this topic; Little avoids a purely methodological work which gives no attention to the message conveyed in the gospel presentation.  Secondly, he avoids over-complicating the message in a way that would leave the reader confused or less certain of the basic message.  Little avoids the error of other authors by keeping the message simple and plain, even breaking it down into five basic facts: the person of Jesus Christ, his diagnosis of the sinful human nature, the facts and meaning of his death, the facts and meaning of his resurrection, and steps to becoming a Christian (95-101).  Although I would have liked to have seen a more explicit discussion of the aspects of “Lordship” and “counting the cost” in his discussion of becoming a Christian, his gospel presentation is essentially theologically sound.  One thing I enjoyed in his discussion of the content of the gospel is that Little also provides instruction for encouraging a new Christian.  This is a step often neglected in other works, but is critical for the sanctification of the new believer.  However, as previously mentioned, I would prefer to see more of an emphasis on lordship in this section than on “assur[ing] the believer of salvation…” (106)  Assurance is given by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit as the believer lives in accordance with the Bible’s instruction.  Providing assurance is not the job of the witness but of the Holy Spirit.  Stressing obedience and the process of sanctification, however, is something that the witness can—and should—do.

Much of Little’s book deals with the practical and methodological considerations of witnessing to non-Christians.  I found the chapter on overcoming social barriers to be especially insightful.  For instance, Little states that when offered an alcoholic drink Christians often reply, “No thanks, I’m a Christian.”  While we may feel that such a reply is a good witness, Little remarks that it actually has the same effect on the non-believer as saying, “Drinking is inherently non-Christian.  You clearly aren’t a Christian since you’re drinking.”  While unintended, this statement may come across as a “holier-than-thou” attitude and actually damage our witness to these people.  Instead, Little suggests opting out of such activities on the basis of personal preference or simply asking for a soda as a substitute (80-81).  Little’s observations in chapter three of Jesus’ method of witnessing were also very helpful, especially his observation that Jesus was able to dodge questions that had the ability to side-track the conversation (72).  While I also found helpful his advice not to use the question “Are you a Christian?” to lead into a conversation, I did not find the question he uses (“Have you ever personally trusted Jesus Christ or are you still on the way?”) particularly helpful.  While I do like that Little offers the “easy out” in the second half of this question (“are you still on the way”), the first half seems loaded with Christian jargon that might be difficult for a non-Christian to understand and is entirely subjective and difficult to evaluate.  After all, what does it mean to “trust Jesus” and how would a non-Christian know how far along “the way” they are to becoming a Christian if they don’t even know what “the way” is?  For a question that is meant to diagnose one’s spiritual condition, this question seems inadequate.  I would prefer a series of questions that is more objective: for instance, “Do you believe in heaven/hell?  Which do you think you’ll go to and why?”  These would offer an instant look into both the person’s spiritual progress and their religious presuppositions.

Conclusion

             While there are a couple relatively minor changes I would make in Little’s methods and the content of his gospel presentation, I can say that I would highly recommend this book without reservation.  This book is a monumental accomplishment as it effectively partners biblically based methodology with sound theological content to adequately prepare the Christian to be a good gospel witness.  This book is extremely accessible to laity, also, making it ideal for small group studies in a church environment.  I currently know of no other book which accomplishes what Little has done in How to Give Away Your Faith, and I fully intend on using this book as a resource in the church to which I minister.

Little, Paul E., Little, Marie, ed. How to Give Away Your Faith. rev. ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,2008. 202 pp. $15.00.

Buy it on Amazon.com

Buy it from Lifeway

Guilty or Not?

Since it is the most central theme of the Christian faith, much thought goes into my presentation of the gospel. For those who are Christians, I hope you will find this presentation refreshing and inspiring, and I hope it will remind you of the awesome gift you have received through Christ. For those of you who are not Christians, are seeking answers, or just wanting a basic overview of the central theme of the Christian faith, I hope this post will be exactly what you’re looking for. Please check out my new post under Gospel: Response, titled “Guilty or Not?”

Sin is serious

          Today as I was reading in the Psalms, something I read brought Isaiah 53 to mind, so I flipped to the passage and continued my reading there.  Isaiah 52:13-54:3 is probably my favorite of the many Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament which speaks of how Christ’s atonement brought gentiles under the covenant blessings alongside Israel (see esp. 54:1-3, where the “barren woman”–think ‘Sarai, Leah, or Hannah’–is told to “stretch out her tent” because more “children” are coming in).  What struck me most today in my reading of this passage is how despite the fact that Isaiah never uses the words “Messiah,” “Christ,” or “Jesus,” this passage seems to be screaming all three as you read it!  When read this passage, even my youth group—comprised largely of 10-13 year old kids—agreed in unison (and without prompt!) that this passage was about Christ.

          Having recently read and studied the Levitical system of sacrifice, I was also overwhelmed by the beautiful, poetic imagery of this passage which depicts Christ as a sacrificial lamb offered as a guilt offering for the sins of the nations.  Isaiah 52:14-15a says, “Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men.  Thus He will sprinkle many nations…” (See Ex 29:21).  The very Son of God was slaughtered as a guilt offering for the sins of His own creation.

          Sin is serious.  It has serious consequences.  So many times I am tempted to believe that my sins are “no big deal,” or that they are just simply “shortcomings” or “slip-ups.”  But it seems to me that we don’t call actions which cost the lives of others merely “slip-ups.”  If a president utters a rash statement to a foreign dignitary which sparks a war, do we excuse his “slip-up?”  How much more serious are those sins which nailed the sinless God of the universe to a cross!  I know of few words in the English language which effectively communicate the gravity of sin.  Perhaps “wickedness” comes close.  But we don’t often like to refer to ourselves as “wicked.”  That rubs us the wrong way.  But it is the unfortunate truth.  I’m reminded of an old, anonymous poem (which I’ve adapted slightly):

Man call is an accident, God calls it abomination.
Man calls it a defect, God calls it a disease.
Man calls it an error, God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a liberty, God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle, God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake, God calls it madness.
Man calls it a weakness, God calls it wickedness.

          My sin cost my dear Savior an agonizing death.  To use the language of Isaiah 52-53, he was “marred, despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, oppressed, and afflicted.”  Why?  Because I “slipped-up?”  Because I made a “mistake?”  No.  Because I sinned.  Because I, in my wicked rejection of my very Creator and God, decided that my way was better than His.  And because our sin is against not simply another sinful human, but the infinitely sinless, Almighty God, the penalty is infinitely severe: death (Romans 6:23).

          But thank God that isn’t the whole story!  Isaiah 53 (and the latter half of Romans 6:23) also tells another side to the story: redemption.  God—in His infinite love and mercy—despite my sinfulness, chose to love me and save me anyways, through the sacrificial death of his Son.  What a great God I have.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

 –Isaiah 53:3-6