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Shiny Red Sports Carby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Jennifer runs to the window to see.
It's sleek. It's new. It's red. A beautiful Mazda RX- 7 sports coupe, with a sequential twin-turbo rotary engine and looks people kill for. And it's all hers, a gift from her dad for her twenty-first birthday.
She hugs him in disbelief and then bounds outside. The keys are in the ignition. The rich scent of leather floods her nostrils as she settles down behind the wheel.
Dad is on the porch, smiling from ear to ear.
But something is wrong. Jennifer gets out of the car, and runs over to her dad, a $20 bill crumpled in her hand. "Here's something to pay you for your trouble," she says.
Conscience clear, she sprints for the Mazda, revs its powerful engine, and squeals out of the driveway for a test drive.
Dad just stands there muttering, "You've got to be kidding!"
No one would be that rude, except us, perhaps. We, like Jennifer, have real trouble accepting an extravagant gift from our Father. Let me explain.
American Folk Religion trumpets its unquestioned dogma: "If you're good you go to heaven and if you're bad you go to hell." Sounds just. Makes sense. Just don't tell me it's Christianity.
Christianity teaches just the opposite. First, it affirms that everyone sins. "I couldn't agree more," you respond. "Nobody's perfect."
But it's more than imperfection we're talking about. It's sin. It's saying we believe in Jesus and then using His name like a swear word. It's cheating on our income tax, stealing from our employer, saying cruel things to the people closest to us. You know better than I do what sins have plagued your life.
Now let's say that you sin--in thought or in word or in deed--an average of three times a day. Conservative estimate. Hmmm. Rounding off, that's about a thousand times a year. Jennifer is twenty-one today, so she carries some 21,000 sins, and--knowing Jennifer--probably more than that. So how old are you? Get my point?
American Folk Religion passes over sin. It can't afford to take it seriously. But Jesus did.
What sense does the Cross make if Jesus didn't take sin deadly seriously? John the Baptist called him "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Peter explained, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree." Jesus died for our sins so that we don't have to die for them. It's that simple.
Here's where we come to the "gift" part. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." And just so we don't misunderstand, it explains, "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
"Oh, I'm pretty good. If there's a heaven I'm sure God will send me there." Right. With a knapsack of 30,000 to 60,000 sins to your account? Neither your paltry "goodness" nor mine will ever outbalance the weight of our sins. That's why Jesus died on the cross for our sins--because we couldn't make it on our own.
Forgiveness from God really is a gift.
So, Jennifer, jump in your shiny red Mazda and zip around the block and have a ball. But first, go back to your Father and apologize for insulting Him with your measly $20 bill. Accept His gift, and give Him a big hug, and enjoy then the Life He's given you--for free!
 Romans 3:23.
[Editor: Feel free to use or not use footnotes to fit your style.
Also, you my use whatever translation you are most comfortable
with. It will not change the meaning of the article.]
 John 1:29 (NIV).
 1 Peter 2:24a (NIV).
 Romans 6:23 (NIV).
 Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV).
[Editor: Feel free to use or not use footnotes to fit your style. Also, you my use whatever translation you are most comfortable with. It will not change the meaning of the article.]
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