I don’t have to tell you that bridges are very important structures. Sydney of course, is a city famous for its Harbour Bridge. It is an amazing structure. The largest steel arch bridge in the world. It was built over 70 years ago and spans the 500 metre gap between the northern and southern shores of Sydney Harbour. And there is a brilliant view from the top. Some of us have even climbed it
Dictionaries define bridges as a structure built over a river or chasm to provide a way across. Now a bridge can be a very simple design consisting of nothing more than a wooden plank over a ditch .. or they can be mighty structures such as our Harbour Bridge. However, whatever the bridge .. they all do the same thing .. provide access across a divide that would normally be very difficult to cross. This morning I want to speak about a bridge. A bridge that provides connection .. that crosses a divide .. a chasm .. that without the bridge, would be totally impossible to cross.
A chasm that would be totally impossible to cross? I’m speaking about the chasm that lies between a holy God in heaven and sinful people here on earth. And the bridge between the two? It is Jesus.
The story starts at the beginning of the Bible where we read of God the creator, making the planet Earth and placing on the earth, all the plants and animals along with some very unique human beings. Adam and Eve, it tells us, were the first humans, to walk this earth. They were created by God and they lived in a mountain garden of unparalleled beauty.
The environment in which they lived was one of perfection. Plenty of food. Nothing to fear. And a relationship with God and his creation that was amazing as God and humans were in perfect harmony. There was love and peace and trust and intimacy. But as you read on, we learn that the beautiful relationship between God and people was ruined. Ruined by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. By their pride. By what we call sin.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and in doing so caused a separation between people and God. And their disobedience caused every single human born of natural causes from that moment on to be born with the same separation problem. The same sin problem. We are all born sinful creatures and sin is like a terminal disease that isolates us from God and causes us to die. Death on this earth came as a result of sin.
God’s word says the wages, the penalty for sin is death. Physical death and spiritual death. Spiritual death meaning separation from God and all that is good .. forever. For eternity. The Bible says this results in judgement and hell. Because there cannot be any sin in heaven .. otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven for very long. And it would appear most people in the world recognise this. Recognise that there is this barrier between ourselves and God. And as a consequence, they try and bridge the gap. They want to be in relationship with God. They want to get to heaven. And so they try all sorts of things.
One of the ways in which people try and reach out to God is through religion. I have heard people say there are almost as many religions in this world as there are countries. Now that might be an exaggeration but many people throughout the world are very religious and they do all kinds of religious things in order to try and bridge the gap between us and God. To try and please God.
They recite prayers and fast and light candles and have special religious ceremonies. All kinds of religious things. But the problem is, the Bible tells us that God isn’t interested in our religious activities. He is interested in our hearts. Religious activities, of themselves, do nothing to bridge the gap between us and God. Because we are still sinners.
This failure of religion to bridge the gap between us and God was brought home to me when a woman of another faith came to speak to me . Her husband was the chief leader in their particular religious community.. but she showed me her arms .. they were full of bruises .. This man, bashed his wife almost every day. This man, this very religious man, was, like the rest of us, a sinner at heart. Being religious does nothing to cross the great divide between us and God.
But what about what most people in our country think. Living a good life will get me to heaven. I have taken lots of funerals over the past years. So often when preparing to take someone’s funeral, a family would tell me how the person who had died was a good person .. a good father or mother. Not perfect .. but nothing that God couldn’t overlook. And so they would be in heaven. In their minds eye, they picture God having a big set of scales. A balance. On one side is put all a person’s goodness .. and on the other, all a bad things a person has done p.. and if the good outweighs the bad .. then they’re OK.
Lance Armstrong’s name has been very much in the news lately. He was of course one of the world’s best cyclists. Drug fuelled as we now know but still an exceptional athlete. You might remember how Lance Armstrong developed cancer and at one point he thought he might die. He said this .. “quite simply I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person .. if I wasn’t a cheat, a liar, or a thief, then I believe that would be enough. At the end of the day, if there was somebody standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a good life, not on whether I believed in a certain book or whether I had been baptised.”
As it turned out he was a cheat and a liar. How ironic! But many, many people in Australia think like this. Live a good life. I’ll be OK. But there’s a problem. The Bible says that we have all sinned and come short of God’s glory. It says, that the very best of our goodness .. is like filthy rags compared with the holiness of God. And how can God have filthy rags messing up the perfection of heaven? He can’t.
Living a good life on its own can never overcome the sin barrier between us and God. Of course we should lead good lives. God wants us to do that. But it’s not our ticket to heaven.
Just like living a good life is the thought, ‘if I do enough good deeds, that will do it. Give enough to the poor and needy. Help enough people out. Give of oneself in devotion to others.’ But sorry, as worthwhile as helping others is, that won’t work either.
Or what about being right with God by going to church. To a Christian church. Surely that would be fine? No. Wrong again. Just going to church will not turn you into a sinless person. Going to church is good, is to be encouraged, because there we can learn about God and worship him with others .. but in a sense, going to church is just like being religious.
All these things I have mentioned, religion, a good life, good deeds, going to church .. by themselves will only result in death. We remain literally, enemies of God. Separated from God by our sin. The truth is, we by ourselves, cannot bridge the gap between ourselves and God. It is impossible. But there is a bridge that does. His name is Jesus.
God declared that death was the penalty for sin. And he could not turn from that. He couldn’t just overlook our sin or forget about it. But we still mattered to him so much. He created us. He loves us. He couldn’t stand to see all humanity separated from him forever. He knew we couldn’t overcome our sin problem. So he did something about it! He sent his one and only Son Jesus .. to become a man … to live a sinless, perfect life here on earth .. and then to hang on a cross .. where Jesus took upon himself the punishment for our sins and in doing do become the bridge between ourselves and God.
Jesus paid the price for our sin. He became sin for us .. and died in our place .. and in doing so, bridged the gap between ourselves and God the Father. In the book of Romans it says this .. at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul speaks of us being justified .. that is a legal term .. it means to be declared not guilty. In this case, it means to be declared not guilty of sin. No punishment to carried out .. why? Because Jesus took our punishment for us.
There is a famous case from early in the 20th Century where the brother of a murderer, substituted himself for his brother and was executed for the crime. The murderer, after a time, could no longer bear the guilt and confessed to the crime. But there was no punishment for this man. His brother had taken the punishment already. That is what Jesus has done for us.
Paul also speaks about us being reconciled to God. How, because of Jesus, we can be no longer enemies of God but his friends. Peace can reign between us, not because of anything we have done, but because Jesus did it for us.
And so, Jesus died so that we might live. Might have eternal life in heaven with God. He, being God, did what we could never do .. and bridged the gap between us and almighty God. Between heaven and earth. And the Bible says there are no other bridges. There is no other way. Jesus made this clear when he said, ‘no-one comes to the Father, except through me’. But how do we cross the bridge? How do we get to heaven through Jesus? Well, the Bible says .. it is by faith. By belief in Jesus..
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The apostle Paul wrote .. ‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith .. faith in Jesus .. not of works lest anyone should boast.” This is how we appropriate Jesus’ work on the cross. This is how we are saved from eternal death. This is how we cross the bridge to eternal life. By believing in Jesus. Having faith in Jesus. Trusting him with our life .. both now and forever. Allowing him to lead us .. to rule our lives as Lord. This is the Christian message. This is the message of Easter. The message of the gospel. Of Good Friday. It is about having our relationship with God restored though faith in his Son Jesus. Who became the bridge through his death .. and who proved he was the bridge .. the bridge to life .. by rising from the dead, a fact of history we will celebrate on Sunday..
I close with just one question this morning .. have you crossed the bridge to eternal life through faith in Jesus?