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You Need Jesus as a Savior More Than as an Example

By Russell McKinney

Mitchell CountyRussell McKinney Mitchell County Roan Mountain Baptist Church

There is a mindset that exalts Jesus as merely being the ultimate example of human potential. Those who hold to this mindset talk about Him as the great teacher and the ideal role model, but they express doubt about His divinity. Furthermore, they attempt to downplay the redemption of sinners that He accomplished through His tortuous death on the cross. To sum up, these folks like Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount and talked about turning the other cheek, forgiving others, and loving one another, but they are uncomfortable with Jesus who hung bloodied and battered on a Roman cross. That Jesus doesn’t fit in well with their clean, sanitized notions of religion, morality, and basic human goodness.

There came a day when one such man visited the church of pastor D. M. Stearns. After the service, the man approached the pastor and said, “I don’t care for your preaching, Dr. Stearns. I don’t care for the cross. Instead of preaching the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach about Jesus as the Teacher and Example.”

At that point, many preachers might have fumbled around for a reply and struggled to show the man just how illogical his opinion was. Dr. Stearns, however, wasn’t one of those preachers. He looked the visitor squarely in the eye and asked, “Would you be willing to follow Jesus if I preached that way?” “I would,” answered the man. “I would follow in His steps.” Then let us take the first step,” said Dr. Stearns. “It is said of Jesus that He did no sin (1 Peter 2:22). Can you take that step?” Confused, the man replied, “No, I do sin, and I acknowledge it.” “Well then,” said Dr. Stearns, “your first need of Christ is not as an example but as a Savior. You must have His Spirit to guide you before you can walk in His steps.”

Beware of any preacher who fails to address the problems of sin and human depravity. Man is NOT basically good! We are all sinners by nature and by choice. There in my mother’s womb, from the initial moment of my conception, I was a sinner. Consequently, when I was born, I simply started acting naturally. And the same thing can be said of you. Consider the following verses (all from the N.K.J.V.):

Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”

So, yes, each of us needs a Savior, someone who can offer us complete forgiveness for all our sins. That Savior is Jesus. As Isaiah 53:6 describes the situation:

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (N.K.J.V.)

Someone says, “Okay, so if all my iniquity has been laid upon Jesus and paid for by His death, then my sins are automatically forgiven, right?” No, things aren’t that simple. The fact is, even though Christ’s death is sufficient to pay for everybody’s sins and provide forgiveness for all those sins, it is only efficient for those who willingly admit their sin, understand their utter helplessness at achieving forgiveness on their own, and place their belief in Christ as Savior.

As scriptural evidence of this, in 1 John 2:2, the apostle John names two groups of people for whom Jesus is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for sins. The first group consists of Christians, the people who have placed their belief in Christ as Savior. The second group consists of the rest of the world’s population (all the people who have not placed their belief in Christ as Savior). In regards to Jesus, John says to the Christians to whom he was writing:

“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (N.K.J.V.)

And so, clearly, the all-important issue is one’s belief in Christ or lack of it. Most of us know the famous John 3:16 verse:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (N.K.J.V.)

But here’s a good question to ask: “What exactly is authentic belief in Christ?” Well, according to the Bible, such belief involves: coming to Jesus (John 5:39-40); receiving Him (John 1:12); opening the door to Him (Revelation 3:20); placing faith in Him (Romans 3:21-22); trusting in Him (Ephesians 1:11-14); calling upon Him (Romans 10:9-13); and repenting (Mark 1:15). Please understand that each of these terminologies is not a separate decision or different stage of one’s belief. The point is that when the sinner exhibits the right kind of belief — what we call “saving belief” — he or she will inherently be doing all of these other things (coming to Jesus, receiving Him, opening the door to Him, placing faith in Him, trusting in Him, calling upon Him, and repenting).

And so, right now, I ask you, the reader, a simple question: “Have you placed saving belief in Christ as your personal Savior?” If you have, then you can rest assured that every sin you have ever committed, just committed, or ever will commit in the future is forgiven. But, on the other hand, if you haven’t placed such belief in Christ as Savior, then no amount of personal good works, decency, or morality will ever produce forgiveness of your sins.

As for all of those good works, all that decency, and all that morality, none of it can total up to you being forgiven of your sins because the Bible says that even what you’d call your “good stuff” carries the taint of sin upon it. Isaiah 64:6 actually goes so far as to say that all our righteous acts are like “filthy rags.” This, you see, is why receiving forgiveness by way of your human efforts is patently impossible, and it’s just one more direction sign to point you to Jesus and His death on the cross.


Russell Mckinney lives in the English Woods area of Spruce Pine and serves as the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church in Bakersville.

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