What Do You Most Need?

We are all familiar with the thought that what we most want is not necessarily the same as what we most need. And if this sounds like I am offering you a guaranteed method to satisfy all your needs, I am not! But I am going to deal with the ultimate big question – ‘Really, what do you most need?’ Yes, I know that answers will vary from one person to another, but I want to move beyond that.
I have been reading again the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome and have been struck by some of his introduction. You see, as Paul lays out his central message of good news for people of all nations, he begins by making a carefully reasoned case for Christianity. He grounds this in the Old Testament Scriptures and shows their fulfilment in Jesus Christ, ‘who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead’ (Rom. 1:3-4).
Paul places Jesus Christ at the centre, where his human lineage from King David ensures he is the long-awaited Davidic Messiah, the anointed conquering king, whose victorious rule would extend over the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. But then, in the same breath, Paul makes a startling announcement. He says that this same Christ died, apparently defeated but that he was raised bodily by God’s power, a resurrection subsequently witnessed by many people. And we know even Paul himself, who as Saul of Tarsus, had fervently opposed Jesus, became a prime witness. Now, no one need be in any doubt, there is ample evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which vindicates his honour as the conqueror of sin and death and publicly presents him to all as the risen Son of God. Now that is some introduction!
Paul goes on to say how he is ‘not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Rom. 1:16). He says Jesus was raised up by the power of God and that this good news also demonstrates the power of God to rescue and restore, ‘everyone who believes’. So, this good news is based on a real person, Jesus the Christ, his finished sacrificial work on the cross and his historic resurrection. The claims stand up to scrutiny and are watertight. Check them out yourself.
In the face of Rome’s scoffing intellectuals, Paul had not the slightest reason to feel his message could be unpicked. He was rather persuaded, and so were some of the Roman citizens who had already become Christians, that the great Empire had already had its fill of Emperor worship, of frenzied despotic rule, the rise of squalid entertainment, widespread slavery, the sordid night life and the burning questions of guilt, unwanted children, sickness of body and soul, and meaninglessness – and that the time for God’s final good news had come.
Then Paul goes on to explain that God has revealed two things. First he says the ‘righteousness of God’ has been revealed in Scripture, and then ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’ (Rom. 1:17 & 18). In these two expressions we face the central dilemma of our humanity. The revelation of God’s wrath from heaven is the stark reality of God’s settled, pure hostility against sin, into which all of mankind has fallen. That ‘wrath’ is issuing directly, not from a delegated judicial authority, but from the moral Governor of the Universe, emphasises the shocking seriousness of our plight. We have all fallen into sinful revolt against God, ‘all have sinned’ (Rom. 3:23) and by nature, are the just objects of his holy judgement.
In merciful answer to this terrible indictment God also issues the revelation of his righteousness. Steeped in medieval Roman Catholicism, Martin Luther struggled to grasp these words, when he thought they meant a divine standard, striving to keep God’s commands to earn sufficient merit to reach heaven. But then, later, after his intense struggle, light dawned and he saw the way Paul placed the ‘righteousness of God’ in the context of God’s undeserved favour, his grace, and was a gift to be received by faith. Luther saw that Jesus had died in the sinner’s place, carrying the condemnation of their sin, paying their liabilities in full, then rising as the righteous One to offer to all the gift of right standing – of ‘righteousness’, a whole new status of acceptance with God. Instead of the conscience-condemning ‘works’ system he saw how the perfect righteousness he needed had been gained for him by Christ and was to be received as a gift. This was astonishing – nearly too good to be true, and was for ‘everyone who believes’ – that is, is personally persuaded and wholeheartedly trusts.
Well, now to my title question, ‘What do you most need?’ Paul’s letter to the Romans shows that what we most need – to get right with God, is a reconciliation that has already been gained by the Son of God on behalf of others. This is why this gift of right standing with God must be received by faith. Come then in empty-handed repentance and humble trust to receive heaven’s best – the gift above all others that was gained at infinite cost when Jesus the Son of God died on the cross.
Yes, Paul certainly had good news to share, and the wonder is that it’s still directly available for people like you, today.