Salvation

Happy Resurrection Day! I pray that all of you may contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf and forever surrender yourself to the God who suffered and died in your place. No other religion in the world places the workon God to save you and keep you in the fold. Every other one is a maze of legalism – even within the realm of “social christianity”. Jesus Christ alone is the only one who could take your sins upon Himself and suffer in your place. His resurrection stands as a firm pillar of truth – pointing to the fact that Jesus is who He said He was – that He IS God and that His sacrifice has been accepted in full.

Please, turn to Christ today and ask Him to forgive you, surrender yourself to Him and ask Him to transform your life. He will not leave you wanting- He will not reject your plea.

Jesus’ Tomb is Empty
Post-Resurrection Appearances and the Beginning of Christianity
Death, Where is Your Sting?

As we near Resurrection day, I wanted to post some long and drawn out story about redemption and love. Something akin to a story of God’s great love for us and how we’re so preoccupied with our lives that we don’t even stop to recognize that He’s there – providing our air, food, and shelter for us daily. Then I realized that I had already made on last year and that it’s one that I liked quite a bit. So, on this Good Friday, where we recognize our own sin that nailed our Creator to a tree that He fashioned – to our shame, murdering the God of love – let’s remember that it’s Him who pursues us, and not the other way around. Without further ado, King Solomon had it right:

So… reading through Ecclesiastes and it’s King Solomon basically stating, “I’ve been there, and done that”. Really, who else has had the ability to do so as he did? He had every possible resource at his disposal; The wisest man in all the world. The richest king in all the world. He never had any wars against him throughout his entire kingdom during his whole reign. Even in that he found no lasting pleasure. He had 300 wives, 700 concubines and found no lasting pleasure in that. He built monuments to himself and gardens and wonders the world had not yet seen – some of which are still around today, and he found no lasting pleasure in those either. He sought out the deepest wisdom that he could find and found no lasting pleasure in that. Ultimately, he kept coming back to what I kept going back to – at some point, everyone dies, and all your accomplishments account for nothing. Someone else will own your homes, your possessions will become old and worn down, your discoveries will become passé, and eventually no one will mourn your loss.

The only highlight of the whole book is the last chapter when he finally comes to the understanding that the only constant in all things outside of death is that the Word of God is true and that it is the goal of mankind, not to pursue ungodly desires, but to fear God and keep His commandments and that God’s coming judgment will be the ultimate and only true decider of the worth of one’s life.

It’s too bad he didn’t have the full revelation available to him. Remember that they only had the Old Testament – the law of condemnation and the promise of a Savior to come. Their salvation was based on their adherence to the laws (as best they could muster), their continual sacrifices, and their faith that God would send a Savior who would rid them of the burden of the Mosaic Law.

Then Jesus came, and most rejected Him because they wanted a conquering ruler to crush Rome and place them at the top of their geo-political structure. They had the “wrong Savior” in mind when God’s Savior came. They were guilty of acknowledging God’s choice for them and rejecting it in favor of their own. So then, who is this Savior that God provided?

The Savior the God provided was His Son, Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin to separate Himself from the sin-drenched seed of Adam. He lived the perfect life that you or I could never live – never, ever sinning. He never had a dirty thought about a girl (or a boy, if you’re wondering), he never lied, never stole anything, never wanted something that belonged to someone else (was completely content in what He had), never was unrighteously angry at someone, and always kept the laws of His religious upbringing. Most importantly, He did all this, not for His own glory, but for the glory of His Father in Heaven. He lived under an oppressive and antagonistic government against His cultural religion, and, even while He was teaching those who were to spread His message among others, He never told them to attack or mistreat the government, but to submit to authority as all authority comes directly from God the Father.

Once it was revealed to those in the religious system who have been looking forward to His coming since that fateful day in Eden when man first rebelled against God, they flatly rejected Him and had Him murdered to shut Him up. It was by God’s sovereign hand that all this took place, so that God’s justice and righteousness over all mankind would prevail. Not because we’re so loving and worthwhile that God can’t keep from doing anything to love on us. God REQUIRES that ALL WHO SIN AGAINST HIM (even those who don’t even understand what “sin” is) MUST BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR CRIMES! ALL! It was by the mercy of God that He opted to act for us – He had no obligation to do so. It was by grace alone that He has sent His Son to take our place on the cross. God chose some out of the billions who will live throughout our history to save from the consequence of their sins through HIS mercy and by HIS grace.

God did not die so that you could be the very best “you” that you could ever be. He did not die so that you can have a Bentley, or a mansion, or a 4 carat rock on your hand. He die so that your race, creed, or political party could be the top ruling party in the world. He did not die so that we would have a moral society that organized walks and marches to combat against the murder of our children in the womb. He did not die to create your brand of church – Southern Baptist Convention, Calvary Chapel, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Sovereign Grace, etc… would exist for all time, and He did not die so that we’d give up a couple of our weekends to feed the poor, or to give our shoes for Haiti.

What Jesus did on the cross was to glorify God by fulfilling His law for His elect. The Church that erupted from that event and from His life and teaching exists to feed the followers of Christ and to encourage discipleship, teaching, worship, prayer, and to prepare evangelists to head out into the world to glorify God through the spreading of the Gospel. What is that Gospel? It’s not social justice, nor is it better legislation, nor is it feeding the poor. The Gospel is that though we are wholly destitute before God and incapable of any transformative ability to save ourselves, that He has accepted Jesus payment for our sin debt against Him on our behalf. What is our responsibility in light of that revelation? Our trust in the work that Jesus has done on the cross has saved us, and that we will abandon all things to follow after Him. Our dreams, our ambitions, our friends, and, in some cases, even our families. There is nothing that can stand between us and our God if we wholly surrender our lives to Him. The hard part of the walk comes in following that commitment.

King Solomon was exactly right – death is the great equalizer. Nothing can save you from it, nor can you keep anything you’ve done once you’ve passed through it. Those that came after him hardened their religious beliefs to follow their own sinful hearts and to cater to their own desires for power and control. They wanted God’s Savior on their terms and, as a result, rejected Jesus – God’s chosen Savior – in favor of their own. The real question is, which Savior do you want today? The Savior that God provided for you, or the Jesus that is your personal conquering ruler, who provides you with the things you want?

The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)

Chapter 15: Repentance and Salvation

  1. Those of the elect who are converted in riper years, having lived some time in the state of nature, and in this state served various lusts and pleasures, God gives repentance which leads to life, through an effectual call.

    to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

    Titus 3:2-5

  2. Because there is not one person who does good and commits no sin, and because the best of men may fall into great sins and provocations through the power and deceitfulness of their own indwelling corruption and the prevalency of temptation, God has mercifully provided in the covenant of grace that when believers sin and fall they shall be renewed through repentance to salvation.

    Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

    Eccles. 7:20

    “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

    Luke 22:31-32

  3. Saving repentance is an evangelical grace by which a person who is made to feel, by the Holy Spirit, the manifold evils of his sin, and being given faith in Christ, humbles himself over his sin with godly sorrow, detestation of his sin and self-abhorrency. In such repentance the person also prays for pardon and strength of grace, and has a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit’s power, to walk before God and to totally please Him in all things.

    “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

    Zech 12:10

    Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.

    Ezek. 36:31

    6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

    Ps. 119:6

    128 Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right;
    I hate every false way.

    Ps. 119:128

    When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    Acts 11:18

    For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

    2 Cor. 7:11

  4. As repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives, on account of the body of death, and the motions of it, it is therefore every man’s duty to repent of his particular known sins particularly.

    And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

    Luke 19:8

    though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

    1 Tim. 1:13-15

  5. Such is the provision which God has made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers in the way of salvation, that although even the smallest sin deserves damnation, yet there is no sin great enough to bring damnation on those who repent. This makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Rom. 6:23

    Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
    cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    correct oppression;
    bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

    “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
    though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

    Isa. 1:16-18

    let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

    Isa. 55:7

Hmm… no “every head bowed and every eye closed” recitation of a pamphlet prayer here either. I couldn’t find one in scripture…

Still looking for it…

While talking with a friend of mine yesterday, we got on the subject of atonement. She is a proponent of the “ask Jesus into your heart” and that Jesus’ death on the cross was wholly sufficient for all people but we must “choose to accept” his sacrifice for it to be of benefit to our lives. While it’s something that’s often taught in churches, it’s not taught in the Bible. If it were so, Jesus would have asked that the paralytic man who was lowered to him through the ceiling, “ask Him into his heart” before he would be absolved of his sins. Instead what do we hear? Your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more. What was Jesus’ requirement for healing? That they have faith in His ability to heal them and, upon their restoration, he told them to go and sin no more. There is no man-focused acceptance required, but a faith that He is the only one who can bring you salvation from your troubles.

At my response to her, she stated that the gift of salvation is like a man who goes to a store and buys an item for you and leaves it at the counter. It’s wholly paid for but you cannot receive it until you accept it. This places the act of salvation firmly in the hands of the one to whom it is granted. It also, unfortunately, means that you can LOSE your salvation if you either decide that it’s not something that you desire and also if you are found unworthy of the gift. She also stated that anyone who goes to hell, is sent there because of their refusal to accept Jesus’ sacrifice in their place. This goes directly in opposition to scripture that teaches that we are secured by God, and not ourselves (Jn 6:35-37,10:27-29; Rom 8:1,35,38-39,11:29). We cannot out sin the grace of God and once God has transformed our heart and filled us with new desires (Eze 36:26), we will be bound to God by HIS sacrifice on our behalf and it is HIM who upholds and sustains us in this new covenant.

A better (though weak) analogy is that you are guilty of a capital crime. You’ve been caught, found guilty before the court and are now awaiting your execution when a man whom you do not know says that he loves you so much that he is willing to take your place in the electric chair so that you may go free. Against your own guilt which you know you carry, and your desire to see justice fulfilled on you, the judge agrees to this man’s proposal and he is executed on your behalf. The work is complete, justice is fulfilled and you are set free, no more under debt to the law. You may wish that he did not give his life for yours and you fully understand that you are not worthy of his sacrifice, but it has been placed upon you and you are granted redemption from your sins against the court. In the same way, Jesus has taken our place on the cross and has died the death that you and I deserve for our crimes against God.

If anything, our only participation in this act of salvation comes as we are the object upon which the grace of God is bestowed. God is the one who saves us, against our nature, from His wrath, by His grace, and for His glory. Men are not cast into the eternal hellfire for their refusal to accept Jesus. The demons fully acknowledged who He is and proclaimed it loudly before Him (Mt 8:29; Mk 3:11,5:7; Lk 4:41,8:28) and we know that they are not saved because hell was created FOR them (Mt 25:41). Who knows more than they do that He is the Christ, the son of the living God? He created them and they saw Him in power when they were cast down to the earth. If all we need to do is to accept his teaching or his authority, who is more prepared to enter into heaven than they? Our salvation is not based upon a mental ascent to His power in our lives, nor a religious acceptance of his teachings. It is, as it has always been, reliant upon His work on our lives and when He changes our hearts from being self-serving to thankful appreciation of the work that He has completed for us, in our stead. It is through our trust (faith) in Him to complete the salvation that He has promised. Men are cast into hell for their sins as they are judged based on the product of their lives (Eze 18:4; Rev 20:12-13). It is the Christian who can take comfort in this, knowing that we stand before God, cleansed from our sins. If I had to stand before Him in the knowledge that my own ability to hold onto the salvation that He has provided for me I would be deeply concerned. I loudly proclaim with the great hymn writer Edward Mote:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

On Christ, My solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I remember my second baptism. My wife and I were recently married and, assuming that this was what responsible parents do, we found religion. We started attending a local church using the Willow Creek (“seeker-sensitive”) model and became members. As part of that membership, they recommended that we be baptized as a sign of our “rededication” to the Lord. Our church rented a large heated pool for the afternoon and about 40 people all lined up and were baptized. There was a neat little dinner held afterward and all in all we had a great time. Once we were in the car and on the way home, however, it became very serious for me and I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if it will stick this time”.

This wasn’t my first run-in with religion. I was baptized at 4 years old at Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colorado. My parents were devout Lutherans, attending service every week, becoming members, going to prayer meetings and Bible studies. My mom first taught Sunday school then became the Sunday School director. I memorized all the same stories we’d have every year and eventually was even able to predict the text of the sermon based on where we were in the Liturgical calendar. During the next 10 years we were at church every week, rain or shine. In that time I dedicated myself to Jesus probably 40 times. I “said the sinner’s prayer” with weeping many times, sometimes under the fear that “if I were to die and I didn’t know Jesus then I’d never see my parents again”. Other times it was because I was afraid of punishment. The single similarity that marked each one was my undying commitment to myself. No one had explained “repentance” to me outside of “changing my mind in relation to Jesus”. I did, however, see the difference between my relationship with Jesus and how other people referred to Him. I knew that they had something that I didn’t and, while it intrigued me, I just figured that God was working on them in a different way than me and I let it go.

The problem in each of these cases was a misrepresentation of the gospel. I was told that Jesus died so that God could put me into Heaven. The pivotal point was on me and my righteousness before God – that I was so fabulous that God surrendered Jesus so that I could be in His presence. I never understood that. Then the language about “falling away” made sense to me because I thought that it was merely about me and my goodness and that I could always just ask “Jesus into my heart” and “accept HIM” and everything would be alright. I could run that razor’s edge between sin and sanctification with my “get out of Hell free” card in my back pocket containing the “sinner’s prayer” embossed in gold.

It took God taking away from me everything I held dear before He finally got it through my head that it wasn’t about me, but it was always about HIM. It was about God’s righteousness, and for that Jesus was pleased to die on the behalf of sinners who would repent of their sinful lives and turn to Him for salvation. It wasn’t about ME accepting HIM, but God accepting ME because of what Jesus had done for me.

Through all of my previous experiences I had become just another false convert to Christianity. Another man who follows my chosen religion because it provided a salve for my conscience and gave the reigns to my salvation to ME alone. True Christianity, however, requires that we surrender our “right” to be right to Jesus alone. My commitment to myself and to my own besetting sins was so strong that I was unwilling to open my hand on those things to Jesus and to allow Him to transform my whole life. I was like a man who married his wife and promised to love her and her alone forever, but who refused to quit an addiction to prostitution. God rightly rejected my “commitment” until I rejected everything that hindered our relationship. I needed to have my commitment to sin broken and to be tied instead to Jesus, and His work on our behalf, to be acceptable to God. That’s why I hate the language that states we must “accept Jesus”. No – it’s God that must accept us and He does so through our humble rejection of our own works to save us and our trusting (and subsequent following of) Jesus.

My last baptism, two years ago with my son, was a baptism marking the end of myself. I was no longer trusting in my own works to save me, nor did I trust in my baptism to “stick” and to hold me firm in this commitment. I leapt into the deepest parts of the ocean of God’s grace, trusting that God will keep me firmly bound to the salvation that He provided for me. My transformation in the way I act, speak, and think has happened as a result of this faith that He has provided for me. I am no longer the man I used to be and I know that it’s not my actions that have caused this transformation to take place but instead it is the natural result of a changed heart and mind that came through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my soul.

So, in my daily reading, I came across 1 Peter 1 today and stopped on verses one and two.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

~ 1 Peter 1:1-2

For those who don’t know, my mind tends to follow specific lines of thought. I see patterns and follow them through to their end. This is how my mind read that after stripping out the parts that, while historically significant and describe the intended audience, are, in my mind, in the way of the text itself:

Peter (author), an apostle of Jesus Christ (authority),

To those who are elect {…}, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood (intended audience):

May grace and peace be multiplied to you (specific blessing).

Now, where I was caught was on that “intended audience”. Peter is writing to the elect. Who are the elect? Let’s break that down:

They are those who God foreordained, through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit are now empowered to serve Jesus Christ and are forgiven their sins by the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

It is to those people who Peter is asking that God would “multiply His blessings of grace and peace”. While we Calvinists (read: Biblical Christians 😉 ) understand that God has predetermined those whom He will save from our own desires and path to Hell, we also understand that Jesus had said that there will be many people who are fakers – people who follow along in service, attend Bible study, even lead ministries and worship God with the most fervor that you’ve seen, but they are merely false converts who God will shuffle off in the day of judgment. Think about it – the parable of the ten virgins, the good catch, and the wheat and the tares (weeds). In each instance, there are those who thought that they were in the party of the righteous but were really never part of it to begin with. They never “KNEW” Him, and He never “KNEW” them. How can you tell if you know Him?

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

~ John 14:19-21

Jesus makes it clear – those who keep His commandments are those whom He knows. Does that make our salvation one based on works? Not at all! The New Testament is replete with text to the contrary, the most often quoted is Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Even in James 2:14-26 where the brother of Jesus states “Faith without works is dead”, he is not making the point that if you fail to work for Christ He will abandon you, but instead the point is made that our works are the evidence of Christ living within us. Paul drives this home with his illustration of the Gentile Christians being grafted into the olive tree of God’s salvation through the Israelites in Romans 11:11-24: Our salvation is in the root of God’s justice and righteousness, purchased through Christ’s work on our behalf, and we are merely broken from our own sinful man-centered tree and grafted in against our will into a tree of salvation. We are then fed by this tree through the work of the Holy Spirit who then produces fruit in us.

That is the sign that a graft has taken – that it produces fruit. Not out of its own will, but because it is fed by the root and the fruit comes naturally. Don’t feed the homeless because it will buy you salvation – do it because Jesus fed you while you were His enemy and now that you have been reconciled to Him, you want to show His love to those that hate Him as you once did. Don’t clothe the poor because it makes you appear holy before your friends – do it because Jesus made sure that you had your needs met when you refused to acknowledge every good thing He has given to you and now you are able to do the same to those who also are selfish in the same manner that you were. It is through this empowering of the Holy Spirit that we are able to enter into His salvation, not one purchased by our own works. This same empowering enables us to seek to serve Jesus Christ with right motives and a desire to see Him exulted instead of ourselves.

This two verse introduction into Peter’s book clearly defines the Trinity as the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and reveals the nature of our salvation, how it is acquired, and how we live it out.

Man, I can’t wait to read the rest of this chapter… 🙂

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor, because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Psalm 22:22

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”Psalm 18:2; Isa 8:17, 12:2

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Isaiah 8:18

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely is it not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of god to make propitiation for the sins of the people. for because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
~ Hebrews 2: 8-18

The only thing that the devil has on us, as an adversary against us before God, where he makes his claims against us daily is our own sin. While being the father of lies, his claims have no merit without the facts of our own sins to back them up. When Jesus died on the cross in our place, a full payment was made for our sins. They existed no longer and therefore carry no more weight for the enemy to use against us. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It no longer exists.

Imagine that you’re a criminal who stands before a judge. There is forensic, video, and eye witness testimony that places you at the scene of the crime, all the evidence points to your guilt. You did, indeed, commit the crime, and you know this. You also know that the judge, jury, and now everyone in the world, know that you committed the crime. There is no question as to your guilt. Verdict has been offered: Guilty. The judge now pronounces your punishment: Death.

Has justice been served? No. You merely have been tried and found to be at fault. Justice is not complete until the judgment has been fulfilled. The day of your execution comes and the crowd gathers to watch you die. This is the point that brings justice over your crimes. The acts you’ve committed cannot be repaid in full, in the same way that you can’t “un-murder” someone, “un-steal” an object, or “un-rape” someone, but the justice comes in the payment for the crimes. At the last minute, as they are about to strap you into the chair, someone who has been following your case from the very beginning comes in and asks to speak with the judge. After some careful deliberation between the members of the family, the governor, and the judge, the man comes into the execution chamber, takes off his clothes and puts on your clothes. He then is led into the chamber, is strapped into the chair, and is electrocuted, willingly, on your behalf. His death is agonizing to watch and obviously inflicts great pain before he dies, but justice has finally been served. You are instructed to put on the man’s clothes and, after you do so, the doors to the jail cell swing open. You are free to go. This man, whom you had never known, has transferred to you, the entirety of his estate, and now everything that he was part of, is now applied to you.

This is what Jesus has done for us. You are now crowned with glory and honor as, through His taking our sins upon himself and dying on our behalf, we have swapped positions. He, now the criminal, bears our guilt unto the firm execution that the law of God demands. He MUST be executed for God’s judgment to be fulfilled, and for justice to be served. His execution is agonizing to watch, even these 2,000 years later, and painful in its entirety – over 15 hours He is tried, beaten, mocked, insulted, whipped, had his beard ripped out, spat upon, punched, pierced, and eventually, without mercy, nailed to two rough pieces of wood where he eventually asphyxiates under his own weight. This, the spotless lamb of God, wholly unlike anything that this world has ever seen, has taken upon Himself the sins of the world.

Does that mean that He’s taken ALL the sins of the world? Can’t be. I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but that’s not the case. If He had taken ALL the sins, then the universalists would be dead on the money: “You don’t need to know the name of Jesus to be saved, because He already paid for your sins before you were born.” If that were true, why then is there the constant claim that we must repent of our sins and trust in the work that Jesus has performed on our behalf. When Jesus first started His ministry, what were the words that He used?

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. ~ Mark 1:14-15

God is just and, as such, He cannot punish two people for the same crime. Either Jesus took all the sins away, and no one has any more guilt before God, or He took only the sins of those whom God the Father had given to Him John 17:6-19. Yet we see that people will be sent to the lake of fire in the final judgment before God for their crimes before Him:

“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire ~ Revelation 20:9

and

“But as for the cowardly (those who walked away from the faith because of the fear of what others would say about them or fear for their lives), the faithless (who did not believe in the promises that God has given to them and distrusting God), the detestable (those who have committed abominations before God), as for murderers ( even idle words spoken in anger and not repented of – Mt 5:21-22), the sexually immoral (this is a given, but a quick reference can be found here, sorcerers (those who are involved in the occult and drugs), idolaters (anyone who places anything before their relationship with God), and all liars (This means everyone – because if you weren’t caught in any of the sins before here, then you are caught in this one. This is the net that catches all the stragglers. If you’ve never, EVER lied, then you’re free and clear here – I’ve never met someone who hadn’t lied in their life), their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death ~ Revelation 21:8“.

As we can see, God still punishes plenty of people. Not for their lack of faith in Jesus, but for their sins they have committed. Had they forsaken their sinful lives and abandoned all of their lusts and desires at the cross of Christ, then trusted in Him alone to save them from the wrath of God to come, they would be in the book of life and would be spared from the just punishment of God’s wrath on them for their sins.

How can you tell if you’re one of those whom He has chosen to save? You want to be saved, so much so that you are willing to abandon everything you have and everything you are to be near to Him. You are wholly convicted and you understand that there is nothing that you can do on your own to save yourself and you rely on God alone to save you from your sins. That’s how you can know that you’ve been chosen for salvation. It may not come today, or tomorrow, or even a year from now – but when it does come. Know that this was orchestrated by God since before He began the work of creation which brought this universe into existence.

May you carefully consider these things today and, if you feel convicted over it, talk to God. He alone is the only one who can save you from the wrath to come. Jesus, His Son, has paid for your sins on your behalf. Stripping your guilt from you, and along with it, the only thing the enemy could use to bring accusation against you before God the Father.

Most readers of Themelios will be aware that the word “perfectionism” is commonly attached in theological circles to one subset of the Wesleyan tradition. As far as I can tell, the numbers who defend such perfectionism today are rather depleted.

So begins an editorial by D.A. Carson on Perfectionism. The perfectionism that he is referencing in these, his opening sentences, is also called “entire sanctification” whereby a person who is saved by God can attain true, sinless perfection in their lives by their own will and God’s enabling grace. This is simply false – there is no perfection this side of the veil of death. We get glimpses of true perfection in the work of Christ revealed to us in scripture. Similarly, we see the shadows of it in our own lives while the Holy Spirit does His work in us by progressively striping off the layers of our sinful passions and idols like a huge rotting onion to enable us to do the work that God has placed before us. Perfection in this life? No way. Perfection in the glory with Christ? Guaranteed!

But how do we deal with the knowledge of our sins that our conversion produced within us and the acknowledgement that we’ll never be wholly sanctified until we reach Heaven? As I’ve often told others, each willful sin that we commit is another layer of flesh torn from our beloved Savior or another stripe added to His sensitive and hanging flesh as the Roman Soldier releases all of his energy on the bone and glass embedded leather straps of the flagellum. Each sin that we knowingly run toward, despite our conscience screaming at us to turn away wrath or lustful desires, is another agonizing breath that Jesus must struggle toward, bearing His weight on bare bone and torn flesh to lift Himself – opening recently closed wounds and exposing them to the air again, before finally breathing His last. How can we, as Christians, not seek perfectionism in our daily lives, and how can we not be flattened in horrid understanding as we realize that our fleeting moment of pleasures in our sins have now brought Jesus more agony and torture in our stead? It’s with this understanding that Carson’s quote ties me directly to his editorial:

Precisely because their consciences are sensitive, they are often ashamed by their own failures—the secret resentment that slips in, the unguarded word, the wandering eye, the pride of life, the self-focus that really does preclude loving one’s neighbor as oneself. To other believers who watch them, they are among the most intense, disciplined, and holy believers we know; to themselves, they are virulent failures, inconsistent followers, mere Peters who regularly betray their Master and weep bitterly.

D.A. Carson then, as usual, unpacks the thought process beautifully that leads to this understanding, then provides information that, while not entirely comforting to those who understand this mentality so dearly, at least reminds us that it was for this that the cross bore God on that Friday afternoon. The article, while not bringing total comfort, reminds me that God’s grace has already covered my sins and that, while horrid and disgusting to myself and God, it is in light of these things that God chose to save me. That He stepped into time and placed Himself in the breach to take the full punishment for my sins so that God would be glorified in His righteous judgment and so that all eyes would turn to Him and acknowledge His kindness and mercy.

May I seek perfection in this light, and may God continue to lift me out of my despair over my personal sins so that I may glorify Him while I still draw breath.

The point of proclaiming the Gospel isn’t to bring people to the Jesus who loves them or so they can “be happy and fulfilled”. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not exist to make your life better, nor does is it fit to be sold in such a way that makes it seem like it’s doing you a favor or filling some need in your life. The reason that we share the Gospel with the damned is to share with them their place before the King of Kings, who created the universe and has appointed a day in which He will judge mankind. Our job, as those who are called out and saved by His hand and by His grace, is to go to the mountain top and proclaim that EVERYONE is damned before God, and that NO ONE can get there on their own merit. It is by fully surrendering yourself to Jesus Christ alone that you are saved. When you do that, you are no longer your own person. Your “born again” experience releases you from the responsibility of your life because you are now a slave to the God who purchased you with His blood. No longer is it “your time”, but His. No longer are they “your finances”, but His. No longer are they “your desires”, but His. Perseverance is not your goal, but your battle cry. Sacrifice is not something you do, but something you ARE. Your life and everything you are now belongs to Jesus Christ. If you are not willing to submit to His ultimate authority in your life then you are not going to be saved when He comes in judgment against the nations. Jesus did not live the perfect life that neither you or I could ever live, then suffer physically and spiritually the full weight of an eternity of eternities of punishment so you can be pleased with yourself. He did this to purchase you from God the Father and to set you apart for His purposes here on Earth. If you reject this salvation that He provides, you will be left to fend for yourself on the day of judgment. What can you bring to the creator of the universe to justify yourself when you sin against Him? What can you do that will repay Him for your life of self indulgence and unwillingness to honor Him even in your thought life? Who are you to stand before the God of all creation and even attempt to speak in your own defense?

HT: Tony “The Lawman” Miano

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)