â€œThe saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.16Â But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal lifeâ€ (1 Tim.1:15-16, Amp). â€“ The Apostle Paul
I tell my friends that Paul was wrong about being â€œchief of sinnersâ€ because he never met me!
Mind blowing is what it is. God loves sinners. He loved us all before we could clean out act up, knowing everything about us before hand:
â€œChrist arrives right on time to make this happen. He didnâ€™t, and doesnâ€™t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadnâ€™t been so weak, we wouldnâ€™t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (Rom. 5:8, The Message).â€
Someone said that the reason people donâ€™t accept the Good News is that itâ€™s just too good to believe. It was in my case. I couldnâ€™t believe God could love a person like me â€“ all my crap, selfishness and pride. Itâ€™s taken a long time for me to get it â€“ I am thick â€“ but Iâ€™m getting it.
Yes, Jesus Loves Me
I recently heard the testimony of the famous little 4-year-old boy (now 13), who died and went to heaven. His name is Colton Burpo. He made the big talk shows across the nation. He said when he died and before he went to heaven, Jesus and several angels appeared in the operating room. He said Jesus put him on His lap and told the angels to sing to him. Guess what they sang? â€œJesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.â€ Sounds just like the God I know.
Itâ€™s said that Charles Spurgeon, known as the â€œPrince of Preachers,â€ and a great theologian, was once asked about the heaviest theology he knew. Without so much as a pause, Spurgeon said, â€œJesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.â€
This is the message we all need: that this great God who created it all, the galaxies, the sun, the moon and the gazillion stars loves us flakes, drunks, whores, perverts, religious kooks and the â€œpointy heads, who think we know it all. He came and died so we could know Him and spend eternity with Him. People, this is way too good!
I do a lot of counseling and have for years. The main thing that people need to know, no matter who they are, is there is a God, whose Name is Jesus Christ, and He loves them. He came here to show us the Father and then died for us. It takes a lot of tearing down of the pack of lies built into to us since we took our first breath to get to this rudimentary truth, but itâ€™s there underneath all the pretentious religious hogwash. Itâ€™s in the song we sang in that church on Sunday morning; itâ€™s still there in the sometimes goofy â€œold time religionâ€ that we grew up with. Jesus really interrupts our Pharisaic nonsense to introduce us to his unfailing grace.
I got an â€œFâ€ in being good
â€œBeing goodâ€ was something I could never do. I blew it; you can ask anybody who knew me growing up or right now â€“ take your pick. I learned something along the way about sin. I was good at it, liked it and went after it. When I was a young man in MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) I got kicked out for good for being bad. I donâ€™t remember what I did, but I guess it was bad enough for them to give me â€œthe left foot of fellowship.â€ Many years later the man who asked me to take a hike stood up in the same church I preaching in and asked my forgiveness! I forgave him but really felt he did the right thing in kicking me out!
If I ever run for public office (and time is running out!), I will immediately tell the press that I sinned a lot to set the record straight, and unlike Bill Clinton, I DID inhale!
But there is a debt to pay, baby. Itâ€™s sin debt that has to be paid for:
â€œSin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve him: his free gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lordâ€ (Rom. 6:23, JB Phillips).
The other news is you got an F in being good, too!
â€œAll we like sheep (sheep are real stupid â€“ emphasis mine) have gone astray; each has turned into his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.â€
The word â€œiniquityâ€ used here is one of the words used to describe sin. Generally, it means to â€œtwist, pervert or to make crooked.â€ We are bent people, twisted and perverted by our sinfulness. Christ took our bent toward sin and paid the penalty to for it. In His death He paid for our rebellion, sin and iniquity, the three words used for sin in the Bible.
Often the Greek word used for sin in the New Testament is â€œharmatia,â€or literally â€œmissing the mark.â€ The mark is perfection. How many times have you ever heard someone say, â€œWell, Iâ€™m not perfect?â€ Well, duh! Next time say, â€œYeah, I know youâ€™re bent.â€ LOL!
Good luck trying hard at â€œbeing good.â€ It doesnâ€™t work. Get your Sunday School pin, sing in the choir, teach VBS or what have you, but that wonâ€™t do it. Only One has hit the mark â€“ Jesus. He kept everything God asked of a man, never sinned, and then died in OUR place. In this unbelievable event, â€œGod made Him, who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteous of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Did you get that? In the vernacular it means we got His righteousness when He died. Our job: Repent of our sins and accept His righteousness.
In other words, Christ became the sin bearer (your and mine), and God the Father crucified Him in our place so we could get His righteousness. I know what youâ€™re thinking: the Jews or the Romans killed Him. Youâ€™re dead wrong. Check this out:
Crucifying Christ was the Fatherâ€™s idea
â€œYet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His handâ€ (Isa. 53:10 NKJV).
This verse said that before time, the Father decided to send Jesus to die for us, to be crucified for our sin-separation from Him. He decided that Jesus would be â€œan offering for sin,â€ and He (God) would see His seed (those who trust in Jesus). Further, Christâ€™s death was impermanent (God prolonged His days), as He was raised from a 3-day grave to never-ending life. The â€œpleasureâ€ of the Lord is the cleansing of the universe from sin because of His sonâ€™s obedience in living and dying. One day the Father will renovate this earth by fire (1 Pet. 3:5-7), burning all of that was maligned by human sin. The Bible says the earth itself is â€œgroaning,â€ awaiting this complete redemption:
â€œFor the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected itâ€”[yet] with the hopeÂ That nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of Godâ€™s children. We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until nowâ€ (Rom. 8:20-22 AMP).
Consider that this may be one reason we have hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes! The Fall touched everything, so when God renovates the planet (Rev. 21-22), everything in nature will change!
A preaching t-shirt
I saw a t-shirt one time that read: â€œThe Righteousness God Requires is the Righteousness His Righteousness Requires Him to Require.â€ This t-shirt was preaching it! God is totally righteous, and His righteousness requires righteousness we donâ€™t have. He provided the righteousness we need. Itâ€™s Christ plus nothing!
A friend of mine after getting hold of this truth said, â€œI understand now why some nice little old ladies go to hell.â€ What he was saying was no matter how â€œniceâ€ you are, without Christâ€™s righteousness, you have nothing to offer God.
All this is offensive to the average person (and some Christians who are working for their salvation). People cannot conceive that God would say an eternal â€œnoâ€ to them if they were â€œgoodâ€ people. This is not about â€œgood.â€ Itâ€™s about perfection only found IN Godâ€™s Son.
What about good works?
â€œ[Therefore, I do not treat Godâ€™s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]â€ (Gal. 2:21, Amp)
There are people who really believe they are going to be able to hold up some sort of list of good deeds as proof to God that He should let them in heaven. He wonâ€™t because He set the standard Himself, and there is only one standard, Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life and died a sinnerâ€™s death. The Bible calls our so-called righteousness without Christ â€œfilthy rags.â€
In the book of Revelation we see a prophetic picture of this in chapter 20, verses 11-15. In this picture we see the Father God seated on a Great White Throne, with millions upon millions standing before Him awaiting judgment. Two items are mentioned here â€“ the Book of Life, which contains all the names of those who have received eternal life by believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ â€“ and books (plural). These books contain the â€œdeedsâ€ of those who rejected Christ as their Lord, preferring instead their â€œgood works.â€ These so-called good works are to God â€œfilthy rags,â€ a type of self-righteousness that was attempted by these people to earn heaven. Because of this, He will say, â€œDepart from me I never knew youâ€ (Matt. 7:23).
In the same sense, a lot of people think God has a huge set of cosmic scales in which He weighs everything, according to â€œgood deedsâ€ and â€œbad deeds.â€ In this scenario, if the personâ€™s good deeds outweigh the bad, you get in heaven. If the bad deeds outweigh the good, you donâ€™t. Although this is a popular mental picture for many, nothing could be further from the truth. Once Jesus is your Lord, the scales drop down all the way on the good side. He becomes the validating factor in the heavenly weigh in.
The Dismas â€œProblemâ€
History dating back to the fourth century records the name â€œDismasâ€ as the repentant thief on the cross. The thief (there were two) asked Jesus to â€œrememberâ€ him when He came into His kingdom. The account says Jesus replied, â€œToday you will be with me in paradise.â€
This poses a problem for those people who are looking for good works or a combination of grace and works and/or baptism in water to justify themselves concerning the â€œfree giftâ€ of salvation. Dismas had NOTHING to give Jesus except repentance and one very non-theological prayer request to â€œremember me.â€
The All-Inclusiveâ€¨Death of Christ
The intrinsic significance of the death of Christ is manifold. It includes not only the perfect, complete redemption of believers, but also the glorious termination of all negative things in the old creation, the release of the divine life concealed within Christ, and the creation of the â€œone new manâ€ (Jews & Gentiles or non-Jews). The experience of this all-inclusive work of Christ on the cross rescues believers from their sins, their old man or sin nature, their flesh, the world, the devil, and all other things, which separate them from God and divide them from unbelievers. Further, the experience of Christâ€™s death not only uplifts the believerâ€™s individual Christian life, but also ultimately enables God to fulfill His purpose in this age: the building up of the Body of Christ, which will consummate in eternity in the New Jerusalem.
As I began this, I want to repeat and shout throughout the Internet, â€œWhat a deal!â€ God loves sinners, and He paid our sin debt. So when the Eternal Judge throws down His gavel, He declares, â€œNot guilty!â€ for everyone who will accept this unbelievable offer.
â€œI write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for goodâ€”not only ours, but the whole worldâ€™sâ€ (1 John 2:1-2 The Message).