Jesus Died in Our Place

Welcome to 2012, readers.  I’m still getting used to writing “12” on papers and whatnot.  I’ll get used to it sometime around May, probably. My contacts are messed up as well, so we’ll see how good spell check is.  This is the start of a series entitled “Jesus Died.”  Over the course of the next ten weeks, I hope to post seven messages about the nature and meaning of our Savior’s death, culminating with the last message pertaining to His glorious resurrection.

Tonight, we’re going to look at our sin and His death for it.  So, brace yourselves.  We’ll be all over Scripture tonight.  Let’s begin this series in the beginning of the Bible–Genesis 1.

After God created the world and placed man and woman in Eden, verse 31 of chapter 1 reads “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

At the beginning of it all, life was good.  More than good, it was perfect.  Quickly, we mess things up.  Genesis 3 tells us the story of the fall of man, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, thus destroying the hope for perfection on earth for mankind.  Because of that decision, our race was afflicted with original sin, which states that we are not born good, we are not born with a clean slate, we are born with sin, and apart from God’s saving grace, we are going to hell.

Skip over to Romans 1.

Romans 1:18-23: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Basically, to sum up Paul’s argument here, we can all have some knowledge of God from the world around us, therefore, we have no excuse.  We have exchanged the Creator for the creation, throwing God aside, and we have all sinned.  Romans 3:23 says we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  In some translations, those verbs are in the present.  I like this, as it reminds us that it’s not just past, but that we continue to sin, for we are imperfect people, filled with sin.

Before moving on tonight, we must recognize that we are sinners.  Nothing you read in the next several months or years will make sense if you do not first recognize sin.  Sin is anything that stands in rebellion to God.  My goal is not to judge or condemn anyone, for I have sinned like everyone else.  But when the God of the universe deserves our ultimate praise and we exchange our responsibility to honor and serve Him for the creation, to twist it into our own personal idols, we have committed sin.

We don’t like telling people they’re sinners (and if we get some sick pleasure out of it, that’s a whole other issue in and of itself) and we often don’t like being told we’re sinners.  Why?  Sin.  Pride has corrupted this world.  We must stop thinking of the world like we are above it all: “Oh, you know, kids these days—just don’t know how to act.”  Neither do you.  Neither do I.  “Those women that go around sleeping with guys, man, I just don’t understand how anyone can do that.”  I don’t understand how we can sit around and say that when it’s so blatantly obvious that we are just as sinful.  Ever lied, been jealous, cursed, looked at pornography, slept with someone outside of marriage?  It’s sin.

Trust me—this is not the most fun post I’ve ever written.  I realize this doesn’t make me popular, and my posts won’t sell at Books-A-Million next to the latest prosperity gospel fiction.  But if we are to truly marvel and receive the gospel of Jesus, we must first realize who we are.  We are not the worst we could be, but we are totally unable to save ourselves because of our sin.  My point to those who say that we can’t define sin because God isn’t there would be to pose a question, which I will leave unanswered:  Why do we still feel guilt then?  Ponder this if you’re still debating.

The God of the universe deserves our praise.  Why?  Because He said so.  As Francis Chan would say, “When you get your own universe, then you can make the rules.”  Our God is a sovereign, holy God to be feared and worshiped.  This might seem archaic, but if we do not trust our lives to this “archaic” God, we’ll be the ones growing weary, suffering eternal torment in hell.

Romans 3:10-12: “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside, together they have become worthless.  No one does good, not even one.”

You will never be spiritual enough.  You’ll never do enough good works.  This is a lesson, a truth, that I must pound into my head and life each and every day, that I do not and never will “deserve” God.

Understand that we are sinners.  When we do that, we see our need for a Savior to save us from our helpless state of sin.  This is where good news comes in.  You see, we never will earn it or be good enough.  And that’s okay.  Because of Him.  Him who caused Paul to break out in joyous praise when He pondered, as we have, our sin, His grace and salvation, and our new state.  This Him is who we will look at.  And He is Jesus.

Join me in Luke 2:11 as we see this glorious exchange.  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  In the city of David, where God had promised to restore His people, we see hope in the God-man Jesus Christ.

The people of Israel had long been awaiting the birth of the Messiah.  They had been promised that God would restore them, not just from exile and slavery, not just from wandering, but from their sin as well.  Then, here in Luke 2, we see Jesus come onto the scene.  And it changes everything.

It’s easy to only think of this enormous change at Christmastime.  We need to keep the gospel alive and active in our hearts and minds at all times.  Colossians speaks of the gospel bearing fruit in our lives, and how can we do that if we just pick it up in December?

So we’ve seen Jesus’ birth, and what I want to do now is fast-forward 30 or so years to the cross.  After Jesus’ ministry proclaimed Him as the Lord and Savior of His people Israel, He was sentenced to die.  I want you to know, tonight, that Jesus did not just die because He was condemned to die by man.  He died to fulfill God’s plan, to take our place and our sin.  He was able to do this because of His perfection, something we’ll explore in a later message.

Luke 4:18-19 says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The gospel, so perfectly summed up here, in the freedom He brings, again, another later post, is fulfilled at the cross.  At the cross, God’s love and justice meet.  At the cross, Christ’s saving work was made complete.  At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.

But the punishment Christ endured was not just the cross.  And it was not just our sin.  It was God’s wrath.  Matthew 26:39 says “And going a little farther he (Jesus) fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

The “cup” was the cup of God’s wrath, which has been described as an unstoppable flood that poured over Jesus, drowning Him in agony and pain.  And it scared Jesus to death.  It may have been that He actually wept blood.  He didn’t fear what man could do, but what His Father in Heaven was about to do.

But Jesus realized something.  In order for us to live, He had to die.  In order for sins to be taken away, He had to die.  Hebrews 9:15 says “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

He didn’t just take our sin.  He took our punishment. And in doing so, He gave us new life.  Many of my readers are familiar with the passage in Isaiah 53, which tells us that Jesus was “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.”  When we look at the cross, we should see Jesus.  We need also to remember that that should’ve been us.  Go back and read my Good Friday post from 2011, where I describe in detail the process of crucifixion.  And remember that we deserved that.  Don’t do this for emotional appeal or to work up tears for a God-high, but in order to remember all that our Lord suffered for us.

We sing emotional lyrics about how Jesus gave “everything” for us.  We sing how He came down to show us love by giving His life.  And so many times, our feeble attempts at thanking Him through words comes nowhere close to expressing the magnitude of what His death meant for us.  I think for many of us, the fact that Jesus gave everything for us has become just head knowledge, not the life-changing message rooted in the gospel that God intended it to be.  God hasn’t failed.  We have.  When He gave everything for us, He did that for a reason, that we might know Him.

Romans 5:8-9 says “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

We are sinners, in need of a Savior.  That Savior came, and His name is Jesus.  Apart from Him, sin is not paid for, and we are condemned to hell.  Sin is real, and so is hell.  My purpose never has and never will be to scare people into Christianity, because that is not the gospel and probably not true faith.  I desperately want you to see your sin, and then to see Jesus, who lived the life we could not live and died the death we should’ve died so that we have NOTHING to fear, so that we may know Him.

Never forget, Christians, may we never forget, that He died for our sin.  All of us.  And all of our sin.  Quickly, I want to encourage believers to remember that you have been cleansed from sin.  Scripture calls us, in light of that, to not go back into slavery and to walk in the light, by the Spirit.  But, there is grace for you if you have failed.  God provides a way back to Himself, and it goes through Calvary.  His name is Jesus.  For those that are reading that don’t know Jesus and are looking for answers, stop looking.  The answer is Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:21–“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Justification is found in Christ, and in Christ alone.  He died for a purpose, and it wasn’t to please or appease the Jews or Romans.  It was to cleanse His children, whose identity we’ll discuss next time, from ALL sin, so that they could find their ALL in Him.  I pray that you would make Him your ALL tonight.

May we be encouraged by the gospel of Christ.  May we never forget who we are, and our need for a Savior.  May we never forget Jesus, and may we grow in love of Him as we rest on His finished work.  May we give our everything to the one who gave everything to us.

Next week (hopefully), we will look at WHO Jesus died for, and what that means for us today.  Should be interesting, hopefully.  I hope and pray that life is going well for each and every one of you, and that you would continue to bless and be blessed and honor and glorify God in all you do.  Pray for my family tonight, as we have a few medical issues being dealt with.  They should all work out, according to the doctors, but I continue to trust in God’s healing power.  The God who saved me, and saved my Godly family, will heal us according to His will and grace.

God bless,

Neal E.

P.S.–Feel free to shoot me an email about anything.  rembry@forum.montevallo.edu.  See ya next time!

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