“For God so loved the world…”
We have heard the above mentioned statement so many times – but do we truly realize what it means? After the fall of man, God made a plan to restore mankind to Himself. He valued our relationship with Him so much that He had to do this. He was motivated out of love!
When we think about Jesus, and what He had to endure on the cross, we usually only see an image of suffering. Don’t get me wrong – the punishment He took upon Himself was the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make – but the mindset from which He did it was joy.
“He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2
The joy of reconciling the world to Himself was what motivated Jesus. He did not do it reluctantly – He was aware of the fact that His sacrifice would completely cleanse and perfect all those who believe in Him, forever. This made the sacrifice worthwhile.
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” John 3:16
The Gospel is something we need to experience with conviction deep in the depths of our hearts. It is not something that can be acquired with ‘head knowledge’ – it needs to touch your soul. In order to experience this you need to understand how personal the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) really is.
It is easy for us to imagine that Christ died for the whole world – but do you understand that He would have done it even if you were the ONLY person on earth? You need to realize that the salvation of the cross was meant for YOU. This mindset is not selfish – on the contrary. It will make your heart overflow with thankfulness and worship. It will convince you of God’s love for you and His character, and this in turn will make you love those around you (see post: He first loved US).
So, take a moment to realize that the full redemptive story of the cross was directed at you, specifically because God cannot contain His love for you. Realize it is infinitely more personal and close to you than you can imagine!
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray and gets lost, will he not leave the ninety- nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost? And if it should be that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety- nine that did not get lost.” Matthew 18:12-13
“Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus … For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice], so that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us…” Rom 8:1-4
Romans 8 gives us irrefutable proof that justification does NOT come through the law. It clearly says there is something which the law cannot do – namely the abolishing and overcoming of sin. God, on the other hand, was able to accomplish this. He sent His son as an offering for sin, and in this way met every righteous and just requirement of the Law. In other words – there is nothing of the law that is left for us to complete. Every single requirement was met through Jesus’ sacrifice.
In other words, if we now believe in this sacrifice we are completely set free and justified. That is why there is now no more condemnation for us. No one can point a finger at us and tell us we are not righteous or acceptable before God. We can approach Him boldly and without fear. We have been forever freed from the law of sin and death (a strict list of rules which had to be followed in order to not experience wrath and condemnation) to walk in a law of the Spirit of life (which is Jesus and the life in abundance we now have in Him).
In the previous post I spoke about how hearing the true message of our salvation over and over again will change us from the inside out. A message that goes hand in hand with our true salvation is the message of grace. Jesus came to change a whole lot of things – one of which is the complete fulfillment of the law’s demands.
“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgement and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this salvation is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] Eph 2:8
How can anyone possible argue with this verse? How can any church still preach a message of striving or effort in order to please God? Before Jesus came to change everything, only the Jews who were part of God’s covenant could approach Him (and then only through keeping up with the law’s demands). After Jesus, all of the world (called ‘Gentiles’) previous excluded from this covenant could now approach God through faith.
“[Remember] that you were at that time separated (living apart) from Christ [excluded from all part in Him], utterly estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation, and strangers with no share in the sacred compacts of the [Messianic] promise [with no knowledge of or right in God’s agreements, His covenants]. And you had no hope (no promise); you were in the world without God. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were [so] far away, through (by, in) the blood of Christ you have been brought near…By abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law and its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled];” Eph 2:12-13, 15
It is very clear that in this new era no preference is given to any person, nation or church who upholds the law. The only deciding factor when it comes to salvation and a clear conscience before God is whether you have faith in His Son.
What I love about true Christianity is the simplicity of the message. Jesus encourages us to become more like children in Matthew 18. I don’t know if you’ve seen this – but little children can watch their favourite movie 200 times in a row without getting bored. This should become our mentality regarding the truth about the cross and salvation of Christ. If we understand the greatness of Jesus’ salvation, we will never tire of hearing about it!
Today, many preachers preach messages filled with deep and complicated revelations and theological discussions. Although there is nothing wrong with revelation – the message of Christ should never be neglected. It is not a message that should only be preached one time. It cannot be heard too many times. It is through hearing the truth over and over again, that we will become saved and changed into the image of Christ.
So I want to remind you about the basics again:
I can go on, but first I just want to really let the above mentioned facts sink in… :-)
God will always reveal Himself to the hungry heart. I experienced this myself on the 11th of March 2004. For a while before this (at that stage being in a legalistic denomination) I felt like my Christian life was filled with half-truths and many contradictions. I prayed that God would break down the lopsided building and start rebuilding the foundation from scratch. He did not hesitate to answer my hunger and prayer with an amazing revelation on His character and truth through a ministry in Potchefstroom – Immanuel Bedieninge.
Some of the truths that became the core of my Christian foundation after that introductory night include the following:
Today I just realized again how precious this truth is, and how once we have experienced it, we should protect it and appreciate it. It truly has the power to change your life.
When we become born again our natures change completely. Through one sacrifice we were completely justified and made holy. The only thing that remains is for us to be completely transformed into the image of Jesus.
“And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.” Col 3:10
“And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” Phil 1:6
This change does not come through effort or holy living. It will happen naturally and effortlessly as you behold Jesus, and what He has accomplished for you on the cross. We need to hear this message over and over again – it is the power unto salvation (and the power that will change us into His image).
“Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].” Heb 12:2