Category Archives: Atonement

Not Without Hope

Resurrection day. The first reports began to come to the disciples. They were fearful and unbelieving. The gospels tell that they were behind locked doors because of fear (John 20:19). The disciples refused to believe the report brought to them by the women. They thought they were idle tales (Luke 24:11). It did not matter that Jesus had told them numerous times that He would be betrayed, crucified, and would then rise again. Jesus was not with them now. They were without hope.

What a change would take place over the next days, weeks, and months, as these trembling, fearful followers of Christ would become bold spokesman, giving testimony to the risen Savior. The transformation was startling. These disciples were propelled into a glorious mission, often forsaking comfort, provisions, status, and even life itself, for the sake of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. What was the difference?

Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no real hope (Ephesians 2:12). The disciples were fearful because Jesus was no longer with them. He had been beside them, day after day. Now, He was gone. He had been the source of their joy, hope, and confidence. That hope died on the cross. It died because they did not see the plan and salvation God had for them and for the world. They did not see Jesus for Who He really was and what it was He came to accomplish. If they had, the disciples would have been waiting with joy and anticipation, not fear and trembling.

Like many people today and throughout the centuries, the work of God in Christ is often missed. It is frequently ignored. Or the focus is on religious activities or rituals. They may see Jesus as a wise teacher, bringing good principles to live by. If they try to treat people kindly and live a good life, they may be convinced they are doing their duty. They may attend church once in a while. They may attend every week. Again, they miss the true work of God in Christ on the cross.

We are dead in sin apart from Christ. Apart from Christ, we are subject to wrath of God and without hope in this world or the eternity to come. God’s wrath was poured out on Christ on the cross. Jesus received the penalty for the sin of the entire human race. God’s view of sin was displayed by releasing His judgment on His own Son. There is no amount of good works we could ever do that could compare or replace the payment that was made by Jesus. And if we do not receive God’s gift, we are left to stand before God on our own merit, dead in sin. We are without hope.

When we are saved, we are born again into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). When we repent and turn to God for forgiveness, He gives us new life in Christ. Our old life is gone and we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our old life is crucified and Christ now lives within in us (Galatians 2:20. We now have a hope that is not based on our own goodness or our ability to earn God’s favor by our good works, which is an impossible task anyway. The standard is perfection. We must be holy, as God is holy. This is something that we cannot obtain.

Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the requirement for the penalty of sin. God paid the price Himself. Jesus came, as God in human flesh, to dwell with us and pay the price for our forgiveness. Remarkable. God gives to us life when we deserve death. He gives us forgiveness when we deserve wrath. He gives us hope when we deserve despair. How great the Father’s love for us. It is beyond our comprehension.

Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). As I said at the beginning, the disciples went from fearful to bold, and from hopeless to being filled with hope. The reason for this was because they now had the living Christ within them. When Jesus died, they were separated. When He arose and ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit. They now had the living Christ dwelling within them. They would never be apart again.

When we receive the gift of God’s salvation in Christ, He now lives within us. This new life we receive is the life of Christ within us. All of the promises of God are ours in Christ. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us, forever. We have the promise of His presence with us during the remainder of our lives and that when we breathe our last breath, we will be transported into His glorious presence.

This is the hope of glory. Christ within us. We stand before God in the righteousness of Christ. We have the promise of blessings beyond measure, stored up for those who come to God in Christ. This world has nothing to offer that can compare to this. All pleasures, prosperity, and power fall far short of the wonder and glory God has stored up for us. But more than that, we have the very presence of God within us through Christ. Our highest joy is found in Him. We are not without hope. Hope has come to dwell within us forever.

Together for His glory…

I’m Better Than You

The alternate title for today’s edition was “My Sins Are Not As Bad As Your Sins.”  We will rarely utter either of these statements out loud to anyone. However, if we examine are thoughts, I think they are very prominent in our way of thinking. As such, it reflects a misunderstanding of Who God is, who we are, the seriousness of our own sin, and the radical nature and magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.

As we become entrenched in the political season, we are confronted with many issues that frequently divide our nation. They can also divide the church, the body of Christ. Pick your issue. These are things that we feel very strongly about, and if a candidate or someone we know does not think the same way we do, we malign or belittle them. How can they think that way? What is wrong with them?

It is no different in the church. Again, pick your issue. Jesus said that the world would know that we are His by the way we love each other. And yet, on any given Sunday, in any given church, you can probably find gossip spreading in various corners of the building or right out in the open, as we express our “concern” over someone or some situation. “Did you hear what he said?” “Did you see what they wore to church?” “Did you hear what the leadership did?” “You know what I heard?” I could go on for a long time. The list is endless.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told the parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. One man, a Pharisee, was very sure of himself. He thanked God that he was not like other people, like the tax collector standing near him. He bragged about how wonderful he was. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Who would ever brag to God about how great they are? However, when we compare ourselves to others, tear them down, or gossip about them, aren’t we doing the same thing? We are basically saying that we are better than they are.

On the other hand, the tax collector would not even look up to heaven. He beat on his chest and cried out to God for mercy, because he knew he was a sinner. He knew his standing before God. Apart from God’s mercy, he knew that he was without hope. And Jesus said that he was the one who went home justified. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Friends, every single one of us is like this tax collector, whether we realize it or not. We have no standing before a holy God. If we try to stand before God in our own goodness or abilities, we will be utterly rejected. And yet, somehow, we seem to raise ourselves above others. We look at the lives of others and think to ourselves, “Well, at least I am not like them.” Really? Have we forgotten the price that was paid for our sins? Each of my sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Even if I had been the only person who ever lived, my sin would have nailed Him to the cross. And it is the same with you. Our sins, every single one of them, are a rebellion against our holy Creator.

When we look at someone else and malign them for their particular sin, it reveals pride in our lives. This is the pride of the Pharisee, forgetting that he needed God’s mercy just as much as the tax collector. Now, I think it is important that you don’t misread me here. I am not saying that the issue of sin should not be addressed. Issues of sin within the church should be addressed in a biblical manner (for the record, this does not include gossip). When sharing the gospel of Christ with others, it must include the seriousness and consequences of sin. Otherwise, what are we being saved from, poor self-esteem? Hardly!

In the end, I think most people know they are sinners, unless their consciences have been completely seared by sin. The Word tells us this in Romans 1:18-32. God makes it known to them. In my wife’s testimony, she tells of growing up without knowledge of the Bible or Who Jesus Christ was. But she said that when she would go outside and look up at the night sky, she said she knew that there was a God, that He was mighty and holy, and that she was not. When she heard the gospel, she knew she needed what Christ was offering to her.

The problem with us Christians is that we can forget we need the gospel, just as badly as those “sinners” need it. And we need it every day, not just on the day of our salvation. Our need of the gospel never ends. It is the very work of God to transform us from the enemies of God to being welcomed to His table, as His very sons and daughters. It is the righteousness of Christ that brings us to God and holds us as His very own possession, for all eternity.

So, as we live each day, we should remind ourselves that we have been given a gift so much greater than we deserve. We deserve the judgment of God. If we are in Christ, we have been given a glorious inheritance that is beyond our imagination.

And as we view the world’s events and conditions, we need to remember that there is only one thing that will bring true change. It is not economic growth and prosperity. It is not more money in our bank accounts. It is not political change, with the correct candidates or parties or policies. It is not in the education system. In the end, it is not in anything that we can create, build, or legislate. True change will come only through the transformation of individual lives, families, and communities through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we are called to demonstrate this and live it out regardless of the circumstances in the world. We are called to live it out to those who need a Savior, just as badly as we do.

Together for His glory…

The Resume of Jesus

“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).

I was recently asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone who was applying for a job. This person is gifted and hard-working, so it should not be that difficult of a task. But as I thought about it, my mind turned in another direction. What if I was required to have a letter of recommendation to present to God? What would I want it to say? What could I have it say that would have any impact on God?

God is holy and His standard is perfection. In Scripture, the standard response to being in the presence of God was one of being overwhelmed. The prophet Isaiah, when seeing a vision of the Lord, cried “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). Not only is God holy, but He calls His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). This is a very high standard, and it is one that we cannot accomplish on our own.

We have no qualifications to stand before God. The Lord has made it clear that no one, in their own righteousness or goodness, can stand before God.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even the good things that we attempt to do are tainted by our sinfulness in this fallen world. Our own righteous acts are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6-7). Scripture makes it clear that none of us can present ourselves before God based on our own merits. There is no negotiating and no balancing act of presenting our good works to God and hoping they outweigh our failings. God’s standard is perfection – 100% holiness. This is an impossible task. However, nothing is impossible for God.

We stand before God based on the worth and works of Christ alone. On our own, we have no hope of satisfying the requirements of God. However, by receiving the gift of God and trusting in Christ alone for our salvation, we enter into God’s presence as heirs together with Christ (Titus 3:3-7). This is grounded in the grace and mercy of our God, having absolutely nothing to do with our own goodness and good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, we have absolutely nothing to boast in except the greatness and glory of our God, Who is compassionate to those who do not deserve it. And as unbelievable as it sounds, we are commended by God (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). As we stand before God, He looks upon and commends us a righteous. In a sense, when we hand God our resume folder, He opens it and sees the resume of Jesus Christ. Our resume, with all of it weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings, has been run through the shredder and it is no more. If we are in Christ, God applies the work of Christ over our lives, and we stand before Him in Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus has made us His own possession, so we press on toward the goal. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14). We have been declared righteous by receiving the sacrifice of Christ, but our perfection is not fully realized. So, we press on until that final day. Why? Because Christ has made us His own! Did you catch that? We are His own! And because we are His, we can press on in pursuit of Christ and our glorious future, forgetting the sins and failures of the past. We can leave behind our failed attempts at pleasing God on our own, and run the race in confidence, knowing that our position in Christ is secure. We have this hope and assurance based on the eternal character of our Father and the work accomplished through Jesus Christ.

So, as the apostle Peter declared in 2 Peter 1:1, we stand in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a letter of recommendation without parallel. It is a resume written in the holy blood of Jesus Christ. It has been presented on our behalf. We have been sealed in the righteousness of Christ. So, let us run the race that is before us, pursuing the joy that is found only in Christ.

Together for His glory…