Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sacrifice for Sins

The cross is the centerpiece of Christianity. And it is what sets it apart from other belief systems. It is there that the price for sin was paid. The basic approach of most faiths is that we work to make ourselves acceptable to God. There may be some provision for forgiveness, but it is generally limited and provisional. But the Christian position is that Jesus paid the full price (1 Peter 2:24,26; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The problem is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9) and cannot keep God's commands (Romans 7:14-18; 3:19,20; Galatians 3:10-12). Now we can try to convince ourselves we are really acceptable to God based on our behavior. One way is to become nominally moral people, avoiding blatant sins and maybe showing up at religious services. But God is really not impressed by this (Malachi 1:10; Isaiah 65:2-5; John 4:24). This is watering down God's commands so we can keep them. Or we can become extremely  self-righteous and attempt to follow strict standards. But even that does not measure up before God (Matthew 23:23-28; 15:1-14; Romans 2:1). God's requirements are stricter than our human attempts (Matthew 5:21-48; Luke 10:25-37; James 2:10). And their self-righteousness is completely contrary to what God requires (Luke 18:9-14; 7:36-50; 19:1-10). Or we can admit to ourselves we cannot live up to God's demands and give in to discouragement. We may keep going through the motions of some set of religious practices hoping that it will one day become fully real. Or we may just dump the whole thing and decide there is no God. Now some discouragement may be a good thing and may bring us to the point of realizing we need God (Isaiah 6:5; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Proverbs 1:7). But if left unchecked can, be highly destructive in our lives.

But God became a man to accomplish what we could not (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-16). He had to become human to identify with us and take our place. He had to be perfectly righteous to not have His own sins to pay for (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 10:26;27; Romans 8:3). And only God could make a sacrifice sufficient to cover the sin of all who would come. We can therefore accept this salvation simply by faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), and we can do good works not to earn something from God, but out of love to God for a salvation already received (Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15). We therefore are not discouraged, but have confidence and assurance, based not on what we have done, but on what Christ has done (1 John 5:11-13; Romans 8:31-39; Galatians 4:4-7). But we are also required to have humility, recognizing it is not based on us, but on what Christ has done (Romans 3:27,28; Philippians 2:11-16; 1 John 1:8-10). And this is made possible because what matters is what Christ has done, not what we do.    

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