If you think you have reached an acceptable level of moral success and have no need of redemption, your standard is too low. What is the right standard? The right standard is the cross of Christ.
Obedience is all about entering your rest (Hebrews 4:3). Obedience relieves me of the distress of being smart enough to create my own vision, developing my own resources, forging my own message, and in general inventing my own successful life. If I am inventing my own successful life, then whenever I am challenged, I have to make sure I have a strong enough plan to answer every objection. However, if I am simply being obedient to another, none of these things are my problem.
The cross of Christ declares that our sin has gravity. It is sobering in the weight of its badness. We may think it is not so bad, but the cross declares that it is much worse than we think. We may think that God is a great absent-minded grandfather in the sky, who is forgetful about our little foibles, but this is far from true. He is the ancient of days, the creator of all things, all-knowing and all-powerful. He acts decisively on His own schedule for His purposes. If you are in Christ, you have been rescued from a very just and a very certain weight of tremendous wrath and justice.
With others, their suffering can become a badge of honor by which they can boast and best your suffering. They want to impress others with the fact that they are better because they have suffered more. With Jesus it is never so. His suffering serves to make Him all the more compassionate. In fact, He wears His suffering on into His resurrected body (John 20:27), and by His scars we recognize Him. He stands on the very throne of God as a lamb who was slain because He will forever be the compassionate savior who understands what we have been through.
The atonement we most need is the atonement that assumes we can do nothing to reform ourselves or ingratiate ourselves in some successful two-way relationship. It assumes, not that we are powerful and able to change, but that we are lost and hopeless, that we can do nothing to atone. It assumes, not that we can make up for our sins, but that our guilt is built up hanging over head like an eternal black cloud. It assumes that we need to be saved, not reformed.
Faith says that the blood of Jesus satisfies justice for every little thing we do wrong, all the time. Faith says that I always feel inadequate because I really am inadequate, but that I am saved through His cross from all of these judgements that daily accuse me. My thoughts are no longer bound up in the fear that I am inadequate and sinful and unworthy, but instead my thought is constantly that I am worthy of God’s death.
So we find the entire Jewish religious practice to be a picture of Christ. It isn’t simply that Jesus acted out a few isolated predictions from the Old Testament. It is that their entire culture was predicated on the coming of a Messiah who would be our savior through His own sacrifice. Their whole culture was law and gospel, morals and blood atonement.
In every case, the question is this: is your salvation final? Are you eternally loved, forever accepted? Are there any conditions to your favor and acceptance by the Father? The cross of Christ declares that our judgement is complete and finished. Jesus Himself declared from the cross, that it is finished. You are now the one in the judgement seat, and God is on trial. Was He right, or was He wrong? Is the cross of Christ sufficient to save you? What deed of yours, good or bad, will you place above His death for you?
Sometimes I wonder how I am part of the same family as my wonderful sons. I grew up very disinterested in sports; I was proud to be a bit of an egghead and a geek and a musician. They are consumed with football, basketball, intense workouts, and the like. They play sports-oriented video games and […]
Propitiation, the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, is the central and primary doctrine of Christianity. The cross of Christ is meaningful and powerful because the propitiation is true. Our relationship to Christ’s propitiation on the cross is going to drive our walk and our teaching and our evangelism and our assurance and our relationships and everything else about us. There is nothing more important to get straight in your mind than Christ’s propitiatory death on the cross.